This attractive map depicts the Strait of Chiloé, located along the southern coast of Chile, with the northern part of the Island of Chiloé taking up the lower part the map and the mainland making up the upper portion. The Jesuit missionary town of ‘Pueblo de Chacao’ is located along a bay on the northeastern tip of the island, while the map labels numerous other geographical landmarks.
The Spaniards first sighted the coast of Chiloé in 1540 and in 1558 they claimed the island for the Crown of Castile. From the beginning of the 17th Century, Jesuit missionaries arrived and converted the natives, making Chiloé into a virtual Jesuit bastion. Over the next six decades they built 79 wooden churches around the island of a signature design, some of which survive to this day. The Jesuit Order was suppressed in 1767 and their role was taken over by the Franciscans, although the latter never equaled the former’s effectiveness.
This fine map appeared as part of Jorge Juan y Santacilia and Antonio de Ulloa y de la Torre-Giral’s Relación histórica del viaje á la América Meridional (Madrid: Antonio Marín, 1748), a groundbreaking bestseller that provided much important, accurate and fascinating information on South America. The map was ‘Lamina IX’ (plate no. 9), vol. 1, page 342. The map is one the earliest plans of Chiloé to be printed in the Hispanic world.
Based in good part on Juan and Ulloa’s own adventures in South America, the Relación histórica featured numerous fine and detailed maps of South American cities, many of which were among the earliest maps of their subjects to be printed in Spain. While few of the maps were actually drafted by the authors, Ulloa is credited with carefully selecting the original manuscripts on which the maps were based from official Spanish archives.
Juan and Ulloa’s book played a major role in breaking down the Spanish Crown’s long-held policy of cartographic secrecy. Indeed, especially with regards to maps of its New World ports, the Spanish government jealously guarded its manuscript maps and went to great lengths to ensure that they were never published, lest they fall into the hands of foreign privateers and naval officers (British mariners were especially known to covet such maps). Juan and Ulloa’s high-ranking political connections allowed them to issue the present book, profusely illustrated with hitherto “banned” maps, although it is recorded that many Spanish officials were less than trilled by the book’s publication.
Antonio de Ulloa y de la Torre-Giral (1716 -1795), the eminent scientist and administrator, was born in Seville into a respected family of academics, and entered the navy at an early age. Jorge Juan y Santacilia (1713 – 1773) was a promising young scientist who hailed from noble family.
In 1734, King Phillip V commanded Ulloa and Juan to travel to what is now Ecuador to join the French Geodesic Mission organized by the Academy of Sciences in
Paris, under the leadership of the astronomer Louis Godin. The endeavour’s objective was to precisely measure the length of a degree of the meridian arc at the Equator in South America and to determine the roundness of the Earth. The mission was a success and their findings determined that the world is not a perfect sphere, but is rather oblate (flattened at the poles).
During their time in South America, Juan and Ulloa made many geographic and scientific discoveries and also obtained important information from a variety of individuals, such as Crown officials, Jesuit priests and adventurers. When Juan and Ulloa returned to Spain they published their groundbreaking Relación histórica del viaje á la América Meridional (1748).
Both men went on to become the most highly respected scientists in Spain and were feted in capitals throughout Europe. Juan became a master ship designer and undertook a clandestine mission to England to uncover the secrets of British naval ship construction. In 1757, he established the Royal Astronomical Observatory of Madrid. Ulloa, for his part, founded the first metallurgical laboratory in Spain and subsequently served as the Governor of Spanish Louisiana (1766-8).
References: Ezequiel Uricoechea, Mapotece Colmbiana, Chile no. 39 (p. 192); OCLC: 431778638.