Globes, Maps, and Travel Accounts: Cartographies of Spanish America’s Eighteenth-Century Visitors

Friday, January 3, 2014: 3:30 PM
Columbia Hall 4 (Washington Hilton)
Jordana Dym, Skidmore College
Amédée Frézier, in the preface to his Voyage de la mer du sud (1716) reminisced about his childhood attraction to maps and travel accounts as a means to understand the structure of the universe.  Unsurprisingly, his account used maps to communicate his findings.  Frézier was not alone, either as a visitor or cartographer. Although imperial powers sought to limit foreigners' access to overseas territories, eighteenth century Spanish America from New Spain to Santiago de Chile received write-ups by a diverse lot, including British and Italian clerics, Dutch merchants, French privateers, Spanish naval officers, and French and Prussian scientists--to name just a few---on approved and illicit journeys.  They not only cruised the coasts of the Caribbean, North and South America but documented treks inland in search of answers to natural history questions, to evaluate the state of colonial society for reforming monarchs, to trade, to collect alms for Catholic missions and even watch an eclipse.  In most cases, as with Frézier, these
travellers' published and manuscript accounts showcased maps collected or created as part of the journey.  This paper explores how such maps, intended to inform and influence a popular rather than administrative audience, told a different story than the contemporary maps circulating within the empire and officially
sanctioned in Spanish and Spanish American newspapers, guias de forasteros and other publications reaching a general reading public.
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