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2006 Catalog > Alexander von Humboldt, A Map of New Spain

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The English Edition of Humboldt’s Great Map of New Spain
and the Southwest

Alexander von Humboldt. “A Map of New Spain from 16. to 38. North Latitude reduced from the Large Map drawn from astronomical observations at Mexico in the year 1804” (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, October 25, 1810). Published in the volume of plates accompanying Humboldt’s Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain. Copperplate engraving, black and white as issued. 16 1/4 x 11 1/4” at neat line. Frame size: 23 x 17 3/4". Old tears at bottom and in left quadrant, professionally repaired. Overall, excellent condition (by sight), with fine, crisp detail. Handsome archival presentation in black frame.

Price: SOLD.

The present is the scarce English edition, reduced in size, of Humboldt’s rare and important map Carte Générale du Royaume de la Nouvelle Espagne, which he completed in 1809 and published in the atlas that accompanied his Essai Politique sur le Royaume de Nouvelle Espagne. The book was one of the first to establish the field of geography as a modern science, and it was immediately translated into several European languages. Humboldt’s accompanying map of New Spain instantly established a precedent, according to Wheat, as “undoubtedly the most important and most accurate published map that had yet appeared for the area of the American West which it included.” Of particular importance for certain members of its European audience, the work also presented the most complete picture of New Spain’s mineral wealth at a time when Mexico was the uncontested world leader in silver production. The clamor for information on New Spain resulted in a London edition of the Essai Politique, translated by John Black and published in 1811. It contained the smaller-format edition of the map, offered here, which was separately engraved with English legends but which replicated the information that was on the larger version. The map was a “magnificent cartographic achievement,” as Wheat notes, and it served as a model for most European cartographers of the period. An excellent and desirable example of the only Humboldt map in English.

Refs.: Howes, H786; Martin and Martin, Maps of Texas and the Southwest, plate 23; Streeter, Bibliography of Texas, part III, vol. 1, no. 1042; Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West, vol. I, no. 273.

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