First Revisions To The First Scientific Mapping of the Rio de la Plata
Important early chart of the mouth of the River Plate, based upon the revisions made by Don Andres de Oyarvide to the original Spanish surveys undertaken by the Malapsina expedition.
The chart includes smaller charts of Montevideo harbor and Maldonado harbor.
The present chart is the first significant revision to the work during Malaspina expedition's survey of the coastline of the Rio de la Plata in 1789. The Malaspina Expedition (1789–1794) was a five-year maritime scientific exploration commanded by Alessandro Malaspina and José de Bustamante y Guerra The expedition was funded by the Spanish government and originally pursued strictly scientific goals, in the same fashion as the voyages of James Cook and Jean-François de Galaup, comte de La Pérouse. Some of the leading scientists at the time collected an impressive amount of scientific data that even surpassed what was collected during Cook's expedition, but due to Malaspina's involvement in a conspiracy to overthrow the government, he was jailed shortly upon return. Most of the expedition's reports and collections were put away unpublished, and didn't see the light until the late 19th century.
The original chart recorded Malapsina's observations along both coasts of the Rio de la Plata in 1789. Malaspina proceeded as far north as the Rio Paraña, fixing precise points based upon 150 astronomical observations. The title of the original chart is:
Carta esférica del Río de la Plata desde su desde embocadura hasta Buenos Aires [Material cartográfico] / levantada de Orden del Rey en 1789 y rectificada en 1794 por varios oficiales de su R[ea]l Armada, Presentada a S.M. por mano del Excmo. Sr. D. Juan de Langara Secretario de Estado y del Despacho Universal de Marina ; Fernando Selma la grabó ; Felipe Bauzá la delineó
Andres Oyarvide was born in Guipuzcoa in the Basque region of Spain in 1750, and would rise to the title of Piloto-Major in the Royal Spanish Armada, before his death at sea in 1806. Following the Spanish War with Portugal, Oyarvide was part of the first expedition to survey and determine the line of demarcation of the Limits of the Treaty of San Ildefonso, from the Amazon to the Rio de La Plata. Oyarvide was assigned the task of surveying the Rio de la Plata and parts further north, which lasted from 1783 to 1798, when he sailed from Montevideo to Sain in January 1798. The following year, Oyarvide returned to the region and conducted and given instructions by Governor Bustamonte to conduct a detailed survey.
From 1800 to 1803, Oyarvide conducted the survey which would radically rework and improve the original Malaspina work.
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.