Wilhelm Hass Mapmaker

#WilhelmHass (1698-1764) was a map-maker from Nuremberg.  He furthered the work of #AugustGottliebPreuschen (1734-1803) who developed the printing method called typometry.  #Typometry is a relief printing method using movable type.  The technique was inflexible and the maps looked quite schematic in style.  Everything—text, borders, and topographic features—are set by hand using a variety of text fonts as well as a specially designed cartographic font.  Due to these limitations the technique did not catch on.

 Until the later 18th century, maps were printed in one of two ways: either from a relief block (typically a woodcut where all non-printing areas cut away from the block’s top surface); or from an intaglio plate (typically an engraving, with the map’s lines cut into the surface of a copper plate).
Rempublicam Basileensem typometric map by Wilhelm Haas @ 1776

Rempublicam Basileensem typometric map by Wilhelm Haas @ 1776

In the early 1770s, August Gottlieb Preuschen of Karlsruhe, Germany, invented an alternative to the printing of maps : a 21-character cartographic type font. Preuschen’s idea was realized through the technical skill of Wilhelm Haas, a typefounder in Basel, Switzerland, who perfected and cast the cartographic font and, in 1776, published the first map composed entirely from movable types. Over the next two decades, Haas continued to refine and expand his cartographic font until it contained at least 139 different characters, or “sorts.” These were special symbols, not letters, including 24 designed for depicting streams and rivers, 17 for borders, 14 for roads, 31 for charting military movements, 15 for human habitations, 6 for mountains and forests, and 32 for coastlines. All told, Haas employed his proprietary font to publish approximately two dozen typographic maps.

In setting these maps, Haas’s compositors worked from manuscript maps drawn on gridded paper. By breaking the complex cartographic image into small units, the compositors were better able to translate the image into small blocks of type metal. In doing so they faced two principal problems. First, the twists and turns of rivers and roads could be approximated but not rendered exactly, as could be done through engraving. Second, great care was needed to “lock up” these disparate assemblages of movable types so that they would not shift during printing.

Rempublicam Basileensem typometric map by Wilhelm Haas @ 1776

Rempublicam Basileensem typometric map by Wilhelm Haas @ 1776

Type fonts are designed so that each sort has the same height, or “body size.” As long as each horizontal row of movable type contains sorts of the same height, a page consisting of several thousand small rectangles of metal type will “lock up” easily. Because Haas’s cartographic font contained sorts with a range of body sizes, which could not be arranged into uniform rows, it was necessary to painstakingly add filler material to the irregular gaps between types. In essence, the process was more like assembling a mosaic than setting type.

Haas’s cartographic font could claim several advantages over copperplate engraving: maps could be prepared more quickly, revision was easier, and unlimited impressions could be taken. But decided disadvantages remained for the prospective map publisher: only a limited level of accuracy could be achieved, and a large initial investment would be necessary to purchase the requisite types. Soon, however, the invention of lithography (and later, wax engraving) gave cartographers a far easier method for reproducing maps accurately, and Haas’s font was never adopted by other map publishers.

Rempublicam Basileensem typometric map by Wilhelm Hass @ 1776

Rempublicam Basileensem typometric map by Wilhelm Hass @ 1776

The map that I acquired has two other marks which should be mentioned.  A close inspection of the paper reveals that it is a ‘laid’ paper upon which there are two watermarks.  These marks are created by weaving or sewing a wire into the paper mould in the appropriate shape.  Watermarks are still used today to identify paper-makers.  On the left we see a #Bishop’sCrozier – the watermark for the Swiss canton paper-makers of Basel (Basle).  On the right is the watermark of the #Gallizianis family of paper-makers from Basel.  A fine map with an interesting heritage and rare if my research is correct.


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