Here’s a stunning bit of old cartography, a comparative view of the lengths of the world’s main rivers.
Published in 1817 and created by ‘C. Smith’, the rivers were ‘straightened out’ for better viewing, with compass arrows added along their lengths to indicate in which direction they actually twisted and turned. At least, the directions they took before most of them were enhanced through major engineering projects over the decades and centuries.
Posted on David Rumsey Map Collection, a description of the each river (the sea of exceedingly fine print) describes the course of the Missouri River as “recently explored by the Americans” (Lewis and Clark), and “extremely devious”.
The description of Italy’s Po River: “A celebrated Riv. and the largest in Italy…it often overflows its banks fertlizing the adjacent Country.”
I very much like how the Paraná and the Volga Rivers are so long that they spill out over the map’s own frame at the bottom.
This excerpt shows an aspect of the map that I think is my favorite:
All the mouths of the rivers lined up next to one another, feeding into all the seas of the world at the same time.
I’m not sure what use this map served besides being a beautiful bit of geographical creativity, but some of the descriptions could be useful in comparing early 19th century river flow and direction with their modern developments.
Which brave cartographer will take up the challenge and create the modern version of this map?