Auction 127, Lot 387

"Plano Pintoresco de la Habana con los mimeros de las casas", May, Bernardo

Subject: Cuba

Period: 1853 (dated)

Publication: Album Pintoresco de la isla de Cuba

Color: Printed Color

22.8 x 16.5 inches
57.9 x 41.9 cm

This rare plan of Havana is framed by a pictorial border of fourteen tinted lithographic vignettes that reflect the wealth of mid-nineteenth century Cuba. The highly detailed plan (13.2 x 10.2") names all sections of town, streets, rails, and many important buildings. As the title suggests house numbers are indicated on the plan. The Castilio de la Punta, Campo de Marte, the Arsenal, Hospital Milar, the Paseo del Ysabel 2a. and the Calle del Prado, and much more are located. The text at upper left discusses the number of houses in the city. A small inset at lower right shows the vicinity of Havana. The surrounding vignettes include some of the most important early views produced by its first lithographer, Pierre Toussaint Frederic Mialhe. They include views and important buildings of Havana. The "Fuente de la India en el Paseo de Isabel 2a." is a stunning view of the wide palm-tree lined avenues with scores of people, military officers, a horse-drawn carriage with two ladies. Along the bottom, a stunning view of the harbor has many beautifully rendered three and four-masted sailing ships with the city in the background. Also includes elevation views of the hospital, theater, bank, cathedral, the gas plant, palace, castle and more.

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.

References: Cueto #199.

Condition: A

Folding as issued. Full margins and crisp impression. Binding trim at left, a trace of fold toning, still very good.

Estimate: $1,600 - $2,000

Sold for: $1,900

Closed on 2/25/2009