Juan Vilanova & Otto Neussel. - Atlas Geográfico Universal - 1877

Juan Vilanova & Otto Neussel. - Atlas Geográfico Universal - 1877
Atlas - Quantity: 1

MONUMENTAL AND LUXURIOUS WORK. ATLAS GEOGRÁFICO UNIVERSAL, Juan VILANOVA / Otto Neussel, Publisher: ASTOR Hermanos, Madrid, 1877, 1st and unique edition. EXTREMELY RARE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Note: No work has been found like this one we are offering here for worldwide sale. It’s majestic for both its large size and its impressive quality.

Extremely rare work, currently impossible to find for sale in the whole world. That makes this copy unique today.

Dimensions of the book: 60 x 80 cm

Weight: 12 kg

Pages: 250 pages.

This work is considered the best atlas in its kind published in Spain.

It was the first being so comprehensive. It deals with the following subjects:

- Physical geography.
- Geology.
- Hypsometry.
- Climate.
- The distribution of plants and animals.
- Human geography.
- Ethnography.
- Religions.
- Botany.
- Demographic aspects.

It was also the first atlas published in Spain with the colour printed by chromolithography.

This edition has been considered by the experts the best of its kind, even surpassing later editions.

The atlas is complete with its 35 two-page lithographs.

Original binding with gold borders and letters.

** Bibliographic data of the work:

El atlas geográfico universal, published by Juan Vilanova y Piera (1877).

In the period of the Monarchical Restoration we find a beautiful cartographic project, composed of splendid thematic maps, inspired by the German atlases. It’s Atlas geográfico universal. Text written by Dr Juan Vilanova. Artistic part by Otto Neussel. Published by Astort Hermanos, Madrid. It’s the more ambitious and careful cartographic project of commercial nature undertaken in our country. Through its pages and maps it is easy to notice the wealth of information contained, as well as the desire to offer maps comparable, in material and aesthetic quality, to the top 10 from other countries. The text reveals the scientific maturity achieved by this famous and multifaceted author, and demonstrates the existence of a sensitivity to this type of knowledge and the desire to spread them among Spanish society. The work consists of two parts. The first consists of a long and reflective text, corresponding to what we can now consider as a treatise on Physical Geography. Not in vain the author was an amateur geologist, knowledgeable of the progress made in this field in Europe, since he enjoyed a grant to study in France and visited other European hubs known for their outstanding contributions. The second part, the most admirable, consists of an atlas composed of forty maps, twelve of which we can describe as thematic and the rest as general. The creation of this work has required the cooperation of three protagonists. Firstly, and surely the author of the initiative, Juan Vilanova y Piera, professor of Palaeontology and founding member of the Geographical Society of Madrid, as his credentials show. Secondly, Otto Neussel, an engraver of German origin settled in Spain, who is aware of the cartographic advances produced in his country, since he claims that he was trained in cartographic drawing at Petermann's workshop. To his creative talent we must attribute the extraordinary ornamental display and decorative pomp with which he adorns the general maps, dominated all of them by allegories that are unparalleled in other atlases. Finally we find the publishing house Astor Hermanos, a Madrid company that spared no effort in making available to the Spanish public a work so careful and luxurious. To do this, he had the help of collaborators of great experience and prestige, such as José Pilar Morales, who draws and materializes the cartographic schemes. The commercial initiative in which this publishing company embarked is curious, since the work was appearing in instalments, and fortunately, was completed. However, the new, select and colossal product should not have had the expected reception, since shortly after its completion, the company went bankrupt. We believe that it was due, in part, to the expenses caused by a luxurious proposal—a majestic work in all its aspects—aimed at a society that lacked, not only curiosity about this branch of knowledge, but also of purchasing capacity to be able to have such advanced information. The conception, preparation and editing of this work must be framed within the European scientific movement that we have previously explained. Vilanova, a visitor to congresses and knowledgeable of the most advanced ideas in the field of natural sciences, was well aware of the existence of the atlases being published in countries such as Germany and the United Kingdom. Therefore, echoing the praises paid to these works in scientific circles, he conceives the possibility of editing in Spain a comparable work, which reproduces or emulates some of their maps, and also contains some original maps dedicated to the Iberian Peninsula. The preceding Spanish atlases, despite their meritorious effort and the contribution they make, did not echo the progress made in the field of natural sciences. In turn, he must have noted with sadness that Spanish society did not have a thematic atlas that would publicise that knowledge. Therefore, the justification of this work is found in the author’s desire to provide a service to the Spanish society, putting at its disposal an informative, useful, and, in addition, enjoyable product. Driven by his educational zeal, he aspires to foster interest in scientific culture in an indifferent society. Despite its abundance of means, we must think of its low effectiveness, since the work was little appreciated outside the small academic circles. However, the edition reveals the determined didactic will to spread a new geographical knowledge, since accompanied by magnificent and eloquent Agustin Hernando maps, it allows to intuitively appreciate the location and distribution of phenomena on the earth's surface. In short, the work offered high informative rigour, dotted and seasoned with rich illustrations to make pleasant its study. The examination of the maps, which is the most valuable part of the work, allows us to discover its originality and merits. Alongside the general maps, whose most outstanding value lies in the splendid allegories existing at the top, and which we know were published separately, we have the novelty of the thematic cartography. This is made up of maps corresponding to physical geography—geology, hypsometry, climate, plant and animal distribution— and human geography—ethnography, religions and demographic aspects. These maps correspond to the Spanish version of those that appear in the Berghaus atlas. Their importance or novelty lies in the Castilian version of them. Along with the precedents, corresponding to the whole orb, we find four maps dedicated to the Spanish territory (figures 7, 8 and 9, at the end of the text). The informative, and not so decorative, eagerness that moves the author explains that each of the maps contains various themes. For example, the botanical map includes the allusion to the distribution of agriculture, i.e. the location and extent of the various plants grown in Spain. The same can be said of the latter, which in addition to showing the location and distribution of the spas, also expresses the unequal distribution of the population and the number of inhabitants residing in the main urban centres. Due to the generous size chosen, in which all the maps are printed, their design has allowed to provide them with abundant information, and in the general ones, adorn them with beautiful allegories, which make them very decorative. The most modern printing procedures used in its production help to raise the level of demand of a work of this nature, resulting in an atlas endowed with a fascinating aesthetic. It is the first of its kind, for example, to have the colour printed by chromolithography. In short, although it is quite unknown, it is an admirable contribution, pretentious and luxurious, without a doubt, the best of its kind, whose most notable aspects prove a careful preparation, thanks to the collaboration of brilliant and competent protagonists. Through its pages we can see the knowledge and penetration of the scientific ideas that decades earlier spread through Europe, as well as the dexterity and good taste offered by the presentation that embellishes it. The emotional and evocative allegories that dominate and decorate the general maps take us to centuries before, in which with great sumptuousness, the symbolic metaphor was a noble and sublime way of presenting the geographical reality. The low attention paid in Spain to this cartographic genre and, in particular, to this reputed work is surprising. We know that it was exhibited in competitions and attended international geography congresses. It is a product, not only intellectual but also commercial, worthy of being exhibited and arousing the self-satisfaction of its creators. The work is inspired by the spirit that emerged in Spain in the last quarter of the 19th century, manifested in events derived from the political Restoration, such as the foundation of the Geographical Society of Madrid (1876), the appearance of the first sheets of the topographic map (1875), the foundation of lithographic workshops, with the presence of publishing entrepreneurs and competent engravers. Its edition is worthy and appropriate complement to the Castilian version of Humboldt's work, appearing in four volumes, in 1874-75. These works, and the publishing houses that create them, are responsible for the spread of scientific ideas, beyond the elitist fields of the Academies, in the absence of suitable educational circles. The information contained, reflecting the solid and rigorous preparation of the author, is seasoned with data from a profuse bibliography existing in Europe. This is the first time that we can contemplate, for example, geological, climatic or ethnographic maps, as well as the use of isolines and other conventionalisms that, since then, are familiar to us. In turn, the delicate graphic representation of its maps denotes the extraordinary preparation and creative talent of the authors: draftsman, engraver and publisher. They don’t limit themselves to making a mere copy or translation of foreign maps. The emulation is enhanced with a very attractive decoration and a careful presentation. Unfortunately, this monumental work, colossal because of its size and weight, comparable in this regard to the Scottish atlas, did not have the support of the Spanish society, which lacked the intellectual curiosity, sensitivity and adequate incentives, as well as the purchasing power necessary to buy it, despite being offered in instalments. The bankruptcy of the publishing company helps explain the fact that today it is an unknown and rare work, and that it would not have a more modest edition aimed at a larger audience. Decades later, some school atlas publishers will receive and benefit from its legacy, inserting among their maps some thematic ones.

OBSERVATIONS: The photos are FAITHFUL reflection of the condition of the item.

Note: Due to the large size of the atlas, at the bottom of some pages minor paper tears were caused through the years as a result of passing the pages. However, there is no paper loss.
These are the paper tears:

- Sheets with maps: 13 (none of these tears reach the maps).

- Sheets without maps: 7.

Note: Do not hesitate to ask any questions about this work, we will be very happy to help.

Good luck bidding!!!!

Lot details
Number of Books
Author/ Illustrator
Juan Vilanova & Otto Neussel.
Book Title
Atlas Geográfico Universal
Publication year oldest item
1st Edition Thus
Original language
Editor Astor Hermanos, Madrid.
Binding/ Material
Half leather
Number of pages
60×80 cm
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