The Cartography Of Alexander von Humboldt: Images Of The Enlightenment In America




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The Cartography of Alexander von Humboldt: Images of the Enlightenment in America offers a cartographic perspective of Alexander von Humboldt's journey to the Americas, 1799-1804. Presented in the context of the European Enlightenment, this doctoral dissertation includes Humboldt s romanticized view of the natural world that was an essential part of his science and philosophy. It interprets Humboldt s maps and images as part of a transatlantic exchange, incorporating the theme of old Europe and the New World found throughout his work. Two of Humboldt's maps, General Chart of the Kingdom of New Spain and Points of Separation and Projected Communications Between the South Sea and the Atlantic Ocean are the focus of my research. Both maps were published with Humboldt's Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain, 1811, the primary source for this study. The method of inquiry is a close reading of Humboldt s maps and texts, supported by the secondary literature. Humboldt effectively used images in the presentation of his ideas. I have adopted the concept throughout the dissertation. When combined with text, images permit a closer reading of the subject matter than text alone. The Enlightenment is not easily defined or understood. Just as the vivid and dramatic paintings of David and Goya provide clarity to the philosophical writing of the age, Humboldt's maps and illustrations serve as visual images of the Enlightenment in early nineteenth-century America.