Jesuit Cartography, Americas

Jesuit Cartography of the Americas: comparative case study of Baja California, Tarahumara and the Amazon by Mirela Altić

The maps that existed at the time of arrival of the first Jesuits to the American continent had already established the coastal outlines of the Americas. Thanks to the joint effort of sailors, cartographers and cosmographers, during the 16th century distinctive contours were given to Americas. However, within this vast landmass almost everything remained to be done. How did cartography came from the first outline maps of the American continent, published in the cosmographies to detailed regional maps that appeared in late 17th and 18th century? It is a Jesuit mapping based on their field work that link these two stages of cartography. The maps Jesuits produced were very different, depending on regional historical context and the conditions in which the Jesuits were acting in the certain countries.

Here presented selection of the maps illustrates a comparative case study of three regions in which Jesuits had a crucial role in its mapping: Baja California, Tarahumara (present-day Chihuahua) and the Amazon. Their activities in these regions resulted in mapping very different by it purpose: in Baja California it was to make final prove of its pensularity, in Tarahumara mapping ensured stability of the new missions while mapping of the Amazon course was aiming to mark the new Spanish-Portuguese border established after the Treaty of Madrid (1750).

Seno de California, y su costa oriental nuevamente descubierta, y registrada desde el Cabo et las Virgenes, hasta sutexmino, que es el Rio Colorado año 1747 por el Pe Ferdinando Consag. de la Compe. d JHS. Missiono, en la California
Seno de California, y su costa oriental nuevamente descubierta, y registrada desde el Cabo et las Virgenes, hasta sutexmino, que es el Rio Colorado año 1747 por el Pe Ferdinando Consag. de la Compe. d JHS. Missiono, en la California Ferdinando Consag [Ferdinand Konščak]: edited by Pedro Maria Nascimben, engraved by Joseph Gonzales Madrid: Imprenta de la viuda de m. Fernandez, 1757
Croatian Jesuit Ferdinand Konščak (1703 – 1759) compiled this map upon his famous expedition in 1746 which aim was to make final prove on pensularity of Baja California. Although Francisco Eusebio Kino had offered strong evidence that California was not an island, in his expedition of 1698 he did not cross the Colorado River, and therefore his theories were rejected by some explorers and authorities, until Konščak’s crossing of the Colorado and exploration of the upper part of the Sea of Cortez. During the expedition (June – July 1746) Konščak let the diary and made at least two maps – first that shows connection between northern part of the Baja California and the mainland and second one that shows the whole peninsula. This copy of Konščak’s map of northern part of the Baja (edited by Pedro Maria Nascimben) was engraved by Joseph Gonzales, to accompany Konščak’s report on his expedition which is published in Spanish edition of Vengas’ Noticia de la California, y de su conquista temporal, y espiritual hasta el tiempo presente in 1757. Even a cursory comparison of Konščak’s map with 1701 and 1702 Kino’s maps, confirms that Konščak relied greatly on Kino’s templates. By using Kino’s maps as a basement on which he applied new findings based to his own field observation, Konščak managed to significantly improve the presentation of the coastline and the islands. Isla Ángel de la Guarda which Kino erroneously considered as two separated islands is now well presented. South of Colorado mouth, in the upper Sea of Cortez, he discovered a small isle of San Felipe (San Felipe de Jesus), which today bears Konščak's name (Isla Consag). Besides his home mission of San Ignacio (founded in 1728), Konščak added many toponyms along the coast of Bja as well as position of the water holes (aquaje). East of mission of San Ignacio he marked volcano Las Tres Virgenes adding a note on its eruption in 1746, which is still used as relevant information on the activities of this volcano.
Kaart van het Westelyk Gedeelte van Nieuw Mexico en van California : volgens de taatste ontdekkingen der Jeuiten en anderen
Kaart van het Westelyk Gedeelte van Nieuw Mexico en van California : volgens de taatste ontdekkingen der Jeuiten en anderen Amsterdam: Isaak Tirion, 1765
Ferdinand Konščak belong among the most influential Jesuit mapmakers in the history of cartography. His maps were not only well-known and highly respected in Jesuit circles or royal courts. Commercial European cartographers immediately recognized their value, so Konščak's maps, along with those of Eusebio Kino, were often reprinted by European cartographic workshops, especially those in Amsterdam and Paris. Most of those re-prints were based on Nascimben's edition of Mapa de la Califronia prepared for Venegas – Burriel’s book. One of the first who evidently used that exact map to complete his own was Isaak Tirion. The map was included in Tirion's well-regarded Nieuwe en Beknopte Hand-Atlas.
Audienca de Guadalajara, Nova Mexico California &c. Per N. Sanson. Nicolas Sanson Paris: 1657
Map that shows first information on the region that will became part of the Jesuit provinces of the New Spain (today northern Mexico) like Pimería Alta, Sonora, Sinaloa, Tarahumara. The map is based on the early Jesuits reports. Sanson’s map showing Baja California as an island is produced before Eusebio Kino expedition to Baja (1683). However, Sanson’s presentation of the mainland, especially of the less known regions of Pimería Alta, Sonora, Sinaloa, Tarahumara are fully based on Jesuits relations. Sanson was in fact the first to include the names of numerous local nations of the of modern-day northern Mexico onto the map. That specially refers to Tarahumara, at that time, almost unknown to Europeans. Apart from Sanson, other European cartographers of the 17th century did not mention the Tarahumara, either as a region or an ethnonym.
Guyane Portugaise et partie du cours de la Riviere dea Amazones
Guyane Portugaise et partie du cours de la Riviere des Amazones Paris: J.N. Bellin: 1764
Map of Guyane and the Amazon appears in Bellin’s Le Petit Atlas Maritime Recueil De Cartes et Plans Des Quatre Parties Du Monde. en Cinq Volumes. I. Volume, number of the map 6903.163. This map of Guyane and the Amazon compiled by famous French cartographer Nicolas Bellin strongly relays on the Jesuit mapping of the same region. Bellin’s map reflects the progress in mapping activities achieved after the Treaty of Madrid (1750). Thanks to his close relations with French Jesuit and traveler Pierre François Xavier de Charlevoix, Bellin had access to Jesuit relations and maps which enabled him to produce innovative maps based on up to date field observations of the Jesuits. The Spanish-Portuguese treaty signed in Madrid in 1750 was a turning point not only in the colonial history of Brazil, but also in the history of cartography of that area. According to Treaty, the Portuguese crown was able to officially expand its territories to the Amazon and Rio Negro Rivers to the north. As the new demarcation line had to be drawn onto the official maps, Treaty was a trigger for vivid cartographic activity in which Portuguese Jesuits will closely cooperate with military authorities. When in 1753 the Portuguese Court sent a demarcation committee in the Amazon region, mapping of the region was entrusted to a group of military engineering officers who were joined by a royal mathematician and astronomer from Croatia, the Jesuit Ignatius Szentmártonyi (1718-1793). Based on Szentmártonyi’s, astronomical and geodetic survey along the river courses of the Amazon and Rio Negro, a first detailed, mathematically based hydrographic map of the area was created in 1755. Regarding the presentation of the Amazon, Bellin’s map largely reflect information collected by Portuguese demarcation commission in 1753-1755. As the boundary commission’s survey was limited to the section of the Amazon between Belem and Rio Branco, Sanson’s presentation of the Amazon mouth at is based on the La Condamine’s map Carte du cours du Maragnon ou de la grande riviere des Amazones (Paris, 1745).