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Humboldt Charts The History of Erroneous Locations of Major Mexican Cities

Fascinating and historically important map of Mexico, delineating the inaccuracies of geographical positions major Mexican cities as understood in the early 19th century. Created by Alexander von Humboldt and published within the Atlas Géographique et Physique du Royaume de la Nouvelle-Espagne in 1811, this map is a testament to Humboldt's meticulous commitment to correcting the erroneous longitudinal placements that prevailed in prior surveys.

The map details the incorrect positions ascribed to Mexico City, Acapulco, Veracruz and Orizaba by different cartographers over time.

This thematic map provides a stark outline of the southern half of Mexico, with only the coastal outlines of the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico sketched to frame the mislocated urban and natural landmarks. Humboldt's choice to present the faults in existing geographical knowledge, rather than assert his own precision, underscores a broader philosophical approach to empirical science. By marking the location of towns and attributing them to their various predecessors who erroneously placed them on the map Humboldt invites scrutiny and further investigation rather than definitive conclusion.

In a broader historical context, the early 19th century was a period ripe with scientific discovery and cartographic exploration, where the precise measurement of the natural world became paramount. Humboldt's work falls within this era's intense focus on empiricism. His maps were not merely tools for navigation but instruments for understanding the physical universe. The Carte de Fausses Positions... is emblematic of Humboldt's drive to challenge and refine the geographic knowledge of his time.

Interestingly, Humboldt's corrections were not without fault. Recent cartometric analysis by Allen (2014) revealed that while Humboldt's renditions were markedly more accurate for central Mexico compared to those of his predecessors, they were still not completely accurate.  

Condition Description
Very minor foxtailing.