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Good example of Francisco Coello's Islas Filipinas, the most important general map of the Philippines of the 19th-century and the first modern topographical map of the Philippines based on Scientific Surveys.

The present map is the most important general map of the Philippines of the 19th-century. Issued separately, in three adjoining parts, Coello's work is the first topographical map of all of the Philippines to be predicated on scientific surveys. The map represents the apogee of half a century of scientific mapping of the islands that began with Felipe Bauzá's hydrographic surveys, first published as the Carta General de Filipinas (Madrid, 1792). Since that time, various advanced military and civilian topographical surveys of the Philippines, including areas of the islands' mountainous interiors, had been completed. Francisco Coello, with the assistance of the geographer, Dr. Antonio Morata, painstakingly sorted through the various surveys, selecting only those of the highest quality. The result was the first truly modern and accurate general map of the Philippines, unprecedented in its precision and level of detail.

The original manuscript was carefully lithographed to the highest standards, but was of such monumental size that it was issued in three separate parts over a three-year period from 1849 to 1852. The present three parts, which together form a complete map of the Philippines, are as follows: 1) Islas Filipinas. Primera Hoja Central (1849), 2) Islas Filipinas. Segunda Hoja Central (1850), and finally, 3) Islas Filipinas Posesiones de Oceania. Media Hoja Superior. Media Hoya Inferior (1852).

The Primera Hoja focuses on Luzon and Mindoro, and includes 11 insets, including detailed maps of the City of Manila, Manila Bay, and Cavite and Bacoor Bay. The Hoja Segunda continues the projection southwards, and embraces Palawan, the Islas Visayas and Mindanao. The third sheet is comprised of two large sections; the Media Hoja Superior features the Batanes Islands which lie to the far north, between Luzon and Taiwan. Also remarkable, is the lengthy essay on the historical geography of the Philippines that runs along both sides of the view. It was written by Pascual Madox, and corresponds to the Diccionario geográfico-estadístico-histórico, a systematic history of the geography and development of Spain and her colonies, jointly compiled by Coello and Modox. Below, the Media Hoya Inferior depicts the islands that lie to the far south, between Palawan and Borneo. It also features a number of insets, including a small, colorful, general map of the Philippines.

Combined, Coello's map formed the foundation of all general topographical mapping of the Philippines for the rest of the century, including being the basis for Anselmo Ollero's Carta Itineraria de la Isla de Luzon (1882) and Ramon Prats' Islas Filipinas (1887). Importantly, it was also the general map of record consulted by all sides during the Spanish-American War (1898) and the Philippine-American War (1899-1902).

Francisco Coello de Portugal y Quesada (1822-1898), was one of the most important and talented Spanish cartographers of the 19th-century. Born in Jaen, he was accepted into the Special Army Corps of Engineers Academy in Guadalajara. He subsequently joined the Corps of Military Engineers, and served in the First Carlist War (1833-9), and later in Algeria, eventually attaining the rank of colonel. In 1846, he was appointed Director-General of the Corps of Engineers, where he oversaw a series of grand projects that were to dramatically revolutionize the cartography of Spain and her colonial possessions.

Coello worked with the aforementioned Dr. Morata to compile the very best sources to produce scientifically advanced, large-scale maps of Metropolitan Spain and all of her remaining overseas possessions. This mapping project was billed as the Atlas de España y sus posesiones de Ultramar, and from 1848 onwards its maps were issued individually and gradually. The present map of the Philippines was amongst the earliest and most important issues of the atlas. While the project was never fully completed, owing to Coello's death and the advent of the Spanish-American War, by 1898, 46 parts of the atlas had been produced. Nonetheless, the Atlas de España represented an achievement of monumental importance, for it included the first scientifically-produced topographical maps of the Philippines, Cuba and Puerto Rico, amongst other subjects. The maps were also greatly admired for their geographical precision and the high quality of their lithographic production.

Coello's map of the Philippines is rare, especially in its complete form, with all three of its parts.

The map is the most important monument of Philippine cartography of the 19th-century, and a critical element of any collection.

Condition Description
Three sheet map, unjoined (shown here in four sections for illustrative purposes.) Folding map. Two of three sheets somewhat toned (as illustrated).
Quirino, 'Philippine Cartography' (revised ed.), pp.177-8; PHIMCOS/Metropolitan Museum of Manila, 'Three Centuries of Philippine Cartography' (exhibition catalog), pp.56-7.