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Cartographica Helvetica


Theme: Treasures of St. Gall

Cartographica Helvetica 56 (2018)


The topic of the present volume are the cartographic collections of the Canton of St. Gall. The reasons of this decision are numerous. St. Gall has three important map archives: the monastery library (Stiftsbibliothek), the cantonal library (Kantonsbibliothek Vadiana) and the State archives (Staatsarchiv). Many documents and objects are unique.

The cartographic development of the Canton of St. Gall until the beginning of the 19th century is presented by a selection of important maps and plans from 1500 to 1850. Its history of cartography has not yet completely been summarized. A reason for this might be that the Canton of St. Gall was founded only in 1803 by merging a variety of territories, which did not have a common historical background.

When Guillaume-Henri Dufour was appointed Quartermaster-General on 20th September 1832 he was also commissioned for the trigonometric survey of Switzerland and a uniform topographic map of the entire country. St. Gall was one of the first cantons – after Thurgau, Basel, Geneva, Aargau and Vaud – which carried on with the trigonometric measurements, following Dufour's directions to the letter. Several details, for instance the unfortunate sheet division and the small scale of the National Map, led to the decision by the Cantonal Government to make its own topographic map in the scale 1:25,000. It was produced by Wurster, Randegger & Cie in Winterthur in stone engraving technique and mono-color printing in 16 sheets. In acknowledge of Johannes Eschmann and his great work as head of the trigonometric and topographic detail survey, the map series is nicknamed 'Eschmannkarte'.

Between 1860 and 1960 – after decades of planning – the largest water correction project in Switzerland was realized in the Rhine Valley leading to the Lake of Constance. It included the Rhine Regulation, canal systems for the tributaries and the melioration of the entire valley. Each construction period was based on extensive and detailed construction plans and maps. Most of these documents have been preserved.

The St. Gall globe kept at the Swiss National Museum is a model of the earth and its firmament. It demonstrates the concept of a cosmographic theory of the 16th century, described here for the first time, and reaching from Johannes Schöner to Tilemann Stella. For a long time it was presumed that the globe originated in Augsburg. However, after a painted likeness was discovered, it was possible to determine the globe's date of completion as 1576 in Schwerin. A true-to-original replica is exhibited at the monastery library in St. Gall.

In the first decades of the 16th century, geography and cartography were valued sciences in Vienna, where Humanism flourished. Several students of the German Renaissance, including the humanist scholar and Neo-Latin poet Conrad Celtes published geographical books and worked as cartographers. The basis for the study of maps at this time were the Ptolemaic maps, which were available in Vienna in several printed editions. They also were taken as the models for the manuscript maps that were bound with the 1518 edition of the 'Scholien' of Pomponius Mela, edited by the Vienna humanist Joachim Vadian from St. Gall, Switzerland. Until now only eight copies of this edition that include these manuscript map-cimelia (containing 26 sheets) are known worldwide.

Translation by Christine Studer, Chet van Duzer and Thomas Horst

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