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1879 Gräf Map of Mexico and Central America

Mexico und die Republiken von Central-America. - Main View

1879 Gräf Map of Mexico and Central America


German-made map of Central America.


Mexico und die Republiken von Central-America.
  1879 (undated)     21.75 x 25 in (55.245 x 63.5 cm)     1 : 6000000


This is a beautifully engraved and colored c. 1879 map of Mexico and Central America, edited by Carl Gräf and published by the Weimar Geographisches Institut. It shows the Mexico region stretching from the southern United States to Panama and includes a wealth of information on geography, administrative divisions, and infrastructure.
A Closer Look
The map indicates Greenwich, Paris, and Ferro as prime meridians, though not Berlin (Weimar had a complicated relationship with Prussia), suggesting that Gräf drew on a variety of sources in compiling this map. Similarly, scales are given in both German and English miles, while abbreviations for geographic terms in German, English, and Spanish are explained at bottom, along with a pronunciation guide showing equivalents between German and Spanish.

To include the greatest level of detail, mountain names are abbreviated and state or province names (Departmentsname) are omitted where possible. Much of the interior of Nicaragua, inland from the Mosquito Coast (named for the Miskitu Kingdom, not the insect), is terra incognita, as is the borderlands between Mexico, Guatemala, and British Honduras (Belize), which at that time were in the midst of a decades-long rebellion against the Mexican government in the Yucatan.

Insets show two railway projects aiming to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans (launched in the wake of the opening of the Panama Railroad): the Tehuantepec Railway (Ferrocarril de Tehuantepec), completed 1894, and a proposed line running through Honduras that was attempted several times in the mid-late 19th century but only partially completed.

The role of the British in the region is highlighted, literally with the hand-colored borders around British Honduras and areas under British protection, including the Mosquito Coast and Guatemala (though in the latter case this claim was a bit of an exaggeration). While it was mostly a haven for pirates (privateers) for much of its history, British Honduras took on added importance as a center for trade (smuggling) in the mid-19th century. Central America is often thought of as falling under the influence if not the hegemony of the United States, but British commercial interests, and consequently diplomatic and military interests, were greater throughout the region for much of the 19th century.
Publication History and Census
This map was edited by Carl Gräf, engraved by O. Haubold (no futher information available), and originally published in the Weimar Geographisches Institut's Hand-Atlas der Erde und des Himmels, which came out in several editions in the 1860s – 1880s. It was related to an earlier map titled 'Mexico, Texas und Californien,' that appeared in the Geographisches Institut's Allgemeiner Hand-Atlas der Erde und des Himmels. However, this is a rare separate issue from the late 1870s, a Hand-und eisenbahnkarte (seemingly No. 63 in the broader Special-Hand- und Reisekarte advertised in the pamphlet). The accompanying pamphlet touts the Insitut's publications and awards, including at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, indicating a publication date in the late 1870s. This edition of the map is not cataloged in the holdings of any institution and is scarce to the market.


Carl Gräf (1822 – 1902), sometimes cataloged as 'Carl Graef,' was a German cartographer ('engineer-geographer') and publisher associated with the Geographisches Institut in Weimar. Over 200 maps are attributed to his name, generally as an editor, most of which appeared in the popular atlases published by the Insitut, such as Hand-Atlas der Erde und des Himmels. Several maps produced by the Geographisches Institut include the name 'Adolf Gräf,' likely a relative of Carl. Learn More...

Geographisches Institut, Weimar (fl. 1804 - c. 1903) was a German map and globe publishing house and geographical research institute based in Weimar. The organization primarily focused on republishing and improving upon the works of earlier cartographers, including Kitchin, Jefferys, Carey, and others. In general, its publications are known for their fine engraving, attention to detail, historical accuracy, and overall high quality. The firm was founded in 1804 by Friedrich Justin Bertuch (???? - c. 1845) and, on his death, passed to his son Robert Froreip (???? - 1855), then to Louis Denicks of Luneberg, then in 1859 to Voigt & Günther, in 1883 to F. Arnd, from 1890 - 1893 to Julius Kettler, and in 1903 to Max Wedekind. During the institute's height in the early 19th century, most of its cartographic publication was overseen by Carl Ferdinand Weiland (1782 - 1847). The firm also employed the cartographers Franz Xaver von Zach, Adam Christian Gaspari, Heinrich Kiepert, Karl (or Carl) and Adolf Graef, Julius Kettler, Carl Riemer and Karl Christian Bruhns. Weimar was a logical place for a collective like the Geographisches Institut to arise; it was a cultural mecca in the German-speaking world in the late 18th and 19th centuries because of its liberal atmosphere and associations with figures like Schiller, Herder, and, above all, Goethe, who spent most of his adult life in the city. Learn More...


Good. Some areas of discoloration and ink showing 'mirror image' from folding.