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Rare large format map of Cuba, with a number of detailed inset maps and plans, published in New York by J.H Colton for Jose Maria de la Torre.

The map also includes a nice large format treatment of the Florida Keys.

Spectacular large format map of Cuba, with indigenous scenes added as vignettes to the decorative borders. At the top of the map is a larger scale map, entitled "Parte del Departmento Occidental en Escala Mayor.

At the top left, the map includes a number of other smaller maps, including maps of Spain, Mexico, the Atlantic, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Canaries and Jamaica.

Inset city plans include:

  • Puerto de Habana
  • Plano de la Habana
  • Matanzas
  • Cienfuegos
  • Trinidad
  • Santiago de Cuba
  • Santa Maria del Puerto del Principe
  • Cardenas
  • Guanabacoa

The map was prepared by Jose Maria de la Torre, an attorney who was a member of the Royal Geographical Society of Havana, Royal Academy of History, Geographical Society of Paris and professor of geography and history of the Royal University of Havana.

José María de la Torre y de la Torre (1815−73) was an illustrious Cuban geographer, archaeologist, historian, and educator who devoted a great part of his intellectual life to the study of local Cuban history. De la Torre studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1841, but he never practiced as a lawyer, devoting himself instead to teaching. In 1848 he was commissioned to travel in the United States and Europe to study improvements in agriculture and the industrial arts, and to introduce them into Cuba. The results of this journey were very useful. He was a member of the Royal academy of history of Madrid and other scientific and antiquarian societies.

His first major cartographic work was his map of 1841, which describes in detail the itineraries of the voyages of Christopher Columbus to the Americas. The map shows the routes of each of Columbus's three voyages, giving the dates on which he reached various places. It provides original place names as well as the names that Columbus gave to the different islands. Also shown is the distribution of the pre-Columbian cultures at the time of Columbus's first voyage, as understood by José María de la Torre. The originality of this map lies in its evocation of the aboriginal past, which, at the time it was made, helped to reaffirm the culture of the native peoples of the Americas. The island of Jamaica and the western part of Hispaniola (Haiti) also are shown.

We note only the examples in the Library of Congress (1861 edition) British Library (1861) and National Library of Spain (1862).

Condition Description
Minor soiling. Dissected and laid on linen with original black faux morocco slip case with title in gilt lettering.
Joseph Hutchins Colton Biography

G. W. & C. B. Colton was a prominent family firm of mapmakers who were leaders in the American map trade in the nineteenth century. Its founder, Joseph Hutchins Colton (1800-1893), was a Massachusetts native. Colton did not start in the map trade; rather, he worked in a general store from 1816 to 1829 and then as a night clerk at the United States Post Office in Hartford, Connecticut. By 1830, he was in New York City, where he set up his publishing business a year later.

The first printed item with his imprint is dated 1833, a reprint of S. Stiles & Company’s edition of David Burr’s map of the state of New York. He also printed John Disturnell’s map of New York City in 1833. Colton’s next cartographic venture was in 1835, when he acquired the rights to John Farmer’s seminal maps of Michigan and Wisconsin. Another early and important Colton work is his Topographical Map of the City and County of New York and the Adjacent Country (1836). In 1839, Colton began issuing the Western Tourist and Emigrant’s Guide, which was originally issued by J. Calvin Smith.

During this first decade, Colton did not have a resident map engraver; he relied upon copyrights purchased from other map makers, most often S. Stiles & Company, and later Stiles, Sherman & Smith. Smith was a charter member of the American Geographical and Statistical Society, as was John Disturnell. This connection would bear fruit for Colton during the early period in his career, helping him to acquire the rights to several important maps. By 1850, the Colton firm was one of the primary publishers of guidebooks and immigrant and railroad maps, known for the high-quality steel plate engravings with decorative borders and hand watercolors.

In 1846, Colton published Colton’s Map of the United States of America, British Possessions . . . his first venture into the wall map business. This work would be issued until 1884 and was the first of several successful wall maps issued by the firm, including collaborative works with D.G. Johnson. From the 1840s to 1855, the firm focused on the production of railroad maps. Later, it published a number of Civil War maps.

In 1855, Colton finally issued his first atlas, Colton’s Atlas of the World, issued in two volumes in 1855 and 1856. In 1857 the work was reduced to a single volume under the title of Colton’s General Atlas, which was published in largely the same format until 1888. It is in this work that George Woolworth (G. W.) Colton’s name appears for the first time.

Born in 1827 and lacking formal training as a mapmaker, G. W. joined his father’s business and would later help it to thrive. His brother Charles B. (C. B.) Colton would also join the firm. Beginning in 1859, the General Atlas gives credit to Johnson & Browning, a credit which disappears after 1860, when Johnson & Browning launched their own atlas venture, Johnson’s New Illustrated (Steel Plate) Family Atlas, which bears Colton’s name as the publisher in the 1860 and 1861 editions.

J.H. Colton also published a number of smaller atlases and school geographies, including his Atlas of America (1854-56), his Illustrated Cabinet Atlas (1859), Colton’s Condensed Cabinet Atlas of Descriptive Geography (1864) and Colton’s Quarto Atlas of the World (1865). From 1850 to the early 1890s, the firm also published several school atlases and pocket maps. The firm continued until the late 1890s, when it merged with a competitor and then ceased to trade under the name Colton.