Ametas Online Publications Hamburg

Haenke’s Frontiers

 Johann Lubienski

Prologue. In 1997 and 1998 I tried to find Renée Gicklhorn’s unpublished papers and another word-documents or belongings, but not even in Vienna, where she died in 1980, did I find any traces in the respective registers. I continued asking friends, archivists, historians, and botanists until I met an ethnologist, Uwe Plachetka, at a Humboldt Symposium in Strobl near the Wolfgangsee, on April 23, 1999. (1) He remembered a friend and botanist, Richard Frisch, who was said to have a box with Thaddaeus-Haenke (TH) papers in his cellar that had once been Gicklhorn’s. Amazed, I told the director of the Department of Botany (Museum of Natural History in Vienna) (2) archives, Mag. Christa Riedl-Dorn, about the findings. She immediately called Frisch as she knew him anyway. Although Dorn had always been one of the few and well-known TH experts in Austria, it had somehow escaped Frisch’s mind to tell her that before Gicklhorn died, he had been living in an apartment in the same building as Gicklhorn’s. Since she didn’t have any heirs, the municipal administration eventually cleared her apartment. Frisch, on coming home, saw a huge open trash dumpster opposite the entrance of the building, and on top of it the remnants and litter from Gicklhorn’s apartment. He caught sight of a small box that was marked “Thaddaeus Haenke”. He took it and stored it in his cellar for later processing and study. Now, almost 30 years later, some people were asking after the box! Frisch was happy to donate the box and its contents to the Botanic Archives in Vienna, and director Riedl-Dorn asked me to analyze its contents, and I promised to do so later that year, as I was already in the process of preparing for a trip to Bolivia where I intended to follow TH’s routes and to research the archives located in the Altiplano, the Andean Highlands.

In Bolivia, on August 18, 1999, I interviewed 92-year-old Luis Fernandez (“Tata Lucho”), a retired Franciscan monk in the Convento de San Francisco in Cochabamba whose Guandián (gatekeeper) told to contact Tata Lucho as he knew an awful lot on Tadaeus Haenke (TH). Tata Lucho confirmed that both Francisco de Viedma and TH had been buried there (1808 and 1816 respectively), but in 1895 or 1896 Viedma’s remains were transferred to the Capilla of the Hospital Viedma, and TH’s to the Franciscan Monastery in Tarata in 1937. This was done because the cemetery of the Convento in Cochabamba had to be leveled, due to the prolongation of the Calle Bolívar from the Plaza Pricipal to the East. Tata Lucho remembered with impressive accuracy how Renée Gicklhorn appeared in 1967 in La Paz and Cochabamba to look after TH’s bones. He was asked by the local bishop to help her, and he showed her then the way to the Osario General of Tarata (sic!), “alado del Coro Bajo Trasero, al lado sur”, where they uncovered or excavated what Gicklhorn interpreted as TH’s skull. A series of photos were shot and an article* was published by the botanist.

I didn’t have the time to check the story in Tarata that summer. And unfortunately, Tata Lucho died a year later. (3)

Two other findings should soon throw some dubious light on some of Gicklhorn’s research. In Austria, in July 2000, I finally managed to get a copy of the above-mentioned article* in which the author declared that TH remnants were found in the Osario of the Convento Fransiscano in Cochabamba (4) and not in that of Tarata which is 35 kms to the Southwest of Cochabamba. (5) The few photos depicted in the article do not really resolve the apparent divergence between Tata Lucho’s and Gickelhorn’s statements, as they only show some skulls and not the described altar or other parts of the monasteries in question. I remembered that in many a work or article, Gicklhorn often tended to obscure one or the other of her sources or not to unveil them before a publication yet to come. But then, after a thorough check of Frisch’s ”cellar box” in Vienna, on August 31, 2000, I felt quite relieved to find the complete series of all corresponding original negatives  (black-and-white-photos) in that box, now officially referred to as the “Gicklhorn Splinters Files” (Gicklhorn Splitternachlass) located at the above-mentioned Department of Botany [ADB] (Museum of Natural History in Vienna) Archive. With the help of the photos it should be possible to finish the puzzle in situ boliviano, I thought, as you can see parts of a church, the altar, and the secret and small wall opening behind which TH’s alleged bones were found.

By the end of 2001 the renowned German TV-documentary director of TV-documentaries, Stephan Koester (“Universum” Series, Discovery Channel), had already completed his script of  “Söhne der Wüste – Auf den Spuren von Thaddaeus Haenke in der Atacama“, (6) and in January 2002 he and his producer Michael Tauchert asked me for some material on TH’s death etc., as I had already been consulted with respect to the script contents. I reported on the findings as described above and sent them the respective photos and documents, via e-mail directly to the film location in Cochabamba. Their idea was then to accompany a TH descendant in Cochabamba and Tarata, who would be conclusively retracing his ancestor’s after-death whereabouts, with the photos in his hands, to eventually end up in a Hamletian contemplation of his great-great-grandfather’s skull.

In November 2002, when the documentary is broadcast, we will be able to witness the results of such an undertaking.


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This volume is a reflection on and of increased activities of Haenke research over the last few years, through a re-evaluation that has inspired “classical” research in libraries, museums, and archives on the one hand, and through new, almost accidental or chaotic discoveries in the somewhat romantic Indiana-Jones-research style, (7) as exemplarily described in the prologue, on the other hand. We should be grateful that there is this adventurous frontier, but there is still much work to be done on the classical frontier of precise historical work on already existing papers, notes, letters, drawings, and maps.

Haenke has been enjoying an ever-growing reputation in his most important activity area, which is Peru and Bolivia – not so much in Germany or Austria. In High Peru he not only appears as the hero in Nataniel Aguirre’s classic novel, Juan de la Rosa (1885), (8) but he is now regarded as one of the most eminent explorers of the region, as Argandoña’s standard work already confirmed in 1971. (9) In the view of many Bolivians, (10) their country owes a significant portion of its exploratory and scientific history to German-speaking scientists, among them Haenke and Arthur Posnansky. In Bolivia’s first Manual de Historia, (11) Delgar, Dombey, Crespo, Nordenflicht, and Haenke were depicted as hombres de ciencia of 18th century Bolivia.

A European re-evaluation began with Ibañez Montoya’s and González Claverán’s doubtlessly aesthetic history presentations on Haenke’s participation in the 1989 and 1992 Malaspina Expeditions. (12) Perhaps two historic novels published in 1991, one in written in Czech, (13) and the other in German (14) reached an even larger public. The latter work, by Heinz Markstein, had a strong response in Latin America, especially in Bolivia, through its Spanish translation (15) three years later. It gave rise to a new re-evaluation of the topic among leading intellectuals. (16) Recently, the “Humboldt (Anniversary) Year” gave fresh impetus to a reconsideration of Haenke and his work: Marlies Raffler published an article on the archival Diaspora of Haenke’s herbaria, (17) and Christa Riedl-Dorn – likewise an Austrian historian, but also a renowned botanist – has announced the publication, by the end of the year, of the lectures on Haenke held in Vienna in 1992 (“The Year of the Americas”), on the exploration of the New World.

This latest research development links up with the research done before 1966, when the series of works by the four “classical” authors – Khol, Kühnel, Josef and Renée Gicklhorn (see below) – came to an abrupt end. (18) These authors can be considered as symbols, or tip of the iceberg, of approximately 150 authors that have dealt with Haenke. The discussion of the 1960s, for example, was led, but not only concentrated on both Renée Gicklhorn and Kühnel, of course, but it was based on many international contributions, especially from Chile and former Czechoslovakia. (19)

The Czech archivist wrote the first standard work (20) on Haenke, unfortunately without attracting international attention – possibly due to his use of the little known Czech language. His work remains most valuable, because it published all of Haenke’s German letters that can be found in the archives of the National Museum in Prague. Fortunately, the complete Czech text has recently been translated into German in the new publication of Khol’s work. (21)

We owe to Josef Kühnel the first extensive biography (22) (1939!) of Haenke, thus inspiring the beginning of international Haenke research.  He presented the abstracts of all Haenke’s known works, (23) but he erred when attributing to Haenke:  Viaje de Santiago a Mendoza y Buenos Aires, Descripción del Reino de Chile, and the Descripción del Perú. Haenke was only co-author of the latter two. Kühnel tried to ‘germanize’ Haenke, which obscured the explorer’s personality. As a pluricultural individual in the ‘Old-Austrian mould’ (multipolar identity), Haenke was able to see himself as German, Bohemian, or Austrian. In Kühnel’s revised oeuvre of 1960, (24) historical chronologies were corrected with regard to Haenke’ biography, but not cartographic and geographical mistakes. A new door was opened, for the first time, to a consideration of Latin American botanical literature. 

Mr. and Mrs. Gicklhorn introduced more scientific strictness. He, the botanist and science historian, and she, a lecturer in Romance languages and literature. Together they published 21 historical works together on Haenke. Renée Gicklhorn summarized their findings in her standard work of 1966, (25) based predominantly on many of Haenke’s lost works that they found in the Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid. These included thirteen new letters or memoranda on mining in the Andes, on navigation and fishing industries in the tropics, on a trade route project along the Amazon, on the improvement of gunpowder and glass production, and on a trip to the former Jesuit Reduction of Moxos etc. She failed, like all others up to now, to decipher Haenke’s private and coded notes (about 7000 pages!), and published only a few drawings of the 250 to 300 sketches and watercolor paintings in Madrid. Besides this, she ‘scanned’ only three (26) of the countless archives, museums, and libraries in Madrid, and none of the archives in the Americas. 

In the “America Year”, the Spanish botanist Ibañez Montoya published an aesthetic presentation of sources with numerous illustrations, on the basis of new material from the Jardín Botánico and other archives in Madrid. (27) Her main contribution was the translation of many studies from Latin into Spanish, e.g. on medicinal herbs from the Philippines, on rainforest plants from High Peru, on various fish species of the Titicaca Lake. Ibañez Montoya mainly wanted to present sources (pencil sketches, watercolors, new plant studies) and not so much give an interpretation of the history of natural sciences, of botany or with regard to apodemics – theory and history of travel.

The Mexican Virginia Claverán, by way of contrast, separated her purely scientific presentation of the topic (28) from the well-illustrated, more commercial and readable version. (29) Unfortunately, she was more interested in the activities of the Malaspina team in Mexico, thus devoting only one chapter to Haenke.

Gaps and Lacks 

A brave work has so far been accomplished with regard to Haenke, but it must be noted that many scholars have hardly moved from their narrow national or regional search areas to libraries and archives farther away. So with regard to research on basic sources and bibliographies, we come to the following conclusions: 

·        American, especially Latin American literature has never been fully searched and has only partly been taken into consideration, especially those studies from Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. Due to the wars in 19th-century South America, almost all parts of the Moxos Archive of Cochabamba and Tarata – in which Haenke had studied or to which he had contributed piles of material – were transferred to Quito, Lima, and Santiago de Chile, where they have never been examined with regard to Haenkeana. (30) Nor has the former Jesuit (now Franciscan) Archive of Tarija, from where Chiquitos – often visited by Haenke –  had been administered. (31)  

·        None of the researchers mentioned have ever been in Bolivia (32) in order to reconstruct Haenke’s various routes cartographic-historically, so that his exploration strategies,  motivation, and work areas could be better understood: mineral exploration, ethnographic studies, archeology etc. The Mapoteca de Sucre (33) possesses a thoroughly complete historical, military, and geographical map collection that has never been consulted in this respect, although we already know (since Ibañez Montoya’s publication at the latest) the hundreds of Spanish or Indian names of villages, estancias, rivers, mountain passes etc. that are legible in Haenke’s notebooks.  

·        European archives outside Spain or those in South America have never been searched, not to mention those in or around Cochabamba. We have to admit, nevertheless, that both larger archives in Cochabamba (Casa de la Cultura and Prefectura) have been made accessible for the last twelve to seventeen years. Before that period, military regimes or administrative chaos stopped any reasonable research work there. The same holds true for most other archives, or repositories, mostly of churches, of the Valle Alto (Mizque, Cliza, Tarata, Aiquile) or the Altiplano (Oruro, Caracollo, Corque, Toledo, La Paz, Sucre, Potosí, Tarija). (34) In Potosí alone, there are more than 50 [sic!] private libraries and archives (35) that have never been looked through with regard to Haenkeana or Viedmana. Paintings, portraits (36), watercolors, drawings, and maps have been examined as superficially as the sources and literature with regard to Haenke’s clients (Viedma, the Virrey in Lima etc.), his addressees, or his contemporaries within his area of work.

The poor quality and meagerness of the study of non-European libraries and archives increases drastically with Haenke’s growing temporal and geographical distance from Europe. He seems to be, besides Humboldt of course, probably the most important German-speaking explorer of the great turn-of-the-natural-sciences period, at the threshold from the 18th to the 19th century. Nevertheless, large parts of his oeuvre and his life have remained hidden. This volume should help create an deepened interest in unveiling more of TH’s fascinating life and work.


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Epilogue. Back to Indiana Jones. Astonishingly enough, the many original drawings or water color pictures produced by Haenke have never been found, with the exception of those maps in the British Library published by Montoya. What we have seen, thus far, are only sketches and basics (just as the James’ flamingo (37) depicted here, from the “Gicklhorn Splinters Files” (38)) of what were intended to be a major and complete collection of fauna, flora, antiquities, sceneries, and maps of Haenkelandia. TH was not a very talented artist. Therefore,  he must have taken great pains to produce something that was, according to himself, intended to be printed and published in Vienna. Where are those works? If they were sold or robbed or widely scattered, then some samples should have appeared, somewhere in the world. Hopefully, they still remain together, as a fabulous collection yet to be discovered in one of the many archives or depositories in the Altiplano, along the route Lima – La Paz – Cochabamba – Potosí – Sucre – Tarija. They must be somewhere. Or, as history has proved in similar cases, it is possible they are in one of the numerous private Spanish archives that also have never been ‘scanned through’ with regard to Hankeana.  



1  Lubienski, Johann: Thaddaeus Haenke und die Neuentdeckung Amerikas. Unpublished report at the Humboldt Symposium in Strobl/Wolfgangsee (April 23-25, 1999).


3  According to the Registry Archives of the Convento Franciscano de Cochabamba: Fraile Luis Fernandez alias “Tata Lucho”: Born March 1, 1907, in Tarata. Deceased August 26, 2000, in the Convento in Cochabamba.

4  Entrace in the Calle 25 de Mayo, close to the Calle Bolívar corner (Cochabamba, Bolivia).

5  Gicklhorn, Renée: “Neue Dokumente zur Klärung von Thaddaeus Haenkes Tod.” In: Anzeiger der mathematisch-naturwissenschaftlichen Klasse der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 4 (Vienna 1968) ps. 85-94.

6  Stephan Koester: Sons of the Desert – On Thaddäus  Haenke’s  Tracks across the Atacama  (TV Documentary: Universum & Discovery Channel  Nov. 2002).

7  See Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones - Raiders of the Lost Arc (1981).

8  Avila Echazú, Edgar: Historia y Antología de la Literatura Boliviana (La Paz 1978), ps. 121-122.

9  Frontaura Argandoña: Descubridores  y Exploradores  de Bolivia (=Enciclopedia Boliviana 25, La Paz 1971), ps. 57 – 74.

10  Friedl Zapata,  José, ed.: Del Coloniaje al Siglo XX. Alemanes interpretan a Bolivia. (La Paz/ Cochabamba 1976), ps. 45 – 62.

11  Vazquez Machicado, Humberto/Mesa, José de/Gisbert,  Teresa:  Manual  de Historia  de Bolivia (La Paz 1983), ps. 289 – 293.

12  González Claverán, Virginia: Malaspina en Acapulco (Mexico 1989) [Note the parallel scientific edition:] González Claverán, Virginia:  La Expedición Científica de Malaspina en Nueva España.  1789-1794  (Mexiko 1993/2). Ibáñez Montoya, M.V.: Trabajos Científicos y Correspondencia de Tadeo Haenke (=La Expedición Malaspina 1789 – 1794. Bd. IV. Madrid 1992).

13  Hoffmannová, Eva: Vĕzeň z Cochabamby (Prague 1991).

14  Markstein, Heinz: Der Sanfte Konquistador.  Die Geschichte des Thaddäus Xaverius Peregrinus Haenke (Stuttgart 1991).

15  Markstein, Heinz: El Conquistador Naturalista (La Paz 1994).

16  Zabala, Jorge: El relato de Haenke. In: Hojas del adivino, Jorge Zabala ed. (La Paz 1995).

17  Raffler, Marlies: Von Cádiz nach Prag. Zur “Diaspora” der Haenkischen Sammlung. Eine Dokumentation.  In: Mitteilungen der Österreichischen Gesellschaft für Wissenschaftsgeschichte 18 (Vienna 1998; published by the end of 1999), ps. 155-169. [See also:] Raffler, Marlies: Austria Extendit In Orbe Ultimum. Österreichische Naturforscher in Übersee. In: Jahrbuch der österreichischen Gesellschaft zur Erforschung des 18. Jahrhunderts (Vienna 1998).

18  Of course, we should not forget the many botanical articles published  in the course of time  in different journals worldwide. We find a quite precise survey in: Stafleu, A. Frans / Cowan, Richard S.: Taxonomic Literature. A Selective  Guide to Botanical Publications and and Dates, Commentaries and Types. Volume  II:  H – Le (The Hague  1979), under “Haenke, Thaddäus (Tadeas)  Peregrinus  Xaverius  (...)”, ps. 6 – 8.

19  Cutter, D.C.: Malaspina in California (San Francisco 1960). Haubelt, J.: Haenke, Born y Banks. In: Ibero Americana Pragensia IV. (Prague 1970), ps. 178 – 189. Haubelt, J. and Polišenský, J.V.: Přírodovĕdec Tadeáš Haenke a počátky českého novodobého zájmu  o  Latinskou Ameriku (=Acta Universitatis Carolinae-Historia Universitatis Carolinae Pragensis, Vol. VI/2 (Prague 1965). Henckel, C.: Las actividades del naturalista Tadeo Haenke en la expedición Malaspina. In: Revista Universita Ria Chile, Vol. 42 (Santiago de Chile 1957), ps. 131 – 139. Henckel, C.: Zur Biographie Haenkes. 1761-1817 (=Sonderdruck aus den Akten des 34. Internationalen Amerikanisten-Kongresses (Vienna 1960). Polišenský, J.V.: El naturalista Tadeo Haenke y los orígenes del interés moderno sobre América Latina (Potosí 1969).

20  Khol, František: Tadeáš Haenke. Jeho život, dilo a listy ze zámořských krajin (Prague 1911).

21  Khol, František: Das Leben Thaddäus Haenkes. Mit Briefen aus Übersee (Hamburg 2003).

22  Kühnel, Josef: Thaddaeus Haenke – Leben und Leistung eines sudetendeutschen  Naturforschers (Haida / Sudetengau [sic!] 1939).

23  Descripción geográfica, física e histórica de las Montañas habitadas  de  la Nación  de  los Indios Yuracarées, parte mas septentrional de la Provincia de Cochabamba. [Already published by Ballivian.]  Memoria sobre  los ríos navegables que fluyen  al Marañón, procedentes  de  las Cordilleras  del Bajo  y Alto Perú. [Already published by Ballivian.] Introducción a la Historia Natural de la Provincia de Cochabamba y circunvecinas con sus  producciones examinadas y descritas por Tadeo Haenke. Memoria sobre la conservación de cueros, y otras producciones animales del perjuicio de la polilla.

24  Kühnel, Josef: Thaddaeus Haenke – Leben und Wirken eines Forschers  (München 1960).

25  Gicklhorn, Renée: Thaddaeus Haenkes Reisen und Arbeiten in Südamerika. Nach  Dokumentarforschungen in spanischen Archiven (Wiesbaden  1966). The work  also includes, as  appendix, the first  extensive  list  of  all studies  on Haenke until 1966, with a complete  list  of all her articles  on the topic.

26  Museo Naval, Museo de Ciencias Naturales, Archivo del real Jardín Botánico

27  Ibañez Montoya, María V.: Trabajos Científicos  y Correspondencia de Tadeo Haenke (=La Expedición Científica Malaspina 1789 – 1794, Volume IV, Madrid 1992).

28  González Claverán, Virginia: La Expedición Científica de Malaspina en Nueva España. 1789 – 1794 (México 1993/3).

29  González Claverán, Virginia: Malaspina en Acapulco (Mexico 1989).

30  Moreno, Gabriel René: Catálogo del Archivo Jesuítico de Moxos y Chiquitos (La paz 1974).  Moreno, Gabriel René: Ultimos días en el Coloniaje en el Alto Peru (La Paz 1978).

31  Archivo Franciscano de Tarija. Director: Lorenzo Calzavarini.

32  Exept Renée Gicklhorn, who briefly appeared in Cochabamba to look for Haenke’s grave in 1967.

33  Mapoteca en la Casa del Libertador, Sucre, Sociedad Geográfica de Bolivia. Director: Josep M. Barnadas.

34  Ovando-Sanz, Guillermo, ed.:  Tadeo  Haenke. Su obra en los Andes y la selva Boliviana (La Paz y Cochbamba 1974).

35  Inch, Marcela: Libros de Ciencias en el Potosí. Unpublished Licenciatura [BA thesis] of the UMSA, Departamento de Historia (La Paz)

36  In August 1999, I managed  to contact only one, unfortunately, of the many Haenke (alleged?) descendants in Cochabamba, Don José Ahenke (sic!), who  was  so kind to show me two unknown portaits of Haenke.

37  Feathering and legs seem to depict a Phoenicoparrus jamesi, or “James’ flamingo”, sometimes also referred to as “puna flamingo” or “parina chica”.

38  “Gicklhorn Splinters Files” of the Archives of the Department of Botany of the Natural History Museum (Vienna), 2nd folder, p. 183, 1st row, Neg. Nr. 63-69.



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