“The first history of California”—Streeter

With a Landmark Map Finally Dispelling the Myth of California as an Island

Never Underestimate the Power of a Jesuit in a Canoe

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561. VENEGAS, Miguel [& Andrés Marcos Burriel]. Noticia de la California, y de su conquista temporal, y espiritual hasta el tiempo presente. Sacada de la historia manuscrita, formada en México año de 1739. por el Padre Miguèl Venegas, de la Compañia de Jesus; y de otras Noticias, y Relaciones antiguas, y modernas. Añadida de algunos mapas particulares, y uno general de la America Septentrional, Assia [sic] Oriental, y Mar del Sùr [sic] intermedio, formados sobre las Memorias mas recientes, y exactas, que se publìcan [sic] juntamente. Dedicada al Rey Ntro. Señor por la Provincia de Nueva-España, de la Compañia de Jesus. Tomo Primero [Tomo Segundo] [Tomo Tercero]. Madrid: En la Imprenta de la Viuda de Manuel Fernandez, y del Supremo Consejo de la Inquisicion, 1757. Vol. I: [24], 1-240; Vol. II: [8], 1-564; Vol. III: [8], 1-436 pp., engraved head- and tailpieces in text, 4 folded copper-engraved maps (see below). 3 vols., 4to (20 x 15 cm), contemporary full hand-mottled tan sheep, spines extra gilt with gilt-lettered red and green leather labels, edges tinted red. Front free endpapers of all three volumes removed. Other than slight wear to binding (at corners) and a bit of inconsequential foxing, an exceptionally fine, fresh set, maps very good to very fine.


[1] [BURRIEL, Andrés Marcos (after Kino and Consag)]. [Title within pediment cartouche at lower center] Mapa de la California su Golfo, y provincias fronteras en el Continente de Nueva España. [lower left of cartouche] Is. Peña sculp. Mn. Left, lower, and right sides bordered by ten pictorial vignettes. Measurement of map with vignettes 37.5 x 31.3 cm; overall sheet size: 41.5 x 32.7 cm. Map faces p. 1 of text in Vol. I. Map of the Baja Peninsula of California, embouchure of the Colorado River and the Gulf of California; part of Mexico to slightly south of Sinaloa; and the Borderlands from slightly west of the Colorado River in Alta California to slightly east of Casa Grande, Arizona. The map is surrounded by vignettes including Native Americans (hunting, fishing, healing ceremonies), martyrdom of Fathers Nicolas Tamaral and Lorenzo Carranco during the 1734 Pericú Revolt, flora and fauna. Cartographic elements include location of rivers and settlements and degrees of latitude and longitude. Decorative elements include the Jesuit symbol, feathered head dress and fans, bows, arrows, and fishing net. Lowery 436. Mapoteca colombiana, p. 25 (#8). Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast of America 587, Vol. I, pp. 154-155. Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West 138 & I, p. 85 (citing only this map, but mentioning the others, which follow): “A well drawn map, showing the mission and Indian towns of Pimería Alta.” The map is Burriel’s interpretation of Kino’s 1701 map with Consag’s refinements (omission of Kino’s small elongated bay pointing northwest at the head of the Gulf, etc.). Old tape repair to verso of map at juncture with book block (no loss) and a few light spots, else very fine.

[2] CONSAG, Fernando. [Title within simple scroll cartouche at top right] Seno de California, y su costa oriental nuevamente descubierta, y registrada desde el Cabo de las Virgenes, hasta su termino, que es el Rio Colorado año 1747. por el Pe. Ferdinando Consag de la Compa. de IHS, Missiono. en la California. [lower right below neat line] Joseph Gonzz. sculp. Mn. Neat line to neat line: 30.7 x 28.6 cm; overall sheet size: 31.7 x 32.3 cm. Map faces p. 194 of Vol. III. Mapoteca colombiana, p. 25 (#9). Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast 588: “Inserted to accompany Consag’s account of his expedition to the mouth of the Colorado River in 1746” [Wagner remarks that the present map differs from Consag’s original manuscript map of 1746, i.e., Wagner 554]. The map shows the mouth of the Colorado River and the head of the Gulf of California, as witnessed by Consag during his canoe exploration in 1746. Consag eliminates the small, elongated bay at the head of the Gulf. This cornerstone map of California finally concluded the classic cartographic myth that California was an island. See also Derek Hayes, Historical Atlas of California (Berkeley: University of California, 2007), p. 33. Top neat line trimmed away and engraver’s name slightly shaved at lower right, else fine. Lada-Mocarski 14: “The outer frame of the map in Vol. 3, facing p. 194, is usually somewhat cut into, either at the top or at the bottom. Any loss of frame at the top is unimportant as there is no text there. If the loss is at the bottom, the name of Joseph Gonzalez might be missing.”

[3] [BURRIEL, Andrés Marcos (after George Anson)]. [Title within simple scroll cartouche at top right] Viage de Ansòn. Lib. 3. Cap. 8. pag. 305. Mapa 33. Carta de la Mar del Sur, ò Mar pacifico, entre el Equador, y 39½ de latitud septentrional hallada por el Almirante Jorge Anson en el Galeon de Philipinas, que apresò. [lower right] Joseph Gonzz. Sculpt. Mn.... Neat line to neat line: 23.5 x 22.8 cm; overall sheet size: 28.8 x 26.5 cm. Map faces p. 236 of Vol. III. The coastline of California and part of Western Mexico is copied from Anson’s prototype chart of 1748. The map extends as far north as Punta de los Reyes and Los Farallones, with a large bay at that point. Also named are Punta de Añonueuo, Punta de Piñas, Santa Catalina, Punta de la Concepcion, Punta de S. Diego, etc. Acapulco is near the southern extremity of the map. Lowery 428. Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast 586. Very fine.

[4] [BURRIEL, Andrés Marcos (after Buache and Delisle)]. [Title within center cartouche at bottom of map] Mapa de la America Septentl. Asia Oriental y Mar del Sur intermedio formado sobre las memorias mas recientes y exactas hasta el año de 1754. [above neat line at lower left] Manuel Rodríguez, Sculpst. [above neat line at lower right] M.A. de 1756. Three ornate cartouches within a small pictorial panorama, with flora and fauna and costumed groups of California natives wearing feathered headdresses, Spanish, and Asians. 31 x 36.2 cm; overall sheet size: 31.5 x 37.5 cm. Map faces p. 436 in Vol. III. Shown are the Pacific shores of Asia and America, with records of the latest explorations by the Spaniards, Russians, and English, especially on the upper Californian coasts. The map is a north polar projection of North America and northern Asia showing the routes of eight voyages of discovery, including Vitus Bering’s search for the Northwest Passage and the apocryphal discovery of the Northwest Passage connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Cartographic elements include lines of longitude and latitude, scales, locations of bodies of water, etc. Mapoteca colombiana, p. 21 #23. Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast of America 585, Vol. I, pp. 154-155. The map is based on the Philippe Buache/Joseph Nicolas Delisle map presented by the latter on April 8, 1750, at the Académie Royale des Sciences in Paris. It caused an immediate sensation. Burriel decried the inclusion of this map without his permission because it showed the Delisle fantastic geography of the Fonte voyage. Other than a few neat repairs on verso, fine.

     First edition, intermediate variant. In this copy page 479 of Vol. II is misnumbered 476. In a prior appearance, pp. 476 to 480 are misnumbered; a later version corrects all misnumberings. English, French, Dutch, and German editions were published during the decade following this original edition. The work is important not only for California, but also southern Arizona, northern Sonora, and the Borderlands in general. Backer, Vol. V, pp. 108 & 726-728. Barrett, Baja California 2539. Bradford 5570. JCB III (1, 1700-1771) #1172. Brunet V, col. 1119. Cowan I, p. 238: “This work is considered the foundation of a library of Californiana.” Cowan II, p. 659. Cox II:128: “One of the earliest and most important contributions to the historical literature of California.” Farquhar, Books of the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon 5: “Venegas is the principal source of information about the explorations made by Father Consag in 1746 by which the question of the insularity of California was finally set at rest. Consag’s description of the Gulf of California and the mouth of the Colorado River received wide publicity through the volumes of Venegas.” Field 1599. Graff 4470. Heredia 7898. Hill I, p. 307. Hill II:1767. Howell 50, California 246. Howes V69. Huntington Library, Zamorano 80...Exhibition of Famous and Notorious California Classics 78. Jones, Adventures in Americana 491.

     Lada-Mocarski 14: “Although Father Venegas’ own work—the first two volumes—deals entirely with Lower California, there is much valuable information in the third volume, by Father A.M. Burriel on the Russians’ and others’ discoveries in the North Pacific, and on the maps of that region prepared by various geographers of the time. There is, furthermore, a long and reasoned discussion of the so-call report of Admiral de Fonte, which is rejected as spurious. There is also a vitriolic attack on Buache and Delisle for using this report in their communications to the French royal Academy of Sciences, and in the construction of their maps of the North Pacific, including Alaska.” Leclerc, Bibliotheca Americana (1867) 1528; (1878) 1035. LC, California Centennial 6. Libros Californianos, p. 10 (Powell commentary): “The distinction of being the most prized of all California books Miguel Venegas’ Noticias.” Mathes, California Colonial Bibliography 50: “The author, Miguel Venegas, S.J., employed modern methodology in the preparation of this first history of the Californias, consulting published and manuscript sources as well as questionnaires sent to missionaries. Venegas’s manuscript was revised and expanded by Andrés Marcos Burriel, S.J., a leading Spanish academician, who included four maps and important appendices with a refutation of the concept of the Strait of Anián and relations of the expeditions of Consag.” Medina, Hispano-Americana 3855. Palau 358387. Ramírez Sale 883. Rich Vol. I, p. 124. Sabin 98848. Salvá 3420. Stevens, Historical Nuggets 2736. Streeter Sale 2433. Streit III:663. Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast 585-588 (see also note in 483) & pp. 144-147.

     Wagner, Spanish Southwest 132: “At this time there was a decree in effect that no one should publish anything relating to America without the previous consent of the Council of the Indies, and inasmuch as this book contains more on Lower California than almost any other book that had been published in one hundred and fifty years, it seem strange that the Council should have permitted the publication....I have seen it asserted that the object of publishing this book was to counteract some assertions made in Anson’s Voyage Round the World, originally printed in London in 1748, in which some aspersions were cast on the Jesuits, especially about their handling of the natives in the missions of California.... Throughout the work great attention is paid to the geography of the country, Father Burriel having obtained a large number of maps from which to study this.... Although the author was a Jesuit, the work is written in a secular spirit, much different from the point of view usually taken by writers of other religious orders.”

     Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West 138 & I, p. 85 (citing only Map 1 above, but mentioning the others): “A well drawn map, showing the mission and Indian towns of Pimería Alta.” Zamorano 80 #78 (Henry R. Wagner): “Volume III contains extracts from López de Gómara and Torquemada relating to the early explorations on the northwest coast and several articles written by Father Burriel himself. Of these, the most interesting is his account of the construction of the map of California, and of the general map of North America.”

     Alfred W. Newman (California 49: Forty-Nine Maps of California from the Sixteenth Century to the Present 15) lists Robert de Vaugondy’s 1772 Carte de la Californie (appeared in Diderot’s Encyclopédie), which gives a pictorial summary of the cartographic history of California in five maps on one sheet. Newman states that map 5 is based upon a Spanish map in Venegas’ book, the Mapa de la California su Golfo: “The map shows the results of explorations carried out by the Jesuits in the years since Kino’s explorations. The text to the map singles out the contribution of Father Ferdinand Consag (called Gonsaque on the map) who explored the upper end of the Gulf of California and confirmed Father Kino’s conclusion that California was part of the continent.”

     The most important of the four maps in Venegas’ Noticia is Consag’s Seno de California (Map 2 in our list above). This map is a cornerstone in California cartographical history and the evolution and final resolution of the concept of California as an Island. It is the first printing of Consag’s original manuscript map delineating the region he explored during his expedition to the mouth of the Colorado River in 1746 (Wagner 554). This map conclusively ended the classic cartographic myth that California was an island. Father Kino had previously offered strong evidence that California was not an island, but he had not convinced the foremost contemporary cartographers of his theory. Kino had not proven his claim by actually crossing the Colorado River from Sonora to the California side. Even Venegas did not concur—until Consag led an expedition to the mouth of the Colorado River in 1746 and rowed in a canoe completely around the head of the Gulf. The following year Ferdinand VII issued a decree proclaiming that California should no longer be considered an island (see Schwartz & Ehrenberg, The Mapping of America, p. 133). A decade following that admission, this map recording Consag’s discoveries was published in the present work.

     For more on Kino, see [JESUITS: Letters from Missions] herein. Dr. Mathes discusses Venegas below. Fernando Consag (variously also Ferdinand Konščak, Konsag, Konschak, etc.), Jesuit missionary, explorer, and cartographer, was born in Crotia in 1703 and died in 1759. Consag’s work was plagiarized—or borrowed with credit—by the best of them, including Diderot, Arrowsmith, and even Humboldt. Venegas apparently experienced the same fate. “Venegas’ Noticia de la still reckoned the starting point for histories of California, and, incidentally, it was even more plagiarized than the works of Weems, Marshall, Ramsay, or Warren,” p. 199, in John W. Caughey’s “California and the Nation: A Tally of Two Histories” in California Historical Quarterly, Vol. 40, No. 3 (September 1961).  Jesuit Andrés Marcos Burriel (1719-1762) was so self-effacing that his name does not even appear on the title page of this well-edited version of Venegas’ Noticia. Burriel was a man of many talents whose erudite interests ran the gamut from the Siete Partidas, to transcription of the medieval manuscripts of the Mozarabic liturgy associated with Toledo’s Mozarabs, or Christians who had continued to practice their religion under Muslim rule. See Susan Boyton, Silent Music: Medieval Song and the Construction of History in Eighteenth-Century Spain (Oxford University Press, 2011). It is a little difficult to understand fully the Jesuit Expulsion in light of remarkable men like Kino, Venegas, Burriel, and Consag.

     The frontispiece map (Map 1 above), Mapa de la California su Golfo, y provincias fronteras en el continente de Nueva España is one of the most handsome maps of California from the colonial period, or any era of California history for that matter. The arresting illustrations framing the map are among the few eighteenth-century printed images of the natives of California. According to Dr. W. Michael Mathes, the Indians depicted on the maps are from Baja California. They were based upon a combination of sources, partly from verbal description, and some from drawings, such as Tirsch, et al.


     Historical notes from Dr. W. Michael Mathes in the Volkmann Zamorano 80 Catalogue (Sloan Auction 12, Lot 78):

This first, and thus cornerstone, history of the Californias was penned by Miguel Venegas who was born in Puebla in 1680, entered the Society of Jesus at Tepotzotlán in 1700, was ordained in 1705, and served as a professor of moral theology in the Colegio Máximo de San Pedro y San Pablo in Mexico City from 1714 to 1724. For reasons of health, in the latter year he was sent as administrator to the Jesuit hacienda of Chicomocelo, where he compounded medications and dedicated himself to letters. In 1731 his classic Manual de Parrocos appeared in its first edition, and three years later he finished a biography of Juan Bautista Zappa, S.J., close friend of Juan María de Salvatierra, S.J., founder of the first permanent mission in the Californias, Nuestra Señora de Loreto. Highly inspired by the dynamic expansion of the Jesuits in the mission fields of Sinaloa, Sonora, Pimería Alta, and California, Venegas had sought to serve in the California enterprise, but was rejected because of his delicate health. Thus, he was unable to go to his “beloved California” and he devoted his time to writing its history.

In researching his history, Venegas employed the highest level of historical methodology, collecting original manuscripts, annual reports, and letters, viceregal documents, memoirs, and letters of Fathers Salvatierra, Eusebio Francisco Kino, Sigismundo Taraval, Juan de Ugarte, and numerous other missionaries in California and Sonora, and of Esteban Rodríguez Lorenzo, commander of the presidio of Loreto. In 1735, Father Provincial Juan Antonio de Oviedo ordered that all archival material relative to California be provided to Father Venegas who also employed a novel form of acquiring information: detailed questionnaires covering the left half of the sheet, leaving the right half of the same sheet for answers, that were sent to persons who had participated in or were currently active in the California mission field.

On August 5, 1739, Venegas finished his manuscript “Empressas Apostólicas de los PP. Misioneros de la Compañía de Jesús, de la Provincia de Nueva España obradas en la conquista de Californias...” of 709 pages in ten books, dedicated to the benefactor of the California missions, the Marqués de Villapuente. Because the work revealed the weakness of Spanish defenses in California, it was filed until 1749 when it was sent to Procurator General Pedro Ignacio Altamirano in Madrid for revision and publication. This task was given to the Jesuit savant Andrés Marcos Burriel at Toledo in 1750.

Burriel accumulated documentation from the archives of the Society of Jesus and the Council of the Indies to augment Venegas’ text with events transpiring since 1739, and received material from Mexico City, the Philippines, and geographical data from the Académie Royale des Sciences in Paris. By 1754, Burriel had finished his revisions and additions to the “Empressas Apostólicas” that had become known as the “Noticia de la California” and remitted his manuscript of 1150 pages and four maps to Altamirano. The licensing of the work for publication was begun, and in December of 1755 the manuscript was sent to the Real Academia de la Historia for revision, censorship, and recommendations. Finally, in April of 1757, the Noticia de la California came off the press of the widow of Manuel Fernández in Madrid.

The published work follows a very different format from the original Venegas manuscript, with the first part treating the geography and native inhabitants of California; the second, the attempts to occupy the region prior to the Jesuits; and the third, the work of the Jesuits up to the present. A fourth section, provided entirely by Burriel, comprises documentary appendices. Three of the maps were composed or collected by Burriel, but he opposed the inclusion of the Mapa de la América Septentrional because of its inaccuracy.

Although Burriel was quite unhappy with the published result of his work, this first history of the mysterious California was in high demand: it was translated in a substantial abridgement into English and published in London in 1759, and from this into Dutch (1761-1762), French (1766-1767), and German (1769-1770). A second Spanish edition, reset with new errata, was published by Editorial Layac, México, 1943, and a facsimile with scholarly apparatus appears in W. Michael Mathes, Vivian C. Fisher & E. Moisés Coronado, eds., Obras Californianas del Padre Miguel Venegas, S.J., 5 vols. (La Paz: Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur, 1979).

     For more on the maps in this work, see Ernest J. Burrus, La Obra cartográfica de la Provincia Mexicana de la Compañía de Jesús, 1567-1967 (Madrid: Ediciones José Porrúa Turanzas, 1967. Colección Chimalistac de Libros y Documentos acerca de la Nueva España, Serie José Porrúa Turanzas, 2 vols. Vol. I is text, Vol. II is a folder of 46 maps). For background on Kino’s cartography, see: Ernest J. Burrus’ Kino and the Cartography of Northwestern New Spain (Arizona Pioneers’ Historical Society, 1965).


Auction 23 Abstracts

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