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AUCTION 20

Magnificent Classic of Mesoamerican Archeology

101. MORLEY, Sylvanus Griswold. The Inscriptions of Peten. Washington: Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1937-1938. Vol. I: xxviii, 465 [1] pp., 3 photographic plates (including frontispiece), text illustrations (1-24); Vol. II: xi [1 (blank), 607 [1] pp., photographic frontispiece, text illustrations 25-88; Vol. III: ix [1 (blank)], 493 [1, blank] pp., photographic frontispiece + 3 leaves of plates (photographs on rectos and versos), text illustrations 89-137; Vol. IV: xii, 496 [2] pp., photographic frontispiece + one plate (photographs on recto and verso), text illustrations 138-161; Vol. V (Part 1): xxiii [1 (blank)], [2] pp., 186 (numbered 1-178H) plates, some folding (drawings and photographs of antiquities, inscriptions, views, scenes); Vol. V (Part 2): viii, [2] pp., 40 maps and plans, most folded (numbered 179-218), one photographic plate (numbered 219); untitled suite of extra Plates 1-50 (some folded) and Plates 174 & 175 (both double-page, these latter 2 plates before photographic material was added and with typed caption slips and plates numbers). 7 vols.: Vols. I-VI (Parts 1 & 2): 6 vols., 4to, original grey printed wrappers; Volume of extra plates: 4to, contemporary tan cloth over serviceable stiff tan mottled boards. Except for defective spine of extra plate volume and light darkening of other spines, an exceptionally fine set. With author’s signed ink presentation in extra plate volume: “To my distinguished colleague and friend [name abraded off] This separate of his drawing plates of ‘The Inscriptions of Peten’ is most cordially subscribed by the author Sylvanus Griswold Morley, Mexico City November fifteenth 1933.”

     First edition of Morley’s magnum opus, which won him the Duc de Loubat Prize from Columbia University and the Guatemalan Order of the Quetzal. Griffin 1191: “This set is not for the beginner, but is almost indispensable for advanced study in Maya epigraphy.” Palau 183155: “Obra útil para el estudio de la arqueología Maya.”

     Morley (1883-1948), Maya archaeologist and epigrapher, decided against a career in Egyptology to pursue Mesoamerican studies, especially the Mayans. His first publication, Study of Mayan Hieroglyphs (1915), was based in part on his three-year visit to Quirigua, the restoration of which Morley oversaw and which were the first Mayan ruins so treated. He next studied the Chichen Itza ruins, but all his previous work was overshadowed by his discovery of Uaxactun, one of the more important Mayan sites discovered in the twentieth century.

     In keeping with the prevailing archeological theories of his day, Morley did not seek to interpret all the glyphs he found nor did he seem even interested in doing so. Thus, he did not record and interpret many of the religious and historical glyphs that he could have potentially unlocked, a procedure for which he has been criticized by more recent scholars. Despite that, his transcriptions and interpretations of Mayan chronology are vitally important and useful contributions to the understanding of the Mayan civilization and are consulted to this day. His indefatigable recording of inscriptions is a monument to his scholarship and industry, although the latter was somewhat impeded by a delicate constitution. His efforts were also instrumental in establishing the Carnegie Institution as a major research institution in the field, as their publication of these superlative volumes indicates. ($2,500-4,500)

Sold. Hammer: $2,500.00; Price Realized: $2,937.50

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