Early Maps and Manuscripts


Guillaume de L’Isle (1675-1726)

Carte d’Amerique, dresée pour l’usage du Roy.

Paris: Chez l’Auteur, 1722

This 18th-century map depicts North and South America as well as a part of the continent of Africa. The slave trade was in full operation by this time, involving English, French, Dutch, Spanish, and Portuguese traders in a triangular business involving the three continents. Slavers captured African men, women, and children, crowded their human cargo onto vessels in inhumane conditions for the notorious “middle passage” across the Atlantic. Many died (estimates range from a 15 to 25 percent casualty rate). Those who survived the voyage found themselves transported to a life of slavery in the Americas and Caribbean islands.

Great Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807, the United States in 1808. Abolition of slavery itself would take longer. In 1833, Parliament passed the Slavery Abolition Act, freeing 800,000 slaves in British territory, mostly in the Caribbean. Slavery didn’t end in the United States until the Civil War, with Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, freeing slaves in areas occupied by the Union Army. Slavery did not end officially in Texas until June 19, 1865

DeGolyer Maps G3290 1722 .L57

de Vaca (2).jpg

Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, 16th cent.

La relacion y comentarios del gouerna dor Aluar Nuñez Cabeca de Vaca …

Valladolid, 1555

The first part, which narrates the expedition of Narváez to Florida in 1527 and the subsequent wanderings of the survivors, was first published at Zamora in 1542 (only one copy is known); the second part, here first published, relates to Cabeza de Vaca’s experiences as a royal governor in South America.  Cabeza de Vaca can lay claim to being the first European to experience the vast expanses of the Texas landscape. Shipwrecked along the Texas coast, he and his companions spent eight years wandering across the interior, first enslaved by and then trading with Indians as they made their way back to Mexico. His account of the experience is a record of adventure laced with anthropological insight into the native populations.


TOM LEA (1907-2001)

Limited Edition Portfolio. Offset Lithographs from the Drawings and Accompanying Text by Tom Lea, Printed in His Book Calendar of Twelve Travelers through the Pass of the North, Originally Published in 1946 by Carl Hertzog in El Paso, Texas

El Paso, Tex: Adair Margo Gallery, 1998.

Esteban, the African, is the shadowy figure behind Cabeza de Vaca in this artistic imagining. Esteban can lay claim to being the first African to experience the vast expanse of the Texas landscape.

Gift of Frank Ribelin, 2001.


JOHN LUFFMAN (1756-1846)

A Brief Account of the Island of Antigua. Together With the Customs and Manners of Its Inhabitants, as well White as Black. As also an Accurate Statement of the Food, Cloathing, Labor, and Punishment, of Slaves. In Letters to a Friend Written in the Years 1786, 1787, 1788.

London: Printed for T. Caddell, 1789

“When a slave ship arrives on the coast, it is not generally a consideration with the captain or supercargo, what number of these people their vessel will take conveniently, but how many they can get, is the object; consequently even common humanity has no concern whatever in the employ, and it is customary to crowd as many of them into the ship as their efforts can procure. Between decks is their receptacle, the room allotted to each man, is about six feet, by sixteen inches; women and children have a smaller, but proportionate allowance; very little regard is even paid to this rule of accommodation, although sufficiently small, and they are frequently so closely stowed together, as to be unable to lie down in any position but on one side. The captain and officers look with particular attention to their own security, for no sooner are the slaves on board, but the men are chained together in couples, the right hand and leg of one, to the left and leg of the other.”—John Luffman

DeGolyer HB161 .L83 17789. Gift of W. Thomas Taylor, 2018.

Early Maps and Manuscripts