These two volumes are vast reservoirs of information on cartography and its history for the concerned regions. Published jointly by the Servicio Histórico Militar and the Servicio Geográfico del Ejército (important, yet not readily accessible or used depositories), state-of-the-art color reproductions of maps, plans, and elevations are presented. Each volume comprises two books: a Carpeta de cartografía and a Carpeta descriptiva. The Carpeta de cartografía contains reproductions of the maps, plans, and elevations, while the Descriptiva includes a brief physical description of each map and the accompanying legends. No attempt is made to analyze or study the reproductions. Rather, they are presented in the format of a colección de documentos for study by scholars.
Volume I first appeared in 1950, with only black-and-white reproductions. The second volume (concerning the United States and Canada) appeared in 1953, the third (Mexico) in 1955, and the fourth (Central America) in 1960. Each of those publications was limited to an edition of 300. Volume V, published in a larger edition of 2,000 and, primarily, in color, encouraged the republication of the first volume according to the same standards. The editors have announced that volumes II, III, and IV also will be reedited, in full-color editions of 2,000. The reedited Volume I contains sixty-four color and twenty-four black-and-white reproductions of the North and South American continents. It also contains fourteen relaciones históricas selected from the archive of the Servicio Histórico Militar. They range in date from 1493 to 1817. Volume V contains 172 color and 10 black-and-white reproductions, along with a selection of 66 relaciones históricas (dated 1697-1816) from the same archive.
The maps, plans, and elevations prepared by the Spanish colonial engineers and cartographers of the regions, cities, and ports presented in these volumes are taken from the depositories responsible for the publications. The value of the series is enhanced when one considers that researchers using their facilities are, in general, only allowed to consult microfilm copies.
These volumes are eloquent testimony to the wealth of documentary material awaiting researchers in infrequently consulted Spanish archives.