The foundational Spanish sea chart of the Gulf Coast, Florida, Texas, etc. -- One of the six most important maps of Texas (Streeter).
This is the first large-scale printed chart of the Texas coast based upon actual soundings and explorations. The map is based in large part on the landmark survey of the coast commissioned by Bernardo de Galvez and conducted by Jose de Evia. The most significant milestone of the survey was the discovery of Galveston Bay in 1785, which had never before appeared on a printed map. Baie de Calvesion (Galveston) is shown on the present map exactly as laid down in the manuscript maps from Evia's Survey. This is also the first map to name Matagorda Bay.
The coastline configuration in the Carta Esferica established the prototype for the mapping of Texas and the U.S. Gulf Coast which dominated printed maps for the next 2 decades.
The map remained as one of the most significant charts of the region for several decades. Both Humboldt and Arrowsmith copied the information set forth in this map for their important maps.
Spanish impetus for production of this chart began during the American Revolution when the British began to more actively survey the region. As noted in Texas History On-Line:
An unauthorized sally west of the Mississippi by the British Admiralty surveyor and cartographer George Gauld may have prompted Louisiana governor Bernardo de Gálvez Galiardoqui's efforts to chart the same coast. In the summer of 1777, Gauld's companions, Lt. John Osborn and John Payne, surveyed and mapped the Texas coast to a point just west of Galveston Bay. Gauld himself turned back at Sabine Pass to concentrate on the Louisiana coast.
From Gauld's later encounter with a Spanish ship sent by Gálvez to intercept him, it appears certain that Gálvez knew what the British survey crew had been up to. In December 1777, Gálvez dispatched a schooner captained by Luis Antonio Andry to map the Louisiana and Texas coast as far as Matagorda Bay. The expedition ended in disaster. Apostate Karankawas boarded the vessel at Matagorda Bay, massacred the crew, and burned the ship, along with maps and documents of the voyage.
After the American Revolution, with Spain once again in possession of the entire Gulf Coast, Gálvez ordered a renewal of the coastal mapping effort. From 1783 to 1786, José Antonio de Evia surveyed the coast between the Florida Keys and Tampico, mapping the coast and its bays. Evia's work formed the basis for the Spanish Hydrographic Service's Carta Esférica que comprehende las costas del Seno Mexicano (1799), which superseded Tomás de Ugarte's "Carta esférica" dated two years earlier. The 1799 Carta esférica "remained for many years the prototype for maps of the Gulf." . . .
A key below the title includes a lettered guide to the composition of the Gulf floor as indicated on the map, and lists the symbols that correspond to the astronomical observations of longitude and latitude. The seal of the Deposito Hidrografico is at bottom left with the price Precio 18 rs vn just below. The map was engraved by Felipe Bauza and Fernando Selma, whose imprints appear below the neatline at bottom right and left.
The present example is Streeter 1029A, the first state. The map was later revised in November 1803 (Streeter 1029A) and 1805 (Streeter 1029B). A variant edition also exists with revised pricing below the Deposito Stamp in the lower left corner (Streeter 1029C).
A copy of a Spanish Hydrographical atlas with sixteen American maps (including the present map), sold at the Frank Streeter sale at Christie's in April 2007 for $120,000. According to American Book Prices Current, no copy of the atlas had appeared at auction for thirty years prior to the Frank Streeter sale and only one example of this map in the first state has appeared on the market.
The Dirección de Hidrografía, or the Directorate of Hydrographic Works, was established in 1797. Its roots were in the Casa de Contratación, founded in 1503 in Sevilla, which housed all the charts of the Spanish Empire and oversaw the creation and maintenance of the padrón real, the official master chart. The Casa, now in Cadiz, was shuttered in 1790, but Spain still needed a hydrographic body. In response, the Dirección was created in 1797. One of its first projects was the publication of charts from the Malaspina Expedition (1789-1794). The Dirección oversaw not only publication, but also surveying. The Dirección was abolished in the early twentieth century, when their work was distributed to other organizations.