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John Casper Branner's Map of Brazil: Original or Facsimile?

Mappa [sic] geologico do Brazil, Geological Society of America, 1991 Branner, John Casper, Contributor.

The Branner Earth Sciences Library is named after John Casper Branner (1850-1922). Branner was, among many things, a geologist, an academic and a founding member of the faculty at Stanford and went on to become Stanford’s second president. He was also president of the Geological Society of America and served as the president of the Seismological Society of America.


Mappa [sic] geologico do Brazil, Geological Society of America, 1919. Branner, John Casper, Contributor.

The roots of his academic work in geology began in South America, where in 1874, he made his first trip to Brazil, sparking a love affair with that country—taking him back there several times. He accompanied Dr. Charles Hartt of Cornell University who had already published on the geology of Brazil. The 1874 expedition led to the establishment of the Department of Geology by the Brazilian government the following year—Branner was hired as Dr. Hartt’s assistant. Branner returned to the US in 1876 and following this, went back to Brazil on several occasions, including, in 1880, under the request of Thomas A. Edison to look for vegetable fiber to strengthen incandescent lights. In 1882 he was asked to return by the US Department of Agriculture to study cotton cultivation. He returned to the US in 1883. After several appointments in the US, including becoming State Geologist of Arkansas (1887-1891) and then a faculty member of Stanford University, his career culminating as the University’s second president (1913-1915). 

 The map on display in this case is one that he authored after he retired from Stanford University, published with the help of the Geological Society of America—where he wrote accompanying texts in English and Portuguese.  According to R. A. Penrose, Jr, who wrote a short memoir on him states:

“This great amount of geologic detail displayed over vast areas of country in this map is a mute but eloquent testimony to the research, the learning and the untiring efforts of its author.”

Creating a Facsimile

The Map Scanning Lab at Stanford University Libraries was tasked with imaging this map and collaborating with Special Collections to create a facsimile for display. Imaged 600 pixels per inch (PPI) on Stanford's Widetek 36" sheet-feed scanner, as you can see in the below image, a level of detail similar to what one might see if holding a standard magnifying glass over the physical object was achieved.

Detail of John Casper Branner Brazil Map


The resulting image was then optimized for printing on our HP Designjet Z3200PS large format printer. First, using Adobe Photoshop CS6 we reduced PPI from 600 to 355 and applied the Adobe RGB 1998 color profile. Then, the image was optimized for printing in Photoshop. Five different test swatches were printed and compared with the physical map as a part of the optimization process. We made sure to evaluate the facsimile images in the same type of light (in this case daylight) used in the exhibit.  Next, the facsimile of the entire map was printed using permanent pigments, carefully trimmed, folded and finished to resemble the original map.

Comparing the two versions

Comparing the Digital and the Original Branner Brazil Map

So, can you spot the difference in this small piece of the map above? The versions are separated at the center. Which half is the original, and which half is the facsimile? Come and see for yourself.

Download a high resolution image of the map.

This exhibit is part of the anniversary celebration commemorating the 100th year since the founding of the Branner Earth Sciences Library & Map Collections (June 14, 1915 - June 15, 2015.)

Counting down to the anniversary on June 14, each week we will be exhibiting items from our collection and archive.  This exhibition is part of an ongoing series of anniversary events that culminate with a public celebration, speakers, and tour of the library on Thursday, June 11, 2015 from 4-6:30pm.  Please be sure to join us!

Authors: G. Salim Mohammed and Deardra Fuzzell