An Atlas of Geographical Wonders: From Mountaintops to Riverbeds

Princeton Architectural. 2019. 208p. ISBN 9781616898236. $50. REF
As much a work of art as a history of cartography and exploration, this superb volume by Bailly (Sch. of Landscape Architecture, Blois, France), Gilles Palsky (geography, Univ. of Paris), Jean-Marc Besse (director of research, Centre national de la recherche scientifique), and poet Philippe Grand documents the 19th-century fervor for comparative maps and tableaux—illustrations showing, for example, the highest mountains in the world juxtaposed against one another. A chapter introducing the cartographic phenomenon in general is followed by one on the sketch that started it all, Alexander von Humboldt’s 1805 Geographie des plantes équinoxiales. Additional sections highlight maps and illustrations that compare the world’s mountains; rivers; islands, lakes, waterfalls, and monuments; and various phenomena on a global scale—vegetation zones of the world, for example. The beautifully reproduced illustrations, many of which are housed in the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection at Stanford University, are fascinating by themselves but are accompanied by essays examining the images and their creation.
VERDICT Besides appealing to general readers who enjoy cartography, art, and “superlative” books, such as the Guinness Book of World Records, this is also well suited to academics and students of history, geography, and art.

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