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Cartographica Helvetica


Theme: Travel maps in Switzerland

Cartographica Helvetica 53 (2016)


The strip-format Tabula Peutingeriana or "Peutinger Map" from the 12th century is the first example of a travel map. It shows the road network of the late Roman Empire, leading from the British Isles over the Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East to India and Central Asia.

It was not until the end of the 15th century that pilgrim travel maps with correct geographical orientations developed from the hand-written and later on printed itineraries. The increase of commercial traders and educational journeys as well as pilgrimages constituted the main reason for the development of these types of maps. The approaching Holy Year 1500 and the ensuing desire to journey to Rome further promoted the publication of pilgrim maps in Central Europe. Switzerland was considered an important transit country.

Because the thematic content was practically the same, pilgrim travel maps also developed simultaneously as the first road maps by Erhard Etzlaub (1501) and Georg Erlinger Das heilig Römisch reich mit allen landtstrassen usw. (1515). One hundred years later, the intensification of postal traffic led to a further type of map which also included routes, travel distances and times.

Emerging tourism in Switzerland during the second half of the 18th century was interested not only in cities but also found the Bernese Oberland very appealing. This was primarily due to the budding interest in nature during the Age of Enlightenment and the relatively easily accessible and mysterious phenomena of glaciers and waterfalls. Furthermore, comprehensive travel literature as well as corresponding maps evolved.

Up to the beginning of the 19th century, the horse-drawn stagecoach was the only means of public transportation. From 1837 on, steamboats regularly navigated the Upper Rhine River to Basel. In 1844 the railroad line from Strasbourg to the center of Basel was completed and ran on a regular train schedule. At the same time the Erste Post & Dampfschifffahrt Reise Carte der Schweiz was reprinted with an additional symbol representing the railroad line. These small-scale maps were not used for local orientation but to get a general view of the entire communication network.

Beginning with the Cyclists' Touring Club (CTC) in 1878, national cycling organizations sprang up all across Europe and the first individual means of transportation was born, especially after Dunlop invented the pneumatic tire in 1888. Cycling over longer distances required special information and another kind of map was called for. Around the turn of the century the technical development of motorcycles and automobiles had advanced enough that editors changed the titles of the cycling maps in order to also include motorized users.

The founding of the Swiss Alpine Club (SAC) in 1863 marked the publication of the first standardized hiking maps in Switzerland. Because the routes were not as dense compared with today's routes, editors often combined summer and winter tourism and called their publications excursion maps. Besides the passes, bridle paths and mountain trails, there was no touristic information shown on these maps; colored markings of suggested hiking trails did not appear until after the turn of the century.

Translation by Christine Studer

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