Carlos III needed information from his immense kingdom. For this reason, he commissioned the royal cartographer Tomás López de Vara various maps of the Peninsula and Juan de la Cruz Cano and Olmedilla, of America. The first failed in some regions due to its imprecision (in others it drew real gems of cartography), while the second made them too exact. And that was his mistake. So precise were they that they were banned for reasons of international politics by the same king who asked for them. Since yesterday one of these letters has been auctioned, the call Geographical Map of South America, of 1771. A dozen copies were made of it, of which only half remain in the National Library, the Royal Academy of History and various public and private collections.
The map measures more than two meters high and is lined behind, since for a long time it was exhibited in the residences of its first owner, Luis de Onís González Vara, one of the signers of the Treaty of Florida or Adam-Onís. This agreement established the border between the then incipient United States and the Viceroyalty of New Spain.
“It is one of those works that are released once in a long time,” says Roi Velasco of The Retrography, the company that manages the sale. The map, with the original wooden box where it was kept, has come out with a price of 5,999 euros, although the appraisal that was made in 1990 of its twin in the National Library it was around 30,000.
Cano y Olmedilla (1734-1790) is one of the great Spanish cartographers in history. His professional life is linked to Paris, where he trained in map engraving thanks to being elected royal pensioner of Carlos III. Despite being best known for his Spain costume collection, which includes drawings of all the dresses of the Crown domains, his great work was the Geographical Map of South America, out of 1771.
The history of this letter begins in 1765 when the Minister of State, the Marquis de Grimaldi, by order of Carlos III, commissioned him to draw the map of South America on a scale of 1 / 5,000,000. The eight copper plates needed to print them were finished ten years later, but their reproduction was almost immediately prohibited under the pretext of “poor quality.”
In reality, the reason was that the data that were reflected adversely affected national interests in the Treaty of San Ildefonso, signed with Portugal, on the controversial issue of colonial limits in America. The plan, the auction managers explain, benefited the Portuguese people, so Carlos III ordered that it never be reproduced again and that all copies and printing plates be collected.
In 1789, by order of the Count of Floridablanca, the maps disappeared permanently. Something similar to what happened three centuries before to the first world map in history with the representation of America, that of Juan de la Cosa 1500, and that the Catholic Monarchs also considered a state secret. But this is exposed in the Naval museum from Madrid with strong protection and not for sale.