This fascinating pamphlet is an important contemporary source on the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, written less than two months after the catastrophe suddenly destroyed one of the world’s great cities and devastated an entire region. Compiled by the respected Augsburg newspaper publisher Johann Andreas Maschenbauer, this entertaining work features ‘Special Reports’ from eyewitnesses to the event and its aftermath, the latest of which was written less than two weeks before the pamphlet was printed. Attractively, the work features nine maps and views of places in the affected region by the prominent engraver George Christoph Kilian. Maschenbuaer’s pamphlet was imbued with great authority all across Central Europe, not only for its coverage of the events in southwestern Iberia, but on the subject of earthquakes in general, and is still referenced by writers today. The pamphlet is rare in its complete form, as presented here, with all nine of the called-for maps and views.
The Great Lisbon Earthquake of November 1, 1755 was one of the most consequential natural disasters in modern history and a key historical event of 18th Century Europe. At 9:40 AM on the All Saints’ Day holiday, the earthquake struck with awesome force, estimated to be between 8.5 and 9.0 on the Richter Scale. Intense shaking lasted between 3.5 and 6 minutes and fissures opened in the ground that were as much as 15 feet wide. Large masonry buildings, some centuries old, collapsed and innumerable fires broke out.
As many of Lisbon’s stunned residents sought safety in the open spaces of the waterfront, they witnessed the horrifying spectacle of Lisbon’s great harbour being completely emptied of water. This was the prelude to a maremoto (tsunami) that within 40 minutes of the quake would race into to harbour and up the Tagus River, destroying everything in its path. This immense wall of water travelled with such velocity up the Tagus “that several people riding on horseback ... were forced to gallop as fast as possible to the upper grounds for fear of being carried away.”
By the time the dust settled, as many as 100,000 people were killed and Lisbon’s city centre was almost completely destroyed, with the ruins in flames. Tragically for posterity, virtually all of Portugal’s’ archives and artifacts from the Great Age of Exploration, in the 15th and 16th Centuries, was lost. The Portuguese government was crippled and it would be many years before it recovered normal functionality, while the nation’s role as world power was permanently brought to an end. Many other places in Southern Portugal and Southwestern Spain experienced serious damage, but none as severe as Lisbon.
The earthquake had ramifications far beyond Iberia. While disasters had struck major European cities before (such as the Great Fire of London of 1666) and important colonial centres had been destroyed by earthquakes (such as Port Royal, Jamaica in 1692 and Lima, Peru in 1748), this was a shock to European consciousness on an entirely new level. People all across the Western world were stunned that Lisbon, one of Europe’s greatest cities and imperial capitals, could be completely wiped out within the span of an hour. Religious scholars reflected on “God’s Judgment” upon Portugal and philosophers such as Voltaire and Immanuel Kant tried to find a rationale for such a tragedy. In the contemporary context of Enlightenment science, the Lisbon Earthquake led to the genesis of the formal study of seismology, as well as new engineering standards.
As noted by Maschenbauer, the present account was prepared on December 26, 1755, less than two months after the Lisbon Earthquake. The work is divided into four parts, plus an appendix. Following a brief introduction, the first section outlines various theories regarding the causation of earthquakes. The second section describes major historical earthquakes from antiquity to modern times.
The third section features ‘Special Nachrichten’ (Special Reports), that had just arrived in Germany, from eyewitnesses to the earthquake, maremoto and their immediate aftermath. These fascinating descriptions came from the Portuguese cities of Lisbon, Braga and Coimbra and from the Spanish cities of Cadiz, Seville and Conil de la Frontera.
The fourth section presents a brief discourse on the history and geography of the affected regions, including specific reference to Lisbon-Belem, Setubal, Coimbra, Braga, Cadiz, and Conil de la Frontera.
At the very end of the text is an Appendix, which Mascehnbauer appears to have hastily added to the pamphlet as breaking news arrived in Augsburg. This section details events in the weeks following the earthquake and maremoto, including descriptions of the carnage, as well as acts of crime in Morocco, the Azores and Lisbon. Amazingly, the latest report is dated December 13, 1755, meaning that the news had travelled across half of Europe in what can only be called amazing speed for the time.
The present example of Maschenbauer’s work features all 9 of the maps and views as called for on the title page. This is notable, as most surviving examples lack some of the plates. All of the maps and views were created by Georg Cristoph Kilian (1709 - 1781), a prominent Augsburg engraver and the scion of a family dynasty of artists, engravers and printers going back to the late 16th Century.
The 9 plates are as follows:
1) [EUROPE map] Europae Compendiosa Representatio = Vorstellung Europae sampt dessen fornehmbsten Theil- und Angrentzungen (folding, with full original colour).
2) [AFRICA map] Africae Compendiosa Representatio = Compendiose Vorstellung deß gantzen Welt Theils Africa mit seinen Kayserthumen und Konigreichen (folding, with full original colour).
3) [IBERIA map] Compendiosa Hispaniae Repraesentatio = Die Königreich Spanien u Portugal mit Ihren Provinzen (folding, with full original colour).
4) [LISBON profile view] Lissabon die Königlichte Haupt und Residenz Statt in Portugall (folding).
5) [LISBON bird’s eye view] Lisabon oder Olyssipo (folding).
6) [SETUBAL plan] Setubal eine befestigte Statt im Portugiesischen Estremadura.
7) [SEVILLE profile view] Sevilla die Die Königlich-Hispanische Haupt-Statt in Andalusien (folding).
8) [CADIZ profile view] Prospect dess berühmten See-Hafens Cadix. (folding).
9) [CADIZ map]. Cadix mit anliegender gegend (folding).
Andreas Erdmann Maschenbauer (1719 - 1773), the author of the present work, noted on the title page as “J.A.E.M.,” was a prominent newspaper publisher, who was especially interested in stories relating to natural science. He was born in Karlsruhe to Andreas Jakob Maschenbauer, head of an Augsburg publishing family, who had moved to Karlsruhe, becoming the new city’s official printer and, later, its mayor. In 1744, Johann Andreas was given control over the family’s print shop in Augsburg, a city that was then a globally important publishing centre.
In 1745, Johann Andreas founded a weekly newspaper Augsburgischer Intelligenz-Zettel, which focused on subjects of “praktischen wissenschaften” (practical science). Widely read across all of Central Europe, while it has since undergone several name changes, it still exists as Amtsblatt der Stadt Augsburg. Another notable production from Maschenbauer’s early period was Der Curiose... Allgemeines Zeitungs-Handbuch... mit Land-Charten (1748), featuring 30 maps.
At some point, Maschenbauer decided to dedicate himself full time to writing and editing, finding the administration of the family print shop to be onerous. In 1754, he sold the business to his cousin, Johann Michael Wagner, with whom he would maintain a close collaboration (the present pamphlet was published by Wagner). Maschenbaur dedicated his energies towards the Intelligenz-Zettel and his other newspaper, the Wochentlich Ordinari Post-Zeitung. He also found time to engage in his passion for natural science, of which his present investigation of the Lisbon Earthquake was his most valuable work.
Maschenbauer’s Great Lisbon Earthquake pamphlet is very rare in its complete form, featuring all 9 of Kilian’s plates, as presented here. While several examples can be found in institutional collections, most of these seem to be incomplete. We are not aware of another complete example being offered at auction or in dealers’ catalogues during the last generation.
Gottfried Grünthal, ‘The History of Historical Earthquake Research in Germany,’ Annals of Geophysics, vol. 47, no. 2/3 (April-June 2004), p. 635; Gerhard Lauer & Thorsten Unger, Das Erdbeben von Lissabon und der Katastrophendiskurs im 18. Jahrhundert (2008), p.68; Ulrich Löffler, Lissabons Fall - Europas Schrecken: die Deutung des Erdbebens von Lissabon im deutschsprachigen Protestantismus des 18. Jahrhunderts (1999), p. 658.