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Very Rare Map of Toluca By Mexico's Most Important Practitioner of Scientific Mapping in the Mid-Nineteenth Century

Fine, detailed, and extremely rare map of the district of Toluca, in the State of Mexico. We can locate only one institutional example of this map, which was part of the first atlas of the State of Mexico.

The map was made by Tomás Ramón de Moral, a skilled cartography and surveyor who worked on the first geodesic survey of the State of Mexico. The map was updated by the influential Sociedad de Geografía y Estadística, Mexico’s first geographical society.

The district, an administrative unit below the state level, is bordered to the south and east by other districts of the State of Mexico, which is in central Mexico, near Mexico D. F. To the west is the state of Michoacán, and northwest are slivers of the states of Queretaro and Guanajuato.

The map includes political and geographic information, including many mountains and hills drawn with hachures. A key in the lower left denotes local sites; it includes symbols for the state capital, partido (similar to a county) seats, parish seats, villages, haciendas, ranches, highways, and district, partido, and municipality boundaries.  

The first atlas of the State of Mexico

This map was part of the first atlas of the State of Mexico, a project undertaken by Ramón de Moral. At that time, the State covered the modern states of Hidalgo, Tlaxcala, Guerrero, as well as the modern State of Mexico. He and his colleagues with the Comisión de Estadística del Estado de México toured the countryside from 1827 to 1830 producing the first maps based on the first geodetic survey in Mexico. The maps were completed by 1833 but they were not published until 1851-2, four years after Ramón de Moral’s death.

De Moral had surveyed Taxco, Chilapa, and Acapulco as part of his original triangulation survey, but they had been carved out of the State of Mexico by 1849. As a result, when the atlas was published, it contained eight district maps and a four-sheet general map of the State. The maps were published in the following order: in 1851, Tula, Tulancingo, Texcoco, Cuernavaca, and Sultepec; in 1852, Huetjutla, Tlalnepantla, Toluca, and the general map.

The atlas also involved the Sociedad de Geografía y Estadística (Mexican Society for Geography and Statistics), who reviewed and corrected the maps. Founded in 1833, the Sociedad was the first geographical society in the Americas and only in the fourth in the world. The Society was established to create a cohesive map of the nation state of Mexico; the country was in urgent need of maps to define the borders and aid governmental agencies. The aim of their projects was to survey topography and natural resources, identify potential for development, and record demographic information.  

The atlas was produced under the order of Don Mariano Riva Palacio (1803-1880), a prominent politician in nineteenth-century Mexico. A native of Mexico D. F., Palacio was married to the daughter of a hero of the Mexican War of Independence, General Vincente Guerrero. He began his political life as a City Councilor in Mexico D. F. before being elected a federal Congressman. He went on to serve as the Minister of Finance, Minister of Justice, and the Governor of the State of Mexico. Indeed, Palacio was three times the Governor, elected in 1849 (to 1851), 1857, and 1869 (to 1871). Interestingly, he was imprisoned during Santa Anna’s final presidency (1852-4) and was appointed as the lawyer to defend the deposed Emperor Maximilian, who was executed in 1867. Palacio is remembered for his work to develop Mexico’s law enforcement system, as well as its infrastructure. An atlas of the State of Mexico fits squarely within his interests to better know his state and within the state’s interest of development.  

Finally, the atlas maps were lithographed by Placido Blanco. Blanco gained fame in Mexico D. F., where the firm worked on a variety of projects including the Revista Cientifica y Literaria (1845-46). In 1851, the business moved to Toluca to run the lithography works at the Instituto Literario, where the atlas maps were produced.

Toluca to the mid-nineteenth century

The city and district of Toluca is located in a rich valley that has been inhabited for many centuries. Before the invasion of the Spanish conquistadores, the area was known as the Matlatzinco Valley and it was settled by people speaking Matlatzinca, Otomi, Mazahua, and Nahua languages. There are many sites where one can see ruins of these civilizations, for example at Calixtlahuaca, just north of Toluca.

A rival of Calixtlahuaca was Tollocan, a city state. When the Mexica Emperor Axayacatl conquered the valley, he destroyed the former and named Tollocan the provincial capital. Later, tributary payments to the Aztec Empire were paid through Tollocan, which retained its prominent role.

When the Spanish arrived, in 1521, Tollocan was changed to Toluca. Evangelization of the local population began in 1524, which changed the city scape dramatically with the addition of churches, chapels, and other religious buildings. The settlement was officially recognized as a town in 1677 and as a city in 1799. In 1793, a road was begun connecting Toluca to Mexico City.

Toluca was not spared skirmishes during the War of Independence. The first City Council met in 1812 and they joined others in declaring independence in 1821. The State of Mexico was officially created in 1825; at first, the capital city was moved across several places, but Toluca was designated as the constitutional capital in 1830.


The map is extremely rare, as very few examples of the atlas and its maps were ever printed. We locate only one example of the Toluca map in the Bibliotheque National de France.

Condition Description
Wall map, laid on linen and varnished, with some tears and abrasions. Wood rollers deteriorating with insect damage.
Miguel Ángel Flores-Gutiérrez, “Tomás Ramón de Moral, un prestigiado sabio del siglo XIX: su contribución a la cartografía mexicana,” Contribuciones desde Coatepec 31 (2016); David Y. Allen, Mexican Contributions to the Cartography of Mexico, 1821-1846, online publication. KAP
Tomás Ramón de Moral Biography

Tomás Ramón de Moral (ca. 1791-1847) was an accomplished mapmaker known for his district maps of the State of Mexico, which were part of the first atlas of that state. He is considered one of the first scientific mapmakers in Mexico, due to his use of geodesy as part of the Comisión de Estadística del Estado de México.

De Moral served with the Corps of Engineers from 1822 to 1826 and he was also a professor at the School of Mines, two of the most important bodies associated with surveying and cartography in Mexico. He was also the author of the first book on geodesy published in Mexico; it appeared posthumously, in 1852, as did his maps.  

De Moral performed the surveys of the State of Mexico and drew up manuscript maps in the late 1820s and 1830s. Due to a lack of state funds, his first map was only published in 1847, a reduced version of his map of Mexico D. F. The rest of his maps of the state’s districts were published in 1851 and 1852, several years after De Moral’s death. They were published as an atlas by the state government. Few copies of the atlas or its maps exist; there were eight district maps in the atlas along with a four-sheet map of the entire state.