Clive A. Burden LTD. Rare Maps, Antique Atlases, Books and Decorative Prints

The Mapping of North America

Mr. Philip D. Burden​
P.O. Box 863,
Chalfont St. Giles, Bucks HP6 9HD,
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FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE, seemingly the EARLIEST KNOWN VARIANT, in the original large, uncut sheets; the first scientific description of the American southwest, including a wealth of new information on California and Texas.

Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was a Prussian polymath and one of the greatest scientific geographers. This lot is like the ‘Premie’re [-deuxie’me] livraisons’ held at Yale, in that the work has an 1808 titlepage and the dedication to Charles IV. However, Yale’s copy lacks the plates called for on the printed wrappers, noting ‘probably were never issued’, whereas the present copy contains 9 maps. Also, the Yale catalogue gives a different collation with a much smaller content. In this present lot, the text ends on p. 662, which is a single leaf signed 84.1, and contains the text ‘Ces deux pages seront replacées avec la livraison suivante’; the present lot has a single text volume, and does not divide at p. 356 into 2 volumes. This would suggest the present lot is the original uncancelled text of March 1808, that Streeter suggested ought to exist. The atlas includes plates on volcanoes, land profiles, a map of the southern part of North America, maps of Mexico, and most importantly, Humboldt’s two-sheet ‘Carte Generale du Royaume de la Nouvelle Espagne’. This map contained the most up-to-date geographic depiction of Texas, California, and the rest of Mexico, and it became the prototypical description of much of the region for the next several decades. Carl Wheat called it a ‘truly magnificent cartographic achievement’ and it was ‘the first profile ever given of an entire country’.

The contents are made up as follows:

Pt. 1 – 1808 – includes plate numbers 9 (D), 11 (S), 13 (D), 14 (D), 16(S), 17 (S) as called for

Pt. 2 – 1808 – includes plate numbers 5 (S), 6, 7, 8 (on 1 Double), 12 (D), 18 (S) as called for, plus a duplicate of 14 (no change noted)

Pt. 3 – 1809 – includes plate numbers 3 (D), 15 (D) as called for

Pt. 4 – 1809 – includes plate numbers 1 (2 double page) and the pp. 2 list of contents with 20 listed – the important map, as called for.

With plates 6, 7 & 8 on one double page the plate count could be called 18, despite being numbered to 20. According to the list of contents we are lacking 2, 4, 10, 19, 20, none of which are called for here.

In 2000, Ulrike Leitner set out the collation of the seven parts of Humboldt’s work on Mexico. In its original form, the work was published between 1808 and 1811 in 2 quarto volumes and then in 5 octavo volumes 1811. Each of the 7 parts of the quarto edition included the corresponding tables of the atlas volume. Part 1 (April 1808) contained in addition the title pages of volume 1; the last part (1 July 1811) contained the title pages of volume 2, as well as new titles for the first volume. This is because the publishers’ specifications had changed.

Although the work had begun as a joint venture between the German publisher Johann Georg Cotta in Tübingen and the French publisher Frederic Schoell in Paris, the title of the French edition of 1811 listed only Schoell as the publisher. Cotta left the project in 1810 because of Schoell’s growing financial problems. We offer here the first five parts as supplied by Cotta, not the final two which he was not part of. By 1811, Schoell was on the brink of ruin.

Although Leitner calls for the first part to have been published in April 1808, Streeter’s ‘Texas’ 1042 states on page 18: ‘Here, perhaps, is the place to report that in the avertissement of the Paris, 1811, octavo edition of the Essai, and that the first numbers of the quarto edition of the Essai appeared in March, 1808.

One further complication in this works collation is the presence or otherwise of the dedication to Charles IV in the first volume of the quarto two volume 1811 edition. In 1799 he set sail for the New World under the patronage of Charles IV of Spain. He had been granted unfettered access to all archives in Spain’s American colonies. These records had been severely restricted for three centuries. In 1803 he arrived in Mexico and spent several years exploring the region. His scientific studies were made in partnership with Aimé Jacques Alexandre Bonpland (1773-1858), the noted botanist.

Napoleon occupied northern Spain in 1807 and Charles IV attempted to flee to America. Threatened by a coup he abdicated in favour of his son Ferdinand in March 1808. In May 1808 Napoleon deposed both Charles and Ferdinand placing his brother Joseph Bonaparte on the throne. Charles would spend the rest of his life in exile in Italy.

The printed dedication to Charles IV is dated 8 March 1808. Following Napoleon’s deposing of the Spanish king the dedication was suppressed, this process was overseen by Humboldt personally. This was clearly easier to do within France but being co-published in Germany those examples survived with it. This example comes straight out of a Schloss in Germany; hence it was not ‘tampered’ with by any suppression. One further item of note is the presence of the large two-sheet map of New Spain proving beyond doubt that it was published before Aaron Arrowsmith’s four-sheet map of 1810.

Provenance: early ink inscription ‘Première livraison’ added to Deuxième livraison wrapper — Stamped Graflich Rantzau-Breitenburger, Rantzau family, Lower Saxony, Germany (Schloss Breitenburg library stamps to upper covers of atlas wrappers). Cowan p. 296 (another edition); Fiedler & Leitner (2000) ‘Alexander von Humboldts Schriften’, 4.6 & 4.6.10; Demhardt (2011) ‘Alexander von Humboldt: Scientific Discover and Cartographer of the Americas’, in ‘The Portolan’, issue 82 pp. 18-26; Hill 843 (another edition: ‘a founding text in the field of economic geography and political geography’); Howes H786 (other editions: ‘Of superlative California importance’); Phillips 2682 (atlas collation as in this copy); Sabin 33756 (another edition); Streeter Texas 1042 note; Wagner-Camp-Becker 7a:3 and 7a:3a:1 (with differing dates, collation and pagination); Wheat ‘Mapping the Transmississippi West’ 302-305 (listing only the 12 maps).

HUMBOLDT, Alexander von

Atlas Geographique et Physique du Royaume de la Nouvelle-Espagne

F. Schoell, and Tübingen: J.G. Cotta, Paris & Tübingen, 1808-09
FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE, THE EARLIEST KNOWN VARIANT. Unbound text volume, quarto (370 x 275 mm) and atlas in 4 parts, folio (590 x 440 mm), text in French, unbound, uncut and unopened in the original sheets, publisher’s error notice to gathering e, the text extending to Livre IV and ending on p. 662 only, but including the pp. 4 dedication to Charles IV which was suppressed in later issues; atlas with 9 (of 13) maps on 8 sheets, comprising: ‘Carte générale du royaume de la Nouvelle-Easpagne’ on two double-page sheets nos. 1 and 1bis, 3, 5-9, 11 and 18, nos. 6, 7 and 8 on one double-page sheet (lacking nos. 2, 4 10 and 19, and without the tables on no. 20); 4 hand-coloured double-page cross-sections, nos. 12-15, with a duplicate of no. 14; and 2 sepia views, nos. 16-17, first title with faint staining at lower margin, first leaf of dedication unevenly dust-soiled and leaves lightly creased, second title faintly dampstained, gathering 55 lightly spotted, a few edges dust-soiled, but otherwise, a clean, fresh example with very large margins, the atlas loose in the original printed wrappers (variable light dust-soiling, creasing and tiny nicks to extremities), each plate with original tissues, complete with original paper wrappers.
Stock number: 9391


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