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  • A Geography of Maps and Texts
  • Karl Offen
British Honduras: The Invention of a Colonial Territory. Mapping and Spatial Knowledge in the 19th Century. Odile Hoffmann. Foreword by Assad Shoman. Benque Viejo del Carmen, Belize: Cubola Productions and Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, 2014. 80 pp., maps, charts, notes, bibliography. $45 paper (ISBN 978-976-8161-40-6).
Saqueo en el archivo: El paradero de los tesoros documentales guatemaltecos. Wendy Kramer, W. George Lovell, and Christopher H. Lutz. Antigua, Guatemala: Centro de Investigaciones Regionales de Mesoamerica (CIRMA), Centro de Estudios Urbanos y Regionales (CEUR), Plumsock Mesoamerican Studies, 2014. xxxiv and 65 pp., color plates, notes, bibliography, appendices. $25 paper (ISBN 978-0-910443-26-5).
The Map that Invented Brazil. Júnia Ferreira Furtado. Rio de Janeiro: Versal Editores, 2013. 453 pp., plates, maps, color illustrations, bibliography, folded map insert. R$249 hardcover (ISBN 978-8589309493).

Maps and texts have many geographies. They are often produced in one place with information from elsewhere, circulate to other places, and have effects in yet more places. Maps made in one place, for example in France, can have important consequences in the spaces they depict and co-create, for example in South America as Júnia Furtado explores in her impressive new book The Map that Invented Brazil. Other maps are drawn to enact change in the place they are drawn, for example in Belize, but to do so they must first travel somewhere else, specifically London, as Odile Hoffmann explains in her laconic new book British Honduras. Other documents of great historical and national value also circulate, and many do so through clandestine and extralegal means as Wendy Kramer, George Lovell, and Christopher Lutz detail in their provocative Guatemalan tragedy Saqueo en el archivo. The production and then movement in time and space of graphic and non-graphic texts, as well as the social and material consequences of these movements, is one of the commonalities that unites the works under review here.

But these books are tied together in other ways as well. As most Latin Americanists know, the North American and European model of university press publishing is [End Page 273] not the norm in Latin America. It is true that North America and Western Europe have for-profit publishers such as Guilford and Routledge, but the vast majority of scholarly monographs and edited volumes published in the global north and dealing with Latin America come from university presses. Although there are university presses in Latin America, books tend to be published by private editorial firms, NGOs, government ministries, non-profit research centers – often with financial support of bi-lateral aid organizations – small presses, and sometimes the philanthropical arms of private corporations. This describes the three books reviewed here. Unfortunately few of these publications will see much light in the global north. According to WorldCat, no libraries outside France and Mexico hold Hoffmann’s book, only the Newberry and John Carter Brown libraries hold Furtado’s book, and Saqueo en el archivo is found in less than a dozen libraries – no doubt reflecting the authors’ diligence in mailing copies at their personal expense.

Books published in Latin America deserve wider attention outside the region. A case in point is most certainly Júnia Ferreira Furtado’s massive The Map that Invented Brazil. Published simultaneously in Portuguese as O Mapa que invetou o Brasil and in Spanish as El mapa que inventó Brasil. The book won the 2011 Odebrecht Historical Research Award, Clarival do Prado Valladares, which gave the author time and financial support to publish a phenomenally well-illustrated and meticulous study of the 1748 French map Carte de l’Amérique méridionale, and its role in creating the territorial configuration of Brazil as recognized in the 1750 Treaty of Madrid. At 26 x 32 cm., 454 pages, over three kilos in heft, and containing 310 full-color images – some spread across two pages and at least 20 percent of the images taking a whole page, exclusive of the black and white fold out map tucked into the back – the book is a marvel to behold. Although I’ve not seen the Portuguese or Spanish editions, it...


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