Basic Book on the French Intervention in Mexico

With a Very Rare & Important Large-Scale Map of Mexico

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470. NIOX, G[ustave-León]. Text: Expédition du Mexique 1861-1867. Récit Politique & Militaire. Par G. Niox Capitaine d’Etats-Major. Paris: Librairie Militaire de J. Dumaine, Libraire-Éditeur Rue et Passage Dauphine, 30, 1874. [8], 1-770 [2, errata (verso blank] pp. 8vo (24 cm), contemporary brown French morocco over ox-blood and gold mottled boards, gilt-lettered, ruled, and decorated spine with raised bands, gilt-lettered ownership stamp of owner D. Viejorueno at foot of spine. Atlas [wrapper title]: Expédition du Mexique 1861-1867. Récit Politique & Militaire par G. Niox Capitaine d’État-Major. Atlas. Carte du Mexique...dressée au Dépot de la Guerre.... Paris: Librairie Militaire de J. Dumaine, Libraire-Éditeur, 30, Rue et Passage Dauphine, 30, 1874. 5 lithograph maps, some with original color (see list below). Folio (48 cm), original pale green upper printed wrapper, bound into contemporary dark green hard-grain morocco over green and black mottled boards, marbled endpapers, spine gilt lettered. A fine set, with minor outer wear. Text title with ink ownership stamp of Biblioteca Pirucho. Atlas wrapper with two ink ownership stamps of Y. R. Alatorre. Bound in the atlas is an offprint: “Notice sur la Carte du Mexique,” from Bulletin de la Société de Géographie, Sixième série, Tom. VIII. Juillet 1874, 22 pp. Very rare to find together text, offprint, and atlas.

Map List

1.   Combat des Cumbres (28 Avril 1862.) Combat de la Barranca-Seca (18 Mai 1862.). Plate mark: approximately 21.5 x 23 cm; overall sheet size: 31.2 x 39.7 cm. Original partial color with symbols showing positions of infantry and cavalry troops (French, Mexican allies, and Mexicans).

2.   Environs d’Orizaba. Plate mark: approximately 23 x 19 cm; sheet size: 39.7 x 30.8 cm. Uncolored.

3.   Plan de Puebla et des environs pour servir a l’intelligence du combat du 5 Mai 1862 libré par le général de Lorencez sur les hauteurs de Guadalupe et des opérations du siège dirigé par le Gal. Forey (du 16 Mars au 18 Mai 1863). Two insets at right margin: Combat du Sn Lorenzo; Details du Cadre de Santa-Inez. Plate mark: approximately 29.7 x 50.3 cm; sheet size: 39.6 x 59.8 cm. Uncolored.

4.   Plan d’Oajaca. Plate mark: approximately 38 x 21.7 cm; overall sheet size: 59.8 x 39.7 cm. Uncolored.

5.   Carte du Mexique dressée au dépôt de la guerre, par Mr. Niox, Capitaine d’Etat Major. D’après les levé des Officiers du Corps Expéditionnaire et les renseignements recueillis par le Bureau Topographique...Paris, 1873. Inset map at lower left: Carte des Divisions Politiques. Cut into 8 sections and mounted on contemporary cartographic linen (original color: brown land forms; blue water). Neat line to neat line: Approximately 70.7 x 102.7 cm; overall sheet size: 76.7 x 108.1 cm. A good deal of Texas is shown, although details are provided only along the border. El Paso is designated Fort Franklin, and other locations are Isleta, San Elizario, trails of Apache and Comanche tribes, Fort Duncan (Eagle Pass), Laredo, Rio Grande, Edinburg, Brownsville, Pte. Sn Isabel, and roads between Corpus Christi and the towns in the Rio Grande Valley.

     First edition. Palau 191775, 191776, 191777. Phillips, America, p. 414 (offprint and map). Phillips, Atlases 18068. Tooley’s Dictionary of Mapmakers (revised edition), Vol. III, p. 327. Gary S. Dunbar, “The Compass Follows the Flag: The French Scientific Mission to Mexico, 1864-1867” in Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 78, No. 2 (June, 1988), pp. 229-240:

During the French Intervention in Mexico, 1861-1867, the French Ministry of Public Instruction established a scientific commission (Commission Scientifique du Méxique) that would perform functions similar to those of earlier missions to Egypt, Greece, and Algeria.... A “boussole suit toujours le drapeau” (The compass always follows the flag), as Numa Broc has so aptly characterized the French scientific and military expeditions of the nineteenth century, when scientific observers and mapmakers accompanied or followed soon after the French army into such places as Egypt, Greece, Algeria, Mexico, and Indo-China (Broc 1981,347). Apart from meeting the needs of the military for accurate geographical information, the scientists seemed to feel that they were doing their reluctant hosts a favor by unlocking at last the intellectual treasures of these ancient lands and bringing them into the mainstream of world science.... Perhaps [the] greatest achievement was in commissioning a map of Mexico at the scale of 1/1,000,000 to be made up from army officers’ notes. The resulting manuscript map was sent to Paris in 1866, but the CSM did not have the means to publish it and so it was sent to the Depot de la guerre (Ministry of War) where it would be resurrected as the Niox 1/ 3,000,000 map of Mexico published in 1873.... The map was made up mostly from notes that French army officers had made on expeditions to various parts of Mexico.... It was not a coincidence that the French and Spanish missions were sent to Latin America during the American Civil War, when the United States was unable to uphold the Monroe Doctrine, which guaranteed American support to resist European invasion of any part of the Western Hemisphere.

     At the time the “French War Office Map of Mexico” was published, it was warmly reviewed by Sir Clements Robert Markham’s Geographical Magazine, Vol. 2, p. 115 (April 1, 1875): “Since the days of Alexander, military expeditions have largely contributed to an extension of our geographical knowledge. The French expedition to Mexico in 1861-1867 is no exception to the rule. Each column of troops was accompanied with an officer specially charged with the survey of the route and the collection of topographical information, and in this manner routes having a total length of 17,500 miles, and extending into nearly every state, were surveyed. The valuable materials thus collected were subsequently laid down on an uniform scale of 1:500,000, and it was proposed to embody them in a general map of the whole of Mexico on half that scale. The latter, though commenced, has not been completed, and we are forced to rest content for the present with a map on a scale of 1:3,000,000, compiled by Captain Niox of the French Staff. The compiler has done his work well, and it may fairly be described as the most correct and trustworthy map of the country which we at present possess. The hills, printed in brown, are one of its most satisfactory features, and convey a clear notion of the orography of Mexico.”

     The offprint “Notice sur la Carte du Mexique” describes the making of the map, its improvements over previous maps, and the general geography of Mexico. The offprint is divided into four sections: [1] A general discussion of the map; [2] “Positions astronomiques” (latitude and longitude for numerous towns); [3] “Altitudes”; and [4] “Principaux documents antérieurement publiés et consultés pour l’établissement de la carte du Mexique.” This map probably embodies the best French reconnaissance of the Intervention in Mexico, upon which the command must have depended.

     Niox remarks that at the onset of the invasion, French cartographic materials on Mexico were negligible and of little military use, consisting of only a few general sources, primarily the work of García Cubas and Humboldt. As the French army advanced through Mexico, however, officers scoured such places as municipal offices and area haciendas for maps, which they then copied and collated with other sources. The collection at the Sociedad de Geografía at Mexico City was a gold mine, of course, although it hardly had a collection that covered the whole country in detail, Niox remarks. Other maps and measurements were made in the field on the fly by soldiers using what crude instruments they had. Thus is explained how this important map was built up bit by bit, area by area, until it reached its present status. Of particular interest in the last section of the pamphlet are Niox’s comments, both negative and positive, on the maps he consulted. He praises García Cubas’ atlas of Mexico as the best hitherto available, but claims his own map shows considerable improvement (“progrès sérieux”). Judging from the list presented of the map collection at the Dépôt de la Guerre after the war (pp. 7-8), France was hardly deficient in Mexican maps at the end and probably had the best such collection in Europe.

     The text covers the entire occupation period, since Niox was on the first French wave to land and on the last French wave to leave. His position gave him access to many official and unofficial documents that he uses to weave his story of France’s ill-fated intervention in Mexico. His work is especially strong in military history, but he also had access to the diplomatic history of events. Running throughout his narrative is French fear of what the U.S. might do. At first, U.S. opposition to the intervention seemed mostly a home-grown protest movement that could not survive the diplomatic reality of the administration, and France was assured that popular sentiment would never be converted into official policy. France, however, feared U.S. intervention because of the Monroe Doctrine, and events around Matamoros and Brownsville seemed to confirm that the U.S. was more sympathetic to the Mexican cause than to the French one. After finally ejecting Cortina from Matamoros, the French hold on that city was at best tenuous throughout the Empire, and Mexican partisans routinely visited the U.S. post in Brownsville for supplies and replenishment, and probably for tea and sympathy, as well.

     Eventually the U.S. precipitated a crisis by demanding that French forces leave Mexico. Not daring to risk a war with a mighty northern neighbor, now free of its own internal conflicts, France complied, although Niox seems oblivious to whatever machinations might have been going on in Napoleon III’s mind at the time. At any rate, the French troops withdrew under fire, leaving Maximilian behind to his fate.

     The appendices set out the Jecker affair, organization of the expeditionary forces, various treaties and commissions, military statistics, etc. Niox (1841-1921), head of the topographic corps of the French Expeditionary Army, later commanded the French army’s Topographical Corps, supervising map construction during World War I. He was a prolific writer on geographical and military subjects.


Auction 23 Abstracts

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