January 11, 2010

Map of the Brazilian Empire

This detailed map of Imperial Brazil was drawn by Conrado Jacob Niemeyer (1788-1862) after an earlier map by Duarte da Ponte Ribeiro, the Baron of Ponte Ribeiro (1795-1878). After beginning his career as a doctor, Ponte Ribeiro became an important diplomat during the early years of Brazilian independence, representing his country in Portugal, Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina. Niemeyer was an engineer best known for constructing, at his own expense, a major road connecting the different districts of Rio de Janeiro; this road now bears his name.

Map of Sweden

This map shows the Kingdom of Sweden as it appeared at the end of the 18th century. At the time, the kingdom included present-day Sweden as well as Finland, which, however, was lost to the Russian Empire in 1809. The map is the work of Samuel Gustaf Hermelin (1744-1820), a Swedish industrialist and diplomat who also practiced cartography. Hermelin studied mining at the University of Uppsala before traveling to the United States to study industrialization. While in North America, he was instrumental in establishing diplomatic relations between Sweden and the United States. After his return home, Hermelin tried to start a profitable mining business in Swedish Lapland, but such operations only became profitable after Hermelin’s death, when rail connections were established between Lapland and southern Sweden.

Attending Muslim Festival

This photograph shows men and young boys at a Muslim festival in Trinidad and Tobago. The Muslim minority in Trinidad is comprised mainly of people whose ancestors were brought from South Asia in the 19th century, when Trinidad was part of the British Empire. The photograph is from the collection of the Columbus Memorial Library of the Organization of American States (OAS), which includes 45,000 photographs illustrative of life and culture in the Americas. Many of the photographs were taken by prominent photographers on OAS missions to member countries. The OAS was established in April 1948 when 21 countries of the western hemisphere adopted the OAS Charter, in which they reaffirmed their commitment to the pursuit of common goals and respect for each other’s sovereignty. Since then, the OAS has expanded to include the countries of the English-speaking Caribbean as well as Canada. The predecessor organization to the OAS was the Pan American Union, founded in 1910, which in turn grew out of the International Union of American Republics, established at the First International Conference of American States in 1889-90.


This early map of Brazil is by Jacopo Gastaldi (circa 1500-circa 1565), a Piedmontese cartographer who worked in Venice and rose to the position of cosmographer of the Venetian Republic. Gastaldi produced maps and illustrations for parts of Delle Navigationi et Viaggi (Travels and voyages), a compilation of travel writings by the Venetian diplomat and geographer Giovanni Battista Ramusio (1485-1557). Ramusio’s work contained more than 50 memoirs, including the writings of Marco Polo.

The Austrian Circle

The Holy Roman Empire (962-1806) was organized, beginning in the early 1500s, into ten Imperial Circles, each of which had its own diet or parliament, and which had certain responsibilities with regard to defense, tax collection, and other functions. (Some territories of the empire, for example, Bohemia and parts of Italy, were not grouped in circles.) This late-18th century French map shows the Austrian Circle, which largely coincided with those lands ruled by the House of Habsburg from Vienna. In addition to Austria proper, the Austrian Circle included parts of present-day Germany, Italy, Slovenia, and Switzerland.

Topographic Map of De Centa Valley

This clear and beautifully executed late 18th century Spanish map of the vicinity of Oran in the extreme north of Argentina was intended to promote settlement in this region. The map was prepared at the behest of Ramón Garcia de Leon y Pizarro, Governor and Captain General of the Province of Salta, who founded Oran in August 1794, possibly as an outpost to strengthen Spanish territorial claims along the then Spanish-Portuguese frontier. The map shows the planned and partially settled community of Oran, other settlements, a sugar plantation, individual land holdings, rivers and streams, roads, administrative boundaries, locations of native ("Ynfieles") sites, and vegetation and relief. It includes a decorative cartouche with title and inscription, a keyed legend, and a lengthy note on the geographic and strategic advantages of the area, indicating that the map's primary purpose was to promote settlement. The map is dedicated to the "Rey Nuestro Señor Don Carlos IIII" (King Carlos IV).