Desktop version

Home arrow Travel

  • Increase font
  • Decrease font

<<   CONTENTS   >>

Seen from above: Wilhelm Halffter’s photographs of 1854, depicting the terrain models of Hermann and Adolph Schlagintweit

Sigrid Schulze

In June 1854, Hermann and Adolph Schlagintweit, two promising young German geologists, then on the brink of fame but largely forgotten today, issued a modest little brochure illustrated with photographs of alpine regions: Epreuves de Cartes Géographiques produites par la Photographie d’après les reliefs du Mont-Rose et de la Zugspitze. This extremely rare and hitherto neglected publication is the subject of this chapter. I discuss it as an example of the visionary and yet contradictory epistemological potential of early photographic practice in science.1

The Epreuves contain three photographic prints. Each of them shows an orthogonally taken view of a modeled landscape: in two instances, the Monte Rosa mountain range in Wallis Canton, Switzerland; in the third, the Zugspitze and Wetterstein mountain range in Bavaria, Germany (Figures 3.1-3.3). The photographs are fairly

j'/J £) j'J '! ’■ JI 0 !» Ï


Wilhelm Halffter, photographic reproduction of terrain model (Monte Rosa), 1854. Salted paper print, 11.5 x 12 cm, mounted on paper. Source

Figure 3.1 Wilhelm Halffter, photographic reproduction of terrain model (Monte Rosa), 1854. Salted paper print, 11.5 x 12 cm, mounted on paper. Source: Adolph and Hermann Schlagintweit, Epreuves de Cartes Géographiques [...] (Leipzig: J. A. Barth 1854), fol. 4r. Universitätsbibliothek Chemnitz, Sign. WA: M59.


Wilhelm Halffter, photographic reproduction of terrain model (Monte Rosa) with painted surface, 1854. Salted paper print, 11.5 x 12 cm, mounted on paper. Source

Figure 3.2 Wilhelm Halffter, photographic reproduction of terrain model (Monte Rosa) with painted surface, 1854. Salted paper print, 11.5 x 12 cm, mounted on paper. Source: Adolph and Hermann Schlagintweit, Epreuves de Cartes Geo-eraphiques I...1 (Leipzig: 1. A. Barth, 1854), fol. 5r. Universitätsbibliothek Chemnitz, Sign. WA: M59.



Adolph and Hermann Schlagintweit, Epreuves de Cartes Géographiques [...] (Leipzig

Figure 3.3 Adolph and Hermann Schlagintweit, Epreuves de Cartes Géographiques [...] (Leipzig: J. A. Barth, 1854), fol. 6r. Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Sign. Kart. 4°W 29041.

Wilhelm Halffter’s photographs of 1854 43 small: the images of the Monte Rosa models measure 11.5 by 12 cm and are trapezoidal in form; that of the Zugspitze model measures 7.5 by 14 cm and is rectangular in form.2 They were printed on salted paper and are presumably contact prints, i.e., they were pulled from negatives of the same dimensions. Each image is neatly mounted on a page of its own within a thin outline printed in black; the caption above gives the name of the respective relief model, the one below further identifies its features. One of the two Monte Rosa images shows the model in plaster, without any paint; the other, after it has been painted.

Constructed views

These photographs do not depict nature observed in reality; they only pretend to do so. They actually depict three-dimensional models on a scale of 1:200,000, each made to represent a certain alpine region in the mode of a bird’s eye-view. As the relevant sources reveal, construction of the models was based on a variety of data, both visual and non-visual, gathered in advance by the geologists themselves. Accordingly, the scientific validity of such data may be presumed to vary. That which appears here to be a likeness of nature is, strictly speaking, a calculated representation realized photographically in conformity with a pre-existing visual convention, namely, cartography.

To view a landscape orthogonally from such a great height as in the present case was not yet possible when these images were made in 1854. Photographic bird’s eyeviews of mountainous terrain or other landscape formations did not yet exist.3 Yet the photographs under discussion here attest to a striving to adopt the mode of visualization then becoming predominant in cartography: orthogonal projection. This form of allegedly “objective” representation, nascent in the late eighteenth century, guaranteed “flat representation without either volume or mass”. Once codified in this way, views of different regions could be systematically compared.4 The aim in the present case was to classify geological formations by undertaking comparative observation of the orology and glaziology of two mountain ranges in the eastern and western Alps, respectively—the Zugspitze range and the Monte Rosa range. By the late eighteenth century, the origin, morphology, and materiality of mountains were increasingly taken as evidence of the earth’s formation and age. The numerous geological publications of the Schlagintweit brothers, Hermann (1826-1857) and Adolph (1829-1882), had contributed considerably to the debate on this matter.5

In spring 1854, the two geologists were not yet taking photographs themselves but worked instead with the Berlin-based daguerreotypist and photographer Wilhelm Halffter. They also commissioned Halffter to try and convey in his photos a sense of the motifs’ real scale, as in a map6; yet unlike in maps, no codified system of interpreting photographs was yet available. The tonal values of photographic paper signal a general but not conclusive spatiality; even worse, they are likely to deteriorate over time.7 Other reasons too hampered communication to the viewer of the “objective truth” aspired to. The subject viewing the models is only imagined. Although the motifs correspond to a concrete, real state, they appear to be speculative: they come closer to the narrated world of imagination than to the world actually being observed.

In narratology, the observing subject who is present but remains hidden and therefore cannot be monitored is regarded as the omniscient narrator. An author in this role fictionalizes and dramatizes his or her own function.8 The open standpoint of the viewer is of central importance here. In nineteenth-century literature and painting the topos of the distant place symbolized the subject’s search for his or her own position in the world.9 The subtext was about questions of belonging and alienation. For example, the reader of Adelbert von Chamisso’s ballad “Das Riesenpielzeug” [The Toy of the Giant’s Child] (1823) looks with the eyes of a giant onto a cultivated landscape and thereby recognizes the fragility of his or her own life and its structure. While in medieval times a view of the earth from a great distance was regarded as a metaphor for the supposed objectivity of the “omniscient” divine eye, aerial views of nature were read much later—long after 1854—as proof of the supposed objectivity of science.10

A further aspect that disturbs our understanding of the photograph as scientific evidence is the unresolved scale of the pictorial space reproduced. Only two scales are noted for the photographs—one in meters, the other in Parisian feet—on the respective pages. No inner-pictorial reference sheds light on the intended spatiality envisioned. It goes without saying that the real space in which the models were set was not shown in the photographs. The images thus evade the question of scale altogether, and appear abstract. The impression created is one of self-referentiality and structural self-sufficiency.

Given that it was not possible, in the nineteenth century, to look down on earth from as high a position as the images suggest, these views reveal themselves to be— for human eyes—impossible and, hence Active. They accordingly failed to meet the scientific criteria of their time. I argue that it was not possible to translate the information in the photographs without prior knowledge of a pre-existing visual language. A close reading of the Epreuves suggests that cartography is the appropriate decryption system.

To return, now, to the discussion of photography and intermedial practice in science and the humanities, I refer to these images as hybrids and I do so in a dual sense: first, in terms of semiology, since these are images of reality twice over, which simultaneously show the models themselves and the terrain the models represent; second, from an epistemological standpoint, since another visual material is required, here, to clarify the situation depicted. It is cartography that forms the basis for reading photographs here.

Two geologists’ research

The Epreuves followed hard on the heels of—and in similar vein to—Hermann and Adolph Schlagintweit’s second major work, which had been published only a couple of weeks earlier, in April 1854: Neue Untersuchungen über die physicalische Geographie und die Geologie der Alpen (New Observations on the physical Geography and Geology of the Alps)11 is an outstanding work, in which the Schlagintweit brothers detailed their alpine expeditions of 1851 and 1853. They therein supplemented their previous research not only with new findings and observations,12 but also with an expanded range of visual material. The atlas contained numerous diagrams, cross sections, line drawings, maps, and color lithographic plates. In addition, the authors put the Epreuves containing photographs of the two terrains on the market—the Monte Rosa and Wetterstein ranges shown on a scale of 1:200,000—and zinc model cast on a scale of 1:50,000.13

After moving from Munich to Berlin, one of geography’s new hubs, in May 1849, the Schlagintweits assiduously consolidated their scientific reputation. When the East India Company in London and the Prussian government under King Friedrich Wilhelm IV began considering suitable candidates to lead the expedition to the Himalayas that they had commissioned for later that year, Alexander von Humboldt’s recommendation of the brothers secured them British approval. The expedition finally took place from September 1854 to 1857. It is likely that planning for it was well advanced by the time the young scientists not only presented to their promoters in Berlin and London the terrain scale models in plaster and the Epreuves but also made zinc casts of the models available for trading. Considering the Schlagintweits’ individual careers and their progress in negotiating the Himalayan expedition, it seems quite logical that they dedicated the Epreuves to William Henry Sykes (1790-1872), director of the East India Company in London14; for besides Alexander von Humboldt, it was he who had supported their candidature.15

The Schlagintweits used the emergent technical and artistic practices of photography in their subsequent work in India and High Asia, in an attempt to supplement their ethnographic research by this new technology. Yet the geologists still drew on traditional media too,16 continually documenting the landscape in drawings and watercolor paintings, techniques in which they were skilled, having received instruction. In documenting photographically what they encountered in India, they most probably were inspired by the British. In this instance, photography was appreciated as a means to claim to represent any situation whatsoever in all its specific detail. By contrast, the photographs of the models in the Epreuves are more of a visual citation, if even that. For they allegedly depict observed nature yet are in fact images of constructed nature, since the geologists themselves created the referents: the models. Once reproduced photographically, the images morphed into another kind of model, so to speak—an abstraction in two dimensions. Once mounted on paper in a book, they became mobile artifacts and could be easily disseminated all over the world.17

A photographer’s artifacts

Production of the models and the Epreuves was exclusively in the hands of Berlin craftsmen. The geologists communicated with each of them personally and conveyed their works to the publisher. There are various reports about the process, and also about the production of the photographs.18 The photographer, Wilhelm Halffter, active between 1840 and 1901, is known today as the author of a handful of precious daguerreotypes. Here we encounter him as a man who worked with the wet collodion process. As the most precise negative process available at the time—here in combination with salted paper, then the most nuanced printing process—it was the obvious choice. Among Berlin photographers, however, the wet collodion process was not yet

19 in common use.

From the sources, we know how the relief model, camera, and light source were arranged for the shot: “La lumière tombait sous un angle de 40 à 50 degrés du nord-ouest sur les modèles, qui se trouvaient dans une position vertical”, the geologists wrote.20 Accordingly, the photographer positioned his camera horizontally in front of the model, which was raised into an upright position—rather than vertically and from above, as the images suggest. Light was cast on the model from a 40-50° angle so as to simulate the oblique shadow that a light source positioned to the northwest of an object would cast.21

A photographic print in the Schlagintweit archive in the Bavarian State Library shows another view of the painted Monte Rosa model. It is much larger than the illustrations in the Epreuves. These can be understood as photographically reproduced photographs, and are due to their small seize less detailed.22 In the 1850s, the only way to reduce or enlarge a photographic print was to copy the image on a negative of the size envisioned in order to contact-print it anew. Some daguerreotypes, likewise commissioned to Halffter, and showing the plaster models of the two terrains, attest to further ambitions in new visual media practice on the part of the Schlagintweit brothers. These images were to be viewed in stereoscope. Scenery was photographed from an acute angle to attain three-dimensional landscapes en miniature and so simulate a real-life experience of being in the Alps. The scale here was 1:400,000, i.e., twice that of the published prints. Those were available separately from the Epreuves.23 Obviously, the geologists were well aware of the technical and various epistemological potentials of photography.

Terrain models and a camera

The motif in the photographs was the terrain relief, made from plaster: a form of representing the Alps that had only recently become established—but was to endure.24 According to the sources, Adolph Schlagintweit and his younger brother Robert, together with one Warnstàdt, a Prussian civil servant, created the models in plaster of Paris to a scale of 1:50,000.25 The models of the Monte Rosa range measured about 65 by 65 cm each, the ones of the Zugspitze range 40 by 78 cm. The models comprised numerous notes, measurements, drawings, maps, profiles, and cross sections made in the course of the Schlagintweits’ expeditions. The items were produced in a number of up to nine copies. A few of the Monte Rosa models were painted, also in order that water-based elements like snow, glaciers, and rivers would be distinguishable from other elements in the photographs foreseen.26 The photographs depict both the unpainted and painted version.27 The plaster reliefs can be understood as models in a double sense. They also served as a model for the zinc reliefs put on sale together with a leaflet and a map.28 The zinc models were on the same scale as the plaster ones but comprised a hollow relief with a brass coating applied using a galvanic process at the famous Berlin foundry of Moritz Geiss.29

Terrain models were generally used to illustrate a particular region for the purposes—either surveying or military—of anyone planning to explore it or otherwise in need of knowledge of it. Around 1800 a new kind of terrain model became available in Switzerland: aimed at alpine travelers and tourists, it came with a map and a brochure.30 Inspired by Alexander von Humboldt’s studies in morphological geology, the model’s purpose in this case was properly scientific: to compare a chain of mountains to a mountain massif, discuss a particular case in detail, and so foster geological discourse.31 Apart from being referents and signifiers in photographs, the plaster models being discussed here were presumably also of strategic importance to the scientists’ own careers. Not so the zinc models, however, since these mechanically reproduced editions of the latter were articles of commerce for educational purposes, hypothetically accessible to everyone, also beyond the scientific community. Even more than the photographs, they were unalterable representations of the geologists’ findings.32

The Epreuves was the only place in which the terrain models were rendered in photographic prints. In quarto size with eight leaves—five of them bearing plates— the publication was much cheaper than both the main work, Neue Untersuchungen, and the zinc models, but still rather expensive.33 It definitely served as a scientific

Wilhelm Halffter’s photographs of 1854 47 publication. It was issued by J. A. Barth in Leipzig—the well-known publishing house taken over shortly beforehand by Adolph Ambrosius Barth (1827-1869), who was a friend of Hermann Schlagintweit and a scientist himself—and was printed by A.W. Schade in Berlin.34 In response to demands of the day to open up a discussion of geography to a broader public the entire text was in French—appropriately enough, given that this was the lingua franca of cartography and geodesy at the time.35

Evidently, the geologists had an interest in supplementing new forms of visual transmission, above and beyond the diversity of media in the Atlas zu den Neuen Untersuchungen. Now, they offered photographic prints, stereo daguerreotypes, and even an opportunity to observe the models by means of a concave lens, so adding a further dimension of visual experience.36

According to the geologists’ mentors—Alexander von Humboldt and Carl Ritter—a scientist wishing to acquire, document, and disseminate ideas in geography and geology, and to contribute to discourse on those recently established academic disciplines, was called upon to find new ways of visualizing his findings and observations. In introducing the terrain model, a pre-existing dispositif, in these new disciplines, the Schlagintweits broadened both the range of representation and its material palette.37 While around that same time John Ruskin, Aimée Civiale, the Bisson brothers, and certain colleagues began photographing observed nature in the Alps—moreover, in a way apt to sow confusion regarding the interpretation of such visual records38—the photography in the Epreuves served merely as a medium of controlled representation and perception. Here, in terms of both construction and decryption, the photography directly conformed to cartographic conventions. No matter what materiality the observed objects assumed, or which way around they were placed while being photographed, or how big (or small) they were, this was an attempt to quickly create a new kind of a map—as the title, Epreuves de cartes géographiques produites par la photographie, made plain. The question of whether models served for map-making or map-making for models in turn was as old as terrain models themselves, and as up-to-date.

Returning, now, to the initial question of whether—and why—the images may (or may not) reliably be said to be objective, it must be noted that nothing but the plates’ arrangement within the publication secures evidence. Each photograph is followed by a map excerpt showing—on the same scale, at the same size, and in approximately the same shape— the area depicted (Figures 3.4 and 3.5). The maps existed before the photographs did. They were made for the geologists’ own Atlas zu den Neuen Untersuchungen, conceived in the visionary system created by Johan Georg Lehmann (1765-1811), a geodesist then once again the talk of the field.39 According to this, areas of hatching on a printed map indicate a terrain’s upper levels while areas left blank indicate valleys; and contour lines serve to bring all of these into proportion. The tonality of photographs, however, since produced by a light source, conforms to the rules of light and shade. As was realized here, in cartography’s “lumière oblique”, we recognize a French tradition and an attempt to mimic the relief effect of sunlight on earth. Once positioned on subsequent pages and each placed at the same spot, a map and a photograph could be easily compared. While maps are subject to a codified graphic abstraction consisting of lines and hatching in black ink, numbers, characters, and names, photographs exploit the tonality of exposed silver salts fixed in an emulsion on paper, thus rendering the earth’s surface in the chiaroscuro of the illuminated models in this case.


Wilhelm Halffter, photographie reproduction of terrain model (Zugspitze and Wetterstein), 1854. Salted paper print, 7.5 x 14 cm, mounted on paper. Source

Figure 3.4 Wilhelm Halffter, photographie reproduction of terrain model (Zugspitze and Wetterstein), 1854. Salted paper print, 7.5 x 14 cm, mounted on paper. Source: Adolph and Hermann Schlagintweit, Epreuves de Cartes Géographiques [...] (Leipzig: J. A. Barth, 1854), fol. 7r. Universitätsbibliothek Chemnitz, Sign. WA: M59.

S Adolph and Hermann Schlagintweit, Epreuves de Cartes Géographiques [...] (Leipzig

Figure 3.S Adolph and Hermann Schlagintweit, Epreuves de Cartes Géographiques [...] (Leipzig: J. A. Barth, 1854), fol. 8r. Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Sign. Kart. 4° W 29041.

One result of making the models according to the map of the Monte Rosa range in the Atlas— and a proof of it—is a certain variation in the maps’ and the photographs’ respective trapezoidal outline. Obviously, the form didn’t pass through this intermedial passage—from the map to the model and photograph—without being adapted in shape for certain reasons we don’t know. However, much more disturbing is the incongruous significance of light and dark in the photographs, respectively, on the map. Whereas, on the map, dark areas are seen to fade into lighter ones, in the photograph dark and light areas are sharply contrasted and occupy other parts of the image. Light and dark have a markedly different significance here. A transfer of information from the photograph to the respective map sheet and vice versa is certainly hampered.

It seems as if the authors were aware—and afraid—that the photographs might remain “mute” were no further explanation given. It was but in correspondence with the maps that the photographs’ refused referentiality was meant to be resolved. The reader had to bring together the two forms of abstraction by mentally superimposing one upon the other. Considering that maps are supposed to be perceived intellectually, and photographs sensually, the information given here serves also to enhance imagination and comprehension. While a map can be interpreted as a contingent section from an area potentially being extended ad infinitum (without here actually being so, as the identical section in the Atlas of Neue Untersuchungen from which it was taken shows),40 the corresponding photograph is limited by the factual finite quality of the landscape represented in the photographed model. This follows the map section in turn. We clearly see here that the photographic image is primarily a product of iconicity: the image is an example. While the maps can be read independently of the photograph, the photographs turn out to be “a kind of black hole in the space of consciousness, something whose positive content [is] increasingly difficult to define, something that [is] possible to locate only in terms of what it [is] not”.41

Layers of evidence

Whether or not it was prompted by the images’ epistemological indifference, as a matter of style, or by general efforts to propose a comparison, commenting on printed figurative representation by recourse to another medium of graphic representation can be observed in general academic practice from the time of the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century onward. In scientific publications of the time, non-codified visual information was supported by codified information in a structured way. The Schlagintweits’ Untersuchungen (1850) and the Atlas of Neue Untersuchungen (1854) reflect such visual rhetoric. In them, a number of lithographed plates with scenery painted by the geologists themselves is supplemented by line drawings as well as by written explanations recorded on separate sheets of (transparent) paper (“Erláuter-ungsblátter”) (Figures 3.6 and 3.7). Although intended to enhance one another, such different layers of visual representation do not necessarily merge smoothly, alas. In the case of the Epreuves they even contradict one another. It is the meaning of the dark and light areas that differs.

One particular sentence in the introduction to the Epreuves offers an answer as to whether the layout was a merely theoretical approach that interfered with previous experience. According to this, the set can be understood as an outcome of an experiment and the solution as a compromise. Obviously, the geologists intended to accomplish a much closer visual comparison of photograph and map, but did not succeed.44 The attempt to photograph the models illuminated by a light

Wilhelm Loeillot, after A. Schlagintweit, Ansicht des Monte Rosa und des Macugnagletschers [View of Monte Rosa and the Macugna glacier], 1851. Lithograph. Source

Figure 3.6 Wilhelm Loeillot, after A. Schlagintweit, Ansicht des Monte Rosa und des Macugnagletschers [View of Monte Rosa and the Macugna glacier], 1851. Lithograph. Source: Adolph and Hermann Schlagintweit, Neue Untersuchungen ueber die physicalische Geographie und die Geologie der Alpen. Atlas (Leipzig: T. O. Weigel, 1854), plate 12. Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Sign. Kart LS HM Mn 10812.

Line drawing to William Loeillot, after A. Schlagintweit, Ansicht des Monte Rosa und des Macugnagletschers [View of Monte Rosa and the Macugna glacier], 1851 (see Figure 3.6). Source

Figure 3.7 Line drawing to William Loeillot, after A. Schlagintweit, Ansicht des Monte Rosa und des Macugnagletschers [View of Monte Rosa and the Macugna glacier], 1851 (see Figure 3.6). Source: Adolph and Hermann Schlagintweit, Neue Untersuchungen ueber die [...] Alpen. Atlas (Leipzig: T. O. Weigel, 1854), s.p. (before plate 12). Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Sign. Kart LS HM Mn 10812.

“à la [manière de] Lehmann” did not achieve the expected result. According to the reports, those images did not portray the landscape relief precisely enough. One may therefore assume that the authors rejected a certain number of the photographic prints.45 Instead, the light situation was modified so as to simulate the aforementioned practice of casting shadow while taking into account that some shadows obscure all but a few traces. Nonetheless, the actual layout—three trapezoidal and two rectangular forms on white pages, supported by scales—turned out to link the mountains, models, and maps in the most appropriate way.

In the mid-nineteenth century, appropriately rendering the height and surface of a terrain or a view of mountains still was a topic of debate among geologists and cartographers. The dispositif presented here reflects that debate as well as the irritations it prompted. Great confidence in the reader’s perceptive faculties could likewise be noted at that time. The Epreuves synchronize various viewpoints and practices from Germany, France, Switzerland, and Britain, including oblique hill shading, hatching in the style of Lehmann, model making, and photography.46

We also note a certain respect granted to the objectivity of the mechanically produced photographic image. Although personally skilled at painting and drawing, the authors had faith also in those mechanically produced “true” documents of nature, when they wrote: “Les épreuves ci-jointes ne sont nullement rétouchées” (The prints here have not been retouched at all).47 To their minds, the photograph did not automatically ensure objectivity but could assist in controlling subjectivity, if taken in the proper way. According to Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison, this was a quite typical reading of objectivity in the second half of the nineteenth century.48

Visionary ideas

The Epreuves was part of a multimedia publication, an addendum to Hermann and Adolph Schlagintweit’s publication of 1854, Neue Untersuchungen Uber die physicalis-che Géographie und die Geologic der Alpen. Yet despite being an extract and brief visual summary of the latter, as well as a highly accessible commentary on the terrain models it accompanied, the brochure existed also in its own right, as a self-contained reflection on current positions on the rendering of mountain views in maps. The photographs taken by Wilhelm Halffter were submitted as one potential equivalent to existing techniques in map-making. They were visual proofs of both visual and non-visual data gathered by the authors themselves. As such, they were presented as findings or specimens of the terra incognita of the Alps to the audience of “trained experts” (Peter Galison).

Without doubt, the Schlagintweits were familiar with the making of maps and models but lacked acquaintance with photography as a means employed by geographers. They were experts in visual representation based on drawn or printed linear systems, while the dynamics of photographic emulsions and the non-codified tonality of a photograph were new to them. In the 1850s and especially in Prussia, photography was still a new medium of visual recording in geography.49 On the one hand, the Schlagintweits’ experiment to create maps photographically failed. The images could hardly be read without support from those structures they were intended to be replaced—maps. On the other hand, the arrangement of the terrain models and the camera in the photographer’s studio was organized well enough to have created— unintentionally—a setting that can be seen in itself as a model—now to be understood in a figurative sense—for any aerial photography to follow. Hence, we observe that these new images of nature were controlled by nature itself. Inasmuch as the images are man-made, they obey photography’s and photo-chemistry’s own rules, which were, as we have seen, difficult enough to control. As such, the images also represent a concept of a certain intellectual hybridity.

In the early 1850s there was passionate discussion on how to “capture the light” of the sun and other celestial bodies photographically, and there were some first results.50 However, it was still impossible to view the earth from an overhead position as high as the images discussed here suggest. The use of new forms of two-dimensional graphic representation, as referred to here, reflects efforts to compensate this. While orthogonal projection had become the primary mode of early nineteenth-century cartographic representation, orthogonally taken photographs of terrain models soon became a cultural expression of their own, with Hermann Krone dedicating a plate of his famous Historisches Lehrmuseum für Photographie to them in the 1860s.51 The images presented in the Epreuves anticipate the effect of aerial photography, which has only recently been superseded by satellite photography, as another visualization of non-visual data. However, they tell us about a certain asynchrony of skills in handling new image processes and making their—sometimes accidental—results intelligible as visual statements in science.52


  • 1 Adolph Schlagintweit and Hermann Schlagintweit, Epreuves de Cartes Géographiques produites par la Photographie d’après les reliefs du Mont-Rose et de la Zugspitze (Leipzig: J. A. Barth, 1854). Copies can be found at Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin/Map Department (Kart. 4° W 29041), Universitätsblibliothek Chemnitz (WA: M59), Bibliothèque Centrale du Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris (see, last accessed on June 4, 2016) and at Bayerische Staatsbibliothek München/Map Department (4 Mapp. lOlf [loss]). It is mentioned in the context of the history of photography in Wolfgang Baier, “Ihre Hoheit ‘die Zugspitze’ und ihr erster Photograph”, Bild und Ton 17, no. 10 (1964): 307-309; and Hans Körner, “Photographieren auf Forschungsreisen: R. Schlagintweit und seine Brüder erforschen die Alpen, Indien und Hochasien (1850-1857)”, in Silber und Salz: Zur Frühzeit der Photographie im deutsche Sprachraum, 1839-1860, eds. Bodo von Dewitz and Reinhard Matz (Cologne: Braus, 1989), 310-320.
  • 2 Schlagintweit and Schlagintweit, Epreuves, fols. 4r, 5r, and 7r.
  • 3 Jan van Brevern, Blicke von Nirgendwo: Geologie in Bildern bei Ruskin, Viollet-le-Duc and Civiale (Paderborn: W. Fink, 2011).
  • 4 Min Kyung Lee, “Constructing Nineteenth-Century Paris through Cartography and Photography”, in Piercing Time: Paris after Marville and Atget 1865-2012, ed. Peter Sramek (Bristol: Intellect, 2013), 100-111, here, 105.
  • 5 See Moritz von Brescius, Friederike Kaiser and Stephanie Kleidt, Über den Himalaya: Die Expedition der Brüder Schlagintweit nach Indien und Zentralasien 1854 bis 1858 (Cologne: Böhlau, 2015); Cornelia Lüdecke, “Für Humboldt ins Hochgebirge: Der schulische und universitäre Hintergrund der Brüder Schlagintweit”, in Brescius, Kaiser and Kleidt, Über den Himalaya, 173-186; and Bernhard Fritscher, “Humboldtian Views: Hermann and Adolph Schlagintweit’s Panoramas and Views from India and High Asia”, in Form, Zahl, Ordnung. Studien zur Wissenschafts- und Technikgeschichte, eds. Rudolf Seising, Menso Folkerts and Ulf Hashagen (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2004), 603-611.
  • 6 Halffter is mentioned as the images’ author in Schlagintweit and Schlagintweit, Epreuves, fols. 3r and 3v. On the claim of printing to scale, see Hermann Schlagintweit and Adolph Schlagintweit, Neue Untersuchungen über die physicalische Geographie und die Geologie der Alpen, vol. 1 (Leipzig: T. O. Weigel, 1854), 581-582. On Halffter (known dates 1840-1901), see Sigrid Schulze, “Wilhelm Halffter”, in Günter Meißner (ed.), Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon, vol. 68 (Munich: De Gruyter, 2011), 183.

That photographic papers age was recognized as early as the mid-nineteenth century. See Issues in the Conservation of Photographs, eds. Debra Hess Norris and Jennifer Jae Gutierrez (Los Angeles, CA: The Getty Conservation Institute, 2010), 112-115.

See Franz K. Stanzel, Typische Formen des Romans, 10th ed. (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1981), 18; and Matias Martinez and Michael Scheffel, Einführung in die Erzähltheorie, 7th ed. (Munich: C. H. Beck, 2017), 89-96.

Moritz Reiffers, Das Ganze im Blick: Eine Kulturgeschichte des Überblicks vom Mittelalter bis zur Moderne (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2013).

Rainer Schoch, “Spiegel und Bildnis des ganzen Erdbodens: Überschau- und Weltlandschaften der Frühen Neuzeit”, in Von oben gesehen: Die Vogelperspektive, ed. Yasmin Doosry (Nuremberg: Germanisches Nationalmuseum, 2014), 29-47.

See Schlagintweit and Schlagintweit, Neue Untersuchungen.

Hermann Schlagintweit and Adolph Schlagintweit, Untersuchungen über die physicalische Geographie der Alpen in ihren Beziehungen zu den Phaenomenen der Gletscher, der Geologie, Meteorologie und Pflanzengeographie (Leipzig: J. A. Barth, 1850).

See Verlagskatalog von J. A. Barth in Leipzig 1780-1880 (Leipzig: J. A. Barth, 1880), 137. Schlagintweit and Schlagintweit, Epreuves, fol. 2.

On Sykes and the Schlagintweits, see Gabriel Finkelstein, “Conquerors of the Künlün? The Schlagintweit Mission to High Asia, 1854-57”, History of Science 38 (2000): 179-218, here 188 and 190; see also Brescius, Kaiser and Kleidt, Über den Himalaya, 38, 256; and Rudi Palla, In Schnee und Eis. Die Himalaja-Expedition der Bergsteigerbrüder Schlagintweit, Berlin: Galiani Berlin 2019, 47, 55-58.

Andrew Jarvis, “Indien im Porträt: Die Aufnahmen der Brüder Schlagintweit als frühe Dokumente kolonialer Fotografiegeschichte”, in Brescius, Kaiser and Kleidt, Über den Himalaya, 161-172, 346, here, 346. On the Schlagintweits’ use of photography, see Körner, “Photographieren auf Forschungsreisen”; Fritscher, “Humboldtian Views”; and Heinz Peter Brogiato, Berhard Fritscher and Ute Wardenga, “Visualisierungen in der deutschen Geographie des 19. Jahrhunderts: Die Beispiele Robert Schlagintweit und Hans Meyer”, Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte 28 (2005): 237-254. The photographs from India stemmed predominantly from Robert Schlagintweit (1833-1885) and Adolph Schlagintweit. It cost 4 thalers, which approximately equates 120 euros; see Schlagintweit and Schlagintweit, Epreuves; the copy at UB Chemnitz has an advertisement on the back cover. Today, Epreuves can be regarded as one of the earliest ever German books to be illustrated with photographs. See Regina Mahlke, “Kunst in Berliner Verlagen”, in Europäische Moderne. Kunst und Graphik aus Berliner Verlagen 1890-1933, ed. Lutz S. Mahlke (Berlin: D. Reimer Verlag, 1989), 33-39, here, 34.

Knowledge about the production of the photographs derives from Neue Untersuchungen, vol. 1, ix and 581-582; Schlagintweit and Schlagintweit, Epreuves, fol. 3r and 3v; Otto Funke (i.e., Adolph Ambrosius Barth), Bericht über die Schlagintweit’schen Reliefe des Monte-Rosa in der Schweiz und der Gruppe der Zugspitze und des Wettersteines in den bayerischen Voralpen (Leipzig: J. A. Barth, 1855); and from the correspondence between Hermann Schlagintweit and Adolph Ambrosius Barth from April 19 to July 11, 1854, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Manuscript Department, Sammlung Darmstaedter, Schlagintweit, Hermann v., Asien 1855 (5), here, Hermann Schlagintweit to Adolph Ambrosius Barth, fols. 28-32.

Concerning the wet collodion process invented by Frederick Scott Archer in 1851, I certainly in this case recognize knowledge transfer from the British, with whom the Schlagintweits had close contact from 1850 on; see Brescius, Kaiser and Kleidt, Über den Himalaya, 31-88, here, 39ff.

Schlagintweit and Schlagintweit, Epreuves, fol. 3r.

In this, the authors were following a method of French cartography that gained model status after 1815 but was soon disqualified as unnatural. Nevertheless, from 1832 to 1865 Switzerland was mapped in this way under the direction of Guillaume-Henri Dufour. The project was most probably known to the Schlagintweit brothers; see Madlena Cavelti Hammer, “Messbare Sinnlichkeit, Die Schweizer Reliefkarten des 19. Jahrhunderts”, in Vermessene Landschaften: Kulturgeschichte und technische Praxis im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert, ed. David Gugerli (Zurich: Chronos, 1999), 165-179, here, 173-175.

"Die Schlagintweit’sche plastische Reliefdarstellung des Monte-Rosa in Draufsicht”, albumen print, 31.5 x 30.4 cm, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek München, Schlagintweitiana, 1.7.34. The sources can only be describing the making of such large prints, not that of the small ones from the Epreuves. The large print depicts the model at a scale of c. 1:2, while those mounted in the brochure represent it at a scale of 1:4. Concerning the way the photographic reproductions were proportioned to achieve a certain scale, see note 18. Initially, there were 20 sets of photographs being made for the edition of Epreuves; see Schlagintweit to Barth, fols. 21v and 30v.

None appears to have survived. See the back cover advertisement on the copy of Epreuves at UB Chemnitz; see also Schlagintweit and Schlagintweit, Neue Untersuchungen, 582; and Funke, Bericht über die Schlagintiveit’schen Reliefe, 21-22. 4, but does not correspond with the descriptions handed down. The apparatus in question was that invented by Sir David Brewster, which was made commercially available by S.B.F. Soleil and presented at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851. These were the cheapest of all of the relevant realizations; the price of 3 thalers a pair is approximate to c. 99 euros today. The effect was photographically simulated in Brescius, Kaiser and Kleidt, Über den Himalaya, 35, ill. 4, but does not correspond with the descriptions handed down.

Andreas Bürgi, “Relief als Vorlage, Relief als Ziel: Vermessung und Landschaftsdarstellung in der Aufklärung”, in Gugerli, Vermessene Landschaften, 125-136.

Schlagintweit and Schlagintweit, Neue Untersuchungen, vol. 1, ix and 580-582; Schlagintweit and Schlagintweit, Epreuves, fols. 3r and 3v; see also Schlagintweit to Barth, fols. 19-34; and Funke, Bericht über die Schlagintiveit’schen Reliefe, 6, 17-18. There is evidence of a “F. Warnstädt, Geheimer Kanzleirat im Ministerium für Handel und Gewerbe”, in the Berliner Adressbuch of 1854. The models are mentioned in Finkelstein, “Conquerors of the Künlün?”, 190, 212, but with a mistaken relationship between maps, photographs, and models, date of the models’ production, and their receivers. The models are also mentioned in Brescius, Kaiser and Kleidt, Über den Himalaya, 35 (and one of them is reproduced).

In June 1854 there were nine copies of the model depicting the Monte Rosa range (five in plaster, three of them painted, and four in zinc) and seven of the Zugspitze (three in plaster, four in zinc); see Schlagintweit to Barth, fols. 28v and 29r. The measurements and the name of the painter ("Winkler, Neue Grünstr. 34”) are from Schlagintweit to Barth, fol. 21r/v.

Schlagintweit and Schlagintweit, Epreuves, fols. 4r (“Mont-Rose: A. Photographie du relief à surface blanche”) and 5r (“Mont-Rose: B. Photographie du relief à surface coloriée”). The flyer with the Monte Rosa model (“Mit Erläuterungsblatte in Royal-Folio als Beilage”) was printed by the famous printing office of Johann Friedrich Unger in Berlin; the geological map with the Zugspitze model (“Mit einer geologischen Karte in Querfolio als Beilage”) by lithographer Leopold Kraatz, also in Berlin; see the advertisement on the back cover of Epreuves (copy at UB Chemnitz); and Schlagintweit to Barth, fol. 21v. The price of 24 thalers (Monte Rosa) is approximately 795 euros today, the price of 20 thalers (Zugspitze) approximately 660 euros.

None of the plaster models seems to have survived. One zinc model (Zugspitze) can be traced in the Archives of the ETH Zürich, Erdwissenschaftliche Sammlung; see Brescius, Kaiser and Kleidt, Über den Himalaya, 35. Another can be traced in the Ferdinandeum in Innsbruck (Inv. Nr. Rel 4), according to Dr. Claudia Sporer-Heis, communication with the author, July 22, 2016. On Geiss, see Elisabeth Bartel, “Ph. C. M. Geiss: Vom Juwelier und Eisengießer zum Zinkgussfabrikanten: Ein Lebensabriss”, in Vom preussischen Eisenkunstguß zum künstlerischen Zinkguss, eds. Elisabeth Bartel and Nele Günteroth (Berlin: Arenhövel, 2013), 11-29.

Sabine Mirrione, “Entstehung, Verwendung und Bedeutungswandel von Reliefs: Die Reliefsammlung des Alpenvereins-Museums Innsbruck” (MA thesis, Leopold-Franzens-Universtät Innsbruck, 2009); see also Bürgi, “Relief als Vorlage, Relief als Ziel”.

On the claim of opening up discussion in geology in the nineteenth century, see Martin J. S. Rudwick, “The Emergence of a Visual Language for Geological Science 1760-1840”, History of Science 14, no. 25 (1976): 149-195; and Fritscher, “Humboldtian Views”, 608-609.

Funke, Bericht über die Schlagintweit’schen Reliefe, 18. Copies of the plaster models were given to the King of Prussia, the Prussian Academy of Sciences, Alexander von Humboldt, and the East India Company, among others.

Accordingly, it was made from one sheet of paper folded into a square; the measurement (26 X 21 cm) was taken from the copy at UB Chemnitz, which is in the original binding, unlike the copy at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, which is in a library binding from the time (see note 1). The price of 4 thalers equates approximately 132 euros; see Schlagintweit and Schlagintweit, Epreuves, copy at UB Chemnitz, advertisement on back cover.

Annemarie Meiner, Johann Ambrosius Barth 1780-1930 (Leipzig: Barth, 1930), 96-114; Klaus Wiecke, 200 Jahre Johann Ambrosius Barth: 1780-1980 (Leipzig: Barth, 1980), 39-44; and Denkschrift zur Hundertjähr-Feier der Buchdruckerei A. W. Schade 1811-1911 (Berlin: Schade, 1911). Schade also printed Poggendorfs Annalen der Physik and Chemie, published by Barth.

All of the Schlagintweits’ previous works were published in German.

Funke, Bericht über die Schlagintweit’schen Reliefe, 9-10.

The variety in the Schlagintweits’ techniques of documenting their research reflects what later was called the methodology of Humboldtian science; see Susan Faye Cannon, Science in Culture: The Early Victorian Period (New York: Science History Publications, 1978), 73-110; and Fritscher, “Humboldtian Views”.

See Brevem, Blicke von Nirgendwo.

The map on fol. 6r refers to the inset on plate I in Schlagintweit and Schlagintweit, Neue Untersuchungen; the one on fol. 8r refers to the inset on plate 9. The main maps were drawn in the manner of combined oblique hill shadowing by Henry Lange (1821-1893). On Lehmann, see Walther Fischer, “Johann Georg Lehrmann”, in Neue Deutsche Biographie, vol. 14 (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1985), 83. Lehmann’s system is also discussed in Funke, Bericht über die Schlagintweit’schen Reliefe, and by H. von Schintling in Zeitschrift für allgemeine Erdkunde 3 (1855): 478-494, with reference to the Epreuves. The line framing the photos corresponds to a neat line, that is, a line to delimit the section of a map.

Rosalind Krauss, “Sculpture in the Expanded Field (1978)”, in Rosalind Krauss, The Originality of the Avant-garde and Other Modernist Myths (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1985), 277-290, here, 280.

Martina Heßler, “Bilder zwischen Kunst und Wissenschaft”, Geschichte und Gesellschaft 31, no. 2 (2005): 266-292, here, 278. Heßler points to questions of conventions and style in scientific image production since the eighteenth century and their epistemic implications. In India, the Schlagintweit brothers continued to make line drawings as a kind of visual comment on their paintings; see Brescius, Kaiser and Kleidt, Uber den Himalaya, 326, ills. 7, 8. Stefanie Kleidt and Cornelia Liidecke focus on works by geologist Louis Agassiz (1807-1873) from Neuchâtel as a model (ibid., 151,181-184). Instead, I propose a more general approach. Schlagintweit and Schlagintweit, Epreuves, fols. 3r and 3v: “Nous avions essayé aussi de la faire tomber perpendiculairement à la surface générale du modèle pour avoir [...] des épreuves qui permettaient d’être directement comparées à la manière de Lehmann. Mais [...] qui est, que les pentes dépassant une certain inclinaison deviennent absolument noires, que cette position n’a donné dans la photographie que des images dans lesquelles les différences des pentes sont presque imperceptibles”.

Obviously, the print at Bayerische Staatsbibliothek München, Schlagintweitiana (1.7.34), can be understood as one of those. It shows one of the published models, but doesn’t refer to any of the published prints (see note 20).

Daniel Speich, “Mountains Made in Switzerland: Facts and Concerns on Nineteenth-Century Cartography”, Science in Context 22, no. 3 (2009): 387-408.

Schlagintweit and Schlagintweit, Epreuves, fol. 3r.

Peter Galison and Lorraine Daston, “The Image of Objectivity”, Representations 40 (1992): 81-128.

Jens Jäger, “Picturing Nations: Landscape Photography and National Identity in Britain and Germany in the Mid-Nineteenth Century”, Picturing Place. Photography and the Geographical Imagination, eds. Joan M. Schwartz and James R. Ryan (London: I. B. Tauris, 2006), 117-140, here: 131-137.

  • 50 Ann Thomas, “Capturing Light: Photographing the Universe”, in Ann Thomas, Beauty of Another Order: Photography in Science (New Haven, CT: Yales University Press, 1997), 186-219.
  • 51 Hermann Krone, “Lehrtafel 69 (‘1865. Die Photographie in der geoplastischen Forschung. 1865.67’), with Photos of Models by Alphons Stübel”, in Historisches Lehrmuseum für Photographie: Experiment, Kunst, Massenmedium, ed. Wolfgang Hesse (Dresden: Verlag der Kunst, 1998), 158-159; Krone’s photographs of terrain models (1864-1868) are listed as nos. S-W (Geo) 01N-23N, in Ulrich Lehmann, Hermann Krone: Die Photographien, Werkverzeichnis (Munich: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2008).
  • 52 Magdalena Vukovic’ and Andrea Fischer’s recent contribution to the discussion of visual representation of mountains and glaciers in late 19th century’s respectively today became accessible to me only after finishing my manuscript: Von wunderbarer Klarheit. Friedrich Simonys Gletscherfotografien 1875-1891, eds. Magdalena Vukovic and Photoinstitut Bonartes (Wien: Album Verlag, 2019). It is valuable in particular for its discussion of terrain models, photographic representation and the epistemological value of different ways of illumination (84-5, 94) and the work of the Schlagintweit brothers (90).

I wish to thank Kerstin Bartels, Sebastian Dobson, Lucinda Rennison and Annette Roch for their comments on this paper.

4 In order of disappearance

<<   CONTENTS   >>

Related topics