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Spanish colonial maps: Bauzà Collection

The Bauza Collection contains approximately 260 manuscript maps and 300 written geographical and statistical texts relating to Spanish America, the Caribbean and the Philippines, dating from about 1700 to around 1830. They were assembled between 1804 and 1834 by Felipe Bauza (1764 – 1834), head of the Spanish Hydrographic Office from 1815 to 1823. The collection was purchased by the British Museum in the 1840s, and is viewable in the Manuscripts Reading Room of the British Library.


The collection consists of:

  • Manuscript maps and papers from official Spanish archives, including that of the Secretary of State, which were salvaged or purchased by Bauza during the time of the Napoleonic occupation of Spain from 1795 to 1814.
  • A number of charts and papers from the Spanish Hydrographic Office.
  • Charts and memoirs compiled by Bauza himself whilst serving as hydrographer to Alessandro Malaspina’s expedition to the Pacific (1789 – 1794) and during his time in London from 1823 until his death 2 years later.
  • Maps and papers communicated to Bauza by various contacts in  South America.

Several of the maps are annotated by Bauza to show geographical positions: he intended to use the collection as source material for remapping Spanish America.


The Bauza Collection is held in the Department of Manuscripts at the shelfmarks Add MS. 17556 to Add MS. 17676 inclusive.

Image from the Bauzà Collection

Diseno orizontal de las ruinas de Pachacamac que se hallan en lo mas S. de un arenal de 2 1/2 leguas de largo aquien nombran la Tablada de Lurin, al N. del rio de este nombre, y cerca de la costa;" Add 17671 P


  • A series of maps and memoirs relating to the demarcation of the frontiers between Brazil and Spanish America, containing much information about the indigenous population.
  • Maps of the northern border of Spanish America. This includes a volume of plans of settlements in what are now New Mexico and California by the Spanish corps of engineers from 1766 to 1777 (Add. MS 17662), with the earliest known plan of Santa Fe, New Mexico. 
  • The collection does not include any maps of Brazil or of the Viceroyalty of New Granada (roughly corresponding to Ecuador, Venezuela and the neighbouring countries). These were sold to the government of Venezuela before the remainder of the collection was acquired by the British Museum, and have since been lost.

Finding Aids / Further Reading

The British Library Manuscripts Catalogue should be consulted for a concise listing of the maps and papers of the Bauza Collection.

Bauza Collection Catalogues. Vol. I. List of the collection as offered to the British Museum by Francisco de Michelena y Rojas in 1845, with an annotated list of the items acquired by the Department of Manuscripts in December 1848, 1845.
Add MS. 62904

Barber, Peter.'"Riches for the Geography of America and Spain": Felipe Bauzà and his topographical collections, 1789-1848', in British Library Journal 12/1 (Spring 1996), pp.28-57.