AUCTION 23

 
 

Humboldt’s Presentation Copy of the First Printing of his Atlas of New Spain, with Special Bibliographical Interest

Includes “one of the six most desirable maps of Texas”—Streeter

 
Click thumbnails to open zoomable images.

12. [ATLAS]. HUMBOLDT, Alexander Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich. Atlas Géographique et Physique du Royaume de la Nouvelle-Espagne....Paris & Tübingue, 1808-1812. This copy has five separate title pages. Text: [12 (5 title pages, half title, and dedication leaf to Ennio Quirino Visconti, intended to be included in Vues des Cordillères)], [1] 2-4 (table of contents), [2 (table of contents)] pp., 19 leaves of engraved plates on heavy paper, 4 double-page and folded, 6 double-page, 9 single-page: 20 maps, 4 folded profiles in sepia, charcoal, bronze, and brown aquatint, 2 views of  volcanoes in sepia aquatint, and charts. The large Carte générale du royaume de la Nouvelle Espagne is on 2 double sheets. (See plate list below.) Folio (59.7 x 46 cm), separate sheets loosely laid in original grey pasteboard portfolio with original string ties and printed label with ornate leaf border for Vues des Cordillères, et Monumens des Peuples de l’Amérique, pour Accompagner la Relation Historique du Voyage de Mm. de Humboldt et Bonpland. Première Livraison, Contenant les Planches 1 à 12, avec leur explication.... The printed label, which measures 49.3 x 36 cm, continues with a description of the six parts of Humboldt’s voyages and their prices, depending on the paper specified. Label imprint reads: On Souscrit, a Paris, chez F. Schoell, Rue des Fossés-Saint-Germain-L’Auxerrois, No. 29, et Chez GEL. Dufour et CIE., Rue des Mathurins, No. 7. a Strasbourg, Chez F.G. Levrault. De L’Imprimerie de J.H. Stone. The whole label has been cancelled in purple crayon with notes reading: “Atlas geographique” and “20 Cartes complet.” (This printed label for Vues is illustrated by Fiedler & Leitnerat p. 135.) Portfolio bumped and moderately stained. Contents with occasional light waterstaining, moderate soiling and chipping to a few title pages. Maps with occasional light waterstaining and marginal soiling, not affecting images. Overall in surprisingly very good condition, given its storage in the fragile portfolio. Complete and untrimmed, with Humboldt’s brief manuscript ink presentation note on the third title page.

List of the Five Separate Title Pages and Half Title
In Order of Appearance in the Portfolio

[First title page] Atlas Géographique et Physique du Royaume de la Nouvelle-Espagne, fondé sur des Observations Astronomiques, des Mesures Trigonométriques et des Nivellemens Barométriques. Par Al. de Humboldt. Troisième Livraison, Contenant les Nos. 3 et 15. Paris, Chez F. Schoell, Rue des Fossés-Saint-Germain-L’Auxerrois, No. 29; et a Tubingue, Chez J.G. Cotta, Libraire, Se Trouve Aussi a Paris, Chez G. Dufour et Co., Rue des Mathurins, No. 7; et a Strasbourg, Chez F.G. Levrault. 1809. Imprimerie de L. Haussmann et d’Hautel, Rue de la Harpe, No. 80. [altered in pencil to read “de 1 à 20” and noted “de la part de l’auteur”]. Title within ornate leaf border.

[Second title page] Atlas Géographique et Physique du Royaume de la Nouvelle-Espagne, fondé sur des Observations Astronomiques, des Mesures Trigonométriques et des Nivellemens Barométriques. Par Al. de Humboldt. Deuxième Livraison, Contenant les Nos. 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 18. Paris, Chez F. Schoell, Rue des Fossés-St.-Germain-L’Auxerrois, No. 29; et a Tubingue, Chez J.G. Cotta, Libraire, Se Trouve Aussi a Paris, Chez Tourneisen Fils, Rue de Seine, No. 12; et a Strasbourg, Chez F.G. Levrault. 1808. De l’Imprimerie de L. Haussmann, Rue de la Harpe, No. 80. [altered in pencil to read “de 1 à 20”]. Title within ornate leaf border.

[Third title page] Atlas Géographique et Physique du Royaume de la Nouvelle Espagne, fondé sur des Observations Astronomiques, des Mesures Trigonométriques et des Nivellemens Barométriques. Par Al. de Humboldt. Première Livraison, Contenant les Nos. 9, 11, 13, 14, 16, 17. Paris, Chez Fr. Schoell, Rue des Fossés-Saint-Germain-L’Auxerrois, No. 29; et a Tübingue, Chez J.G. Cotta, Libraire. 1808. De l’Imprimerie de L. Haussmann, Rue de la Harpe, No. 80. [altered in pencil to read “de 1 à 20” and noted in author’s hand “de la part de l’auteur”]. Title within ornate leaf border.

[Fourth title page] Atlas Géographique et Physique du Royaume de la Nouvelle Espagne, fondé sur des Observations Astronomiques, des Mesures Trigonométriques et des Nivellemens Barométriques. Par Al. de Humboldt. Paris, Chez Fr. Schoell, Rue des Fossés-S.-Germain-L’Auxerrois, No. 29; et a Tübingue, Chez J.G. Cotta, Libraire. 1808. [altered in pencil to read “Cartes en double”].

[Fifth title page] Atlas Géographique et Physique du Royaume de la Nouvelle-Espagne, fondé sur des Observations Astronomiques, des Mesures Trigonométriques et des Nivellemens Barométriques. Par Al. de Humboldt. Paris, Chez G. Dufour et Cie. Rue des Mathurins, No. 7. 1812. De l’Imprimerie de J.H. Stône, Éditeur des Ouvrages de M. de Humboldt.

[Half title conjugate with fifth title page] Atlas Géographique et Physique du Royaume de La Nouvelle-Espagne.

Plate List

Plate 1 & 1 bis (one map on two folded sheets), measuring together, neat line to neat line: 100 x 69.5 cm.

1. Carte Générale du Royaume de la Nouvelle Espagne depuis le Parallele de 16° jusqu’au Parallele de 38° (Latitude Nord). Dressée sur des Observations Astronomiques et sur l’ensemble des Matériaux qui existoient à Mexico, au commencement de l’année 1804. Par Alexandre de Humboldt. Ls. Aubert pere Scripsit. Neat line to neat line: 48 x 69.5 cm. Top half of map of New Spain, showing all or parts of present-day Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Louisiana, Wyoming, Kansas, Utah, and California. At the far northwest is Escalante’s “Lac de Timpanogos.” The map extends south to the mouth of the Colorado River and the upper reaches of the Sea of Cortez, Casas Grandes, Presidio del Norte, and “Pr Nacogdoch.” Rumsey 328.001. For citations to entire two-sheet map see next entry.

1. (bis) [below neat line] Dessiné à Mexico par l’Auteur en 1804, perfectionné par le même, par MM. Friesen, Oltmanns et Thuilier 1809. Gravé par Barriere-et l’Ecriture par L. Aubert pere, à Paris. Neat line to neat line: 52 x 69.5 cm. Lower half of the map of New Spain, with the northernmost points at Mission San Francisco Borja in Baja California, San Antonio, Galveston Bay, and Mermento River in southern Louisiana. Far south are Chiapas and the Gulf of Tehuantepec. Rumsey 328.002. Citations to entire map: Cohen, Mapping the West, pp. 101-102. Hayes, Historical Atlas of the American West, p. 47: “One of the finest maps of the Spanish Southwest... Humboldt’s 1804 manuscript map seems to be one of the first to use the modern spelling of Albuquerque (leaving out the first r.); the spelling is repeated on this map.” Jackson, Shooting the Sun #64, Chapter 11 & p. 380. Martin & Martin (p. 109 & Plate 23) cite the English edition in reduced format; see also Martin & Martin, Contours of Discovery pp. 42-43. Rumsey 328.003 (both sheets). Rumsey, Cartographica Extraordinaire, pp. 20 & 133. Streeter 1042 (dates the map 1809, and designates it as one of the six most desirable maps of Texas, noting in his introduction that it is “the best to that date for the Texas region”). Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West 272* & 302*; Vol. I, pp. 132-138: “Undoubtedly the most important and most accurate published map that had yet appeared.... A truly magnificent cartographic achievement.” The publication sequence of the original seven fascicules indicates the map appeared in the fourth fascicule which came from the press on November 13, 1809.

Plate 2 (one map on folded sheet)

2. Carte du Mexique et des Pays Limitrophes Situés au Nord et à l’Est dressée d’après la grand carte de la Nouvelle-Espagne de Mr. A. de Humboldt et d’autres Matériaux par J.B. Poirson. 1811. [below neat line] Grave par Barriere. et l’ecriture par L. Aubert. Se trouve à Paris chez F. Schoell, Libraire. Neat line to neat line: 42.5 x 72.7 cm. Mexico, present-day United States, and the Caribbean south to Jamaica and Santo Domingo. Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, El Territorio Mexicano, Vol. I, p. 162 & Vol. II, p. 175. Jackson, Shooting the Sun #65. Rumsey 328.004. Streeter 1042n. Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West 275*, 302*, & Vol. I, pp. 133 & 137: “[Humboldt] decided [his map of New Spain] would require too large a sheet...so he left those areas for an overall map to be engraved for him by J.B. Poirson in Paris.... This was an important map, for while it did not itself add to knowledge of the American West, it did put into the hands of the reading public the broad geographical relationship of the American Southwest with the dominions lying to the east.”

Plate 3 (one map on folded sheet)

3. Carte de la Vallée de Mexico et des Montagnes Voisines esquissée sur les Lieux en 1804, par Don Louis Martin redigée et corrigée en 1807 d’après les opérations Trigonométriques de Don Joaquin Velasquez et d’après les observations Astronomiques et les mesures Barométriques de Mr. De Humboldt par Jabbo Oltmanns. [below neat line] Dessiné par G. Grossmann, terminé par F. Friesen à Berlin 1807 et par A. Humboldt à Paris 1808. Gravé par Barriere-et l’Ecriture par L. Aubert pere. Neat line to neat line: 39 x 46 cm. Original tissue guard. Map of the Valley of Mexico including cities, villages, haciendas, and astronomical observatory points. Apenes, Mapas Antiguos del Valle de Mexico #30 & pp. 26-27: “La Carte de la Vallée siguió por más de medio siglo siendo el prototipo de los mapas del Valle de México.” Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, El Territorio Mexicano, Vol. II, p. 322. Rumsey 328.005.

Plate 4 (eight maps on a half sheet)

4. Points de partage et Communications projettées entre le Grand Océan et l’Océan Atlantique. I. Rivière de la Paix et Tacoutché Tessé. II. Rio del Norte et Rio Colorado. III. Rio Huallaga et Rio Huanuco. IV. Golfe de S. Georges et Estero de Aysen. V. Rio de Huasacualco et Rio de Chimalapa. VI. Lac de Nicaragua. VII. Isthme de Panama. VIII. Ravin de la Raspadura et Embarcadero de Naipi. Dessinés par J.B. Poirson. Gravé par Barriere-et l’ecriture par L. Aubert. Image area including eight maps and title: 50 x 34.5 cm. Eight maps showing possible communication points and passage ways from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean. Areas represented are in North, Central, and South America, stretching from Vancouver to Terra del Fuego. The largest map is entitled: Carte de l’Isthme de Huasacualco. Rumsey 328.006. Map 2 shows West Texas and New Mexico from Paso del Norte north to the headwaters of the Colorado River. Humboldt re-kindled the idea of an interoceanic canal or various water routes between the Atlantic and Pacific.

Plate 5 (one map on a half sheet)

5. Carte Réduite de la Route d’Acapulco à Mexico, Dresée sur des Observations Astronomiques et sur un nivellement Barométrique par A. de Humboldt. Dessiné par A. de Humboldt, à Berlin 1807. Gravé par Barriere et l’Ecriture par L. Aubert. Neat line to neat line: 39.5 x 19.2 cm. Map showing the route from Acapulco to Mexico City. The map includes cities, towns, villages, mines, farms, and astronomical observatory points. Rumsey 328.007.

Plates 6, 7 & 8 (three maps on folded sheet)

[General title for the three maps] Carte de la Route qui mène depuis la Capitale de la Nouvelle Espagne jusqu’à S. Fe du Nouveau Mexique. Dressée sur les Journaux de Don Pedro de Rivera et en partie sur les Observations Astronomiques de Mr. de Humboldt. Gravé par Barriere, et l’Ecriture par L. Aubert, Directeur du dit Ouvrage. [Map 6 title] 6. Route de Mexico à Durango. Neat line to neat line: 35 x 13 cm. [Map 7 title] 7.Route de Durango à Chihuahua. Neat line to neat line: 25.5 x 12.6 cm.[Map 8 title] 8. Route de Chihuahua à Santa Fe. Neat line to neat line: 42.5 x 12.7 cm.[below each map] Dessiné et redigé par F. Friesen, à Berlin 1807. Image area including title: 49.3 x 43 cm. Three separate maps show the route from Mexico City to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Mines, ranchos, haciendas, villages and towns are shown. Rumsey 328.008. Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West 274* & 304*, Vol. I, p. 137: “Among Humboldt’s other maps of interest here may be mentioned that of the route from Mexico City to Santa Fe, taken in part from Humboldt’s own astronomical observations.”

Plate 9 (one map on folded sheet)

9. Carte réduite de la Partie orientale de la Nouvelle Espagne depuis le Plateau de la Ville de Mexico jusqu’au Port de la Veracruz. Dresseé sur les opérations Géodesiques de Don Miguel Costanzo et de Dn. Dgo. Garcia Conde, Officiers au service de sa Majesté Catholique sur les Observationes Astronomiques et le Nivellement Barométrique de Mr. De Humboldt de l’Imprimerie de Langlois. [below neat line] Dessinée d’après l’esquise de Mr. de Humboldt par F. Friesen, à Berlin 1807. Le Plan Gravé par Barriere et l’Ecriture par L. Aubert, Directeur du dit Ouve. à Paris. Neat line to neat line: 21.5 x 62.5 cm. Road between Mexico City and Veracruz showing eastern Mexico. Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, El Territorio Mexicano, Vol. II, p. 670. Rumsey 328.009.

Plate 10 (one map on a half sheet)

10. Carte de Fausses Positions de Mexico, Acapulco, Veracruz et du Pic d’Orizaba. Dessiné par A. de Humboldt à Mexico 1804. Gravé par L. Aubert. Neat line to neat line: 19 x 31.6 cm. This map shows the incorrect positions ascribed to Mexico City, Acapulco, Veracruz, and Orizaba over time, and by whom. Rumsey 328.010. Rumsey, Cartographica Extraordinaire, pp. 21 & 133.

Plate 11 (one map on a half sheet)

11. Plan du Port de Veracruz, Dressé par Don Bernardo de Orta, Capitaine de Vaisseau au service de Sa Majesté Catholique. F. Bauza f. a Madrid. (copié et diminué de moitié par F. Wittich 1807.) d’après le Plan publié par le Deposito hydrografico de Madrid. Le Plan gravé par Barriere et l’Ecriture par L. Aubert, directeur. Paris. Neat line to neat line: 21.8 x 28.7 cm. A detailed plan of the port of Veracruz with soundings and an inset view of the coast at top left. Rumsey 328.011.

Plate 12 (one profile on folded sheet)

12. Tableau physique de la pente Orientale du Plateau de la Nouvelle Espagne, (Chemin de Mexico à Veracruz par Puebla et Xalapa.) Dressé d’après des mesures Barométriques et Trigonométriques, prises en 1804 par Mr. de Humboldt. Dessiné par A. de Humboldt, à Veracruz 1804. Terminé par Wittich et Friesen 1807. Gravé par Bouquet. Les Echelles et l’Ecriture gravées par Aubert. Image area, including title and scales below: 37 x 82.7 cm. Original charcoal coloring. Presented is a cross section depicting the elevations from Mexico City to Veracruz. Geologic information is included. This profile and Plate 13 following, together present a profile of Mexico. Ulrike Leitner in his essay on Humboldt’s works on Mexico states: “The historian of geography and Humboldt scholar Hanno Beck has often emphasized that Humboldt, probably influenced by his work as a miner, made the profile map, originally a view into the mine from the side, into a scientific instrument. Part of this is the marvelous profile of the Mexican highland—‘the first profile ever to be done of an entire country.’” Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, El Territorio Mexicano, Vol. II, p. 669. Rumsey 328.012.

Plate 13 (one profile on folded sheet)

13. Tableau physique de la pente Occidental du Plateau de la Nouvelle Espagne (Chemin de Mexico à Acapulco) Dressé d’aprés des mesures Barométriques prises en 1803 par Mr. de Humboldt. Dessine par Wittich d’après une esquise de Mr. Humboldt 1807. Gravé par Bouquet. Les Echelles et l’Écriture gravées par L. Aubert. Image area, including title and scales below: 36.5 x 79.2 cm. Original charcoal coloring. Cross section depicting the elevations from Acapulco to Mexico City. Geologic information is included. This profile and Plate 12 preceding taken together are the first profile ever made of an entire country. See Leitner’s note in Plate 13, preceding. Rumsey 328.013.

Plate 14 (one profile on folded sheet)

14. Tableau du Plateau central des Montagnes du Mexique, entre les 19 et 21° de Latitude boréale, (Chemin de Mexico à Guanaxuato) Dressé d’après le Nivellement Barométrique de Mr. de Humboldt. Esquisé par Alex. de Humboldt à Mexico 1803. Dessiné par Raphael Davalos à México 1804 (terminé à Berlin 1807.) Gravé par Bouquet. Les Echelles et l’Ecriture gravées par L Aubert. Image area, including title and scales below: 36 x 81.5 cm. Original charcoal coloring. Illustrated here is a cross section depicting the central plateau with elevations from approximately Mexico City to Guanajuato. Geologic information is included. Rumsey 328.014.

Plate 15 (one profile on folded sheet)

15. Profil du Canal de Huehuetoca (Desague Real.) Creusé pour préserver la Ville de Mexico du danger des Inondations. Rédigé d’aprés les dessins de Don Ignacio Castera et Don Luis Martin par F. Friesen 1808. Gravé par Bouquet-et l’Ecriture gravée par L. Aubert pere. Image area, including title and scales below: 35 x 52.3 cm. Original grey, tan, and brown coloring. This profile and cross section depict Huehuetoca Canal and the drainage system of the Valley of Mexico. Geologic information is included. Rumsey 328.015.

Plate 16 (view on half sheet)

16. Volcans de la Puebla, vus depuis la Ville de Mexico, de l’Imprimerie de Langlois. Fr. Gmelin perf. Romæ 1805. Lud. Martin ad nat. del. 1803. Fr. Arnold sc. Berol. 1807. Image area, including title: 11 x 26.2 cm. Original tan and brown coloring with white highlights. Handsome view of the volcanoes from Mexico City. Rumsey 328.016.

Plate 17 (view on half sheet)

17. Pic d’Orizaba vu depuis la Forêt de Xalapa. De l’Imprimerie de Langlois. Fr. Gmelin perf. Romæ 1805. A. de Humboldt ad nat. prim. del. 1804. Fr. Arnold sc. Berol. 1807. Image area, including title: 15.9 x 17.8 cm. Original tan and brown coloring with white highlights. Dramatic view of Orizaba. Original tissue guard present. Rumsey 328.017

Plate 18 (plan on half sheet)

18. Plan du Port d’Acapulco. Dressé par les Officiers de la Marine Royale de S.M.C. embarqués sur les Corvettes la Descubierta et l’Atrevida l’année 1791. Gravé par Barriere. Dessiné à Madrid au Dépôt Hydrographique. L’Ecriture par L. Aubert. Neat line to neat line: 17.2 x 18.5 cm. Plan of the port of Acapulco with soundings shown. Rumsey 328.018.

Plate 19 (plan on half sheet with four charts)

19. Carte des diverses Routes par lesquelles les richesses métalliques refluent d’un Continent à l’autre. Dessiné par J.B. Poirson d’après une exquisse de Mr de Humboldt. Gravé par L. Aubert. Image area, world map, four charts, and titles: 48.5 x 32.2 cm. World map showing trade routes and four charts detailing the amount and monetary worth of gold taken from the mines of Mexico and South America. Date estimated as the last information on the gold production is from 1802. Rumsey 328.019.

Plate 20 (two charts on a half sheet)

20. I. Tableau comparatif de l’étendue territoriale des Intendances de la Nouvelle-Espagne. II. Etendue territoriale et Population des Métropoles et des Colonies en 1804. Image area, including titles: 51.2 x 33.5 cm. Two charts showing relative size of the Mexican territories and population figures in the colonies as of 1804. Texas is indicated as the fourth largest region. An ingenious and unusual format for presenting comparative matter. Rumsey 328.020.

     First edition, first issue of this extraordinary atlas, with the earliest known title page (1808). The atlas was published to accompany the French edition of Essai Politique sur le Royaume de la Nouvelle-Espagne, which was accompanied by text (see Humboldt herein), but the atlas is sometimes found separately. The earliest edition of the text in German was published in Germany at Tübingen between 1809 and 1814, without the atlas. The present work was the third part of Humboldt’s monumental Voyage aux régions équinoxiales du Nouveau Continent fait en 1799-1804 published at Paris (1805-1834) in over thirty volumes with about 1,200 copper plates (and even then, the work still was not complete).

     Bibliographical references (some of which include atlas and/or text): Cohen, Mapping the West, pp. 100-101: “The World’s Greatest Living Man—The Southwest according to Humboldt.” Cowan II, p. 296n (cites London, 1811 edition). Fiedler & Leitner, Alexander von Humboldts Schriften 4.6.10. Francaviglia, Mapping and Imagination in the Great Basin: A Cartographic History, Chapter 4, pp. 43-57. Graff 2009. Griffin 2296: “The most valuable single description of the late colony.” Hill I, p. 149n. Hill II #843n. Howes H786. Jackson, Shooting the Sun #64, Chapter 11 (with excellent deconstruction of the Humboldt-Pike-Arrowsmith controversy) & p. 380: “The maps of Humboldt, Pike, and Arrowsmith vary considerably in their Texas portions, but taken together represent an understanding of the province not seen on maps published before their time. Between the three of them, they influenced most maps of Texas and northern New Spain for the next two decades.” Löwenberg, Humboldt: Bibliographische Ubersicht 113. Mapa Colombiana, #51 & p. 40. Martin & Martin, 23n (citing the reduced format version of the large map of New Spain in the first English edition) & pp. 19, 32n: “A noteworthy turning point in the cartographic history of Texas.” Miles & Reese, Creating America 23; America Pictured to the Life 45. NYPL Bulletin Vol. 20, “American Interoceanic Canals: A List of Works,” p. 13. Palau 116973 (text) & 116974 (atlas). Paullin, Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States, Plates 14C & 30B. Phillips, Atlases 2682n. Plains & Rockies IV:7a:3a:l. Sabin 33756. Raines, p. 121. Rumsey 328. Rumsey, Cartographica Extraordinaire, p. 133. Schwartz & Ehrenberg, The Mapping of America, Plate 139 & p. 127: “Humboldt’s map remained the standard map of the Great Basin region until Frémont’s expeditions thirty-five years later.” Strathern 269. Streeter 1042: “Without question, the best representation of Texas that had thus far appeared. Streeter Sale 195. Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West, *272, *274, *275, *302, *304, *305 & Vol. I, pp. 132-138:

A truly magnificent cartographic achievement.... The map of New Spain by the celebrated savant Baron Alexander von Humboldt...was drawn in Mexico City in 1803 while the geographer was visiting New Spain, and since it bears no hint of the new discoveries to the north and northeast that marked the first decade of the new century, it seems appropriate to consider it here, especially since Humboldt utilized many materials with which this volume has already been concerned, and since his work seems to exemplify the final episode in the long course of Spanish mapping from the south.

When the celebrated German savant arrived in New Spain under royal auspices, he proceeded at once to assemble all possible materials for a new and accurate map of the “Kingdom,” and he drew his basic map [see Maps 1 and 1 bis in our plate list] at the Real Seminaria (the Royal School of Mines) with every then-available facility, report, map, and document at his command. He found these materials meager and their information quite inadequate, but he went to work with vigor. Soon he decided that it would require too large a sheet to include on his main map both California on the west and Texas on the east, so he left those areas for an overall map to be engraved for him by J.R. Poirson in Paris [see Map 2 in our plate list], while he concentrated on Mexico and the frontier provinces directly to the north, first gathering together and attempting to reconcile all the astronomical observations he could discover....

Several obviously erroneous assumptions had to be negatived at the outset.... With an almost audible sigh of resignation, “it must be allowed that all that part of the west of North America is still but very imperfectly known,” and on the question of western river communication he says, with prescience, that “the journey of Captain Lewis, at the expense of the Anglo-American government, on the Mississippi and the Missouri, may throw considerable light on this interesting problem.” He had before him a remarkable group of earlier maps, including selected ones of Costansó, Mascaró, Alzate, de Fer, Urrútia, Picard, Lopez, Garcés, Font, Venegas, Lafora, and perhaps Miera (though possibly only indirectly), and he declared that his map had two main advantages over all previous ones of New Spain, (1) “I chose rather to leave vacant space in my map than to draw from suspicious sources,” and (2) “I have traced on my map of New Spain the direction of the Cordilleras, not from vague suppositions or hypothetical combinations, but from a great variety of data” from people who had been there....

For the area of the American West which it included it was undoubtedly the most important and most accurate published map that had yet appeared.... Among Humboldt’s other maps of interest here may be mentioned that of the route from Mexico City to Santa Fe [see Maps 6, 7, and 8 in our plate list], taken in part from Don Pedro de Rivera’s journals and in part from Humboldt’s own astronomical observations; and the Map of Mexico by J.B. Poirson [see Map 2 in our plate list], which includes much of the material from the Map of New Spain (reduced in size) and, in addition, the Pacific Coast from Cape San Sebastian south to Cape San Lucas, as well as the Mississippi Valley and the Atlantic seaboard. This was an important map, for while it did not itself add to knowledge of the American West, it did put into the hands of the reading public the broad geographical relationship of the American Southwest with the dominions lying to the east.... Humboldt’s maps, for their period, were achievements of the first rank.... Humboldt performed a service to all concerned with the science of cartography when he adopted the “hachure” method of showing mountains, in place of the older and much less satisfactory method “of representing mountains in profile.”

     Regarding the atlas, Streeter in entry 1042 in his Texas bibliography states: “Harvard has a copy of what as far as I know is a hitherto unrecorded Humboldt atlas with an 1808 title page” (the Harvard 1808 atlas, with imprint of Paris and Tübingen lacks maps 10, 19, and 20). These inconsistencies are due to the complex, lengthy publication history of the work, the nature of fascicule printing, variations of binding after removing the fascicule wrappers, Humboldt’s perfectionist editing, crushing deadlines, and financial exigencies. Money, or rather lack thereof, also played a part: “Mainly due to financial constraints, the original publication plans changed several times, much confusing the project’s history. Prepublication of fascicules, excerpts, [and] non-uniform titles and inconsistent title pages all add further confusion to the Humboldtian bibliography” (Andrew Sluyter, “Traveling/Writing the Unworld with Alexander von Humboldt” in Landscapes of a New Cultural Economy of Space, Dordrecht: Springer, 2006).

     In 1799 Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) and French botanist Aimé Jacques Alexandre Goujaud Bonpland (1773-1858) set sail for the New World under the patronage of Charles IV of Spain. They landed at Acapulco in March of 1803 and spent the next year exploring central New Spain. They visited the most populous and most agriculturally and minerally productive parts of Mexico (Europe and England were keen to invest in Mexico’s mines). Humboldt obtained permission from the Spanish Crown to conduct unrestricted scientific research and gather printed and manuscript data residing in the archives of the Spanish-American colonies. This was an extraordinary opportunity, since for three centuries Spain had with very few exceptions restricted entry into its archives mainly to its own subjects. Upon his return to Europe, Humboldt spent much of the next twenty-five years micromanaging the publication of the mass of scientific, geographical, and political information he and Bonpland had collected during their five-year trip. Humboldt ingeniously combined elements of mining, agriculture, geology, geography, population, statistics, etc. in this extraordinary atlas.

     It would be difficult to find two more energetic, inquisitive, learned, and gifted explorers than Humboldt and his companion Bonpland, although in an historic coincidence, their United States counterparts, Lewis and Clark, were also making equivalent history at the same time. Thomas Jefferson remarked of Humboldt: “I consider him the most important scientist whom I have met.” The late William H. Goetzmann repeatedly refers to the influence and inspiration Humboldt’s work exercised on the methods and imaginations of subsequent explorers and cartographers of those regions, as well as pivotal leaders such as Thomas Jefferson (see Exploration and Empire and Army Exploration in the American West, 1803-1863). In the latter work, Dr. Goetzmann states: “Alexander von Humboldt’s Carte General du Royaume de la Nouvelle Espagne proved to be the most important compendium of knowledge concerning the Southwest.” The present atlas is a significant cartographical and geological compilation on the latter period of colonial New Spain. Humboldt’s exploration and research has justly been called “the scientific discovery of America” (Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Vol. V, pp. 549-555). Bolivar once said in tribute: “Humboldt has done more good for America than all her conquerors.” See also Printing & the Mind of Man 320. For more on Humboldt, see our entries for his works in this catalogue.

($12,000-24,000)

Sold. Hammer: $16,000.00; Price Realized: $19,600.00.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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