A Work That Reformed Mexican Mining Education & Techniques

With a Rare & Beautiful Geological Map of the Zacatecas Mining District

Click thumbnails to open zoomable images.

62. BURKART, [Hermann] Joseph. Aufenthalt und Reisen in Mexico in den Jahren 1825 bis 1834. Bemerkungen úber Land, Produkte, Leben und Sitten der Einwohner und Beobachtungen aus dem Gebiete der Mineralogie, Geognosie, Bergbaukunde, Meteorologie, Geographie etc. von Joseph Burkart, Chef Des Bergwesens, früher de Kompagnie von Tlaljujahua und später jener von Bolanos für Veta grande, Mitglied der geologischen Gesellschaft in London und des geographisch-statistischen Instituts in Mexico. Mit einem Vorworte von Dr. J[acob] Nöggerath, Königl. Preuss. Oberbergrath, ordentl. Professor der Mineralogie und Bergwerkswissenschaften an der Rheinischen Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität.... Stuttgart: E. Schweizerbart’s Verlagshandlung, 1836. Vol. I: [i-v] vi-x, [2], [1] 2-392, [4] pp.; Vol. II: [4], [1] 2-286, [4] pp. Total map & plate count: 9 lithograph folded plates, one of which is colored (elevations, profiles, mining); 2 folded lithograph maps (see below). 2 vols., 8vo (20.8 x 14 cm), original high-gloss calendared maize boards, dark brown gilt-lettered leather labels. Fragile boards with light wear and stain on spine of portion of board of Vol. I. Bookplate removed from flyleaves of both vols. with light residue. Both vols. with contemporary ink library notations on titles and stamps of a German library on title versos. Text fine and fresh, plates and maps fine save for some very light staining on folding map in Vol. I. Uncommon.


Wegekarte der Reisen in Mexico von Joseph Burkart. [above neat line at top right] Taf. I. Lithograph map on heavy paper stock. Neat line to neat line: 52.5 x 70 cm; overall sheet size: 55.3 x 70.5 cm. Bound at end of Vol. I. This large, precise map tracks the author’s route through Mexico and shows Central Mexico from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Burkart explains that he made the map due to the troubles he experienced for want of a good travelling map, and the result is excellent, showing rivers, streams, towns, villages, farms, single houses, &c. At the center of the map is Guanaxuato. Mapoteca colombiana (Mejico), p. 44, #111.

Petrographische Karte des Gebirges von Zacatecas aufgenommen und entworfen von Joseph Burkart [above neat line at top] [top right below neat line] Taf. VII. Lithograph map on medium paper stock, original full hand coloring keyed to minerals. Neat line to neat line: 54 x 35 cm; overall sheet size: 56.6 x 39.3 cm. Bound at the end of Vol. II. Benjamin Silliman in Sketch of the Great Historic Mines of the Cerro de Proaño at Fresnillo, State of Zacatecas, Mexico (New Haven, 1883) refers to Burkart’s book several times in his text and describes the present map as “a minute lithological and mining map of the Zacatecas mining district.” This map is one of the most handsome geological maps we have seen, beautifully colored and carefully delineated.

     First edition. Mapoteca colombiana (Mejico), p. 44, #107.Palau 37502. Sabin 9275. Major Chartres, review in Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London, Vol. 10, 1840, pp. 544-551: “This work contains a mass of information far exceeding in value anything that has appeared on the same subjects since the travels of Humboldt.” Benjamin Silliman in his Sketch of the Great Historic Mines of the Cerro de Proaño at Fresnillo, State of Zacatecas, Mexico (New Haven, 1883, p. xx) indicates the level of reliance one might place in Burkart’s work: “The reader may refer with advantage to the statements of the late eminent German engineer, Joseph Burkart,long resident in Mexico (1825-1834) in charge of the Bolanos mine on the Veta Grande, in Zacatecas, and who in his well-known Reisen in Mexico has recorded the result of his studies, especially in Zacatecas. So much of his text as relates to Fresnillo is presented herewith, and will be read with interest as the candid testimony of a most competent and experienced observer, specially familiar from long study with the ores of Zacatecas, which now principally concern us.”

     A Freiburg graduate (as was his mentor Alexander von Humboldt), Burkhart (1798-1874) went to Mexico in 1825 to work for two mining companies. After his return to Europe he entered the Prussian mining administration and published numerous works on Mexican geology and mining. The introduction to the present work by Nöggerath relates to the researches of Humboldt, to whom the work is dedicated. This book was reviewed and extensive extracts translated in the Foreign Quarterly Review, Vol. XIX, April & July 1837, pp. 266-293; among comments by the reviewer are:

Whatever may be the ultimate gain or loss resulting to the Spanish-American colonies by the revolution which has separated them from the mother-country, it is certain that, the restrictions on the intercourse with foreign nations being removed, it has become more than ever desirable to obtain an accurate knowledge of their internal situation, their resources, and the prospects which they afford to the spirit of commercial enterprise, always eager to embark in new channels. The classical work of Alexander von Humboldt on Mexico is not sufficient to exhibit the actual state of the country; and there are, besides, many portions of that extensive region which he did not visit. Hence various works which have been published since the revolution of Mexico (to which country we now confine ourselves) have been generally well received, though in many instances extremely superficial and defective. The various English and German mining companies, established there with the consent of the government, have very great interests at stake, and any authentic information on the geology and mineralogy of the country is of the highest importance. On this account, in particular, M. Burkart’s work will be found to be of peculiar value, as it furnishes a far more complete view of the geology of the country than any of its predecessors. From a preface written by Dr. Nöggerath, Professor of Mineralogy in the University of Bonn, we learn some particulars respecting the writer which prove his qualification for the task he undertook.

Before M. Burkart went to America, he had published several able papers on geology in some scientific periodicals in Germany. Having acquired solid theoretical and practical knowledge in the universities, and by travels in his own country, he was appointed, in 1824, Secretary to the Royal Prussian Mining Office, and was soon afterwards invited by the English Tlalpujahua Mining Company to undertake the direction of their works in Mexico. He accepted this invitation, and directed those works for three years. He then made several scientific journeys in the Mexican states, particularly to Mexico, Real del Monte, Atotonilco el Chico, Zimapan, Guanaxuato, Zacatecas, Sec. In 1828 he entered, as director of the mining operations at Veta Grande, into the service of the English Bolanos Mining Company, and had the good fortune to obtain for it in six years nearly six millions of Prussian dollars (about 900,000/.sterling). Having obtained leave of absence, he returned in July, 1834, to Germany, where he resolved to remain. Amidst numerous other occupations and many interruptions, he composed this work in 1835.

The special avocations of the author, and his long residence in Tlalpujahua and Zacatecas, sufficiently account for his being able to devote so much attention to this part of his work. It contains a great treasure of observations on mineralogy, geology and mining, and numerous data relative to metallic strata and the volcanoes of Mexico, besides a variety of information concerning the geography, history, antiquities, &c. of the country....

M. Burkart’s two last chapters are, first, on the working of mines in Mexico, and, second, three tables of elevations measured by the barometer, filling thirteen pages. The first table gives the elevation of about 250 places in alphabetical order; the second, those of the sections from San Blas to Tampico, which table XI. above-mentioned represents; and the third the elevations of the mountains of Zacatecas. Besides the general road-map of Mexico, M. Burkart gives a special map of the district of Zacatecas from his own trigonometrical survey, which is further illustrated by a plate, with six different sections, coloured.

     Another protégé of Humboldt uncovers substantive information on America and beautifully presents it in this work. Burkart’s work resulted in positive changes in both Mexican mining education and methods. Upon Burkart’s death, Santiago Ramírez delivered to the Sociedad Mexicana de Geografía y Estadística a eulogy honoring the contributions of Dr. Burkart to Mexico. See Ricardo Rivera Cortés, “Inmigración y transferencia de tecnolgía, cuatro alemanes en México durante el signo XIX” (Thesis, UNAM, 2006). Burkart climbed several mountains in Mexico but is not mentioned in the standard mountaineering bibliographies.


Sold. Hammer: $1,000.00; Price Realized: $1,225.00.

Auction 23 Abstracts

Click thumbnails to open zoomable images.

DSRB Home | e-mail: