A Source Book in Geography

Author: Johann Michael Franz  | Date: 1973

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Johann Michael Franz Defines the State Geographer

Our geographer [Staatsgeographus] is not a mapmaker who buys a sketch from an engineer, or puts a sort of map together from scraps that he had begged for, then gives it to the engraver, and when it is finished, has it sold through merchants of pictures in the world at large. He is not an author of compendia, who uses information that he pasted together in his study out of books and letters, and thus describes regions and even continents that he has never seen, and thus depends entirely on other peoples’ observations. In a word, he is not a copyist, a compiler, a purveyor of secondhand knowledge.

Our geographer is a much more useful and needed member of the community. He is a real geographer, who does not stay at home, buried in a small corner; for what is more remarkable in this world than a man who desires to present the world to others, a world that he does not know for he is a stay-at-home! Our geographer travels all the time, his greatest pleasure is to be a constant traveler; he will only stop traveling when he dies, in a stage coach . . .

He must be fully familiar with mathematics, history, and natural science. He must be qualified to carry out surveys and establish boundary lines. He must be able to provide full descriptions of the state and its cities, towns, and villages, putting together a complete repertory of information of all sorts. On the basis of that information, he must prepare a description of the state, illustrate it with maps, and see to its publication. He has the obligation to propose schemes for reclamation and amelioration of the soil, and be well informed on agriculture, architecture, and commerce in order to suggest improvements. He must prepare lists of all roads and of the postal system, properly illustrated with maps, for the use of travelers, as well as for purposes of improving communications. He must keep the library of his sovereign up to date as regards books, maps, charts, and all manner of geographical publications regarding new knowledge and discoveries. In the manner customary in France, where the first Geographer Royal also provides instruction in geography to the heir to the throne, the geographer must provide this service to the offspring of his sovereign, and prepare handbooks for schools for the nobility and schools in general. In time of war, he serves as the military geographer. And when the sovereign or his envoys travel abroad, the geographer will keep a travel diary, entering information gathered during the travel as regards matters terrestrial and celestial.

From Johann Michael Franz, Der Deutsche Staatsgeographus (Frankfurt & Leipzig, 1753), quoted in H. Beck, Geographic (Frankfurt-München: Karl Alber Verlag, 1973), pp. 201–204, by permission. Editor’s translation.


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Chicago: Johann Michael Franz, "Johann Michael Franz Defines the State Geographer," A Source Book in Geography, ed. H. Beck in A Source Book in Geography, ed. George Kish (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978), 389–390. Original Sources, accessed May 28, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=HF462GV8GIG7X48.

MLA: Franz, Johann Michael. "Johann Michael Franz Defines the State Geographer." A Source Book in Geography, edited by H. Beck, in A Source Book in Geography, edited by George Kish, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1978, pp. 389–390. Original Sources. 28 May. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=HF462GV8GIG7X48.

Harvard: Franz, JM, 'Johann Michael Franz Defines the State Geographer' in A Source Book in Geography, ed. . cited in 1978, A Source Book in Geography, ed. , Harvard University Press, Cambridge, pp.389–390. Original Sources, retrieved 28 May 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=HF462GV8GIG7X48.