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October 26, 2007

Among the Early Official Printed Maps of the State of Mexico

113. [MAP]. MORAL, Tomás Ramón del. Carta del Departamento de México, levantado en los años 1828 y 29 por D. Tomás Ramón del Moral, Coronel de Ingenieros, perito facultativo de minas y catedrático de geodesia y delineación en el Colegio Nacional de Minería, neat line to neat line: 45.5 x 39 cm. Found as issued in this two-volume set: MEXICO (Republic). MINISTERIO DE FOMENTO. Anales del Ministerio de Fomento...[variant subtitles]. Mexico, 1854. 8vo, contemporary sheep over marbled boards. Tables, charts, plates. Bindings worn, text block of Vol. II split between pp. 2-3 (but holding). Tables in Vol. I split where formerly folded (no losses), some plates in Vol. II torn at text block (no losses) and a few with light water staining, scattered light foxing and browning. The map is very fine except for one clean split at old fold at upper right (no losses).

            First edition. Ker, Mexican Government Publications, pp. 127-128. Sabin 48274. Not in Palau. Map: Ola Apenes, Mapas antiguos del Valle de Mexico (Mexico: UNAM, 1927), p. 27, Plate 31. Not in Phillips. The British Library holds maps issued in the atlas (see below), but not the present one. See Tooley for a short list of maps by Tomás Ramón del Moral (listed under Ramon del Moral). Also, see Dicc. Porrúa (listed under Moral).

            Although there are national statistics presented in the tables at the beginning in Vol. I, such as those containing information on mining, the cotton industry, shipbuilding, and the number of foreigners residing in Mexico, the rest of the volume is devoted to a detailed analysis of the various communities that comprise the Department of Mexico. These are categorized into sections on elements such as roads, bridges, natural history (including a list of medicinal plants), drinking habits, diseases, etc. At the end are lists of various types of vegetation and animals. On the whole, this is a fairly comprehensive and detailed discussion of various areas of the State with statistics and documentation not found elsewhere. Vol. II touches on a variety of topics, largely related to maritime matters, such as lighthouses, buoys, and even submarines. Other instruments and machinery are also discussed and illustrated.  The maritime plates are especially fascinating, as are two others depicting clouds.

            Of exceptional interest in Vol. I is the fine map of the State of Mexico by engineer Tomás Ramón del Moral. The map extends and updates the work of Humboldt and is among the earliest maps made in Mexico based on actual scientific surveys conducted by the Mexican government. Moral was authorized by the Mexican government to create new maps of the State of Mexico. He began his work by studying Humboldt’s map, which he found deficient in numerous ways although it served as a starting point. Working between 1827 and 1829, the work of Moral and his survey team resulted in several detailed maps published after Moral’s death, including a very large, four-sheet map of the State and smaller maps of its various districts (see Trabulse, Historia de la Ciencia en México IV, p. 316). All of these were issued in an exceedingly rare atlas in 1852. The present map, which is virtually unknown, is apparently a reduced version of a large map created for use in this report. In any case, all of Moral’s maps serve as early examples of professional, scientific methods applied to the detailed mapping of Mexico. The map’s key gives some idea of its scope; it lists cities, towns, villages, haciendas, ranchos, forts, other military installations, mills, aqueducts, roads, and waterways. On the whole, this is an important map in the development of Mexican geography and cartography, as it is one of the earliest to show the Mexican government the area under the state’s control in clear visual terms.

            Moral (1791-1847), a graduate of the College of Mining, became a geography professor and published a book on measurement (see Palau 180494). He joined the military in 1821, when Mexico formally organized a corps of military engineers, in which he was appointed a captain. He was later commissioned to create a military college in San Carlos de Perote. He resigned from the military in 1826 and devoted the rest of his life to civilian mapping. When Toluca was taken by the U.S. in the Mexican-American War, the invading army siezed Moral’s maps. A brief footnote to cartographic history is that in 1837 Moral was appointed to serve as Mexican commissioner on the boundary survey between Mexico and the United States (for the U.S. government document recording this, see Streeter 1297).

            Joaquín Velázquez de León (1803-1882), the issuing minister of this Mexican government document, was part of the Commission sent to Washington in 1840 to negotiate U.S. claims against Mexico and was subsequently named Minister Plenipotentiary to the U.S. He held this office under Santa-Anna until Santa-Anna fell from power in 1855. He cooperated with the French during their occupation of Mexico. ($700-1,400)

Sold. Hammer: $700.00; Price Realized: $822.50

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