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The republic of Switzerland is seldom thought of as a lusty outpost of bohemian creativity. This beautiful mountain destination attracted a mix of freethinkers, sexual adventurers, philosophers, and exiles who attended literary salons that flourished in its thriving artistic community. During the summer of , the most scandalous group descended from England in the wake of the devilishly handsome year-old poet Lord Byron.

For four months, Byron rented a villa by the electric-blue waters of Lake Geneva, where he hosted animated soirees. The result was doubtless the most artistically productive vacation of the century. The summer of was also noteworthy for a startling event in meteorological lore. The Romantic writers were delighted by the unspoiled vistas of Lake Geneva and its surrounding snow-capped mountains.

If you look closely, you can see the map was made using a method called Hachuring. Using this technique, the cartographer introduces an artificial light source, typically from the northwest, that represents slope, with small lines accumulating to create the illusion of light and shadow playing on the sides of mountains.


The hachures, as the lines are called, run perpendicular to the elevation contours typically seen on topographic maps today. In that way, they beautifully represent the topographic nuances and intricacies of the mountains and do a very nice job of differentiating among flat land, walled and fortified cities, villages, small castles, and the landed estates of the nobility. The atlas is a spectacular work of cartographic art. The multiple pages, each roughly two feet by three feet, are meant to be removed from the binding and put back together as a composite map to create a grand cartographic tapestry of Switzerland.

Just about the only place such an expansive map could fit would be on the walls of a castle — which also suggests the audience for this map. Byron had left England earlier in , fleeing scandal: an ignominious divorce and gossip about his relationship with his half sister Augusta.

With its rich literary associations as the former home of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire, and Edward Gibbon, Lake Geneva was an obvious choice for the dashing young sybarite to spend the summer.

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The young Romantics were bewitched by the Swiss landscape. The croissant-shaped Lake Geneva is the largest and deepest of the Swiss lakes.

In Cologny, Byron settled into the luxurious Villa Diodati, which featured commanding views of Lake Geneva, while the Shelleys took up residence in the more humble Maison Chapuis, set by the water just below. Wine flowed copiously, as did laudanum, a form of liquefied opium. Today, Cologny is one of the most exclusive residential addresses in Europe.

Year Without a Summer

Divided into magnificent estates, it serves as home to bankers, sheiks, and European celebrities. Without proper sunlight, crops could not be grown properly, leading to an inflation on food up to 8 times their normal price thus contributing to famine.

Some resorted to making bread out of sawdust. The United States, Canada, and Europe experienced an unusually cold summer due to the aftermath of a massive volcanic eruption in Asia.

Gillen D’Arcy Wood, “, The Year without a Summer” | BRANCH

Temperatures plummeted on average of Instead of going outdoors and enjoying their time in nature, they were forced to stay indoors. For entertainment and to pass the time, the group proposed a challenge of who could write the most frightening story of all time. Frankenstein was created. Sign In Don't have an account? Start a Wiki. Contents [ show ].

The Year Without Summer - 1816