Gardner’s Comparative Heights of Mountains and Rivers, 1823
When I was a young, baby-faced graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I had the good fortune of attending a series of lectures by Simon Schama on his new book Landscape and Memory. Schama presented a cultural history of landscape in Europe (mountains, rivers, forests). He was compelling as a lecturer, impressive in his arguments. But man, did he have good slides. I had already begun to settle into the history of exploration as my thesis area. But I had always imagined that I would approaching this material from the world of text: logs, journals, scientific monographs, etc. As Schama delivered his lectures (they took place over three days), his slides were more than eye-candy, they were arguments. This may sound silly, but I never thought about the visual artifacts of exploration as evidence until that moment. In any event, I am always on the lookout for good expeditionary photos, engravings, etc. Over the next few posts, I hope to share some sites with good pickings for those of you who are visually inclined.
David Rumsey started digitalizing his map collection twenty years ago. He now has over 17,000 of them scanned, online, free of access to all. There are some amazing maps here, authored by Lewis and Clark, James Cook, and Alexander von Humboldt among others. You will need to download one of the specialized browsers on his site, but once this is set up you can view thousands of exploration maps in all of their hi-def grandeur and download them too. One of the best features is the document notes available with each map. Sometimes these offer secondary source notes useful for explaining context, etc.
Have fun: http://www.davidrumsey.com/