Many factors contribute to making a printed work unusual and valuable: antiquity, author, topic, historical significance, limited edition, etc. Although this project’s ultimate goal will be to digitalize most antique Cuban publications of this kind, in the beginning we shall only get busy with those deserving to fall within this category due to their illustrations‘ making and transcendence.

The purpose of this “Cuban Virtual Library” is to show in time and as well possible most of our important illustrated publications’ composition, exhibiting each of the images that constitute them in full screen and digitally organized in our galleries. In this manner, we will make up what could be called “Catalogue of Illustrations” that nourished our publishing world.

The advantage offered by the development of computers and the World Wide Web to virtually recreate these wonderful old illustrations, currently impossible to reprint with their original quality, and significant part of our cultural heritage, is an opportunity we shouldn’t fail to seize when it comes to rescuing the Cuban graphic history that is currently kept hidden and somehow forgotten.

Illustrated books in Cuba… the beginnings…

Antiquity is not what would characterize a Cuban book…

The printing press, which had first appeared in Germany half way through the 15th Century, was brought to America by the Italian Juan de Pablos, who established it in Mexico in 1539. Cuba, a small colony, knew about it much later, almost two centuries after, when in the 1720s the Flemish typographer Juan Carlos Habré settled in Havana and printed in a small workshop his “Novena en devoción, y gloria de N. P. San Agustín” (1722), and his “Tarifa general de precios de medicinas” (1723), regarded by consensus as the first Cuban printed works. For more than a hundred years thereafter, there was little progress in the area due to restrictions imposed by the Spanish Crown, aware of the dangers such industry entailed since the development of illustration on the island would only contribute to consolidate its identity as an independent nation.

In the beginning, some licenses granted to small printing shops only allowed novenas, edicts, and other printouts of pressing need that had to be ordered abroad before. Later and slowly, other workshops of higher importance appeared, such as José de Paula’s (1735), Blas de los Olivos’ (1750), Computo Eclesiástico (1762), Boloña (1775), Palma (1791), and finally the Imprenta del Gobierno (Government’s Print Shop) that developed from that belonging to Blas de los Olivos and produced this period’s two most important titles: the first volume of “Memorias de la Real Sociedad Patriótica” (1793), and a surprising, isolated book of sciences, “Descripción de diferentes piezas de Historia Natural, las mas del ramo marítimo” (1787), edited entirely by the Portuguese Antonio Parra and his son. Its seventy five etchings saved the Cuban 18th Century of an illustrated books shutout. Due to its importance, this piece shall occupy one of our library’s first pages.

The prodigious decades…

Nevertheless, we lovers of digging up in our history through its images can’t complain about the following century. By the late 1830s, several foreign artists and engravers arrived on the island and began working together with Cuban printers, resulting in the publishing of several important volumes, many of them heaped with illustrations matching up to the best made in the rest of the world. Their creators’ full domain of lithographic techniques and the artistic aura imprinted on them brought about a work that remained as an important graphic testimony of a crucial period in our history which otherwise would only be known through narrations.

Already at that moment, there were several good print shops on the island, with technicians and presses capable of printing good books: the print shop of the Capitanía General (Captain General’s office), Barcina, Boloña, Oliva, etc. However, given the purpose of the Virtual Library mentioned initially, the workshops and artists in charge of illustrating these books are more important to us than the printers that made them. Their names will be found constantly as a footnote of many illustrations in our pages. Therefore, we consider it will be of great help a brief reference to the most outstanding lithographic workshops of the epoch.

19th Century Cuban Lithographic Workshops…

-Litografía de Música de Santiago Lessieur (Santiago Lessieur’s Lithographic Workshop of Music) – Lessieur was a French painter settled in Havana since the early 19th Century. His workshop operated between 1823 and 1828, and it mostly produced musical pieces. It published the Periódico Musical (Musical Newspaper), the first periodical printed in Cuba using the lithographic method.

-Imprenta Litográfica de Luis Claire (Luis Claire’s Lithographic Workshop) – Claire was also a French artist, and just like his countryman he obtained a license to establish his workshop in 1829. Its main contribution was a few illustrations for the magazine “La Moda o Recreo Semanal del Bello Sexo” edited by Domingo del Monte. This workshop operated for less than two years.

-Taller de Juan Mata y Tejada (Juan Mata y Tejada’s Workshop) – This was a Dominican self-taught engraver who opened a small lithographic workshop in Santiago de Cuba around 1830. This workshop made a few non-commercial pieces, and it didn’t operate for long because Tejada died in 1835.

- Litografía de Costa, Hermano y Cia (Costa Brother’s and Co. Lithographic Workshop) or “Litografía Española” (Spanish Lithographic Workshop) -  the first important of its kind in Cuba. It was first founded in 1838, when the Costa brothers Francisco and Fernando, lithographers from the famous José Madrazo’s workshop in Madrid, arrived on the island with the purpose of filling the void that had been created in the activity since the beginnings of the decade.

Thanks to this workshop, by the end of 1838, the illustration “Vista de la Plaza de las Catacumbas” saw the light in the 4th issue of  “El Plantel”, the first Cuban serious magazine.

For the first time and thanks to lithography, forty years after Parra amazed Cubans with his paper fish, the island’s inhabitants began to enjoy detailed views of faraway places until than moment only known by description.

By the way, the same issue published an interesting work signed by Mariano Torrente about the origin of lithography, which will be the object of one of our images.

Thereafter, this magazine’s following issues published our first autochthonous illustrations containing views of “El Templete” or the “Vista del Camino de Hierro” that set the precedent for the publishing in 1941-42 of the book “Paseo Pintoresco por la Isla de Cuba”, illustrated by Fernando Costa y Laureano Cuevas. This work entails great documental value due to the many places it recreated, although it isn’t too outstanding from an artistic point of view.

Maybe because it brought to the light some good portraits of government officials (drawn and engraved by Ramón Amerigo) in the beginning, or because of its interest on working for official bodies, a year after its foundation, this workshop changed its name to “Litografía del Gobierno” (Government’s Lithographic Workshop).

Other important books printed there were “Obsequio a las Damas” edited by Ramón Oliva’s publishing house in 1839, showing some works of fine finish, a rare “Historia de las limitaciones del hombre según la doctrina de Gall” with 20 portraits drawn and lithographed by Costa in 1942, and the interesting “Monografía Oftalmológica” by Dr. M. González y Morilla, with 36 illuminated illustrations that are counted among the first known over this area of scientific knowledge.

All four publications mentioned will be included in our virtual library’s pages.

-Litografía de la Real Sociedad Patriótica (Royal Patriotic Society’s Lithographic Workshop) –also known as “Litografía de los Franceses” (the Frenchmen’s Lithographic Workshop), because it was founded in 1839 by several French fellow countrymen, all lithographers and artists of experience and renown.

Francisco Miguel Cosnier and Alejandro Moreau, who later brought Julio Bourrelier and Federico Mialhe, skilled landscape painter and engraver who was destined to become our main graphic chronicler, constituted the staff of the wonderful company, and their works were eagerly consumed by the elite of the emerging local bourgeoisie in marked conflict with the Spanish domination over the island.

Shortly after it began operating, and due to the technical superiority proved by it, the editors of “El Plantel” broke their link with “the Spanish” workshop, and began placing orders with the Frenchmen’s. These saw the light for the first time in the shape of a portrait of Hernán Cortés drawn by Moreau for the magazine’s sixth issue in early 1839.

From then on, and during its six operating years, we have this workshop to thank for numerous works, the most outstanding among which are:

-the magnificent views and portraits published by “El Plantel” until it stopped circulating.

-the large format maps included in the important “Atlas Cubano” that saw the light gradually in the early 1840s.

-the illustrations of the Cuban edition of “Las Comedias de Calderón de la Barca”, one of the rarest and ambitious books of our bibliography, regarded at the time as the most important version of this work printed in the American continent. It was edited in two volumes by Ramón Oliva’s print shop, and it included 32 illustrations signed by Moreau and Mialhe, who for the first time proved his skills in something other than landscapes.

-The album of illustrations “Isla de Cuba Pintoresca”, in our opinion the greatest piece among testimonial works of our 19th Century. Following his habit of visiting places that caught his interest, with pen and paper in order to make sketches that would later be translated into the stone Mialhe, and in some cases Moreau, obtained 48 views of our country the finish and verity of which make them a mandatory reference for those researching our colonial past.

Litografía del Gobierno y de la Real Sociedad Económica (Lithographic Workshop of the Government and the Royal Patriotic Society) – created in 1845 as a result of the merge between the two workshops previously mentioned. It operated for a short period, and although several founders had already taken a new course, it produced some good pieces, such as the five magnificent maps of the “Manual de la Isla de Cuba” by Arboleya that saw the light in 1852.

Litografía de Marquier (Marquier’s Lithographic Workshop)  - It was founded in the late 1840s by the French lithographer Francisco Marquier, in a venue located at the number 96 Lamparilla street. It is safe to state that this was the most emblematic company during our golden age.

Back then, creating a good lithographic workshop wasn’t an easy task; in order to make it operate properly not only good painters or draftsmen were needed, but also different machine operators such as those that prepared and scoured the stones, or applied the ink, mezzotinters, copyists, printers, dryers, image illuminators, etc. However, after ten years of lithographic developments in Cuba, the path had been paved for it, and this workshop’s rise was the logic result. Brought about by the cooperation of the most outstanding figures within this area encouraged by artists like Federico Mialhe, Jose Baturone, Eduardo Laplante, and Leonardo Barañano, a group of works regarded nowadays as the core of 19th Century Cuban graphics saw the light. The most outstanding among them are:

-The album “Viaje Pintoresco alrededor de la Isla de Cuba”, the second important work of Mialhe, between 1847 and 1848, which was meant to become our most reproduced graphic work. Its 30 engravings with views and themes related to Cuban customs were copied abroad in several printings published by the editor Bernardo May. Taking those as a starting point, there appeared all sorts of decorative pieces and other publications all over the world.

-The “Album Californiano”, one of the most evasive pieces within the Cuban collection, printed around 1850 with 12 illustrations drawn by Ferran Baturrone related to the Californian Gold Rush that had begun in 1848 and was fashionable at the time.

-“Los Ingenios”, regarded by many as our masterpiece due to its format’s ambition and the quality of its illuminated illustrations. The book, illustrated by Eduardo Laplante saw the light in 1855, when Marquier had already sold his workshop to Santiago Martín.

-and many more, such as the fabulous series “Isla de Cuba Pintoresca” with its large format landscapes, the illustrations of “La Floresta Cubana”, the books “Memorias de la Historia Natural de la Isla de Cuba”, “Manual del Cochero”, “Fabulas Morales”, “Aves de la Isla de Cuba”, etc.

Litografía del Comercio (Commerce Lithographic Workshop) – Founded in 1845 by Armando Lagriffoul, it operated for many years thanks to the works for humorous newspapers rich in caricatures, under Juan Martínez Villergas’ conduction and illustrated by Víctor Patricio Landaluze, that for decades were published on a weekly basis with two illustrated pages per issue.  “El Moro Muza” first appeared in 1859 y “Juan Palomo”  in 1869, are two publications containing the most works under this signature seen by us. This workshop also worked for the cigar industry.

Litografía de Tiburcio V. Cuesta (Tiburcio V. Cuesta’s Lithographic Workshop) – It made very good works for several magazines, the first date back to 1853, made by Muguet and Baturone for the “Revista de la Habana”. It also produced Laplante’s engraving included in the book “Memoria histórica de la villa de Santa Clara” from 1858, the engravings contained in the second volume of “Cuentos de Salón” by Teodoro Guerrero from 1866, etc. However, from the very beginning this workshop worked mainly for cigar and cigarette factories. Actually, in this area, the workshop was one of the first to apply color lithography.

Litografía del Progreso (Progress Lithographic Workshop) – It generally printed Landaluze’s works. It produced beautiful illustrations, like those of Isabel II’s Genealogy included in the “Album Regio” in 1855, as well as the illustrations for the book “Fiestas con motivo de la llegada del eximo. Señor Don José de la Concha” by Creto Gangá published in 1854.

Litografía Mercantil (Mercantile Lithographic Workshop) – It produced mainly cigar labels (“habilitaciones”), and it did an outstanding work during the period of color lithography. It printed the beautiful illustration “Los Negros Curros” included in the book “Tipos y Costumbres de la Isla de Cuba” from 1881 and numerous works in the late 1870s for illustrated magazines, such as “Juan Palomo”. It was also in charge of printing the 17 beautiful maps of the “Estudios Geográficos y Estadísticos de la Isla de Cuba” by Facundo Cañanda published in 1892 by the printer La Propaganda Literaria, which used several methods like stereotype and lithography to print this work. This book also includes a superb frontispiece painted by Manuel Arias that also came out of this printing press.

Litografía de More y Cia. (More and Co. Lithographic Workshop) – This workshop, which later produced the best cigar labels of the Cuban collection, printed in its beginnings the illustrations of the book “Álbum poético fotográfico de las escritoras cubanas”, based on portraits drawn by Francisco Cisneros in 1868.

Litografía “La América” (“La América” Lithographic Workshop) – Their most important work that we’ve seen are the illustrations of the book “Historia descriptiva de la villa de S. Antonio Abad de los Baños”, illustrated by Laplante and R. Bear in 1859 for the print shop Viuda de Barcina.

Litografía de G. Muguet  (G Muguet’s Lithographic Workshop) – It was founded by this French lithographer who arrived on Cuba half way through the 19th Century, working in different workshops until he was able to found his own at number 37 Obispo street. It printed unusual views of Havana and portraits that were published during the first year of circulation of the “Revista de la Habana” signed by Baturone and Muguet himself.

Litografía de Burrelier (Bourrelier’s Lithographic Workshop) – This gentleman, who is also registered as the owner of the Litografía de la Marina, specialized in making large format maps and plans the most outstanding among which are the “Plano Topográfico de una parte de la Jurisdicción de la Habana” published in 1848 by the surveyor D. Mariano Carles. In the late 1940s, being located at the number 109 O’Relly, this workshop printed an unusual Atlas of Havana City entitled “El Lazarillo” containing seven plans of its different neighborhoods that constitute nowadays an invaluable document for specialist doing research of the city in such early times.

Litografía de La Marina (La Marina’s Lithographic Workshop) – Also under Eugenio Bourrelier’s management, it produced several types of documents, such as slaves’ insurance policies, shares, etc. in the late 1850s. We have also seen some of its works published during the second year of circulation of the “Revista de la Habana”.

Litografía Nacional (National Lithographic Workshop) – owned by Pérez and Gómez, it brought to the light numerous portraits signed by important artists like Baturone and Peoli published by “Revista de la Habana” during 1854.

Other less important lithographic workshop, known by reference and the works of which aren’t abundant are the following:

Litografía Matancera (Matanzas Lithographic Workshop) – inaugurated in 1846 in the city of Matanzas.

Litografía de Emilio Lamy (Emilio Lamy’s Lithographic Workshop) – established in Santiago de Cuba during the 1860s.

Litografía de Méndez y Hno (Méndez Brother’s Lithographic Workshop) – located at the number 113 Cuba Street.

Litografía de Paris (Paris Lithographic Workshop) – owned by Juan Feuille, it was located at number 113 O’Relly Street.

Litografía Cubana (Cuban Lithographic Workshop) – founded by Francisco Cuyas, it was located at number 37 Obispo Street.

Litografía de Fanjul (Fanjul’s Lithographic Workshop) – located at number 114 Águila Street.

Lito. de García y Arnaz (García and Arnaz’s Lithographic Workshop)

Litografía de Martín y Lamy (Martín and Lamy’s Lithographic Workshop)


New techniques arrive…

Already in the 1860s, the breakthroughs in printing procedures left behind the old and expensive lithographs using one single ink (that later had to be illuminated) obtained from hand-operated presses, and the productivity of which was very limited. It was the time of color printouts, which using steam-operated presses and a different stone for each color made it possible to obtain hundreds of prints looking exactly the same. This method which we will refer to as “industrial lithography” was widely used in foreign publishing houses, but in Cuba it was only destined for the production of cigarette packs’ wrappers (marquillas) and the luxurious cigar labels that were emerging at the time as expression and guarantee of our most exclusivist industry. Working for this circle monopolized and at the same time justified the existence of all good workshops that appeared in Havana, the pioneer of which was that founded by the Susini brothers in the cigarette factory “La Honradez”, and to which we will dedicate one page.

Those luxuriously illustrated books, filled with beautiful color lithographs resulting from a printing system that developed by the day and that was so common from then on in Europe by publishing houses like Montaner and Simón, were not printed in Cuba. One example of this kind of pieces is the controversial “Álbum Pintoresco de la Isla de Cuba” made by order of Bernardo May in Germany as early as 1856 with the chromolithographic method.

It is important to highlight that the starting of our independence war during that decade had utmost influence in the disappearing of our good books, since from then on most of those men who had encouraged important publications up to that moment went missing in action or abroad. All that was left on the island was a strict censorship and the rich Spanish traders of Havana that were only interested, in terms of publications, on laughing with Landaluze’s caricatures and order their cigar labels, which were determining for the Havana cigars to dominate the world market.

And so, the 19th Century’s last decades went by without the rise of an important book in terms of its illustrations. Lithography was only used in some isolated illustrations for Spanish periodicals, which were predominant. It wasn’t until the arrival of the novel technique phototypography, introduced early on the island by the clever Portuguese Alfredo Pereira Taviera, that a worthy book appeared: ”Tipos y Costumbres de la Isla de Cuba”, illustrated by Landaluze and edited in 1881 in the print shop El Avisador Comercial. This was our first book one hundred percent dealing with local customs and at the same time the work of transition towards graphic printing industrial era, when the modern techniques that began to rise, much more economic and faster, left lithography behind, and together with it illustrated publications’ golden era. It was the end of those handmade images, full of one-of-a-kind shades, that have been collectors’ pains ever since.

The 20th Century…

The number of books published during the 20th Century worthy of being presented in our pages is inferior. Not because they have less quality, but due to the fact that they are easier to obtain in the market and because their illustrations, extremely abundant but of poor making, aren’t attractive enough. The exceptions in this case would be some books the illustrations of which might have either a historical interest or a given artistic design.

Nevertheless, there is a branch that does deserve our full attention, both in the 20th Century and the previous one, due to its contributions to our graphic history from its very origins: illustrated magazines. Because of their importance, we would like to devote a few paragraphs to them:


Within Cuban periodicals, illustrated ones were abundant since they first appeared in the early 19th Century. From then on, there were always learned and enterprising men who bet on a business that never made anyone rich but sent many to bankruptcy. The complexity of an activity that required constant support of several writers as well as securing printing and designs dashed many of these editorial crusades in a country of limited development like ours. However, it is safe to state that Cuba was one of the Latin-American countries with more illustrated periodicals, both during the colonial and republican periods. Let us review some of those that will be incorporated to our pages:

“El Plantel” first magazine that took it seriously to accompanying its articles with images that should illustrate the topics dealt with. It was created in 1838 and only circulated for a year, but left us several valuable views and portraits.

“Revista de la Habana” regarded as the most important editorial venture of its time due to both its contributor’s prestige as well as the quality of the illustrations that accompanied its articles. As previously stated, during the three years it circulated (1854-56), it published the works of over five different lithographic workshops, which constitutes a hint of the difficulties it faced.

“El Fígaro” that appeared modestly after the first independence war founded by Manuel Serafín Pichardo and little by little became the best magazine of its time. Already in the 1890s, the contribution of illustrators Manuel Arias and Ricardo Torriente gave it great significance.

“La Ilustración Cubana”  tenaciously edited in Barcelona by Domingo Figarola y Caneda since 1895. This is, in our opinion, the Cuban periodical that published the best portraits and views.

The humorous magazines that managed by Juan Martínez Vilergas and with the endless contributions of Víctor Patricio Landaluze dominated the colonial panorama since 1857, when “La Charanga” was first created, until the end of the Spanish domination. During this period appeared El Moro Musa (1859), Don Junípero (1863), Juan Palomo (1869), Don Circunstancias (1879), all of them with weekly circulation including great caricatures in full page over contemporary politics, events, fashion, and customs.

A lot has been said about Landaluze. His paintings and books dealing with local customs are known. However, this very fruitful part of his work in Cuba has been little tackled. His blind alignment with the Spanish cause and the fact that his work coincided in time with the Cuban independence wars brought about that many of his caricatures included in these magazines were cruel mockeries of our ancestors. As a result, many Cuban intellectuals have tactically avoided the research of such work, so hostile against our roots. Nevertheless, collecting should be based on objective approaches, and there are more gains than pains in dealing with several of these publications due to their pictorial and historical value.

Already in the 20th Century, after the foundation of the Republic, several new illustrated magazines appeared, and others that existed since the previous century became more prestigious. Such are the cases of Cuba y América and El Fígaro, the latter became the main chronicler of our first three decades as an independent nation.

Among those that rose in the 20th Century, El Mundo Ilustrado, La Política Cómica, Bohemia, Carteles, Grafico, Social, Smart, etc,. are examples that display continuous editorial flow supported by a great graphic virtuosity.

We shall pay special attention to Ricardo Torriente’s works in La Política Cómica, kind of unjustly forgotten. His unforgettable Liborio (unrivaled icon of the Cuban idiosyncrasy) animated for years his weekly caricatures that are in our opinion the most important and ingenious chronicle of our republican period. For that purpose, it is our intention to reproduce the illustrations contained in several volumes of this magazine’s annual compilations containing the most dissimilar characters that represent our history and folklore. That includes an incipient “bobo”  (dummy) that would be picked up years later by Eduardo Abela in “La Semana”.

It is also our goal to fully cover Gráfico and Social, the two periodicals the hart of which was the great caricaturist Conrado Masaguer. At least their covers and the full page illustrations contained by them will be reproduced in our pages.

Foreign books about Cuba…

According to this definition, there are three groups to take into consideration:

  1. Some isolated books written in the 19th Century by American or European visitors who were interested in our nature, customs, or landscapes, and tried to illustrate them in order to render them more understandable and enjoyable. Among them, the fabulous “Historia Física Política y Natural de la Isla de Cuba”, edited in Paris between 1837 and 1862 by the Spanish naturalist Ramón de la Sagra, which includes 268 illustrations engraved on copper and skillfully illuminated, is the most outstanding. In addition, “Cuba with pen and pencil” by Samuel Hazard (USA 1881) and the rare books “La Perla delle Antille” by Antonio Gallenga (Milán 1874), “L’Ile de Cuba” by Hippolyte Pyron (Paris 1889), etc. are also worthy of mention.
  2. The books related to the Cuban Independence Wars written and published by Spaniards who, although narrating the event from their angle, used numerous full color engravings and lithographs that deserve to be included in our pages. “Historia de los Voluntarios Cubanos” by Joaquín Ribó (Madrid 1872), “Historia de la Insurrección de Cuba” by Emilio Soulere (Barcelona 1879), “Anales de la Guerra de Cuba” by Antonio Pirala (Madrid 1895-98), “Mi Mando en Cuba” by Valeriano Weyler (Madrid 1910-11) are some examples.
  3. The books about Cuba during the American Intervention and the war that had just ended written by various American authors, mostly with the help of very good photographic images. The fact that many of these were published in English doesn’t make them any less interesting for us. It’s necessary to emphasize on the “Informe del Gobierno Militar Norteamericano de Enero a Mayo de 1902”, meticulous work which included several maps and many photos of high documental value.


The difficulties faced by Cuban books collectors…

Scholars and collectors of the most important 19th Century Cuban books encounter many doubts regarding their composition due to the manner in which these were published and the fact that they are so scarce in the market nowadays.

The following are historical factors that contributed to the current situation:

-Each edition was very small due to the fact that printers and lithographic workshops weren’t abundant and there wasn’t a substantial national market.

-Most books the printing of which required a significant investment were edited on the basis of previous subscription, which limited their printout.

-They were mostly received in deliveries, and the books often didn’t make it to subscribers in one piece for different circumstances.

-All previously mentioned implies that books were never published with their original covers, and so it was in the hands of their owners to bind them. Therefore, each of these books comes to us in a different manner and order.

-Generally speaking, the illustrations they contained didn’t have a specific  numerical order or weren’t included in the book’s index, which brings about that the order and the amount of illustrations contained in each of them become a puzzle for those who study this matter, who sometimes need to look at several copies to reach a final conclusion.

-At a time when there weren’t many painters or illustrators in Cuba to decorate homes and shops, and because the engravings contained in these publications turned out to be something new, many of them ended up hanging from a wall, and the books were mutilated before they were bound. This is the reason why we have seen several copies of books like “Los Ingenios” containing only a fraction of its illustrations. Deliveries also contributed to this phenomenon, because it wasn’t necessary to unbind and mutilate a book in order to use its engravings. All that was needed was to take it from a pile that was delivered by mail.

-Our humid climate and the continuous weather phenomena in a city like Havana, built along the coast, were factors that contributed to deteriorating, and sometimes loosing many important books. On top of that, the fact that our National Library was located for many years at the Fortaleza de la Fuerza, a few meters away from the coastline, is a clear example of this problem.

-The sudden change resulting from the Cuban Revolution brought about that many important Cuban libraries were abandoned by their owners, who left the country in the first years, with the resulting disappearing of the best pieces, which ended up in the hands of people who knew nothing about their value. They were generally sold to unscrupulous merchants, and ended up in the hands of foreign collectors, who were the only ones able to pay for them in strong currency.

-Cuban libraries carelessness when it comes to preserving their collections, and the fact that many valuable pieces have been stolen or mutilated.

Difficulties we have faced in order to develop this section

It is important to state for our visitors that in making up this section it is our intention to show in its pages our library’s old illustrations with the deterioration they show and not unharmed, as they appeared when they were first printed. Traditional publishing practice is to show facsimiles made from originals in perfect conditions. However, it is our objective to reproduce on screen these old images with no modification whatsoever, just the way they are currently preserved. This is the only way we have to get closer to the yearned for “Catalogue of Illustrations” we initially referred to.

Among the greatest difficulties we have faced in fulfilling this task are:

-the need to unbind most of our library’s volumes with the objective of scanning every illustration in an optimal manner, going over the whole area of the image.

-the bad preservation state of most copies we own, affected in the first place by our country’s humid climate together with numerous ills, such as moths and bookworms attacks, paper oxidation and torn, ink fading, etc.

-the inadequate cuts made during the binding process, when the book’s exterior looks were given more importance than preserving its illustrations intact. This is a critical issue in the cases of magazines, the covers of which were mutilated in the majority of cases.

Anyhow, we think that in the long run it is interesting to look at these pieces on the screen in their current state, naturally affected by time and far from perfection, which contributes to give them that halo of antiquity so much appreciated by us collectors.

Existent research studies and works to consult related to this topic

There are very few references to this matter dating back from colonial times to be found. In any case, there are some essays by Bachiller that contain inaccurate references or deal incidentally with the illustrations contained in the works reviewed.

During the republican period, even though there were in Cuba thirsty collectors of this genre, who made up vast libraries including the most important books and engravings from the Cuban past, these were mostly members of the Cuban cultural elite, and no important research work attempting to cover this subject in a general or ambitious manner was published. Even the indispensable “Bibliografía Cubana del Siglo XIX”, by Carlos M. Trelles, Matanzas 1913, didn’t care too much in defining the tricky detail of the description of our books’ graphic area, and it contains numerous imprecisions regarding this matter.

There is an isolated work, “El Grabado en Cuba” by Juan Sánchez, Habana 1955, which is the only known publication specifically about this subject dating back to this long period.

After the triumph of the Revolution the following works can be listed:

“La Revista de la Biblioteca Nacional” with excellent articles over the content of our old magazines or the work of outstanding illustrators compiled by several researchers who worked in this center and had access to the necessary publications to look at them several times in order to define their content accurately.

“Pintura y grabados coloniales cubanos” by Adelaida de Juan, Habana 1974.

“Apuntes sobre la pintura y el grabado en Cuba” by Jorge Rigol, Habana 1989.

“De Gutenberg a Landaluze” by Jorge R. Bermúdez, Habana 1990.

“El Libro en Cuba, Siglos XVIII y XIX” by Ambrosio Fornet, Habana 1994, which although more focused on the work of printers, editors, etc. contains sound references in each chapter that can be useful for those interested on this matter.

“La Memoria en la Piedras” by Zoila Lapique Bacali, Habana 2002, a work yearned for by many, entirely devoted to the history of lithography in Cuba. It contains important information related to this section due to the importance of this technique in the making of old Cuban books. This book is indispensable but unaffordable for the general public, because it was printed in a limited edition that reached prohibitive prices in strong currency.

Last but not least, we shouldn’t fail to mention the many works by Emilio Cueto, indefatigable collector and researcher of Cuban origin who lives in Washington, which have covered numerous works of interest for old book lovers, but that unfortunately haven’t reached the Cubans on the island. Among these, we could mention:

“Mialhe’s Colonial Cuba”, published by The Historical Association of Southern Florida, Miami, 1994.

“Cuba in Old Map”, published by The Historical Association of Southern Florida, Miami, 1999.

“Illustrating Cuba’s Flora and Fauna”, published by The Historical Museum of Southern Florida, 2002.

“Paseo Pintoresco por la Isla de Cuba” Facsimilar edition, Miami, 1999, Herencia Cultural Cubana and Ediciones Universal.

Latest news:

Lately, after having written this work, we have seen with great pleasure the efforts undertaken in Cuba to reproduce some of these pieces that we admire so much. Although not in our hands, we have learnt of facsimilar editions of La Isla de Cuba Pintoresca by Federico Mialhe, Los Ingenios by Laplante  and Tipos y Costumbres de la Isla de Cuba by Landaluze.

Our pages…

As it follows, we add a list of some of the old Cuban publications that we will gradually incorporate to this section’s pages. It is important to make it clear that in the beginning we will only reproduce the illustrations contained in these works. Our final goal is to fully digitalize them as soon as we have the capability and possibilities to do so.

Title of the work – Author, printer, illustrator – Date

Descripción de Diferentes Piezas de Historia Natural - Parra Antonio - Habana 1787

Los Ingenios - Cantero J. German - Ilustrado por Eduardo Laplante - Litografía de Marquier - Habana 1857

Isla de Cuba Pintoresca - Miahle Federico - Lit. Soc. Patriótica - Habana 1839-42.

Viaje Pintoresco Alrededor de la Isla de Cuba - Miahle Federico -.Imprenta de Marquier - Habana 1848

Álbum Pintoresco de la Isla de Cuba - May Bernardo & Co. -  Berlín 1855

Paseo Pintoresco por la Isla de Cuba- Costa y Cuevas - Habana 1854 - Lit. del Gobierno.

Isla de Cuba Pintoresca - Andueza J. M. - Madrid 1841

Álbum impreso en Lit. de J. Rigo - Autor indet.

Aves de la Isla de Cuba - Lembeye Juan - Habana 1850

Obsequio a las Damas - Oliva Ramón - Imprenta de Ramón Oliva - Habana 1838

Las Comedias de Calderón de la Barca - Mialhe y Moreau dib. - Imprenta de Oliva - Habana 1839

Historia Física Política y Natural de la Isla de Cuba - Sagra Ramon de la - Paris 1842-61

Álbum Regio - Landaluce Patricio Lit. - Editado por Vicente Díaz - Habana 1855

Los Cubanos Pintados por Si Mismos - Landaluce Patricio - con grabados de J.Robles - Habana 1852

Tipos y Costumbres de la Isla de Cuba - Landaluce Patricio - Fototipia Taveira - Habana 1881

Fiestas con Motivo de la llegada de Concha - Landaluce Patricio - Habana 1854

Manual de la Isla de Cuba - Garcia de Arboleya - Habana 1852

Álbum Poético-Fotográfico de las Escritoras Cubanas - Garcia Domitila - Habana 1868

Almanaque de El Álbum para 1888 -  Ordenado por N. Heredia - Matanzas 1887.

Almanaque de Juan Palomo - Landaluze Patricio Ilust. - Para los años 1870-73

Álbum de La Sombra para 1874 - Imprenta Militar,  Habana 

Atlas Habanero El Lazarillo - Lit de Bourrelier 

Fábulas Morales - Balmaseda F. Javier - Habana 1858

Historia de las Inclinaciones y Sentimientos del Hombre - Miranda Manuel V. - Habana 1842

Monografía Oftalmológica - Gonzalez Morrillas Jose - Habana 1848

Álbum Histórico Fotográfico de la Guerra de Cuba - Gelpi y Ferro Gil - Habana 1872.

Anales de la Guerra de Cuba - Pirala Antonio - Madrid 1895-98

Mi mando en Cuba - Weyler Valeriano - Madrid 1910-11

Historia de la Insurrección de Cuba - Soulere Emilio A. - Barcelona 1879

Historia de los Voluntarios Cubanos - Ribo José Joaquin - Madrid 1872

Cuba with Pen and Pencil - Hazard Samuel - Conn..E.U. 1871






Siglo XIX


El Libro de los Peces


El Plantel


Revista de la Habana


Los Ingenios


Viaje pintoresco alrededor de la Isla


La Isla de Cuba Pintoresca


Obsequio a las damas


Álbum pintoresco de la Isla de Cuba


Paseo pintoresco por la Isla de Cuba


Isla de Cuba Pintoresca


Comedias de Calderón de la Barca


Álbum de vistas de J. Rigo


Fiestas con motivo de la llegada de Concha


Álbum Poético-Fotográfico


Los cubanos pintados por si mismos


Tipos y Costumbres


Cuba a Pluma y Lápiz


Manual de la Isla de Cuba


Directorio de 1883-1884


Almanaque de El Álbum para 1888


Mariposas de la Isla de Cuba


Aves de la Isla de Cuba


Atlas de Zoología de La Sagra


Inclinaciones del hombre según doctrina de Gall


Monografía Oftalmológica


Historia de la guerra de Cuba


Álbum Regio


Historia descriptiva de San Antonio de los Baños


Álbum Biográfico de Jefes de Voluntarios


Los planos de Facundo Cañada

Siglo XX


Revista Social 1916


Revista Social 1917


Revista Social 1918


Revista Social 1919


Revista Social 1920


Revista Gráfico 1913


Las portadas de Carteles


Havana - the magazine of Cuba


Massaguer y Carteles


Guignol de Massaguer


Massaguer Autobiografía


Voy bien Camilo