A closer look at the Ferraris maps of the Austrian Netherlands

Between 1770-1778, the Belgian territory was homogeneously mapped on a scale of 1 : 11,520 under the guidance of count de Ferraris. This Cabinet map is considered to be the oldest topographical map of our region. Ferraris’s mapping project is a good example of the extensive, detailed surveys that started to emerge in the 18th c. in Western Europe. This branch of mapmaking was characterized by its use of more accurate surveying techniques and its uniformity in style and content. France was particularly trend-setting here, becoming the first country where a truly scientific map of the entire territory was made. As the cartographic front-runner, the French example influenced many other extensive mapping projects, including the Ferraris map. Soetkin’s dissertation focuses on this exchange of cartographic knowledge across international borders, by looking at the extent to which the formal aspects of the map (symbols, scale, sheet lines) and the surveying procedure were inspired by the French. Research of the map’s semiotics also resulted in the creation of a new systematic map key, while research into the link with French triangulation networks and very detailed distortion analyses lead to interesting new insights into the map’s geometric accuracy and production process.

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