Tomás López’s large and beautifully engraved wall map of Portugal is a great work of Enlightenment era cartography, which appeared during a dramatic period in the history of Iberia. Printed in Madrid by Spain’s leading cartographer, it is predicated on a carefully edited synthesis of the best available geographical sources.
All of metropolitan Portugal unfolds in great detail, showcasing a wealth of information over the land’s diverse topography. The map’s ‘Explicacion de las señales’, or legend, located in the upper right, identifies literally dozens of different features, including cities and settlements of various sizes, townships, country stores, government offices, hunting reservations, forts, river quays, bridges, parish churches, archbishoprics and bishoprics, monasteries of various orders, colleges, jurisdictional boundaries, mines (gold, silver, copper, iron and tin), as well as various noble domains. The map also features an extensive network of roads, based on the descriptions of Juan Batista de Castro, as explained in the ‘Nota’ in the lower left quadrant of the map.
The Making of López’s Mapa General del Reyno de Portugal
As Spain’s leading official cartographer, López was well aware that the mapping of Portugal had both particular practical and symbolic significance. Spain had a long and very complex relationship with its Iberian neighbor, most recently attempting to invade Portugal during the Fantastic War of 1762-3 (an effort thwarted by British intervention). Gaining an accurate impression of Portugal’s geography was of keen interest to both civilian officials and military leaders in Madrid, and López’s map was considered to be the authoritative map of Portugal available in Spain during the period spanning its creation up into the Napoleonic Wars.
In devising the map, López faced a great challenge. He was already quite familiar with the geography of Portugal, as he earlier created the Mapa del Reyno de Portugal Construido según las más modernas memorias (1762), which was much smaller and less accurate than the present map. However, while certain areas of Portugal had been mapped to a relatively high degree of accuracy, no broadly accurate general map of the country existed. The turmoil in the wake of the Great Lisbon Earthquake (1755), the Távora Affair (1758) and the Fantastic War created a climate of instability in which the sponsorship of a survey of Portugal was impossible.
On May 30, 1777, López applied to the Real Academia de la Historia for a license approving the publication of the map. In the process of the deliberations, on August 22, he submitted a document entitled “Relacíon de fuentes par Tomás López para la confeccíon de mapa del reino de Portugal”, in which he explains his sources to Don Pedro Rodríguez Campomanes, the director of the Academia (and the dedicatee of the map), who was himself the author of fine map of Portugal. This document is summarized in the lower left quadrant of the present map.
López’s sources were diverse and his letter indicates that he went to great lengths to carefully compare and analyze the best available maps in preparation of his own work. These included literally dozens of published and manuscript sources, such as Carlos de Grandprez’s Carta topográfica del patriarcado de Lisboa (1736); Pedro Gendrón’s Mapa de Portugal (1754); Pedro Rodríguez de Campomanes Mapa de Portugal (1762); Jacques-Nicolas Bellin’s Carte de Portugal (1762); Giovanni Rizzi-Zannoni’s Carte de Portugal (1762). López also studied written accounts of the geography of Portugal, including Gaspar Estazo’s Antigüedades de Portugal and Luís Caetano de Lima’s Geografia historica.
López’s completed map represented a great accomplishment in that is was by far the most accurate and cleanly designed map of Portugal created to date. It remained an authoritative map of record for decades and was used during the Peninsular War (1807-1814), during which Portugal was invaded by Spain and France, before being liberated by Britain.
The map was originally published separately in 1778 as a folding wall map, such as the present example. However, the map was issued only in limited quantity and the copper plates used to print the map remained in excellent condition. López reprinted the work, which was issued as a folding map within his rare Atlas particular de los Reynos de España, Portugal e islas adjacentes (Madrid, 1790), vol. 1, map no. 70.
Tomás López: The Leading Spanish Cartographer of the ‘Ilustración’
Tomás López Vargas de Machuca (1730-1802) was the most important Spanish cartographer of the era of the ‘Ilustración’ (Enlightenment) and the father of modern, mainstream map publishing in Spain. He was born in Madrid to an ambitious Toledo family. López studied at the Colegio Imperial, gaining a strong foundation in mathematics, grammar and rhetoric. In 1752, the Marquis de Ensenada, the Spanish chief minister, arranged for López and three other bright young Spaniards, Juan de la Cruz Cano y Olmedilla, Manuel Salvador Carmona and Alonso Cruzado, to go to Paris to undertake apprenticeships under the legendary cartographer J.B.B. D’Anville. D’Anville was famed for his meticulous selection of sources and the clean, accurate presentation of his maps, an ethic that was to influence López.
At this point, something must be said of the information revolution that was then underway in Spain. Spain was traditionally perhaps Western Europe’s most conservative country, with the control of knowledge closely controlled (and censored) by the government. While Spain had been responsible for some of the world’s most important discoveries and some of the most revolutionary maps, up to the mid-18th Century, the publication of maps in Spain was essentially banned. Madrid was so fearful about sensitive geographic information falling into the wrong hands that it maintained a policy of cartographic secrecy. This regime came to have negative consequences as Spanish officials often did not have sufficient access to geographic intelligence, as manuscript maps were often difficult to access. Much valuable information was also lost as manuscripts were misplaced or forgotten in archives.
During the second half of the 18th Century, the age of the Enlightenment or ‘Ilustración’, some Spanish officials and intellectuals began to question the traditional orthodoxy and came to believe in the free dissemination of knowledge for both practical and ideological reasons (that open information was good for all mankind). While there was blowback from certain elites, the enlightened forces were supported by King Carlos III (reigned 1759-88). The period saw a noticeable easing of cartographic censorship and the rise of a mainstream map publishing industry in Madrid, a movement led by López.
While in Paris, López and Cruz Cano completed their first major work, a magnificent large-scale map of the West Indies and Gulf of Mexico, Mapa Maritimo del Golfo de Mexico e islas de la America (Madrid, 1755).
Upon his return to Madrid in 1760, López so impressed the king’s ministers, at only the age of 30, he was appointed to become the official geographer to the king and keeper of the newly created Gabinete de Geografía (royal map library). In 1764, he was inducted as a member of the Real Academia de San Fernando and in 1776 joined the Real Academia de la Historia.
In his official capacity he was given support to prepare a series of maps of the provinces of Metropolitan Spain, with the intention of publishing a detailed atlas and geographical analysis of Spain, El Diccionario Geográfico Histórico de España. While the project was never completed, it resulted in a series of impressive separately-issued maps. In some cases, López was able to oversee trigonometric surveys of certain Spanish provinces. His maps of Spain had a long-lasting significance and were not fully superseded until the publication of Francisco Coello’s Atlas de España y sus posesiones de Ultramar (Madrid, 1848-69).
López was also given access to official archives and the latest foreign published sources in order to issue maps of overseas lands, many of which were the first ever maps of the subjects to be printed in the Spanish Empire. His maps of Latin America and the West Indies were especially impressive.
López developed his own very distinct style of cartography, based on a careful use of the most accurate sources, a very sharp and clear style of design and engraving and a unique palette of wash colours. His maps became the authoritative maps used in Spain and her colonies and were widely admired and copied abroad. While his maps were never mass-produced, López was the first Spanish cartographer to issued a large and diverse repertoire of maps in sufficiently significant print runs to gain wide recognition. In this respect, he was responsible for establishing a modern and commercially viable map publishing industry in Spain and for transforming his nation’s attitude towards cartography.
López’s maps were often compiled into composite atlases, of which the surviving examples stand out as critically important artifacts illuminating the nature of map use in Spain during the Enlightenment period.
López issued the first ever atlas to focus on Iberia, Atlas particular de los Reynos de España, Portugal e islas adjacentes (Madrid, 1790). López died in 1802, after which his map publishing business continued to prosper under the direction of his son, Juan López.
López’s Mapa General del Reyno de Portugal is scarce, and especially so, in the present separately-issued wall map format. It is a seminal piece of any collection of the cartography of Portugal.
Antonio López Gómez, Cartografía del siglo XVIII: Tomás López en la Real Academia de la Historia (Madrid, 2006), pp.254-5; Carmen Manso Porto, Cartografía del siglo XVIII. Tomás López en la Real Academia de la Historia (Madrid, 2006), catálogo, no. 72 (pp. 349-50).