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Cartographica Helvetica


Margrit Wyder:

Heights of the old and new world – Goethe's contribution to the genre of the comparative representation of heights

Cartographica Helvetica 39 (2009) 11–26


Parallel to the exploration and survey of the mountain ranges of the earth, the first visualizations of comparative heights were published in the late 18th century. Alexander von Humboldt's expedition through Central and South America brought new impulses to the genre. In 1807, the German poet and philosopher of nature Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) drew a comparative view of heights of the old and new world. His voyages through Switzerland were crucial for his interest in mountains. Goethe's visualization, inspired by Humboldt, was published in 1813 and re-engraved in France and England. Even the most representative British Atlas of the period was influenced by it. The exploration of the Himalayan range urged the publishers to complete their plates, which resulted in various solutions for the purpose.

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