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The comparative tableau of mountains and rivers: emulation and reappraisal of a popular 19th-century visualization design

Abstract : The 'comparative tableau of mountains and rivers' is a recently 'rediscovered' cartographic layout, aiming to illustrate the size distributions of the world's highest mountains and longest rivers. Its 'river' component is basically a barplot of the rivers’ unbent shapes, retaining a 'thick' cartographic description of their immediate hinterland. This display was a common feature of French and Anglo-American atlases during most of the 19th century, before it fell totally into disfavour, supplanted by more watershed-centred approaches. The paper is a critical assessment of the design principles of this visualization, via a modern emulation based on generic GIS rubbersheeting algorithms. A recreation of the chart of the world's longest rivers allows for a showcasing of the characteristics of the layout, its intellectual framing, and its political uses. Beyond a discussion of the approach's limitations, its innovative merits are demonstrated with two mapping applications on the evolution of landcover and administrative zonings alongside the Garonne River (southwest France), highlighting complex relationships of human societies along the streams of 'their' rivers.
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https://hal.inrae.fr/hal-02601705
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Submitted on : Saturday, May 16, 2020 - 6:56:31 AM
Last modification on : Thursday, March 25, 2021 - 3:31:57 AM

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B. Hautdidier. The comparative tableau of mountains and rivers: emulation and reappraisal of a popular 19th-century visualization design. Environment and Planning A, SAGE Publications, 2015, 47 (6), pp.1265-1282. ⟨10.1177/0308518x15594901⟩. ⟨hal-02601705⟩

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