Old books published in the late 19th to early 20th centuries AD (e.g. the Loeb Classical Library) may contain one or more topographical maps of world regions.

How were these maps drawn and printed given the lack of computer technology at the time? Were they somehow typewritten just like the text of these books? If they were hand-drawn by cartographers, how were they reproduced (in an age without photocopiers)?

  • 1
    And what about before then?
    – Dr. Shmuel
    Commented Jan 15, 2019 at 3:32
  • I think you're more asking how data was collected in order to make the map (especially detailed topographic data) - rather than how they are printed. Am I correct ?
    – Bregalad
    Commented Jan 15, 2019 at 10:17
  • Many times they simply traced the map by overlaying a blank sheet on top of the original and maybe putting a light source behind it. There was also a tool, i cant remember the name of it, it had spots one for the original map and one for a blank piece of paper. As you traced over the lines on the map, a mechanical arm traced your exact movements onto the blank paper which created the map. As far as data collection it could be any number of ways, from surveys done with a theodolite to a ship captain using dead reckoning and crude compass/sextant, it all depended.
    – ed.hank
    Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 19:35
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    @ed.hank Sounds like you're describing a pantograph. OP may also be interested in en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_duplicating_processes (and maybe mimeograph considering the time period)
    – derobert
    Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 18:59
  • @derobert - Bravo! a pantograph is exactly the name of it. Thanks for refreshing my old memory!
    – ed.hank
    Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 19:54

1 Answer 1


There is no much difference between reproducing maps and other pictures. Since the end of 19th century maps (and other pictures) were photo-reproduced. Before that time they were engraved. The originals were drawn by hand.

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