Cartographers Have Secretly Been Hiding Illustrations Inside Switzerland’s Maps for Decades

Hidden Illustrations in Swiss Maps

Marmot

The job of a cartographer leaves little room for creativity, as maps are expected to provide an accurate representation of a location. For several decades, however, mapmakers working for the Swiss Federal Office of Topography have subtly defied their role by secretly inserting hidden illustrations into official maps of Switzerland.

From a marmot hiding among the contour lines of the Swiss Alps to a fish blending into the grooves of a French nature preserve, it’s hard to believe these drawings went unnoticed for so many years. In fact, a rendering of a naked woman remained hidden for almost 60 years in the municipality of Egg, located in northern Switzerland. Her curved, reclined shape was composed in 1958 from a green marshland and blue river lines. The nude woman wasn't found until 2012, and even the marmot remained unnoticed for five years. Short, parallel lines indicating mountainous slopes doubled as the creature's fur, and its face, tail, and paws were concealed with clever relief shading.

It’s unclear why the cartographers decided to include these easter eggs. Perhaps the concealed doodles are a nod to the illustrated sea creatures and other mythical beasts of ancient maps, or maybe the mapmakers just wanted to have a bit of fun. But to find one of these drawings means that the cartographer has eluded one of the most prestigious map-making institutions in the world—each Swisstopo map undergoes a rigorous proofreading process.

Once these illustrations are found, they meet an unfortunate fate; they are removed from the next edition of the maps and will disappear from circulation. A spokesperson for Swisstopo told Eye on Design, “Creativity has no place on these maps.” Despite this, we think these secret illustrations should be celebrated as though they’re the maps’ true hidden treasures.

For several decades, mapmakers working for the Swiss Federal Office of Topography have been secretly inserting hidden illustrations into official maps of Switzerland.

Hidden Illustrations in Swiss Maps

Hiker

Hidden Illustrations in Swiss Maps

Fish

Hidden Illustrations

Spider

This subtle drawing of a naked woman remained hidden for almost 60 years.

Hidden Illustrations in Swiss Maps

Reclining woman

Hidden Illustrations in Swiss Maps

Cartoon face

Swisstopo: Website | Facebook | Twitter
h/t: [Swissmiss, Eye on Design]

All images via Eye on Design / Swisstopo.

Related Articles:

Who Is Abraham Ortelius? Learn More About the Inventor of the World’s First Atlas

Vintage Style Astronomy Maps Made from Open Source Data of the Universe

These Amazing Maps Show All the Rivers Running Through the United States

Download Over 91,000 Maps from the World’s Largest Private Collection

Emma Taggart

Emma Taggart is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. Originally from Northern Ireland, she is an artist now based in Berlin. After graduating with a BA in Fashion and Textile Design in 2013, Emma decided to combine her love of art with her passion for writing. Emma has contributed to various art and culture publications, with an aim to promote and share the work of inspiring modern creatives. While she writes every day, she’s also devoted to her own creative outlet—Emma hand-draws illustrations and is currently learning 2D animation.

Want to become a My Modern Met Member?

Find out how by becoming a Patron. Check out the exclusive rewards, here.

Sponsored Content