From the time the first cave man discovered the bison were better on another plain further away, mankind has been fascinated by topography. The Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans ranged far a field in commerce, colonization, and war. They brought back descriptions of previously unencountered lands, cities and peoples, which they both literally and figuratively incorporated, into their painting and pottery. Medieval citizens, who in their lifetime never got further away than the boundaries of their town or fiefdom, were enthralled by descriptions of foreign lands brought back by the Crusaders and wove them into their tapestries and folk tales.
The Nuremberg Chronicle, published in 1493 (a year after Columbus left for the new world and just forty years after the invention of the printing press), gave visual reality to every city known to man. With the invention of vanishing point perspective, 16th century landscapes became more detailed. Knowledge of the world expanded and a more learned society demanded more realistic representations. In the 17th century landscapes were no longer just background for figural studies but were valued for themselves. Mostly black and white engravings, they bring order and serenity into a turbulent world. 18th century landscapes and city views reflect, often in color, the more traveled world of the upper classes as they begin the "Age of the Grand Tour" or the rebuilding of their cities, often changed overnight by fire, flood or battle. However, it is in the 19th century that topographical views flourish. The development of a middle class with money and leisure and the advent of the steamship and the railroad making travel more accessible, encouraged detailed city and landscape views which were collected and viewed for what they told about your world…much like we would read the newspaper today. By the late 19th century the invention of the camera made unnecessary an artist’s interpretation of topography.