Consag's map is one of the cornerstone maps of California history.
Consag's map details his travels in Baja California over the course of his 3 expeditions as a Jesuit Missionary.
Born Ferdinand Konščak in Varaždin, Croatia, Consag joined the Jesuits at an early age. In 1729, Konščak left for Cádiz in Spain, then went to North America, where he was active as a missionary on New Spain's Baja California Peninsula (today part of Mexico), from 1732 to the end of his life.
Konščak mounted three expeditions (in 1746, 1751 and 1753) systematically exploring previously unknown parts of the peninsula. In June and July 1746 he was sent by sea to the head of the Gulf of California in order to investigate the disputed question of whether Baja California was an island. Although he closely followed the coast and reached the Colorado River, the issue continued to be in dispute for nearly another three decades
His second expedition comprised a journey by land across the peninsula to the Pacific coast. The third expedition went up the western side of the peninsula, to around 30 degrees of latitude near Bahía San Luis Gonzaga.
During his expeditions, Konščak recorded information on the peninsula's unknown topography, natural resources, and native inhabitants.
On the basis of the data obtained, Konščak made a precise map of Baja California (1748) and a map of the Gulf of California (around 1750). His maps of the regions explored were popular at the time frequently copied and used. Denis Diderot and D'Alembert used some of them within the French encyclopedia, where his name is cited as "P. Consaqua". Alexander von Humboldt used the maps in his work Carte generale ... de la Nouvelle Espagne, (Paris, 1804). Arrowsmith also incorporated Consag's discoveries.
His diaries were translated and reprinted into many languages, were published during his lifetime by Villa-Señor y Sanchez, Ortega-Balthasar, and Venegas-Buriel.
The 1761 copy of his manuscript on California is held in the British Museum. His Carta del P. Fernando Consag de la Compañia de Jesus, Visitador de las Misiones de Californias are kept at:
- British Museum in London
- Library of Congress in Washington
- John Carter Library in Providence, Rhode Island
- Library of Pomona College in Pomona, California
- The Huntington Library in San Marino, California
- Seven copies of maps are published by Ernest J. Burrus.
Konščak's name has also been associated with two anonymous accounts of Baja California: Descripción compendiosa de lo descubierto y conocido de la California and Adiciones to the same. Homer Aschmann in 1966 and Damir Zorić in 2000 suggested that Konščak was the author of the second of these, while Miguel León-Portilla in 1988 suggested that he wrote the first.
The map was engraved by Joseph Gonzales, to illustrate Consag's report on his expedition to the mouth of the Colorado River in 1746, and represents the final chapter in dispelling the myth of California as an island. While Kino had offered strong evidence that California was not an island, he did not cross the Colorado River, and therefore his theories were rejected by some explorers and authorities, until Consag'slater crossing of the Colorado and exploration of the upper part of the Sea of Cortez. The map was issued in the Madrid edition of Venegas' Noticia de la California, y de su conquista temporal, y espiritual hasta el tiempo presente in 1757.
While the book occassionally appears on the market, there are no recorded examples of the Consag map appearing in either a dealer catalogue or at auction in the past 25 years.