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CUBA: Carta topografica de la Isla de Cuba compuesta par A.H. Dufour geografo. Zoom

CUBA: Carta topografica de la Isla de Cuba compuesta par A.H. Dufour geografo.


The first edition of an excellent separately issued large format map of Cuba, one of the finest representations of the island from its last great sugar boom; compiled by the leading French cartographer Auguste-Henri Dufour from the best official Cuban sources and published in Paris; with symbols and statistical tables detailing a wealth of information.

Author: Auguste-Henri DUFOUR (1798 - 1865).
Place and Year: Paris: Bulla Frères, 1842.
Code: 68136

Copper engraving with original outline hand colour, dissected into 12 sections and mouthed upon original linen, bearing contemporary German label to verso ‘Insel Cuba’ (Good, some noticeable areas of staining and discolouration, fine original outline hand colours, contemporarily trimmed to outer edge of neatline), 63.5 x 91 cm (25 x 36 inches).


This is the first edition of Auguste-Henri Dufour’s stellar large format map of Cuba, a valuable artefact showcasing the island during its last great sugar boom.  The finely engraved map showcases Cuba in great detail; the island and is divided into three departments, outlined in original colours, which are further divided into governates (yellow lines) and bishoprics (red lines).  All cities, towns and village of any importance are noted, while all roads of various levels are delineated.  Importantly, dozens and ‘haciendas’, being major plantations, are named; sugar (and slavery) were still the lifeblood of the Spanish colony’s economy.

The map is embellished by finely detailed inset plans of Cuba’s major cities, including Havana (lower left corner); while in the lower right corner are maps of Sta. Maria de Puerto Principe, Trinidad, and Santiago de Cuba.

In the upper right quadrant of the map is the ‘Cuadro estadistico de la Isla de Cuba’ which notes the land areas and populations of all of Cuba’s districts, plus the populations of the capital cities of each, along with their geodetic coordinates.  The tables reveal that Cuba’s population totalled 755,195, of which 44% were white; 15% were free coloured; 41% were slaves (slavery was legal in Cuba until 1886!).  Much of the island’s population was concentrated in Havana, which had 251,641 residents.  In the lower left quadrant is a distance table showing the mileage between all the island’s major towns.

The map was created by the leading French cartographer Auguste-Henri Dufour and was printed in the Spanish language to serve the thriving market for Cuban maps, prints and books fuelled by the great wealth due to the island’s final sugar boom.

The fact that the present map was published in Paris follows as long tradition of printing important maps of Spanish Latin America in the French capital.  The Bourbon ‘Family Compact’ between the Spanish and French royal families that existed since the early 1700s, ensured that Spanish map makers formed close ties to Parisian printing houses which had the ability to to convert manuscripts sent for the Americas into large format, top quality printed maps at a very reasonable cost.  By comparison, it was technically difficult to produce complex large format graphics in Havana or Mexico City, and relatively expensive to produce such works on Madrid.  Indeed, throughout the 18th and 19th Centuries many of the most important maps of Spanish Latin America were published in Paris.

The present example is of the first edition of the map, published in 1842.  The map proved commercially successful and subsequent editions were issued in 1847, 1854, 1860 and 1867.

References: Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Cartes et plans, GE DL 1842-69 / OCLC: 494674868; Carlos Manuel Trelles, Bibliografía cubana del siglo XIX (Matanzas. Cuba, 1911), p. 30; Ezequiel Uricoechea, Mapoteca Colombiana (London, 1860), Antilles no. 128 (p. 66).

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