JF Ptak Science Books Post 2207
There are many places and objects named for the German Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859)--even so in the United States--a recognition and honor paid to a great observer and cataloger of things, the first biogeographer, the scientific traveler's traveler, the man who Charles Darwin called the greatest scientific traveler ever.1 von Humboldt amidst much else also wrote--at the end of his life--a book that began as a composition of lectures that he gave in the 1840's, developing into a monumental work called Kosmos, a General Survey of Physical Phenomena of the Universe, which was published from 1845 until three years after his death in 1862. He meant what he said in the title, and tried to arrange all of the stuff of nature into a comprehensible and logical whole, gathered across five volumes. It is a brilliant masterwork of vision and orderliness, and from what I've read it is like walking into a 3-D library of what was known of much of hte scientific world of the mid-19th century, the very structure and organization of the book being a scientific achievement.
There was a sixth volume to the work, an atlas, that is one of the crowning achievements of the 19th century for the display of scientific data. It is about half-again as tall as the standard-sized text and twice as wide, so the book isn't very big, and the maps are all single-page--but for as relatively small as they are there is a ton of information in them, more so when you realize what must have had to go into the collection of the data to begin with.
I was very taken with this first representative because of its flowing lines (that show the range and occurrence of bird and reptiles) that make it a separate thing of beauty...had I the capacity to remove everything from this map save for the natural history lines, it would stand as an interesting work of very-pre-non-represnetational art. I'm certain that the folks of the 1860's poured over this and other maps in Kosmos, as well of course as the text themselves--this may have been among the first atlases to display some of its data in this way, and would've been fascinating. (Kosmos was actually a very popular work, the first volume selling out in a few months...it was a very popular book.)
1. Found in the Darwin Correspondence Project » Letter 13277 — Darwin, C. R. to Hooker, J. D., 6 Aug 1881, just before Darwin's death.
You can purchase this map--my store has this and another 25 or so original maps from this atlas for sale. Send me an email and I'll send you descriptions...