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Maps of Mexico

Mexican maps date back to the 17th century. Many are detailed, colorful, and document the history of the region. The Siguenza map, named after government official and Aztec scholar Carlos de Siguenza y Gongora, has been kept by historians in Mexico since the 17th century is one of the first maps to document Mexico. Dating to the previous century, it is a pictorial representation of the Aztec migration from Aztlan to Tenochtitlan. Symbols for the amount of time spent in each location are added to the place glyphs, giving a physical picture of the journey.

The Franciscan monk Juan de Torquemada became interested in pre-Columbian Mexico when he took charge of a monastery in Tlaxcala. Torquemada prepared the "Monarqia Indiana," a set of several volumes documenting the history of Mexico. Published in 1615, the Monarquia Indiana includes a hand-colored map with details of Mexico. Most of the first editions were destroyed in a shipwreck. The historically-important work was published again in 1723.

Enlightenment thinking sparked a new interest in ancient civilizations in the late 18th century. A 1769 engraving by J.A. Alzate titled "Plano de la Nueva Espana" showed the voyages of Hernan Cortes in New Spain. It was among the first maps to relate California and Texas to the northern provinces of Mexico. Parisian cartographer Jacques Nicolas Bellin produced an exceptionally detailed hand-colored map of Veracruz in 1754. French cartographer Rigobert Bonne prepared a number of simple, but detailed, maps of newly discovered regions for the French Hydrographic Office. After exploring Mexico, German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt produced several maps of the area. Another mapmaker, Antonio Garcia Cubas, made mapping Mexico his life’s work. In 1857, Cubas' "Carta General" became the first published map of independent Mexico.

Quick Facts

  • An 1847 map of Mexico including the Yucatan and upper California by Samuel Augustus Mitchell sold for $5,124 at a 2010 auction by Bonham’s
  • An 1834 "Nouvelle Carte de Mexique" engraved map of Mexico by Adrien Brue sold for $10,800 at an auction by the Heckrotte Library in 2015
  • Three 1723 volumes of "Monarchia Indiana" by Juan de Torquemada including an engraved map sold for $11,875 at a Sotheby’s auction in 2007

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