“Typus Geographicus: Chili a Paraguay Freti Magellanici, &c.” By Guillaume De L’isle

Screen Shot 2013-04-29 at 11.10.20 PMGuillaume De L’Isle

Guillaume De L’Isle (1675-1726) came from a family full of geographers: his father, Claude, was a minor geographer and historian based in Paris, while his brothers Joseph Nicholas and Louis became astronomers and surveyors for Peter the Great of Russia. However, Guillaume was destined to become the most well known of his family. He was tutored in astronomy, science, mathematics, and cartography by a famous cartographer of the time, J.D. Cassini. Guillaume revolutionized the field by introducing “scientific cartography,” which yielded a more accurate picture of the world. His success and talent was rewarded by membership in the French Royal Society of Sciences and the unique position of Geographer to the King. He ranks after Ptolemy and Mercator as one of the major contributors to the science of cartography.

Alonso de Ovalle

Ovalle was a Chilean Jesuit who wrote Historica Relacion (1646) and produced an accompanying map of Chile in hopes of raising awareness of Chile in Europe. During Ovalle’s stay at Seville and Rome, he noticed the ignorance of Europeans about Chile, which limited the chances of his fellow Jesuits in Spain and Italy to enlist for the mission in Chile. Ovalle and his work were vital sources for Guillaume De L’Isle in his production of Carte du Paraguay du Chili du Detroit de Magellan… in 1703, which was later republished by the Homann Heirs firm as Typhus Geographicus Chili Paraguay etc in 1733.

Homann Heirs Firm

Johann Baptist Homann founded the Homann Heirs Publishing Firm in 1702. The firm, based in Nuremberg, specialized in publishing maps, which could be sold either separately or combined into an atlas. The firm gained popularity and success up to the 1770s, when Homann Heirs remained the most important German map publishing company. The success of the firm came as a result of an acute cartographic program in which maps of various components (topical, political, military interest, and general geographical interest) were combined. The Homann Heirs collaborated with scientists like Johann Matthias Hase and Tobias Mayer, and the firm favored maps made from new data. The Homann Heirs also produced maps to illustrate contemporary events in newspaper articles. However, the firm closed down in 1850.

Spanish Colonial Urban Planning

Urban places played a major role in Spanish colonization of South America, a reason why this plan was included in the later German edition. The Spaniards invaded existing Indian urban centers like Tenochtitlan and Cusco, and built hundreds of towns as defense stations for their colonies. The militaristic reasons to create urban places evolved from defensive posts to offensive launch pads as the Spanish colonized more land. Next, these colonial cities served an administrative role to impose colonial laws, collect taxation of inhabitants, and serve as supply routes of resources.

These colonial cities followed a similar town plan to the one expressed in King Phillip II’s ordinance on Spanish colonial towns in 1573. The town plan came out of the desire to create urban centers that are well defined, pre-planned, and rational, unlike the “organic” European cities like Seville. The ideal colonial city had a main plaza, surrounded by major civic, religious, and commerce buildings. The streets intersected one another perpendicularly to form a grid-iron design.

A type of racial, social and occupational segregation developed in these urban centers. Generally, the whites, their slaves, and skilled artisan mixed-bloods inhabited the central sections of the city, while the poor, blacks, Indians, and unskilled workers lived in the outskirts and periphery of the city.

Learn More about Spanish Colonial Urban Planning


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