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publishers wished to spare no necessary expense in the present publication ; but they were averse from increasing the price of a book intended for general circulation by an ostentatious and injudicious splendour.






Having enjoyed in the distant regions subject to your sceptre the protection and kind offices of your Majesty during a long succession of years, I fulfil only a sacred duty in laying at the foot of your throne the homage of my profound and respectful gratitude.

I had the good fortune to be introduced to your Majesty in 1779 at Aranjuez. You deigned to applaud the zeal of a private individual, whom the love of science conducted to the banks of the Orinoco and the summits of the Andes.

It is through the confidence which your Majesty's favours have inspired in me that I venture to place your august name at the head of this work. It contains the description of a vast kingdom, the prosperity of which is dear to your heart.

None of the monarchis who have occupied the Castilian throne have contributed more liberally than your Majesty to the obtaining accurate information regarding the state of that valuable portion of the globe, which in both hemispheres yields obedience to the Spanish laws. The coasts of America have been surveyed by able astronomers with a munificence worthy of so great a sovereign. Accurate maps of these coasts, and even minute plans of several military positions, have been published at the expense of your Majesty; and you gave orders that there should be annually pubJislied in a Peruvian journal at Lima a state of the commerce, finances, and population.

There was still wanting a statistical essay on the kingdom of New Spain. I digested




the great number of materials which I possessed into a work, of which the first sketch drew the attention of the viceroy of Mexico in a manner which redounded to his honour. I should be happy if I could flatter myself that my feeble efforts, under a new form, and more carefully digested, are not unworthy of being presented to your Majesty.

They breathe the sentiments of gratitude which I owe to the government who protected me, and to the noble and loyal nation who received me, not as a traveller, but as a fellow-citizen. “How can we displease a good king, when we speak to him of the national interest, of the improvement of social institutions, and the eternal principles on which the prosperity of nations is founded ?

I am, with the greatest respect,

SIRE, your Catholic Majesty's very humble

and very obedient servant, THE BARON DE HUMBOLDT. Paris, 8th March, 1808.

VOL. I. . b

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