Copper engraving with some subtle accents of original colour, on 4 un-joined, un-trimmed sheets, old former owners’ stamp to blank corners of sheets (Excellent, crisp untrimmed sheets with strong engraving impression, some very light stains and toning in places but overall clean), each sheet: 64 x 77 cm (25 x 30.5 inches), would form a map, if joined, of approximately: 118 x 145 cm (46.5 x 57 inches).
This is the finest general map of Europe of its era to focus upon the continent’s orography and hydrography, being its mountain ranges and watersheds. It was made by General Andreas Freiherr von Sorriot de l’Host, a professional Austrian soldier who maintained a keen interest in physical geography.
The map embraces the entire European content, as well as the Near East, and delineates and labels all major rivers and bodies of water, while the general contours of the mountain ranges are expressed through finely composed hachures; the quality of the engraving is unusually fine. The dividing lines between the watersheds, running along the heights of the land, are clearly expressed, often elegantly heightened in subtle original yellow hues, while major cities and post roads are labelled.
The ‘Squelette’ (Skeleton) map, in the lower-right corner, employs letters corresponding to the adjacent textual description which explains the watersheds, as well as various cross-sections shown running across the Continent. In the lower-left of the composition are a series of profiles all of Europe’s major mountain ranges, with the heights of named peaks in feet.
Sorriot de l’Host’s work is an especially impressive example of the great flourishing of thematic cartography that occurred during the Enlightenment Era, continuing into the 19th Century. It was issued in 1816, just after the Congress of Vienna (1814-5), ending the Napoleonic Wars, which re-drew many of the Europe’s international boundaries, parts of which ran along rivers and watershed divides (moreover, many intranational boundaries were also redrawn). For some years thereafter, much effort was expended to map these boundaries, such that a strong scientific understanding of the Continent’s orography and hydrography was critically important. Moreover, the period also saw the rise of scientific meteorology, of which a comprehension of the how mountain ranges and bodies of water affect weather and climatic was critical.
General Andreas Freiherr von Sorriot de l’Host (1767 – 1831) was an Austrian nobleman of partial French ancestry. He was an esteemed veteran of the Austro-Turkish War of 1788-91 and the Napoleonic Wars, but his true passion was geography; he was a regular fixture at Vienna’s academic salons. His orographic-hydrological map of Europe was his magnum opus, and the present example is in especially fine condition, on crisp, uncut, un-joined sheets.
References: Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Cartes et plans, GE C-8368; Charles Baron de Martens, Guide diplomatique: ou traité des droits, des immunités et de devoirs des ministres publics, des agens diplomatiques et consulaires, dans toute l’étendue de leurs fonctions, tome 1 (Brussels, 1838), p. 686.