A. Hopfstock

Federal Government



Titel: A Comparative Study of European Topographic Maps at Scale 1:250.000

Author: Anja Hopfstock

Email: anja.hopfstock@bkg.bund.de

Company: Federal Agency for Cartography and Geodesy, Germany


-          Map Design and Production

-          Digital Cartography and GIS for Sustainable Development of Territories




ood governance across Europe similar to the national level requires relevant, harmonised and quality geographic information for the management and decision making at the European level. The Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe (INSPIRE) initiative was launched to handle the fragmented situation on spatial information in Europe to build a European Spatial Data Infrastructure (ESDI). One of the principles of INSPIRE is that geographical information should be presented in an understandable visual form. Another European initiative is the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) aiming at the provision of core land cover data that may stimulate the production of European topographic maps. EuroSpec, a major programme within EuroGeographics, is addressing the issue of interoperability of the reference information provided and distributed by the National Mapping and Cadastral Agencies (NMCAs) as European topographic reference data builds an essential part of an ESDI.


Whereas spatial data infrastructures provide an easy and reliable access to geographical information GIS applications provide the tools for spatial analysis and visualisation. In the domain of GIS and cartography it is common sense that graphical presentation of spatial information plays a key role in communication of geographical reality. Within a GIS the topographic reference data enables thematic and other GIS analysis, as well as high-quality cartographic output. Although available topographic reference datasets, e.g. EuroRegionalMap and EuroGlobalMap from EuroGeographics, promote its usage as a geographic backdrop for visualisation and presentation of other thematic data in cross-border applications, concepts for presenting the collected harmonised data in an effective and understandable way are missing.


The paper presents the results of a comparative study of national and commercial maps at scale range 1:100.000 – 1:300.000. This study was carried out to get an overview of the regional differences as well as to identify similarities and inconsistencies in map content and portrayal of geographical features throughout Europe. Therefore the map legends of 10 national topographic maps and 12 commercial maps from different publishers were analysed based on the semantics in combination with the graphical presentation of elements in the map legends. Starting from this design guidelines were developed for a harmonised European symbol catalogue. To assess the feasibility of the proposed guidelines, experimental investigations in visualisation of EuroRegionalMap, a harmonised European topographic reference dataset at scale 1:250.000, were accomplished. Finally the pros and cons of a harmonised European symbol catalogue are weighed against each other.