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The Hydrography of Mexico By A Leading Swiss Scientist

Rare separately published map of the Valley of Mexico, the so-called Anahuac Plateau and its eastern slopes, published to accompany Henri de Saussure's 1862 Coup d'oeil sur l'hydrologie du Mexique, published in Geneva.

The map extends from Tampico just south of Veracruz, and includes Mexico City, providing a fine topographical overview of the region

The map includes details of the highlands in the region of South East Mexico with elevations shown by hachure marks. Includes the names of cities and villages.

The map includes three inset views: the of elevation of Vera Cruz, the inactive volcano Iztaccíhuatl and the active volcano of Popocatépetl, and lastly the inactive volcanoes Sierra Negra and Citaltepetl (Pico de Orizaba).

Saussure visited Mexico in 1855-1856 and later published a remarkable book, Coup d'oeil sur I'hydrologie du Mexique in 1862. as noted in The Compass Follows the Flag": The French Scientific Mission to Mexico, 1864-1867

The Swiss naturalist Henri de Saussure praised Humboldt publicly but criticized his work privately. Saussure visited Mexico in 1855-1856 and later published a remarkable book, Coup d'oeil sur I'hydrologie du Mexique (1862), whose title belies the breadth of the actual coverage. In 1856 in a letter to his brother Theodore from Veracruz, Henri de Saussure projected five books on Mexico, including one that would redress Humboldt's errors. All Mexican statistics are false, said Saussure, beginning with those of Humboldt. Saussure thought that it was impossible to have correct data in a country that had no proper administrative apparatus to collect them . . . He claimed that Humboldt missed some noteworthy volcanic features in the vicinity of Mt. Orizaba. . . . To his aunt, Saussure passed on the following gossip about Humboldt: contrary to what Europeans had heard, Humboldt did not really work very hard in Mexico. He spent a tranquil half-year in a "charming place with a certain countess from Mexico City," while half a dozen men ran around the country collecting data of varying degrees of accuracy that Humboldt accepted as genuine.

Like Humboldt, Saussure was anxious to scale high peaks in Mexico, an activity that nineteenth-century Europeans believed essential for geographers but Mexicans found quite incomprehensible. Whereas Humboldt praised the Mexican people and the splendor of their landscapes, especially the mountains, Saussure denigrated both. He said that tropical nature is admittedly beautiful but cannot compare with his native Switzerland.  . .

Like many European travelers, Saussure was frustrated in his attempts to visit many parts of Mexico because of "the perpetual revolution". During the 1860s Saussure spoke out against French military involvement in Mexico but praised the scientific efforts. He served as a corresponding member of the Commission scientifique du Mexique and wrote the Commission reports on insects that were published in 1870 and 1872.

Condition Description
Segmented and laid on linen, with original covers.
Dunbar, The Compass Follows the Flag": The French Scientific Mission to Mexico, 1864-1867; Annals of the Association of American Geographers , Jun., 1988, Vol. 78, No. 2
(Jun., 1988), pp. 229-240
Henri Louis Frédéric de Saussure Biography

Henri Louis Frédéric de Saussure (1829-1905) was a Swiss mineralogist, entomologist and taxonomist.

Saussure's elementary education was at Alphonse Briquet's then, as an adolescent, at the Hofwyl school run by Philipp Emanuel von Fellenberg. At the University of Geneva he was taught by François Jules Pictet de la Rive, who introduced him to entomology. After several years of study in Paris he received the degree of licentiate of the Faculty of Paris and obtained the degree of Doctor from the University of Giessen.

He worked mainly on Hymenoptera and Orthoptera. His first paper, in 1852, was on solitary wasps.

In 1854 he traveled to the West Indies, then to Mexico and the United States of America. There he met Louis Agassiz.

He returned to Switzerland in 1856 with collections of American insects, myriapods, crustaceans, birds and mammals. Also interested in geography, geology and ethnology, he co-founded the Geographical Society of Geneva in 1858.

He was also a member of the managing committee of the Natural History Museum of Geneva, ensuring that its collections of Hymenoptera and Orthoptera became one of the best in the world. In 1872 he was made an Honorary Fellow of the Entomological Society of London. In 1873, he was elected as a member to the American Philosophical Society.