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Three Excellent Thematic Maps

Detailed report of the Telegraph systems of France, Belgium and Switzerland, by Malcom J. Brown, illustrated with 3 excellent maps.

An intriguing report on the nature of the French, Belgian and Swiss Telegraph Systems, based upon a fact-finding mission undertaken by Malcolm J. Brown for the General Post Office in the immediate wake of Britain’s move to nationalize its internal telegraph system .The report includes three excellent, large thematic maps of telegraph systems of highly advanced designs. The present example was clearly intended for an important recipient, as it is lavishly bound in full red morocco.

 The telegraph system of Great Britain and Ireland had been nationalized in early 1870, under the auspices of the British Post. Brown was tasked with evaluating the telegraph systems of Belgium, France and Switzerland, in order to prepare and inform its British administration.  Brown illustrates his report with three excellent, large thematic maps of highly advanced designs, detailing aspects of the telegraphic systems in question.   

The work is divided into three sections, one each on the government administered telegraphic systems of France, Belgium and Switzerland.  Each report is addressed Brown's superior at the GPO, Frank Ives Scudamore in June and July 1870.  Each section provides a careful analysis of the national telegraph system in question. Brown expresses his opinion of what he thinks are the strengths and weaknesses of each national system,.  He also comments on the relevance of his findings to the “Vienna Convention”, being the Second International Telegraph Conference (1868), during which Western nations agreed to revise multi-national treaties with respect to telegraphs, including matters of tariffs and regulation. 

Each of the three sections are illustrated by fine chromolithographic maps especially published for the reports by the London firm of Vincent, Day & Company Lithographers.  

The first section, ‘Report on French System’ (pp. 3-7),  is accompanied by a Map of the Pneumatic System of Paris (26 x 13.3 inches), illustrating  central Paris and with the 18.5 km-long system of pneumatic tubes that ran underneath the city’s streets.  The French Post office constructed a brilliant network of ‘tubes atmospheriques’, being tubes that used air pressure to transport messages contained in brass canisters between the various stations.  The map shows the cloverleaf-shaped network, centered upon the Bourse, and which extends as far north as the Gare du Nord, as far south as the Left Bank, as far west as the Champs Elysées, and as far east as the Château d’Eau.  The system could transport messages across the entire network in under 12 minutes!

The second section, ‘Report on Belgian System’ (pp. 8-12), is accompanied Carte du Réseau télégraphique de la Belgique 1868 (35.5 x 26.3 inches) a work of highly advanced work of thematic cartography.  The map lays out Belgium’s telegraph network in a manner like the ‘motherboard’ of a modern computer.  Telegraph messaging nodes appear in different sizes related to the volume of message traffic they handled, while the ‘flow lines’ between the nodes likewise correspond to traffic volume.   The present version of the map was specially copied from a version of Belgian map of the same title and design, created by a Monsieur J. Champfleuri and published in Brussels in 1864.  We can trace other editions, published in that city, bf the firm of F. de Raedemaker, in 1866, 1871 and 1880.  All of the Belgian editions are exceedingly rare.  The thematic design is quite progressive, at  a time when Charles Joseph Minard was creating his legendary ‘flow maps’.

The third section ‘Report on Swiss System’ (pp. 13-20), is accompanied by Carte du Réseau Télégraphique Suisse dressée par la Direction des Télégraphes. Berne. Janvier 1867. / Karte des schweizerischen Telegraphennetzes zusammengestellt von der telegraph Direction. Bern, Januar 1867 (27x 21 Incheas),  relying upon a modern form of expression showing the telegraph lines running between nodes of various sizes regulated by the level of traffic.  The present map was  derived by a map of the same title which first appeared in C.A. Steinheil’s Instruktion für die Telegraphisten der Schweiz (Bern, 1861).  We note different, modified versions of the map bearing the same title printed in Bern in 1874 and 1900.


The report is extremely rare. OCLC locates only the example in the University of Illinois collection.

Condition Description
20 pp., plus 3 large folding chromolithographed maps, bound in contemporary full red morocco with blind-stamped tooling and title in gilt to front cover (Very Good, maps bright, clean and crisp, text with some sporadic toning and some pages coming a little loose, binding with wear at extremities and some light surface abrasions, overall a lovely example).
Roland Wenzlhuemer, ‘“Supplying The Public With A Comprehensive Telegraph System”: Switzerland And Telegraphic Communication, 1860-1915’, Global Europe – Basel Papers on Europe on a Global Perspective, no. 106 (Basle: Universität Basel, 2014), esp. p. 14; The London Quarterly Review, vol. 39 (London, 1873), p. 288. Cf. C.R. Perry, ‘The Rise and Fall of Government Telegraphy in Britain’, Business and Economic History, vol. 26, no. 2 (Winter 1997), pp. 416-25.