The world in glo­ri­ous color

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS - Paul Wei­de­man The New Mex­i­can Fray Angélico Chávez His­tory Li­brary map project

Mu­seum peo­ple can get pas­sion­ate — even a lit­tle ma­ni­a­cal — when it comes to the rarer items in their col­lec­tions — like maps. At the Fray Angélico Chávez His­tory Li­brary, there are more than 6,000 maps, an as­tound­ing va­ri­ety that in­cludes maps of the South­west pro­duced by car­tog­ra­phers to French kings in the 17th cen­tury, more than a thou­sand col­or­fully il­lus­trated high­way maps, and 100-foot-long rail­road maps. The New Mex­ico His­tory Mu­seum hosts Map Ma­nia Sym­po­sium on Fri­day, June 24, and Satur­day, June 25. On the cover is a map of Mex­ico and its in­ter­nal prov­inces pre­pared by J. Fin­layson from Hum­boldt’s map, 1822; im­age cour­tesy the Angélico Chávez His­tory Li­brary.

One of the gems in the col­lec­tion at the New Mex­ico His­tory Mu­seum’s Fray Angélico Chávez His­tory Li­brary is a map of the South­west drawn in 1674 by Ni­co­las San­son, royal geog­ra­pher to King Louis XIII of France. It is a beauty, but is not en­tirely ac­cu­rate. For ex­am­ple, it shows Cal­i­for­nia as an is­land, and has the Río Grande be­gin­ning at a “great lake of the West” and emp­ty­ing into the Gulf of Cal­i­for­nia (named the “Ver­mil­lion Sea” on the map) rather than the Gulf of Mex­ico. That was cor­rected on a 1688 map by Vin­cenzo Coronelli, royal car­tog­ra­pher to King Louis XIV, but Cal­i­for­nia is still an is­land. “Even af­ter they did know more about the geog­ra­phy, they liked that idea,” said li­brar­ian Pa­tri­cia He­witt. “They thought Cal­i­for­nia was sort of a myth­i­cal place with Ama­zo­nian women. It was out there.”

The in­ter­est­ing in­tri­ca­cies of the car­tog­ra­pher’s art are the fo­cus of Map Ma­nia, a free event co-spon­sored by the His­tory Mu­seum and the His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety of New Mex­ico. The sym­po­sium takes place at the mu­seum on Fri­day, June 24, and Satur­day, June 25.

Map Ma­nia is the fi­nal el­e­ment of ac­tiv­i­ties funded by a $179,000 grant the Fray Angélico Chávez His­tory Li­brary re­ceived in 2011. The main ob­jec­tive of the grant awarded by the Coun­cil on Li­brary and In­for­ma­tion Re­sources (funded by the An­drew W. Mel­lon Foun­da­tion) was cat­a­logu­ing the li­brary’s col­lec­tion of some 6,300 maps. He­witt said most of the maps are of New Mex­ico, New Spain, and the South­west. “Our maps pro­vide rare in­sight into early ex­plo­rations of the New World and the his­toric trade routes of the South­west,” He­witt writes in an ar­ti­cle about the Chávez Li­brary map col­lec­tion in El Pala­cio pub­lished last au­tumn. More than 300 of the li­brary’s maps de­pict Santa Fe’s his­tory.

The maps range in size from a tiny spec­i­men show­ing the Coper­ni­can uni­verse to a rail­road map that is 122 feet long. The li­brary’s cold-stor­age fa­cil­ity holds ap­prox­i­mately 1,200 right-of-way maps from 14 rail­road com­pa­nies that have op­er­ated in New Mex­ico.

The mu­seum’s San­son map is printed, but there are also man­u­script maps. One is the Bernardo Miera y Pacheco map. “It’s an oil paint­ing, so we con­sider it to be a man­u­script map,” He­witt said dur­ing a tour of the map col­lec­tion. Miera y Pacheco set­tled in Santa Fe in 1756 with his fam­ily and a few years later was com­mis­sioned by the gover­nor to draw a map. It takes in most of what would be New Mex­ico, show­ing moun­tain ranges and in­di­cat­ing all of the Span­ish vil­lages and In­dian tribes that were known at the time.

Of course, it is amaz­ing that early maps are as ac­cu­rate as they are, given the fact that the car­tog­ra­phers had no ae­rial views avail­able to them: Every­thing was done on foot. In her

El Pala­cio story, He­witt writes, “Some car­tog­ra­phers were forth­right enough to ac­knowl­edge that they did not know what ex­isted in some ar­eas. Thomas Kitchin in­di­cated a ‘Great space of land un­known’ on a 1777 map of what is now the Mid­west.”

“The circa-1848 E. Gil­man map is one of my fa­vorites, be­cause it has the bor­der of Texas com­ing way up to in­clude Santa Fe, and Cal­i­for­nia has a hor­i­zon­tal shape,” He­witt said. “I love the maps that show the world as it might have been if var­i­ous leg­is­la­tions had gone through. I also love the old maps with draw­ings of New World an­i­mals in the car­touche — the scroll-like frame that has the name of the map and other in­for­ma­tion — as on the San­son map. They had never seen th­ese an­i­mals, so they are rather fan­tas­ti­cal.” She re­ferred to Amer­i­can drafts­man E. Gil­man’s Ta­ble Show­ing the Es­ti­mated Sur­face of the Ter­ri­to­ries of the United States. The Texas “pan­han­dle” is mis­tak­enly drawn as bloated north and west, even in­clud­ing Santa Fe —

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