18th century Cartography and Map Making

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#1
Have been looking at a lot of different maps recently, and came across a few puzzling ones. Their appearance simply does not match my traditional understanding of the eighteenth century means and abilities. At the same time, my knowledge of the semi-ancient surveying techniques is next to zero. Yet, I do think that to produce maps of this quality, and detail it would require some sort of aerial photography. Well, at the very least some sort of a view from above.

In part, this thread is being created for demonstrating purposes. Pretty often we have to hear that those cartographers from the past were highly inaccurate. Were they really?

Please take a look at the below maps and inspect them for yourself. The ones I added have limited resolution. Please use links below the maps to access full size zoomable maps. They are pretty fascinating.

1753: Saint Petersburg
Shows buildings, fields, etc. Includes illustrated cartouche with illustration of and dedication to the Empress Elizabeth. Oriented with north toward lower left.

1753 - St-Petersburg.jpg

1753: Saint Petersburg

1766: Paris & Environs
Map consists of 35 sheets. Black and white. Relief shown by hachures. This is the second edition after the first edition of 1763, with the addition of six sheets of indexes covering transportation in the city. This is the first plan of Paris to be drawn on a large scale of 1:4,200 and is based on the prior work of Delagive and his 1728 plan of Paris. When all 35 sheets are assembled into one map, it has the dimension of 146 x171 cm. This copy includes six views of Paris that are not found in most examples.

1766 - Paris.jpg

1766 Paris & Environs

1795: Paris & Environs
The first edition of this map was published in 1731. This is the fifth, updated edition, published after Roussel's death in 1733. There are many changes in the updated map, for example adding the Champs-de-Mars military academy and the Pantheon. The 1731 first edition was used by John Rocque for an English edition.
We also have two threads pertaining to a few maps, including Nolli and Piranesi 19th century maps, as well a Leonardo Bufalini map allegedly made in 1551.
* * *
KD: how do you think they were able to produce maps like these? How much time, and how many surveyors would it take to create those by walking the ground?
 

Ice Nine

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#2
I always wonder how many of the old maps were made. too. I can only offer up the simple solution of hot air balloons. but man, you'd have to be up there for a bit to be able to do these maps.

Hot Air Balloon History in Dispute
The claim for the first use of hot air balloons is hotly disputed. The Nazca Indians of Peru are thought to have used hot air balloons as an aid to creating the famous Nazca Line Drawings which were created in the period 700 B.C. to 200 A.D.

An 18th century issue of the newspaper ‘La Gaceta de Mexico‘ noted that in 1667, a citizen of Las Mendarios del Perro, Veracrus broke his leg in a fall following ascent in a strange device with fire.

The Portugese claim that a priest, Batholomeu Laurenco de Gasmao demonstrated a small working balloon model on the 3rd August 1709. He was subsequently awarded a Professor of Mathemetics by King John V of Portugal for his efforts.

There are also reports of pre-montgolfier balloons from Russia in 1731. A young military officer Kria Kutnoi is reported to have launched a primitive balloon from Ryazan, about 120 miles south of Moscow. It reputedly flew over a grove of birch trees crashing into the tower of a church in the neighbouring town. The ballon is said to have been made from hides and filled with evil smelling smoke.

history of hot air balloons
 
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KorbenDallas
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#3
Yup, hot air balloons idea visited me a well. After zooming in on this maps and seeing all the details I kind of dismissed it for myself. You are absolutely right about the amount of time a cartographer would have to spend up in the air. At the very least it does not appear to be probable.

Funny how they explained nasca lines. Had to be hot air baloons :)
 

Ice Nine

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#4
Yes I've heard the hot air balloon idea in regards to Naca lines before, there could have been people shouting down to the line makers giving them directions. :rolleyes:
I've been trying to figure out the Nasza lines for decades and so far all I have is people on the ground wanted people (or some intelligent life forms) in the sky to see them.

But anyway, the maps you have shown us are really extraordinary. The only explanation, besides the sketchy hot air balloon idea I can come up with is they were drawn from a photograph taken from above. (don't ask me by who) Or it took somebody an incredible amount of time, can you imagine the time it would take to survey the areas and get all the schematics of all the structures etc. holy cow! People could accomplish incredible things in the past,
 
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#5
I think an aerial photograph would actually be harder to make an accurate map from. The math gets much trickier and needing an exact altitude comes into play. Unless we can find that the maps are skewed to some perspective focal point, i would be pretty close to ruling this out.

Much easier to look through a scope at a flag or other landmark and do the trig to accurately locate something.

Also, these being well established cities, there should be many, many, well established reference points from which to calculate.

When I get a survey done, the first thing they usually do is find the closest recorded reference point. That will affect the cost dramatically. If we are in middle of no where and closest point is a half mile or more away, it will be considerably more expensive. If it is right on the property, or is recorded as a corner of the property, laying out the remaining points is relatively cheap.

The reference points are checked against each other every so often to verify they haven't moved. It is usually a steel rod driven into the ground. They make ones special now, but in the past they used anything handy. From rebar to sharpened vehicle axles. The top is usually driven to 6 inches or so under the dirt.
 
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Hardy

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#6
I want to introduce a relativly simple method for surveying which i did not have on the screen until now: The plane table.
It seems that this pure mechanical device was used for land surveying until modern times.It should be possible to create a map directly in the field without many calculations.
The shown maps are on the one hand very beautiful and on the other hand make a very modern and exact impression.
I currently have no idea if this quality can be reached with
such devices like the plane table and how many workers must be involved ( KD: Armee of surveyors),not to mention the informal background structure.
In general i struggle to get the thrilling point in KD style ( which i smell)but i found some interesting things in addition to the boring plane table which i will share later.
Anyway,the plane table in the water (shown first on german wiki)seems pretty strange,a little bit water on the map and it's gone…


1539608589776.png


1539608989804.png 1539609159646.png 1539609291468.png 1539609372561.png 1539609435925.png
 

ISeenItFirst

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#7
Yeah, trig tools. Probably a lot of ways to do it. I didn't want to assume. Would be interested to see exactly how the plane table works. See if there is anything additionally interesting there.

After checking, nothing too trick there. Simple contraption to save on math. Been around, officially, since late 17th century I believe it said, and that was a complete device.
 
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KorbenDallas
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#8
To me it sounds like a lot of hypotheticals similar to hundreds of thousands of slaves building pyramids with sleds and copper chisels. Sure it can be done, but at what cost and within what time frame?

Would be nice to get an opinion of a professional surveyor of how many guys with these tables it would take to map Paris with such accuracy within one month for example.
 

Hardy

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#9
I know enough professionals and I know their answer to such a Question in the age of Computers and electrooptical devices: "I hope you are well."- no Chance.

I've tried to imagine the Scenario with the table (i do understand the functioning) in ancient times and honestly - i failed. To this the table is not enough.
At least you Need a procedure for the Details in Addition, that means orthogonal Methods and distance measuring and so on.
That means, the chisel x factor is there indeed.
Also the lonely wulf surveyor type like on the Pictures does not work untill the recent past. Why do they Always show a lonely worker in the Pictures?

Here is another theoretical Option:;)

geo1.PNG geo2.PNG

Source:

De naturae simia seu technica macrocosmi historia
 
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