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First Printed Map to Name Galveston

One of Six Maps Streeter Considered Most Important for a Texas Collection


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303.     [MAP]. [GULF OF MEXICO]. SPAIN. DEPÓSITO HIDROGRÁFICO DE MARINA. Carta esférica que comprehende las costas del Seno Mexicano construida de orden del Rey en el Depósito Hidrográfico de Marina: Por disposición del Exmo. Señor Don Juan de Lángara, Secretario de Estado y del Despacho Universal de ella. Año de 1799. Advertencia…. [seal and text at lower left] Depósito Hidrográfico Precio 18rs. vn. [lower left below neat line] Fel. Bausá la delineó. [lower right below neat line] Fern. Selma la grabó. [Madrid], 1799. Copper-engraved hydrographical chart showing coastal soundings, on heavy laid paper. Neat line to neat line: 60.5 x 92.5 cm. Sheet size: 64.5 x 99 cm. Professionally washed and stabilized with a few closed tears neatly mended (no losses), margins strengthened, a few minor infilled voids (one in image area barely touching one line), a few minor stains, overall a fine copy of a rare map, as issued and never bound. Ink manuscript correction moving Mexico City to the east at lower left. Verso with contemporary ink notation: “Costas del seno Mexicano 1799.”

     First edition (three editions followed, using the same plate, but with various revisions; see Streeter 1029A-C). This map was the first printed map to name the bays of Galveston and Bernardo (the latter now Matagorda). The coastline configuration in this chart established a prototype for the U.S. Gulf Coast which would dominate printed cartography for many years. Antochiw, Historia Cartográfica de la Península de Yucatán, p. 190 (figure 7), noting two separate issues in 1779, which vary in the width of Florida. Jackson, Shooting the Sun, Vol. II, Plate 34A (p. 499); pp. 286-287 (discussion of Evia’s charts and surveys of Matagorda and Galveston Bay accompanied by an illustration of Evia’s 1785 manuscript map of Galveston Bay, Plate 54). Lowery 721n (1805 edition). Martin & Martin, Plate 22A & pp. 105: “The first large-scale printed chart of the Texas coast based on actual soundings and explorations.” Phillips, Atlases 4155 (Map #21 in Atlas maritimo español, Madrid 1789-1814). Streeter 1029:

This chart, showing the entire coast line of the Gulf of Mexico and the lower courses of the rivers flowing into the Gulf, also shows all of Florida and much of Cuba. It is bounded on the east by the 72d meridian west of Cadiz, which runs about 140 miles east of the Florida peninsula, and goes as far south as the 18th parallel. From the place of the legends for “Louisiana” and “Provincias Internas,” the chart might be said to indicate the Sabine as the Louisiana-Texas boundary, and it is said that Jefferson used this chart in his tract, “The Limits and Bounds of Louisiana.”

Until its publication, the principal authority for the Texas coast line was the Jefferys map, The Western Coast of Louisiana and the Coast of New Leon, London, 12th May, 1794, No. 9 in The West-India Atlas, London, 1794[-1796]. In that map the coast line from the mouth of the Nueces north was an almost meaningless jumble and quite unchanged from the earlier edition of 1775. The Carta esférica shows a real advance in geographical knowledge and served for many years as a prototype of maps of the Texas coast line.

As this chart was followed for many years, some of its geographical features may well be mentioned. Though the representation of the coast north from the mouth of the Nueces is a great improvement over the Jefferys map, it incorrectly runs almost due north instead of northeast. The mouths and lower courses of six of the seven important rivers of Texas are shown. Going from east to west the six are the Sabine, Trinity (here called the Archisas), Colorado, Guadalupe (here called by the name of its tributary, San Marcos), Nueces, and Rio Grande (here called Rio Bravo del Norte). The important Brazos is not shown. Galveston Bay is correctly named. On present-day maps, the longitudes west of Greenwich of two significant geographical Texas points are approximately: Sabine Pass 93° 50´, and the mouth of the Rio Grande 97° 10´. Translating the Cadiz meridians into those of Greenwich we find that these two points are shown about a degree too far west on this Carta esférica.

     In the introduction to his bibliography of Texas, Streeter selects the present map as one the six most important maps for a Texas collection, commenting: “Six of the maps entered here are especially desirable for a Texas collection. At the opening period of this bibliography even the coast line of Texas was little known and its none too good delineation by a chart of the Depósito Hidrográfico de Marina of Spain entitled, Carta esférica que comprehende las costas del Seno Mexicano, [Madrid? 1799.] (No. 1029), represents a real advance. It is the first of two or three early maps showing the Texas coast line and the lower courses of its rivers. This Carta esférica was one of the authorities used by Humboldt in constructing his highly acclaimed Carte Générale du royaume de la Nouvelle Espagne, Paris, [1809]” (p. 329 of the 1983 reprint). For more on the importance of this map as a source for Humboldt, see Streeter 1042. Later map makers who made use of the chart include John Melish; not until the 1830 publication of Stephen F. Austin’s map was the configuration on the Carta esférica superseded.

     Although not credited on the map, José Antonio de Evia (1740-?) provided critical information on the features shown on this map. Built up over numerous explorations and military actions in Texas and New Orleans, Evia’s remaining materials, such as his charts and diaries, are considered the best work on the Gulf of Mexico by any eighteenth-century navigator and served as the basis for many charts issued by the Spanish Hydrographic Service. Evia had an exciting career and held important posts, including serving as commander at the port of Mobile during its siege and capture by Bernardo de Gálvez, who commissioned him to draw up detailed plans of the entire Gulf Coast from West Florida to Tampico. It was Evia who, after taking detailed soundings of Galveston Bay, named it in honor of his patron Gálvez (see Item 204 herein). Evia’s charts and documents were key documents in the Spanish case against American claims to the Neutral Ground between Louisiana and Texas. See Handbook of Texas Online: José Antonio de Evia. See also Tooley’s Dictionary of Mapmakers (revised edition, Vol. II, p. 40). For more on the other two contributors to the map, consult Tooley, Vol. I, p. 99 (Felipe Bauzá, chart maker on the Malaspina expedition) and Tooley, Vol. III, p. 82 (Juan Francisco de Lángara y Huarte, 1736-1806, Spanish admiral and Secretary of State and Navy of Spain at the time this map was published).

     According to Phillips (Atlases), the present chart was #21 in the Atlas Maritimo, initially produced under the direction of Vicente Tofiño de San Miguel (1732-1795), who created the first atlas of the Spanish coast between 1783 and 1788. The subsequent inclusion of American coasting charts marked a departure from the previous Spanish policy of extreme secrecy concerning those areas. Other copies of the atlas vary in number of maps. A copy of the atlas with sixteen American maps (including the present map), sold at the Frank Streeter Sale at Christie’s in April 2007 for $120,000. According to American Book Prices Current, no copy of the atlas had appeared at auction for thirty years prior to the Frank Streeter sale.

     Additional sources for the history and evolution of this map: Jack D.L. Holmes (editor), José de Evia y sus reconocimientos del Golfo de México, 1783-1796, Colección Chimalistac de Libros y Documentos acerca de Nueva España, Vol. XXVI, p. 127. Charles Wilson Hackett (editor), Pichardo’s Treatise on the Limits of Louisiana and Texas (Austin: University of Texas, 1931-1946, Chapter 3, Vol. I contains translations of Evia’s documents and a reproduction of his manuscript map).


Sold. Hammer: $20,000.00; Price Realized: $24,000.00

Auction 22 Abstracts


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