HUMBOLDT, Alexander von (1769-1859) and Aimé J.A. BONPLAND (1773-1858). Essai politique sur le royaume de la Nouvelle-Espagne. [And:] Atlas Geographique et Physique du Royaume de la Nouvelle-Espagne. Paris: F. Schoell, and Tübingen: J.G. Cotta, 1808-1809.
First edition, first issue, seemingly the earliest known variant, in the original large, uncut sheets; the first scientific description of the American southwest, including a wealth of new information on California and Texas. This lot is similar to the 'Premie're [-deuxie'me] livraisons' held at Yale, in that the work has an 1808 titlepage and the dedication to Charles IV. However, Yale's copy lacks the plates called for on the printed wrappers, noting 'probably were never issued', whereas the present copy contains 9 maps; moreover, the Yale catalogue gives a different collation with a much smaller content. In this present lot, the text ends on p.662, which is a single leaf signed 84.1, and contains the text 'Ces deux pages seront replacées avec la livraison suivante'; the present lot has a single text volume, and does not divide at p.356 into 2 volumes. This would suggest the present lot is the original uncancelled text of March 1808, that Streeter suggested ought to exist. The atlas includes plates on volcanoes, land profiles, a map of the southern part of North America, maps of Mexico, and most importantly, Humboldt's two-sheet 'Carte Generale du Royaume de la Nouvelle Espagne'. This map contained the most up-to-date geographic depiction of Texas, California and the rest of Mexico, and it became the prototypical description of much of the region for the next several decades. Carl Wheat called it a ‘truly magnificent cartographic achievement’ and it was 'the first profile ever given of an entire country' (Cowan p. 296, another edition); Hill 843 (another edition: ‘a founding text in the field of economic geography and political geography’); Howes H786 (other editions: ‘Of superlative California importance’). Phillips 2682 (atlas collation as in this copy); Sabin 33756 (another edition); Streeter Texas 1042 note; Wagner-Camp-Becker 7a:3 and 7a:3a:1 (with differing dates, collation and pagination); Wheat Mapping the Transmississippi West 302-305 (listing only the 12 maps).
Unbound text volume, quarto (370 x 275mm) and atlas in 4 parts, folio (590 x 440mm). Text in French, unbound, uncut and unopened in the original sheets, publisher's error notice to gathering e, the text extending to Livre IV and ending on p.662 only, but including the 4pp. dedication to Charles IV which was suppressed in later issues; atlas with 9 (of 13) maps on 8 sheets, comprising: 'Carte générale du royaume de la Nouvelle-Easpagne' on two double-page sheets nos 1 and 1bis, 3, 5-9, 11 and 18, nos 6, 7 and 8 on one double-page sheet (lacking nos 2, 4 10 and 19, and without the tables on no. 20); 4 hand-coloured double-page cross-sections, nos 12-15, with a duplicate of no. 14; and 2 sepia views, nos. 16-17 (first title with faint staining at lower margin, first leaf of dedication unevenly dust-soiled and leaves lightly creased, second title faintly dampstained, gathering 55 lightly spotted, a few edges dust-soiled, but otherwise, a clean, fresh copy with very large margins). The atlas loose in the original printed wrappers (variable light dust-soiling, creasing and tiny nicks to extremities). Provenance: early ink inscription 'Première livraison' added to Deuxième livraison wrapper -- Rantzau family (Schloss Breitenburg library stamps to upper covers of atlas wrappers).