Contact address | Imprint | Deutsch

Cartographica Helvetica


Theme: Cartography of Central Switzerland

Cartographica Helvetica 57 (2018)


The goal of the 'Cartography of Central Switzerland' project, launched in 2009 by Madlena Cavelti, was to take stock and create an inventory of the existing maps of the six cantons in Central Switzerland. Up to 2018, a total of over 16,000 items – plans, maps, panoramas and relief models – have been catalogued and their metadata made available online by Edition Cavelti.

The region of Central Switzerland comprising the Cantons of Uri, Schwyz, Obwalden, Nidwalden, Lucerne and Zug includes 178 municipalities and encompasses 4500 km2, which is about one ninth of the area of Switzerland. This is mainly an alpine region including fundamental passes such as the Gotthard, Furka, Oberalp and Susten. The characteristic and unifying element of the landscape is Lake Lucerne which seems to embrace the region with its fjord-like arms. Xaver Imfeld created an excellent image of this diverse landscape in his Reliefkarte der Centralschweiz from 1887.

A richly illustrated cartographic retrospective was composed for the present issue. To begin with, a brief overview shows how Central Switzerland, the Rigi and Lake Lucerne were mapped since the 15th century. Subsequently, the cartographic reproduction of the individual Cantons is shown in detail, whereby not only maps but also panoramas and relief models are introduced. The author endeavors to express not only the diversely technical, but also the artistic side of the piece of work as well as the interpersonal aspects of the map makers during that time. Central Switzerland is ideally suited for this purpose, considering the origin of the most important contenders in cartography such as Franz Ludwig Pfyffer von Wyher, Franz Fidel Landtwing, Joachim Eugen Müller, Ernst-Rudolf Mohr, Xaver Imfeld and Rigi promoter Heinrich Keller.

During the inventory, several up to now unknown items were discovered. For example, a list of about 300 maps existed in the State Archives of Obwalden. After having incorporated these maps, an additional 1200 unexamined manuscript maps and plans were discovered, dating from around 1900. Probably the most important discovery was a large-format manuscript map from 1805 by Joachim Müller, which was found rolled up in the Historical Museum Obwalden. This map served as a basis for various works by Müller and can therefore be considered as a key example of the cartographic history of Switzerland. In the meantime this significant item has been professionally restored and is on display in the Sarnen Museum.

Both the relief builder Franz Ludwig Pfyffer von Wyher from Lucerne and his colleague in the French army, Franz Fidel Landtwing from Zug, were important map authors. The latter created an impressive number of newly surveyed maps and plans of Canton Zug. Being unmarried, he founded an entailed estate (a special type of family trust) in 1775 to ensure that his considerable assets, his collection of weapons and instruments, as well as his library including 66 manuscript maps would be preserved in its entirety.

Translation by Christine Studer

© 1990–2023 Cartographica Helvetica (Imprint)

Logo Valid HTML 4.01 Logo Valid CSS