AUCTION 23

 

An Exceptionally Fine, Bright Copy

García Cubas & Castro’s Outstanding Album on the Mexican Railway

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79. CASTRO, Casimiro (artist), Antonio García Cubas (author), et al. [Part 1: Double title page and text in Spanish and English] Album del Ferrocarril Mexicano. Coleccion de vistas pintadas del natural por Casimiro Castro, y ejecutadas en cromo-litografia por A. Sigogne, C. Castro, etc, con una descripcion del camino y de las regiones que recorre por Antonio Garcia Cubas. Texta Español. [And] Album of the Mexican Railway. A Collection of Views Taken from Nature by Casimiro Castro, Chromo-Lithographed by A. Sigogne, C. Castro, etc., with a Description of the Line and the Country through which it Passes. By Antonio García Cubas. English Edition Translated from the Spanish by George F. Henderson. [Part 2: French title page and text in French] ] Album du Chemin de Fer Mexicain. Collection de vues peintes d’après nature par Casimiro Castro, Par. A. Sigogne, C. Castro, Etc. Avec une description du chemin et des règions qu’il par Antonio Garcia Cubas. Texte Français traduit de l’espagnol por G. Gostkowski. Mexico: Victor Debray, 1877. Part 1: [4], 1-56 pp. (letterpress text printed in double columns); Part 2: [2], 1-18 pp. (letterpress text printed in double columns), 25 chromolithograph plates (including illustrated title) printed by A. Sigogne, C. Castro, et al. after original artwork by Castro, plus map (see below). Oblong folio (35 x 49.5 cm), original red textured pictorial cloth elaborately lettered in ebony black and gold, upper cover with large gilt-tooled illustration of a train, and lower cover with gilt-tooled scene of a train passing over a high, curving bridge, a.e.g., blue and white mottled endpapers. One short, clean tear to front free endpaper, very mild browning to printed title, text very fine. One tissue guard missing, two appear to be modern replacements, and the remainder are browned and a few are torn. A few mild foxmarks to the margins of one plate only, and two plates with very light adhensions marks at lower left corner (less than an inch square), otherwise the plates are exceptionally fine, with vibrant colors and rich patina. Overall, an exceptionally fine, brilliant copy, the plates about perfect and the binding pristine. One would be challenged to find a better copy.

Map

Plano Orografico de la zona recorrida por el Ferro-Carril Mexicano Veracruz a Mexico formada por Antonio Garcia Cubas. Publicado en el Establecimiento Litográfico de Victor Debray y Ca. Mexico, 1877 [above neat line at lower right] Propriedad de Victor Debray y Ca. editores é impresores. Double-page chromolithograph map with elevation chart from Veracruz to Mexico and extensive key for railroad lines, stations, major and minor towns, state capitals, haciendas, state borders, cultivated and uncultivated tracts, plantations (coffee, tobacco, cane, maguey) etc.; neat line to neat line: 32 x 82.6 cm; overall sheet size: 34.1 x 92 cm. Short split with no loss in lower gutter, else very fine and bright. This superb double-page orographic map is spectacular, showing the mountains, volcanoes, waterways, and landforms between Veracruz and Mexico City from a bird’s-eye view.

Plates

Image size varies, approximately 24 x 35.5 cm (not including titles and imprints); overall sheet size: 34.2 x 48.2 cm. Credits appear below the image, with artist Castro at left, publisher-editor Debray at center, and chromolithographer Sigogne at right (a few of the plates were made by Castro and others).

[Illustrated title] Coleccion de vistas pintadas del natural por Casimiro Castro Publicado de chromolitografia por Vtor Debray y Ca. Editores 1877. Two men in serapes and straw hats relax on a bridge in a landscape with waterfall and roses, yucca, palm tree, and other typical Mexican flora. Behind them is a station and in the far distance coming from the mountains is a train racing over a long bridge.

I.   Veracruz. Superb panoramic view looking over the rooftops of the city to the emerald green bay.

II.   Estacion de la Soledad. A small, graceful Victorian station, telegraph posts recede to the village and snow-covered peak in the distance, people mill about, including a worker piling up timber, a couple strolling, man drinking at the refreshment window, and an artist sketching in the background.

III.   Puente de la Solidad Tomado desde el Hospital. At the River Jamapa, a train chugs over the magnificent iron bridge outside Soledad, rising about 77 feet from the riverbed. Below is well-dressed man in white with a portfolio and umbrella. Chickens at a primitive little hut on the hillside.

IV.   Puento de Paso del Macho. Picturesque view of the bridge over a stream surrounded by lush, colorful plant life. In the foreground two men stand, one with surveying equipment, the other wearing a white linen suit and carrying a portfolio and cane.

V.   Puente de San Alejo. The bridge over the San Alejo River has four cast-iron piers with wrought iron connections and masonry abutments. On the causeway below sits a man on horseback and two others in white carrying loads of wood on their backs in a diverse landscape that includes yucca, live oak, and various flower trees.

VI.   Puente del Chiquihuite. Formidable iron bridge with triangular lattice girders set on limestone masonry. Human figures on the rail track are diminished in the expansive scene, with banana trees in the foreground.

VII.   Tunel No. 2, y Salto del Atoyac. Behind a curving track there is a dark tunnel with a white limestone formation resembling a pyramid, and on the left there is a steep waterfall and the blue water of the river Atoyac. The mountain sides are wooded, and in the right foreground by the sunlit track is man with a plane table for surveying.

VIII.   Puente del Atoyac. Lattice girder bridge with stone abutments and two cast iron columns with wrought iron connecting braces, behind which is an old viaduct. On the track a train races with clouds of white smoke streaming. Almost lost in the landscape and intimidating “hand of man” are people on the river bank engaging in various activities.

IX.   La Peñuela (Caminos para Veracruz y Alvarado.). View of the Hacienda of la Peñuela, two and a half kilometers from the Rio Seco bridge near the place where the railroad crosses the old Alavarado Road. In the distance is a snow-covered mountain, and the train is approaching the Hacienda. In the forefront are Natives in white clothing at the crossroads, and behind them are structures, livestock and other people.

X.  Cordoba (Tomado desde el camino de Coscomatepec.). Panoramic landscape view of the town of Cordoba. In the foreground are colorful wild flowers and cultivated fields where a campesino plows with two mules or oxen.

XI.  Barranca de Metlac. Two men and a finely attired lady in bonnet stand on the curving tracks and gaze across a deep ravine at cultivated fields and coffee plants with the snowy peaks of Orizaba in the distance, “which rivals with the cumulus in whiteness and splendor” (García Cubas).

XII.  Barranca de Metlac. In the distance a train races across the bridge, itself dwarfed by the vast landscape.

XIII.  Puente de Metlac. An 84-feet high bridge supported by nine spans of cast-iron columns dominates the picturesque landscape as a solitary locomotive emits a jet stream of smoke as it begins its passage across this impossibly high and fragile-looking bridge. Simultaneously evoked is the grandeur of the landscape and man’s ability to control the natural world. This scene was adapted for the image on the back cover of the album.

XIV.  Orizaba (desde el puente de Paso del Toro.). The beautiful town of Orizaba in the background with the volcano in far distance, while the foreground is dominated by the Toro bridge that crosses the Orizaba River. Good detail on the train crossing the bridge with men standing in the doorways and on the roofs of the cars.

XV.  Estacion de Orizaba. The station house, and various buildings; scattered around are spare wheels and parts, trestle under construction, various train car, etc. The town is in the far distance, and beyond is violet-tinted Mount Escamela.

XVI.  Cumbres de Maltrata (desde la Hacienda del Encinal.). A scene along the track shows the Hacienda with its orchards of palm, orange, and lemon trees.

XVII.  Infiernillo. Perched precariously on a steep mountain is the track over which a train is passing. At lower left are two men in the shadows looking at the train in awe. One of them holds a case or journal while standing before surveying equipment.

XVIII.  Estacion de Maltrata. A large light-filled, cultivated plain and town surrounded by mountains, as a locomotive makes it way toward the town.

XIX.  La Bota (Cumbres de Maltrata.). Men work on the track which winds through a forested mountain landscape.

XX.  Puente de Wimer (Cumbres de Maltrata.). Four iron piers and masonry abutments support Wimer’s Great Bridge which spans a deep ravine at the end of Tunnel 15. A train is crossing the bridge in a conifer forest in the mountains; in the foreground a man carries a basket on his head as a dog follows.

XXI.  Panorama de Maltrata. View looking down from the mountains on to the town of Maltrata with white church and rustic cottages. The track is a mere footnote at lower right; two people stroll along the track.

XXII.  Huamantla (Tomado desde el Puente de Sn. Lucas.). Exceptionally beautiful view of Huamantla taken from the San Lucas bridge leading into the town, with the sweeping river bringing more light into the scene. Men stand atop the train as it smokes its way over the bridge toward the well-delineated town, woodlands, and cultivated fields. The backdrop for the town is Malintzi Mountain, which is said to resemble the body of a woman.

XXIII.  Panorama de Puebla (tomado desde el fuerte Guadalupe.). A fine city view from the hill of Guadalupe toward the north, showing surrounding woodlands, canals, and farms. This plate is chromolithographed by Castro rather than Sigogne.

XXIV.  Valle de México (Tomado desde el cerro del Risco.). The final plate shows the approach into the Valley of Mexico with the snow-covered mountains in the distance, the extensive lakes reflecting, and the ancient city’s architectural landscape merely suggested in the distance. The train, too, is diminished by the Valley as it approaches its final destination. Again, Castro is the lithographer.

     First edition. Mathes, Mexico on Stone, pp. 18, 39 & 42 (illustrating 3 plates); p. 41: “Some of the finest examples of the lithographer’s art during the latter part of the century... Chromolithography by Debray y Cía of the work of Casimiro Castro and A. Sigogne illustrated Antonio García Cubas’ extraordinary Album del Ferrocarril Mexicano”; p. 63 (Debray). Palau 98733.

     Toussaint (La litografía en México, p. 18, with the customary prejudice of his day, dismissed the work as inferior): “Contiene algunas bellas litografías hechos por Casimiro Castro, A. Sigogne, y otros, subre pinturas del primero. Aunque se anuncian pomposamento como cromo-litografías, estas veinticuatro láminas son muy inferiores, revelan ya un trabajo mercantilista y parecen anunciar la época en que imperará el gusto por el abominable ‘cromo.’“ See Peter C. Marzio, Chapter 1, “The ‘Chromo-Civilization’“ in Chromolithography, 1840–1900: The Democratic Art, Pictures for a 19th-Century America. Boston: Godine for The Amon Carter Museum, 1979. Chromolithograpy was a fairly new method of creating prints in Mexico when this work came out in 1877. At mid-century some works were printed in Mexico that possibly incorporated chromolithographs created abroad (Mathes, p. 298). Chromolithography was very popular as it allowed illustrated books and prints to be created easily and at far less expense. This album was the most ambitious work of chromolithography created in Mexico up to that time, and Mathes refers to it as “extraordinary” (p. 41).

     The color plates include spectacular views of Veracruz, Orizaba, Puebla, villages, haciendas, stations, locomotives, freight and passenger trains, bridges, tunnels, and a variety of diverse landscapes in Mexico. The plates are arranged to show the route from Veracruz to Mexico City, like a series of moving images used to make a film in sequential order. The trilingual text is informatative and promotional. García Cubas includes a very flattering account of his own journey on the Mexican Railway. In addition to descriptions along the route, there is a chronology of the Mexican Railway from the commencement of surveying in 1858 to the completion of the entire line in December 1872 and its inauguration on January 1, 1873.

     Through the serendiptious collaboration of author-geographer García Cubas, artist Castro, editor Debray, and chromolithographer Sigogne, this masterpiece of Mexican iconography was created. Mexican artist, lithographer, and draftsman Casimiro Castro (1826-1889) studied at the Academy of San Carlos in Mexico and is thought to have trained with Italian lithographer, painter, and theatre designer Pedro Gualdi (see herein). He is best known for his fantastic series of lithographic albums of Mexico (Mexico y sus alrededores; see CASTRO herein). In 1885 he produced architectural drawings during a visit to Spain and Italy, and later designed fashion. Some of his work is said to reveal an incipient tendency to Art Nouveau, and yet another theory suggests that his lithograph of Orizaba in the present work inflenced painter José María Velasco.

     Antonio García Cubas (1832-1912), the father of Mexican geography and the first modern demographer, published monumental works and maps on Mexico. He created the first reliable map of the entire Republic of Mexico, and his promotion of Mexico and nationalism changed how Mexicans viewed themselves. (For more on García Cubas and his work, see herein, and Vol. I, pp. 151-166 in Francisco Sosa, Los Contemporaneos datos para biografía de algunos Mexicanos distinguidos, Mexico: Imprenta de Gonzalo y Esteva, 1884).

     Victor Debray, Mexican editor and printer, continued to work on his own after he and Decaen dissolved their partnership in 1868. Among their outstanding lithographic productions was Castro’s México y sus alrededores, a work W. Michael Mathes refers to as “the most important work illustrating Mexico in the nineteenth century” (Mexico on Stone, p. 30).

     Chromolithographer A. Sigogne is little recorded, but he may have been French; he also did the lithographs for La Ceramique Japonaise by G.A. Audsley and J.L. Bowes (1881), and Victor Duruy’s Histoire des Romains, depuis les temps les plus reculés jusqu’à l’invasion (Paris, 1879-1885).

     This glorious plate book, published the same year Porfirio Díaz came to power, captures a pivotal moment in Mexican history, with its clashing images of powerful machines intruding into pristine, picturesque landscapes, heralding the evolution of the country from a rural-agrarian world of “many Mexicos” to a unified modern technological society. The album is an unusual confluence of art, technology, commercialism, geography, and the promotion of Mexico. Simultaneously evoked is the grandeur of the natural landscape and man’s seeming ability to control and mold his world through technology. The Mexican Railway becomes an emblem of a rapidly industrialising nation.

($6,000-12,000)

Sold. Hammer: $6,000.00; Price Realized: $7,350.00.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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