Catalog Archive

Auction 125, Lot 364

"Mapa Historico Pintoresco Moderno de la Isla de Cuba", May, Bernardo

Subject: Cuba

Period: 1853 (published)

Publication: Album Pintoresco de la isla de Cuba

Color: Printed Color

22.8 x 16.5 inches
57.9 x 41.9 cm

This tinted-lithograph map of Cuba is framed by a pictorial border of sixteen vignettes that reflect the wealth of mid-nineteenth century Cuba. The highly detail map (13.5 x 9.6") shows towns, ports, railroads and roads and includes an inset that charts the distances between cities in Cuba. The surrounding vignettes include some of the most important early views produced by its first lithographer, Pierre Toussaint Frederic Mialhe. They include a coffee plantation, a sugar mill, tobacco fields, a cock fight, a dance scene (el zapateo), the taking of El Morro by British forces in 1762, the town and sanctuary of El Cobre, and the hurricane of 1846.

The illustrations surrounding this map involved a scandalous case of copyright piracy. May, a Havana merchant, sent Mialhe's original views to Germany to be reproduced. These were then returned to Cuba and sold in competition with Mialhe's originals at less than half the price. Mialhe sued May for copyright violation under the newly enacted copyright laws. May denied plagiarism, maintaining that "... after all, ladies in carriages, street sellers, churches, monuments, and landscapes were all there in full view to any artist who cared to paint them." Despite this outrageous argument, the case was settled in May's favor due to a technicality. The map itself was also pirated from a different source - a 1848 map by José M. de la Torre. However, the composition of the map with the chart of distances and the illustrations is an entirely 'original' work by May.

References: Cueto #82 & <I>Mialhe's Colonial Cuba</I> pp. 4-6, #127.

Condition: A

Issued folding, now professionally backed with light Japanese tissue to support the folds.

Estimate: $1,500 - $1,800

Sold for: $1,900

Closed on 9/24/2008