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With Siguënza y Góngora’s seminal map of the Valley of Mexico

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10.     ALZATE Y RAMÍREZ, José Antonio. Gacetas de literatura de México por D. José Antonio Alzate Ramírez, socio correspondiente de la Real Academia de las cienias de Paris, del Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid, y de la Sociedad Bascongada…Tomo Segundo [Vol. II (of 4)]. Puebla: Reimpresas en la Oficina del Hospital de S. Pedro, à cargo del ciudadano Manuel Buen Abad, 1831. [1-2] 3-459 [1, blank] + [4], 1-17 [1, blank], [6] pp., 9 copper-engraved plates (all but one folded) by Montes de Oca or unattributed, including: Mapa de las Aguas que pr. el Circulo de 90. leguas vienen a la Laguna de Tescuco y la Ytención qe esto y la de Chalco tienen deliniado pr. D. Carlos Zaguena. [i.e., Carlos de Siguënza y Góngora]; [below neat line] Montes de Oca Go en- Puebla C d Yglcia s; neat line to neat line: 16 x 20.5 cm; overall sheet size: 20 x 24 cm. 8vo (20.4 x 14.7 cm), contemporary three-quarter sheep over blue and brown marbled boards, spine with gilt-lettered orange leather label, edges tinted yellow. Headcap wanting, five small wormholes in lower spine, upper joint opened at top, moderate to heavy shelf wear, lower corners moderately damaged, hinges beginning to separate but strong. Interior fine and crisp, except for occasional minor worming in lower blank margin. The map and plates are very fine with the exception of a tear to plate 4, barely touching image. Nineteenth-century ink stamp of Francisco de P. Velasco on front free endpaper, another small circular ink stamp with Cortes within wreath on title page.

     This volume is a reissue of various articles written and edited by Alzate y Ramírez that appeared primarily in the original Gacetas de literatura de México, but here augmented with material from some other sources. The exceedingly rare original issues of the Gaceta were published serially in Mexico from January 15, 1788 until June, 1795 (Medina, México 7750 & Sabin 989). This edition was published in Puebla in 1831 in four volumes, with 24 plates and an added supplement on Xochicalco (Alzate was the first to describe these antiquities). Palau 10139. Sabin 990.

     “The latter part of the eighteenth century in New Spain was a period of lively cultural and scientific activity which brought to prominence a number of outstanding figures. None of them is more representative than José Antonio Alzate y Ramírez (1729-1799), who was its most zealous publicist in the field of science. Through the publication of a series of weekly newspapers, occasional scientific studies and reports, as well as by his unceasing investigations in a wide scientific field, Alzate attempted to spread a knowledge of science, especially applied science, throughout the viceroyalty…. It is as a pioneer in the field of scientific journalism in Mexico, however, not in that of pure science, that he made his greatest contribution. In Alzate an enthusiasm for scientific knowledge and its actual application to the specific problems of his own day were always associated. This being so, it was natural that he should have set his mind on the production of a weekly paper devoted to science” (W.F. Cody, “An Index to the Periodicals Published by Jose Antonio Alzate y Ramirez,” in Hispanic American Historical Review, Vol. XXXIII, No. 3 [August, 1953], pp. 442-475). Dicc. Porrúa: “‘Las gazetas,’ dice García Icazbalceta, ‘bastarían para crear la reputación de un sabio; su lectura es muy interesante pesar de su desaliñada estilo; defecto que se olvida para admirar el ardiente seseo de ser útil a la patria y a la humanidad que todas aquellas páginas respiran.’”

     Among the contents found in the present volume are Alzate’s paper on the Transit of Venus (picked up and published by the French Royal Academy of Sciences), a eulogy of Benjamin Franklin (Alzate ignored Franklin’s politics but admired him as a practical scientist like himself), medicine, astronomy, engineering, and the aforementioned antiquities of Xochicalco, the pre-Columbian archaeological site between Cuernavaca and Mexico City that may have played a part in the fall of the Teotihuacan empire.

     A high spot of this volume is the map of the Valley of Mexico, one of the more important maps of Mexico produced in colonial times. It is the work of Sigüenza y Góngora (1645-1700), historian, mathematician, astronomer, poet, philosopher, antiquarian, and professor at the University of Mexico for over two decades. Sigüenza’s map was the mother map for modern mapping of the Valley of Mexico, and was first published in 1748 (see Apenes, Mapas antiguos del Valle de México, plate XVI, p. 23).

     Some of the plates and the map were engraved by Montes de Oca. See Carrillo y Gariel (Grabados de la Colección de la Academia de San Carlos, p. 78), Mathes (Illustration in Colonial Mexico, Woodcuts and Copper Engravings in New Spain 1539-1821), and Romero de Terreros (Grabados y grabadores en la Nueva España, pp. 500-501). Among the subjects depicted in the plates are hoisting machinery, a large, unusual plate about astronomy and stars (not without a certain droll humor), and views of various features at Xochicalco.


Sold. Hammer: $500.00; Price Realized: $600.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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