The Ferraris map vectorised: the development of a new GIS tool


Used database:





Scientific publication


The 18th-century Carte de Cabinet of Joseph de Ferraris is one of the most important historical maps of Belgium. The map is a unique source due to the many topographical elements that are represented in detail on the original sheets. In order to use these valuable data for research purposes, they must be redrawn and converted into editable tables. The STREAM team has developed tools for doing this labour-intensive work in a structured and efficient way. All the roads, waterways, buildings, boundaries and other elements on the map are meticulously redrawn with these tools and placed in an extensive vector file. This file is then enriched with a wide range of historical data, including data on the population, agriculture and industry. The result is a vast collection of geographical data that makes pioneering spatio-temporal research possible. Would you like to see a historical source or census in map form? Then be sure to contact the staff at the Quetelet Center to discuss what the possibilities are.


De Maeyer, Philippe, Elien Ranson, Kristien Ooms, Karen De Coene, Bart De Wit, Michiel Van den Berghe, Sven Vrielinck, Torsten Wiedemann, Anne Winter, Rink Kurk, and Isabelle Devos. “User-Centered Design of a Collaborative, Object Oriented Historical GI-Platform”. In Dissemination of Cartographic Knowledge: 6th International Symposium of the ICA Commission on the History of Cartography, 379–90. Springer, 2018.


“The project STREAM (Spatio-Temporal Research Infrastructure for Early Modern Flanders and Brabant) aims to create a research infrastructure that will allow spatio-temporal analyses in order to improve our understanding of the demographic, social and economic changes that occurred in Flanders and Brabant (Belgium) between 1550 and 1800. The Carte de Cabinet of count Joseph de Ferraris (1771–1778) offers information on various subjects for that time period and is considered one of the most important products of Belgian cartographic history. Hence this historical map was used as the main source document to develop a vectorial geographical database that constitutes an important step towards the creation of a research infrastructure. To build this geographical database a retrogressive method was used in order to interpret the historical map and its related data in an absolute geographical reference system, which the Carte de Cabinet lacks. Since STREAM results from a collaboration between researchers from different disciplines a specific user-oriented editing platform was developed to support the different actors. This platform allows the digitisation of the historical road network in a geographic reference system based on the current road network by means of a slider, a shift tool and an editing tool. Initial analyses have confirmed the strong geometric distortions of the Carte de Cabinet but also the multiple possibilities for spatio(-temporal) research when combining the information of the Carte de Cabinet with cartographic analyses of other cartographic documents.”