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Carte Générale du Royaume de la Nouvelle Espagne: Humboldt 1811

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  • Title: Carte Générale du Royaume de la Nouvelle Espagne
  • Author: Alexander von Humboldt
  • Date: 1811
  • Medium: Uncolored engraving
  • Condition: Excellent – uncolored, light foxing, issued horizontal center fold, light folding line running vertical through center of image
  • Inches: 40 ¼ x 28 ¼ [Image]
  • Centimeters: 102.24 x 71.76 [Image]
  • Product ID: 316058

Map of New Spain by Prussian geoscientist Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859). Humboldt spent nearly a year in present-day Mexico from 1803-1804, capping off a five-year trip which he began in 1799. Born into an elite Berlin family, Humboldt desired to devote his life to science, a calling which he recognized from a young age. He studied diligently at the University of Göttingen before going on to work in the German civil services. His journey to the New World, entirely self-financed, was the culmination of this devotion to scientific study. Without political agenda, he sought to systematically categorize all aspects of the natural world there that he possibly could, documenting the region in a manner never before attempted. To accomplish this goal, Humboldt engaged in an immense array of activities, from inspecting silver mines and summiting volcanoes to exploring Spanish colonial archives and visiting Mesoamerican cultural sites. Upon his return to Europe, Humboldt penned his Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain (1811), the first systematic scientific description of the New World. He spent over twenty years in Paris, where he continued to publish his findings. 

Most credit Humboldt with introducing modern cartography in Mexico. His findings prompted a surge of European interest in Mexico, and encouraged many people, particularly artists, to journey there themselves. The accuracy and variety of his writings ensured that they stood as authoritative sources for decades to come, and his career proved foundational for the disciplines of physical geography and meteorology. 

Map extends from the Gulf of California in the west to Louisiana in the east. Legend in bottom left corner explains the use of various symbols to indicate the locations of cities and towns, military outposts, natural resources, and astronomical sightings. Many labeled place names are accompanied by detailed annotations explaining the site’s history, significance, and how Humboldt’s map compares to previous charts. Other annotations describe the topography and climate of the region. Humboldt also marks the locations of ancient Mesoamerican sites and volcanoes.

A small annotation along the map’s right margin indicates territorial disputes in the region, reading Limite orientale de la Province de Texas ou de l’intendance do San Luis Potosi, non reconnue par le Congrés de Washington [“Eastern limit of the Province of Texas or of the San Luis Potosi stewardship, not recognized by the Congress of Washington”].


Carte Generale du Royaume de la Nouvelle Espagne

Depuis le Parallele de 16° jusqu’au Parallele de 38° (Latitud 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.

Dessiné à Mexico par l’Auteur en 1804, perfectionné par le même, par MM. Friesen, Oltmanns et Thuilier 1809. 

Longitude Occidentale de Paris 

Gravé par Barriere — et l’ Ecriture par L Aubert. pere, à Paris.


General Map of the Kingdom of New Spain

From the Parallel of 16 ° to the Parallel of 38 ° (North Latitude) 

Drawn up on Astronomical Observations and on the whole of the Materials which existed in Mexico City, at the beginning of the year 1804. 

By Alexander von Humboldt. 

Drawn in Mexico by the Author in 1804, perfected by the same, by MM. Friesen, Oltmanns, and Thuilier 1809. 

Longitude West from Paris 

Engraved by Barriere and Writing by Father L. Aubert, in Paris.