Historic Map Data

Historic Map Analysis and Digitizing

Historic maps can provide a variety of useful information for research projects such as this. Archives, map dealers, and other sources were searched to locate as many different maps from different periods as possible, with an emphasis on older maps. While these maps are useful (and beautiful) by themselves, we have been interested in developing techniques to integrate the data contained in these archival sources directly into our GIS for analysis.

An original 1659 map of the region and two modern reproductions of 1759 maps of the research area have been located, along with several more recent 19th century maps. The 1659 and 1759 maps were digitized for use in the project GIS using an Eikonix digital scanning system, located at the Center for Remote Sensing of Rutgers University. This system has a large format 4,000 by 4,000 digital CCD array device that converts maps or photographs into high quality digital format. This system is useful for raster scanning maps, aerial photographs, or other analog data into a format readable by image processing and GIS systems. Thematic data were also transferred onto mylar overlays for manual vector digitizing.

1695 map by

The 1659 map is an original, which was purchased in Paris in 1983 by the author. It was produced by Nicolas Sanson d'Abeville (1600-1667), Geographer of the King of France (geographe ordinaire du roi), who produced a large number of famous and beautiful maps of Europe, Canada, North and South America. Many of these maps are in museums and private collections around the world. Sanson was the founder of the French school of cartography, and was tutor to Louis XIII. He published over 300 maps, including a 1:1 million scale map of France and he also produced atlases of the four known continents. All three sons of Nicolas Sanson, Nicolas Sanson junior, Guillaume and Adrian, continued their father's work and his company lasted for over 100 years.The accuracy and high quality of engraving of his maps were copied throughout Europe for decades.

The Map title (shown at the top of this page) reads:

The map was scanned, entered into GRASS, georeferenced, and entered into the GIS system as a data layer like any other. This map is quite general in its spatial accuracy, but it is the oldest map yet located that covers the research area.

Close-up views of the 1659 map



Several enlargements of the 1695 map, showing the Arroux river, towns, forests, roads, and structures. The walled town of Issey L'Eveque at left still remains intact, and Mt. Dardon is just above it and to the right. Each structure icon has a specific meaning, as show in the Cassini map below.

1759 Cassini Maps

Statue of Cassini 1 at the Louvre Courtyard in Paris

We are very fortunate to have available to us two superbly accurate reproductions of maps of the region that were produced in 1759. The famous Cassini triangulation surveys of France were conducted by four generations of the Cassini family in the late 1600's to mid 1700's. In 1672 Jean Dominique Cassini, (Cassini I) Royal Astronomer of the Paris Observatory, began to consider new ways to produce more accurate maps through triangulation, similar to the techniques used by astronomers to measure the size of the planets and the Sun. Better maps were needed to determine the accurate distance between observatories on the Earth more precisely, in order to conduct simultanious measurements of the planets from different observatories. He and his son, Jacques Cassini (Cassini II) produced the map at right, the first accurate survey of an entire nation, in 1744. They also mapped an accurate baseline between the Paris Observatory and Greenwich, England to support concurrent celestial observations and measurements.

In 1747 Louis XV asked Ceasar-Francois Cassini (Cassini III) to create an even more precise national map of France. This was completed by his son Jacques Dominique Cassini (Cassini IV), with 180 maps covering all of France at a scale of 1:86,400. These 180 'cartes de l'Academie' maps of France were a superb product, far more accurate and detailed than any previous maps. They were published from 1798 through 1812. Reproductions of these maps are available for all of France from the Institut Geographique National in Paris.

These historic maps are extremely detailed and spatially accurate, much more so than the older Sanson map we possess created 100 years before. The Cassini maps provide us with the oldest, detailed, reasonably accurate record of the location of roads, bridges, towns, streams, and villages of the area. It also shows information about the current vegetation and land-cover of the area. The maps contain an astounding level of detail. This is a particularly fortunate period for obtaining accurate cartography of the region, as it is before the French Revolution. The map scale of is 1:86,400.

The map scale that was used for these maps then was in the old units of measurement:

1 ligne=100 toise.

One toise (English fathom) was equal to 6 pieds (English feet), one pied (English foot) was equal to 12 pouces (English inches), and one pouce was equal to 12 lignes (English lines). So one ligne (1/12 of an inch) on the map was equal to 100 fathoms (600 feet) on the ground...thus a modern scale, or more properly, the repesentative fraction, of these maps is 1:86,400 (or 1 : 6x12x12x100).

A 'toise' was a traditional French unit of distance comparable to the British fathom (or 6 feet). Like the fathom, the toise originally represented the distance between the fingertips of a man with outstretched arms. Introduced by Charlemagne in 790, the toise is such an ancient unit that the French 'toiser' has become a verb meaning "to measure" or "to size up."

The toise equals six pieds (French feet). The 'pied' was the traditional French foot. Pieds of various lengths were used in France, but the one best remembered now is the royal foot (pied de roi), called the Paris foot in English and the foot (French measure) in Canadian law. The pied de roi equals about 32.48 centimeters or 12.79 inches; the official Canadian definition is 12.789 inches (32.484 06 centimeters). Today the word pied is sometimes used informally in France as a metric unit equal to 30 centimeters.

The 'pouce' was the French "inch" unit, equal to 1/12 pied. Based on the pied de roi, the pouce equals about 1.066 inches or 2.707 centimeters. The word pouce actually means "thumb" in French.

The 'ligne' was the next smallest traditional unit of distance in French speaking countries, equal to 1/12 pouce (French inch) and corresponding closely to the English 'line'. The Swiss ligne is still used throughout the world by watchmakers; it equals about 2.256 millimeters (0.0888 inch) and is further divided into 12 douzièmes.

So...1 ligne=100 toise equals 1:84,600. Simple!

Source used on measurements: "How Many? A Dictionary of Units of Measurement" © 2001 by Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. http://www.unc.edu/~rowlett/units/index.html

1759 Cassini Map of the Mt. Dardon area

This section of the Cassini map clearly shows the extraordinary amount of detail and useful data contained in these documents. The map is centered on Mt. Dardon, with the village of Uxeau to the Southwest. You can clearly see the general topography, roads, individual structures, and many water mills and mill dams. The key for the different map features is below. You can see that each type of structure is identified, as are different types of bridges, mills, and vegetation zones. The walled city of Issy L'Eveque is shown in the upper left, and the number of mill ponds and grain mills in the region is amazing. Few of these remain intact today. Research on the information contained in these maps is ongoing.

1759 Cassini Map key

Portions of the Cassini map, showing Mt. Dardon and Toulon. On the left you can see some of the many mill ponds and dams found throughout the region in the 1700s. Most of these are now gone.

Click on the map at right to see some analysis that used this map.

1759 Cassini Map Digitization

Rutgers Graduate Student Bob Wiencek digitizing mylars from the Cassini maps of the region.

The two maps were raster scanned into the system and patched together to make a single data layer. We also manually drafted mylar overlays from the maps of each of the individual categories of useful data. These were then vector digitized into the GIS and georeferenced.

A section of the hydrology mylar at bottom, showing streams and millponds taken from a section of the Cassini map above.

Categories include:

Roads: paved roads, roads, paths, old roads, Roman roads, city streets, city boundaries

Hydrology: mill pond, dam, stream, river (left bank), river (right bank), islands, ponds, canal (left bank), canal (right bank)

Structures: hamlet, farm, free farm, castle, tower, tile works, unknown structure, commanderie (Knights Templars), parish church, parish church ruin, convent, convent ruin, monastery, priory ruin, chapel, chapel ruin, church type #1, church type #2, church type #3, cross, gallows

Mills: water mill, wind mill, mill ruin, bridge

Landcover: forest, moor, meadow, orchard, forest clearing

These will be used for future analysis of the region. Interesting topics will be the spatial distribution of mills and various types of settlements and structures.


17th Century Maps

Burgundy, Willem J. Blaeu, 1631.

Utriusque BURGUNDIAE.... Amsterdam. An early edition of this engraved map of Burgundy. Decorative title cartouche with two figures and surmounted by two coats of arms. Scale cartouche. Latin text on verso. 19 x 15 inches, 500 x 390 mm. Uncoloured. Good condition. From Appendix Theatrii...

19th Century Maps

Victor Levassuer's map of Saône-et-Loire from the

Several 19th Century maps of the region have been located and purchased. The following two images are from Victor Levassuer's 'Atlas National Illustré' of France. This map was purchased by the author in Paris, and these maps are found frequently in sidewalk stalls in France. The atlas was first published in 1847 and continued to 1854, it is not known which edition the author's map is from. The maps have lovely decorated borders which relate to the region, including statistical information, regional products, famous local people, and places of interest.



Graphics from the edges of the map, showing local flora and fauna, products and famous people of local origin.

This maps, and others from Levassuer's Atlas, can be purchased online

We continue to seek historical maps of this region, and continue our development of techniques to integrate the information contained in these maps within our GIS system for analysis.

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