18th Century Maps, 19th Century Maps, American Maps, Copperplate, Engraving, Maps, Past/Present

Past/Present: Maps of Mexico

Today, our Past/Present post features two maps of Mexico. The older map is by Antonio Zatta, the most prominent Italian 18th and early 19th century publisher of maps. Based out of Venice, Zatta created maps that harmoniously merged the two very different cartographic styles of the time. He updated and redefined the traditional title cartouche by replacing the mythic elements common to the 17th and 18th century with more representative images. A beautiful balance of art and information, Zatta’s maps contained many decorative elements, such as figurative depictions, on the map itself, while striving for the accuracy that his more scientifically-focused 19th century clientele demanded. In addition to depicting Mexico, Zatta’s map includes Baja California, Texas and the American Southeast, much of which was still controlled by Spain.

The 19th century map is by J.H. Colton, a New York based publisher who started selling maps in 1833. In the beginning, Colton built his business by purchasing plates and copyrights from cartographers like Burr and updating the details and borders. He also worked hard to produce railroad maps and guidebooks, which were immensely popular. Colton’s sons joined his business in the early 1850s. His older son, G. W. Colton, trained as a cartographer and engraver, and was particularly enthused about creating a detailed world atlas to compete with well-established European firms on the U.S. market. In 1855 G.W. Colton issued the impressive two-volume Colton’s Atlas of the World. His slightly smaller one-volume Colton’s General Atlas, was published in 1857. This map of Mexico is from Colton’s General Atlas and features an inset of the Territory and Isthmus of Tehuantepec. It also has Colton’s trademark spiral motif border.

Image on Left: Messico Ouvero Nuova Spagna che contiene Il Nuovo Messico La California Con Una Parte de’ Paesi Adjacenti. Published by Antonio Zatta, Venice. Copper plate engraving, 1785. Issued in Zatta’s Atlante Novissimo. Engraved by G. Pitteri.

Image on Right: Mexico. Published by J. H. Colton & Company, New York. Hand colored engraving, 1857. From Colton’s General Atlas.

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