Map. Pen and ink with watercolor. Image measures 18 x 12.5"
This pen and ink map of Italy was produced around the middle of the 19th century, likely by a student or apprentice as training in geography, drafting, and penmanship. The relative simplicity of the map suggests that the student was working from a school atlas as opposed to a more elaborate source. Major roads, rivers, and cities are all labeled in French, but the anonymous cartographer has clearly paid more attention to correctly rendering the coastlines of the peninsula and the surrounding islands of Sardinia, Corsica, and Sicily. The railroad from Switzerland to the Mediterranean Sea is also indicated with dotted black line. The overall coloring of the map corresponds to common patterns of the day, with a spectrum of blues used to highlight the peninsula and fill the surrounding water. The most striking feature of the map, however, is likely the rendering of mountains in a light brown watercolor wash intended to mimic the subtle technique used on engraved maps of the period. A finely written title at the top is flanked by a painter's palette in a black circle on the right and the Italian flag on the left. The map is in good condition on thick Lion drawing paper. Three pinholes in the top margin with paper watermark. Manuscript map-making was a useful educational tool in the 19th century, a period of imperialism and increased world trade in which geography grew significantly as a field of study. In the United States and northwestern Europe, reform movements that sought to improve the quality and accessibility of childhood education pushed for the inclusion of geography in school curricula. One common method of teaching was the making of manuscript maps. Working from wall maps, globes, and atlases, students were made to meticulously hand-reproduce maps in pen and ink and with watercolor. Such exercises not only provided a way to review and retain geographical knowledge, but they also functioned as training in penmanship, calligraphy, and drafting. Today, these idiosyncratic projects offer a glimpse into the way 19th-century youth engaged with the world around them.