One of the Earliest Printed Maps of Mexico City—Extremely Rare First Edition!
Fine nine-sheet plan of Mexico City surveyed by Diego Garcia Conde and compiled by some of Mexico's most important engravers and artists. It was published in Mexico City in 1807. This is a rare first edition, of which very few examples survive.
Brigadier General Diego Garcia Conde's Plano General de la Ciudad de México is generally regarded as one of the most important plans of Mexico City. It was reprinted in many editions across the Americas and Europe and served as the exemplar of plans of the city for much of the nineteenth century.
The monumental nine-sheet map was surveyed by Conde, engraved by the renowned artist José Joaquín Fabregat and produced by a team of artists who led New Spain’s premier art institution, the Real Academia de Nobles Artes de San Carlos de Nueva España.
The original map plates were destroyed and very few examples of the original survive. In addition to the present example, there are five known institutional collections which include the first edition.
The plan shows the entirety of the metropole in arresting detail. The city radiates from the Zócalo, or Plaza de Palacio as it is written here. This square had been the city’s center since before the arrival of the Spanish, when the city was called Tenochtitlan and it was the capital of the Aztec Empire. Here, we can see the precise layouts of the Cathedral and Royal Palace, with its gardens, paths, and courtyards.
Just to the west is the Alameda, with its pathways and manicured gardens. Another building of note is to the southwest. Although it looks like a fortress, it is actually the Royal Factory of Cigars. The other city blocks are laid out in an ordered grid pattern, with new tree-lined avenues showing plans for future expansion.
The city is split into eight quarters, which are explained alphabetically by street name in the key to the right of the map. The scale and names of the mapmakers are included below. An elaborate cartouche in the upper right corner of the plan explains how to the use the key, including that all squares with a pulquería, or pulque bar, are denoted with a letter P.
Running along the bottom of the plan are two beautiful views. They are:
- Vista I. De levante desde el camino nuevo de Vera-Cruz
- Vista II. De Poniente desde el camino de Chapultepec
The views add a panoramic experience to the plan, while also highlighting the many new engineering works that were in progress to expand and connect the growing city to the rest of New Spain. The map’s surveyor, Diego Garcia Conde, was the engineer in charge of some of these projects.
Conde’s initial survey and publication of the map
Garcia Conde initially undertook his survey during the period New Spain was governed by Juan Vicente de Güemes Pacheco de Padilla Horcasitas, the second Count of Revillagigedo, who is credited with the modernization and dramatic improvement of Mexico City (1789-94).
Güemes ordered the beautification of walks, squares, and alleys, introduced rental carts, and organized the police service. These endeavors converted Mexico City into what would become known as the "City of Palaces." To improve communication and commercial traffic, Güemes ordered the design and construction of a network of modern roads, emphasizing the routes from Mexico City to Veracruz, and ordered engineering works to save ravines and rivers.
Diego Garcia Conde (1760-1822) was born in Barcelona, but came to New Spain as a captain of the Spanish Dragoons. He fought for Spain in the War of Independence and later served as an engineer in Mexico, overseeing such projects as the construction of the road between Veracruz and Jalapa. In 1822, he became Director General of the Corps of Engineers and founded the Academy for Cadets.
Whereas Conde is credited with the map, he is better characterized as the surveyor. He was one of a group of men who contributed to the final printed product. As identified at the bottom of the key to the right, the map was engraved by José Joaquín Fabregat (1748-1807) and printed by Manuel Lopez Lopez. Lopez Lopez operated a print shop on Calle Escalerillas. Fabregat was a renowned engraver, the most prominent in Mexico at the turn of the nineteenth century, who trained in Spain and taught in New Spain.
The views and decorative elements of the map were drawn by Rafael Ximeno y Planes (1759-1807). Ximeno y Planes was an accomplished painter who trained in Madrid and Rome. He moved to the colonies, where he was named Director General of the Real Academia de Nobles Artes de San Carlos de Nueva España, founded in 1781. Fabregat and Lopez were both associated with the Real Academia as well.
Editions, variations, and reductions of the map
The map, while rare in this first edition, was well respected and received, inspiring many subsequent editions and variations. These include:
- Plan general de la ciudad de México, levantado por el teniente coronel D. Diego García Conde en el año de 1793, y grabado en miniatura en Londres, por Eduardo Mogg, el año 1811.
- Plan de la Ville de México dressé sur les lieux par le colonel comte D. Diego García, 1824 – A reduced edition of the map published in Atlas Historique avec l’explication des planches, París, 1831.
- Plano general de la ciudad de México, levantado por el teniente coronel D. Diego García Conde en el año de 1793. Aumentado y corregido en lo más notable por el teniente coronel retirado D. Rafael María Calvo, en el de 1830– Engraved in New York.
- Plano general de la ciudad de México, 1849 – Printed in Paris by Bauerkeller y Co.
- Plano general de la ciudad de México, formado según los datos más recientemente adquiridos, para servir a la Guia de Forasteros, publicada por el Sr. general Juan N. Almonte. Año de 1853 –Lithographic print.
- Plano general de la ciudad de México. Año de 1858 – Lithographic print produced in Paris for a travel guide to Mexico.
- Plano general de la ciudad de México, Año de 1858 – Lithographic print produced in Mexico by Decaen, part of México y sus alrededores.
- Plano general de la capital de la República Mexicana, 1860 – Part of a book titled, Viajero en México, published by Juan N. del Valle.
- Plano general de la ciudad de México, 1861 – Another lithographic print by Decaen, also released in editions of 1863, 1864, 1865.
However, while inspired by the 1807 original, none of these subsequent variations compare to the 1807’s detail and elegance as a printed document, or as a history of the city’s development to that date.
The plan is extremely rare, particularly in this first edition.
OCLC locates four copies (British Library, American Antiquarian Society, John Carter Brown Library (the Martayan Lan copy below) and Bancroft Library). A copy is also listed in the Mexican National Archives.
We note copies offered for sale by Dorothy Sloan in 2001 (Catalog 10 – $28,750) and in 2013 (Catalog 23 – $39,200). The latter was sold to Martayan Lan, who re-offered it for sale in February 2015 ($85,000), and it sold to the John Carter Brown Library (see above). Dorothy Sloan also offered a heavily worn and restored example in 2005 in the Volkmann Catalog.
The present example is that sold by Dorothy Sloan in 2001.
This is an extremely rare, first edition plan and one central to the history of Mexican cartography and Latin American urban planning. It would make a critical and important contribution to any collection focused on Mexico City, Mexico, or on city plans.