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Geoscientist Online

Early Geological Maps of Europe: Central Europe 1750 to 1840

yutyuThe conventional historical narrative of geological mapping as retold inside and outside of the Geological Society, typically begins with William Smith travelling the around England before producing his famous map in 1815.  Convention rather skips over the many precursors to Smith.  Here’s an attempt to redress the balance.  Focusing on the lands to the north and east of the Alps, the authors have raided the libraries and archives of Central Europe for their treasures to produce this atlas of rarities. 

The main portion of this book presents full-colour reproductions of the maps along with bibliographic descriptions and a paragraph of commentary outlining the importance of the map.  This amounts to a rather glossy catalogue of 18th Century thematic mapping that could be considered to a modern viewer to be geological in nature.  It would have been good to be able to see more detail on the images, however according with its price bracket, the book is only 29 x 21 cm in size, so for many of the maps displayed not even a magnifying glass is going to help you.  The resolution of the image scans for the most part is sufficient for a book of this size with one or two suffering poor reproductions.  The commentary limits itself to enhancing description rather than discussion in most cases.

The catalogue section is topped and tailed by summary essays of the geological setting of the area as well as some short discussion on the information the maps present in the context of this history of stratigraphic mapping, structural mapping and economic geological mapping.  These overviews are aimed at a wide readership and thus only skim the surface of their subjects.  It would have been good to have more depth to the bibliographies of the map-makers as well, although there are several well-known names represented here, there are also many less-storied cartographers I would have enjoyed discovering more about.

A laudable attempt to bring the early geological maps and mapmakers of Central Europe to wider attention let down by its format and by attempting to simultaneously please disparate audiences of geologists, historians, librarians, and collectors leading to rather simplistic overviews.  Suitable as a reference work or as a starting point for research in this cartographic niche.

Reviewed by Paul Johnson

EARLY GEOLOGICAL MAPS OF EUROPE: CENTRAL EUROPE 1750 TO 1840 by JAN KOZÁK, ALENA ČEJCHANOVÁ, ZDENĚK KUKAL, AND‎ KAREL POŠMOURNÝ. 2016 Published by: Springer Hbk. ISBN 978-3-319-22487-9 List Price: £32.00. eBook: £25.99. W: www.springer.com/gb/book/9783319224879