Acquiring Data the Old Fashioned Way




These days, if you want to know which are the longest rivers in the world, or the highest mountains, you just google it. The answers appear quickly and painlessly. It gives you some idea what we’ve gained, and what we’ve lost, that a similar query back in the 1820s might have been resolved by opening a beautifully made volume of finely detailed comparative maps, like the ones featured here. They compare the lengths and heights of the major rivers and mountains in a graphically engaging, thought provoking way.

No question that today the information is much more readily accessible on one of the digital devices that rule our lives. You would have had to go to a library, and a specialized one at that, to see these magnificent books. They would have been available only to the select few. On the other hand, the visual drama of the finely detailed illustrations is so imaginatively presented that they make a far more absorbing presentation of the data than you’ll find on Wikipedia. What many consider to be the dull subject of geography becomes a visually stimulating quest to find answers to basic questions of the natural world.

My interior design sensibility sees the decorative possibilities, of course. These artifacts of a lost world would be impressive on an elegant display table or simply framed as artwork. Either way they are fascinating examples of what was possible when innovative publishers were pushing the boundaries of what was then the state of the art medium called print.


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