Up and throughout the 18th century, Brazil was an economic powerhouse, but as a Portuguese colony under the mercantilist system, it was largely cut-off from the non-Lusatian world, and indeed most aspects of the ongoing European Enlightenment. However, Napoleon’s 1807 invasion of Portugal forced the country’s royal court into exile in Brazil – for the first time a colony became the capital of global empire.
The arrival of the Portuguese court in Rio de Janeiro brought European sophistication to Brazil, including several first-rate intellectual figures. The Enlightenment was suddenly adopted in a major way in Brazil, and the country became a hotbed of intellectual discovery and political debate, and for the first time the country became its own master, creating a sense of national identity.
In the wake of the Napoleonic Wars, the royal court relocated to Lisbon, and Portugal attempted to re-instate its traditional supremacy over Brazil, taking away its autonomy. This was resisted by much of the Brazilian population, who found a powerful ally in Prince Dom Pedro, the fourth son of the autocratic King João VI. In 1822, when an open schism developed between Lisbon and Rio, Pedro sided with the Brazilians and declared the country’s de facto independence, with him assuming the title of Emperor, as Dom Pedro I.
This momentous period, when Brazil became the centre of an empire, basked in the rays of the Enlightenment and found its national identity, gave rise to the present map. The great German mineralogist, geographer and engineer Baron Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege arrived in Brazil in 1809 to serve the exiled Portuguese court, dramatically modernizing Brazil’s mining industry and conducting numerous pioneering scientific field studies. Along the way he had a chance to map many parts of the country that had never been properly charted before. Some years later, he collaborated with the esteemed Bavarian botanist-explorer Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius, who toured Brazil from 1817 to 1820 with his colleague Johann Baptist von Spix. Martius in turn made his own valuable maps of some of the interior regions he visited, and he and Eschwege joined their cartographic findings.
As the ‘Avertisement’ in the lower left quadrant of the present map notes, the coastlines upon were taken from Baron de Roussin’s work, referring to the charts from Admiral Baron Albin Reine Roussin’s French hydrographic expedition to Brazil in 1819. It goes on to note that “l’intérieur d’après une carte manuscrite dressée par G: D’Eschwege en 1821, et d’après d’autres données plus recentes”, meaning that the inland areas are, in part, based upon a manuscript map that Baron von Eschwege made in 1821, augmented by other fine recent sources. The spot heights upon select highlands are from barometric readings taken variously by Eschwege, Martius and Spix. Indeed, Eschwege, a senior royal courtier and head of the country’s mining industry, would have had unfettered access to any and all surveys and maps that the crown possessed.
Yet, it would be some years until the finished map was first published, in Munich, dedicated to Emperor Dom Pedro I, in 1831, under the sponsorship of Martius (the present example of the map is of the second state, issued in 1834). The publisher is not known, but the map was beautifully drafted, with an almost frosty silver appearance, by Joseph Schwarzmann, a Bavarian military engineer, who apart from his work for Martius is only known for making an 1820s map of Tyrol & Styria.
One of the greatest monuments of early scientific cartography in Brazil, the present map, printed on four untrimmed, un-joined sheets (as it seems to always be found), showcases all of what was then the most populous and economically important parts of Brazil, being the triangle extending from São Paulo up northeast to Recife and then inland to take in all of Minas Gerais, home to the incredibly valuable mining industry. With the text mostly in French, the country is shown with amazing detail and accuracy, with all coast lines (which are contemporarily outlined in blue) and rivers carefully delineated, while mountainous areas are carefully expressed with unusually attractive lithographic shading, while all major roads are featured.
The ‘Explication des Signes et Abbreviations’, in the lower right quarter, provides the symbols that identify cities, towns, ‘Fregueza’ (parish seats), ranches / rural estates, native villages, government / military outposts, as well as explaining the numerous abbreviations used for Portuguese geographical terms and common names.
The lower-right sheet includes three fine cartographic insets, being ‘Les environs de Villa Rica’, showcasing the area around ‘Ouro Preto’, the epicentre of Mina Gerais gold country; ‘Les environs de Rio de Janeiro’, depicting the greater Rio region; and ‘Bahia do Rio de Janeiro’, focusing on the city of Rio and its immediate surroundings.
Eschwege & Martius: Early Scientific Explorers of Brazil
Baron Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege (1777 – 1855) was a famous mineralogist, geologist, geographer and engineer, who revolutionized these fields in both Portugal and Brazil.
Eschwege was born into a noble family in Hesse, Germany. He studies law and science at the universities of Göttingen and Marburg before joining the military where he served as an engineer. His unusual talent was quickly recognized far and wide, and in 1803, at only the age of 27, he was made the Director of Mines of Portugal. The Portuguese court was then in the process of trying to upgrade the country’s technical capabilities to the standards of the most advanced northern European countries. In Portugal, Eschwege, conducted ground-breaking investigations of its mineralogy.
In Napoleon’s 1807 invasion of Portugal forced the country’s royal court to exile itself to Rio de Janeiro, the capital of their greatest colony, Brazil. Eschwege also headed for Brazil, where he became the head of the Brazilian Royal Office of Mineralogy, and later the Super-independent of Mines. He founded the Fábrica Patriótica refinery at Congonhas, Minas Gerais, which radically improved national metal production. He extensively toured the country, sketching maps and making pioneering studies of the country’s minerology and geology, of which his works on diamonds are especially interesting.
After over a decade in Brazil, Eschwege returned to Germany. The present map is based on manuscript mapping he refined towards the end of his time in the country and is thus his most advanced and mature rendering of Brazil’s geography. He left a strong and enduring legacy, in that he placed geology and mineralogy, as well as mining technology in Brazil, on a world-class level, to the tremendous benefit of future academics and industrialists.
Eschwege spent the rest of his life dividing his time between Germany and Portugal, where, as a favourite of Queen Maria II (r. 1891-53), he fulfilled high-profile projects in that country, notably as the architect of the Pena Palace and Park, in Sintra.
Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius (1794 – 1868) was one of the most consequential botanist-explorers of his era. Even before he completed his Ph.D. from the University of Erlangen, Bavaria (in his hometown), in 1814, he had gained wide acclaim for his virtuous understanding of the plant world. King Maximillian I Joseph of Bavaria agreed to sponsor him and his friend Johann Baptist von Spix (1781 -1826), an esteemed botanist in his own right, to mount an expedition to Brazil to collect rare plant samples for the Munich Botanical Garden (a favoured project of the king). They departed for Rio de Janeiro in 1817, the while in Brazil Martius and Spix explored the Rio, São Paulo and Minas Gerais regions, before heading to Bahia and then north to ascend the Amazon.
In Brazil, they befriended Eschwege, who did much to assist their travels, as well as comparing notes on their mutual scientific research. Importantly, Martius sketched many parts of the country which had not yet otherwise been surveyed, and he and Eschwege collaborated to produce the manuscript that led to the present map. The botanist-explorer returned to Germany in 1820, with over 12,000 specimens, many of which had never before be seen, let alone studied, by Europeans. The success of the mission led to Martius’s appointment as the Director of the Munich Botanical Garden. The samples brought back from Brazil formed the core of the world-famous tropical herbariums in both Munich and Brussels.
Martius published a number of important works, such as a survey of the plants he and Spix encountered in Brazil, such as Nova Genera et Species Plantarum Brasiliensium (1823–1832, 3 vols.) and a classic work on palm trees, Historia naturalis palmarum (1823-50).
Spix spent the years after his return from Brazil working on his monumental work on the Brazilian expedition; however, he sadly died in 1826 before it could be completed. The project was taken up by Martius, and the work was published as Reise in Brasilien auf Befehl Sr. Majestaete Maximilian Joseph I. Königs von Bayern in den Jahren 1817 bis 1820, 3 vols. + Atlas (Munich, 1823-28-31-34). Notably, the atlas contained, in addition to numerous views and botanical and anthropological plates, included the present 1834 edition of the Eschwege-Martius map, as well as other, smaller maps of various Brazilian regions.
The Publication History of the Eschwege-Martius Map of Eastern Brazil
The map was issued in two states. The first state was published separately in Munich and bears the date of 1831. While the publication was sponsored by Martius, and the final work was drafted by Josef Schwartzmann, the publisher is not known. The second state, as exemplified here, was printed from the same lithographic matrix, and is pretty much the same as the first, save that it bears that date of 1834. It seems that the 1834 issue was generally published as part of the extremely rare Atlas zur Reise in Brasilien (Munich 1834), which was meant to accompany Johann Baptist von Spix and Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius’s grand work, Reise in Brasilien, although some examples may also have been issued separately. Curiously, we are not aware of any examples of the map, in either state, as ever having been joined, it seems to always appear in the format of untrimmed, separate sheets.
A Note on Rarity
The map, in either of its two states, is extremely rare on the market. While several libraries hold the map separately, or an example within the Spix-Martius Atlas, we can only trace a single instance of another example of the map appearing separately on the market in the last 30 years, while the Atlas (including the map), an extremely expensive item, has only appeared three times over the same period.
It is worth noting that the present example of the map is elegantly bound in an expensive modern half-leather binding and housed within a cloth slipcase.
References: [re: 1834 ed.:] Harvard University Library: MAP-LC G5400 1834 .E8; OCLC: 40265277; [Re: Spix-Martius work with Atlas including the map:] Bayerische Staatsbibliothek: BV001552027; Palau 321656; Sabin 89549; Borba de Moraes (1983), pp.829-830.