Cuba and Porto Rico : with the other islands of the West Indies : their topography, climate, flora, products, industries, cities, people, political conditions, etc.

Collection History

The books whose images make up this digital presentation offer a rich sampling of the extraordinary variety of NYPL's pictorial holdings on Latin America from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. For instance, Jean Baptiste Debret's magnificent, three-volume Voyage pittoresque et historique au Brésil; ou Séjour d'un artiste francais au Brésil, depuis 1816 jusqu'en 1831 ... (Paris, Firmin Didot Freres, 1834-39), held in the Print Collection, provides a comprehensive iconography of colonial Brazil at its apogee. In contrast, Views of the Estrada de Ferro Madeira e Mamore Amazonas & Matta Grosso, Brazil S.A. (created 1909-1912) from the Photography Collection, is an original scrapbook compiled by men who built a railroad through nearly impenetrable rainforest, at great cost in human life. The pictures here evoke heat, danger and drudgery, albeit within a landscape of mystery and great beauty.

Images from two remarkable works document aspects of the great civilizations of Mesoamerica, as seen through European eyes. From the collections of the General Research Division, Antonio del Rio's Description of the Ruins of an Ancient city Discovered near Palenque ... (London, Henry Berthoud, 1822) is a very early work on the famous Mayan complex of Palenque in the modern Mexican state of Chiapas. Line renderings of the relief sculptures found at the site depict ritual figures and their symbolic attributes. Published forty years later, Désiré Charnay's Cités et ruines Américaines. Mitla, Palenqué, Izamal, Chichen-Itza, Uxmal (Paris, Gide, 1862-62), from the Photography Collection, offers evocative, beautifully composed, photographs of these famous sites. Charnay was an explorer and archaeologist as well as an artist, and his pictures were the first photographic studies of the great abandoned palaces and temples of Mexico.

Other books digitized for this collection present wonderful color prints published to enhance accounts of travel and exploration throughout Central America, Peru and the Southern Cone. This digital presentation will grow over time, becoming an even richer source for visual information about monuments, landscape, and local cultures.


Bibliographers and agents of NYPL and its precursor libraries have always sought books and prints documenting the Spanish and Portuguese expeditions of discovery and exploration. James Lenox (1800-1880), founder of the Lenox Library, encouraged his book-buyer, the American bibliographer and dealer Henry Stevens (1819-1886), to roam though England and France in the 1840s and 50s purchasing landmark sixteenth- and seventeenth-century European imprints on the subject. Lenox also acquired early Latin American imprints and manuscripts. Among NYPL's many New World treasures is a copy of Juan de Zumárraga's Doctrina breve ... printed in Mexico City in 1543. Held in the Rare Books Division, it is the earliest surviving complete book published in the Western Hemisphere, appearing almost a century before the first book was printed in the English-speaking British colonies of North America.

In subsequent years, several of the Library's curatorial divisions have actively collected books, manuscripts, serials and other library materials related to Latin America, with plate books illustrating the landscape, natural history and culture of Latin America being a particular collecting focus.

Related Resources

Parker, Wyman W. Henry Stevens of Vermont, American Rare Book Dealer in London. (1963)

Stevens, Henry. Bibliotheca Americana. [1857] 2v.

_____. Historical and Geographical Notes on the Earliest Discoveries in America, 1453-1530. (1869, reprinted [1970])

_____. Historical Nuggets: Bibliotheca Americana, or a Descriptive Account of My Collection of Rare Books Relating to America. (1862) 2v.

_____. Recollections of James Lenox and the Formation of His Library; revised and elucidated by Victor Hugo Paltsits ... (1887, rev.ed. 1951)

Collection Data

Hill, Robert Thomas, 1858-1941 (Author)
Schomburg, Arthur Alfonso, 1874-1938 (Former owner)
Dates / Origin
Date Issued: 1899 (Inferred)
Place: New York
Publisher: Century
Edition: Rev. and enl.
Issuance: monographic
Library locations
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division
Shelf locator: Sc Rare 917.29-H (Hill, Robert Thomas. Cuba and Porto Rico)
West Indies, British -- Description and travel
Puerto Rico -- Description and travel
Cuba -- Description and travel
Content: ch. 1. The geographic relations of the West Indies -- ch. 2. The West Indian waters -- ch. 3. Classification of the West Indian islands -- ch. 4. The Great Antilles -- ch. 5. The Island of Cuba -- ch. 6. Climate, flora, and fauna -- ch. 7. Health and sanitation -- ch. 8. Geographical subdivisions -- ch. 9. The resources of the island -- ch. 10. Commerce and transformation -- ch. 11. The people of Cuba -- ch. 12. Cuban cities: Havana -- ch. 13. Other Cuban cities -- ch. 14. The future of the island -- ch. 15. Porto Rico: Situation and physical features -- ch. 16. History and administration -- ch. 17. Transportation, agriculture, industry, and commerce -- ch. 18. The people -- ch. 19. Cities of Porto Rico -- ch. 20. Jamaica -- ch. 21. Jamaica (continued) -- ch. 22. Jamaica (continued) -- ch. 23. The island of Santo Domingo -- ch. 24. The Republic of San Domingo -- ch. 25. The Republic of Haiti -- ch. 26. The Bahamas -- ch. 27. The Lesser Antilles -- ch. 28. The Virgin Islands and St. Croix -- ch. 29. The Caribbee Islands -- ch. 30. The volcanic Caribbees -- ch. 31. The islands of Guadeloupe and Dominica -- ch. 32. The island of Martinique -- ch. 33. St. Lucia, St. Vincent, The Grenadines, and Grenada -- ch. 34. The South American islands -- ch. 35. Barbados -- ch. 36. Geological features of the West Indies -- ch. 37. Race problems in the West Indies -- ch. 38. The future of the West Indies -- Appendices: 1. Cuba since the war ; 2. Table of distances between towns in Cuba ; 3. Islands attached to the government of Porto Rico ; 4. Government and resources of Porto Rico ; 5. Rainfall in San Juan, Porto Rico ; 6. Table of distances between principal cities in Porto Rico ; 7. Railway stations in Porto Rico -- Index.
Physical Description
Extent: Xxx, 447 p., [86] leaves of plates : ill., maps, ports. ; 24 cm.
Type of Resource
Still image
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b11722290
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): e1121f50-c6e0-012f-1ebd-58d385a7bc34
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