Quito á la Condamine

I’ve been derelict on the blog the last few months. This semester has been my first as a full time commuter, flying most weeks back and forth between the South and the Southwest. I also taught an overload, banking a course for some future research and writing time. Along the way, my manuscript was accepted for publication (yeah!). My semester ended last week, and since then I’ve been tidying up the manuscript, making the agreed upon revisions, and trying to figure out my map situation. It looks like I’ll be able to get a couple of maps made through our Geography Department, one of Quito and its Five League corregimiento, and the other of the city itself. Both of these maps will be based on original 18th cent. maps, one of which I have in my own possession. From my burgeoning collection of two old maps, here is Quito and surrounding pueblos circa 1752:

Click on the image for a larger image to see the detail. Even if you don’t, you can see a series of straight lines drawn from north to south and on diagonals. Those lines represent measurement points taken by the Condamine expedition during its time in Quito. The measurements were part of a project to determine the degree of a meridian at the equator.

Image used under CCL from flickr user Dimplemonkey.

The expedition was named after its French leader, Charles Marie de la Condamine– at least, he was the leader of the group that made it to Quito. Condamine actually left the Audiencia via the Amazon. Charles Marie is honored still today in Quito, with a statue at the official equatorial marker at La Mitad del Mundo. Quito’s French Alliance also named its private academy, the Lycée La Condamine,  in his honor.

The map itself was, I think, originally a supplemental inset to the 1752 edition of Condamine’s book recounting his time in South America. The first edition was published in 1751 and is available here. The map ended up in my possession via a map store in Taos, NM. It was the first birthday present my wife gave me post marriage. The day she bought it, we were walking around Taos with friends, and she wandered into G. Robinson Old Prints and Maps on Bent St. in Taos, asked if they had any old maps of Quito, Ecuador, and low and behold they did. It was a pleasant surprise to open, nicely framed, and it’s been hanging in our study ever since.

I’ve always wanted to use it in my book in some form or another. Even in the form of a 40MB scan, it’s just not clear enough as an image. So, I reckon I’ll have a map made from it that marks the appropriate pueblos and mountains of the Five Leagues, and leave it at that.

The second map is a bit trickier. I need a street level map of the city from the 18th century just to give some visual orientation to the barrios, streets, and buildings that played a significant role in the political crises of 1765 and 1809. Walking those streets, and seeing many of the original buildings again in person for the first time in a while this past summer reminded me that I need a map to spatially place the protests. What buildings would be most important to make sure to mark? I reckon the parish churches, the carnecería, the Palace of the Audiencia, the cabildo, their jails, and the women’s jail. Plus the ravines running off the mountain.

So, I think the best map I’ve been able to find to do those things is this one from the AGI online collection at the Spanish Ministry of Culture’s Archival Portal:

This is an image of a 1734 Map of the City, housed in the Panama section of the archive (ES.41091.AGI/1.16418.20//MP-PANAMA,134), and has great detail and perspective. It appears to have been produced by Dionisio Alcedo Herrera, and comes the closest, I think, to capturing the notion of Quito during the century. That said, the key is hard to read. I think what I want to do is to thin out the houses and label the important places on the map itself. We’ll have to wait and see!


Associate Professor of Early Latin America Department of History University of Tennessee-Knoxville

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Posted in Latin American History, Processes, Research and Writing, Uncategorized

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Hacer juicio ú dictamen acerca de alguna cosa... significando que el objeto excita el juicio ú dictamen en la persona que le hace.

Deducir ante el Juez la accion ú derecho que se tiene, ó las excepciones que excluyen la accion contrária.

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Chad Black

I, your humble contributor, am Chad Black. You can also find me on the web here.
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