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259. [MORALES, Juan Bautista].  El Gallo Pitagórico [lithograph title page on grey tinted ground].  Mexico: Imprenta litog. de Cumplido, 1845. 280 [1, verso blank] [6 (Cumplido catalogue), final verso blank] pp., 21 lithograph plates by Cumplido after artwork by Iriarte, Blanco (illustrated title on tinted ground, portrait of author, 19 caricatures, a few text engravings, one signed by Rafael), ornamental head- and tailpieces. 8vo, contemporary full Mexican tree sheep, spine lettered and decorated in gilt. Binding rubbed, spine moderately worn, one plate torn (with old repair, no loss), interior fine with only occasional mild browning.

     First book edition of a classic of political literature and an outstanding Mexican lithographic work.  Published in at least two numbers, the second number begins at p. 63; the last four leaves (final signature) consists of one page of index and five pages of Cumplido’s catalogue. Mathes, Mexico on Stone, pp. 23:  “The great work of Cumplido in 1845 was El Gallo Pitagórico.  Combining Cumplido’s typography, Juan Bautista Morales’s political satire and the excellent lithographs of Heredia, Iriarte and newcomer Plácido Blanco, this was the first major work to be illustrated with political caricatures.  Such caricatures would later become the principal subject for lithographers”; 25 (illustrating a plate); 56 (title cited in bibliography); 63 (Cumplido); 64 (Iriarte, Rafael).  Palau 180849.  Sabin 50499.  Toussaint, La litografía en México, p. xx & plates 25 & 26.

     The fantastic lithographs evoke the nightmarish visions of Hieronymous Bosch. A brief essay entitled “Anglo-Americanos” (pp. 20-22) is bitterly critical of the U.S. as being inhabited by people whose god is money and who make their living by smuggling contraband into Mexico.  The essay also laments the condition of African-Americans and Germans in the U.S.      Morales (1788-1856), journalist, editor, jurist, magistrate, president of the Supreme Court, and governor of Guanajuato, furiously lampoons the corruption and tyranny of Santa Anna and his regime.  Generally conservative in religion but liberal in politics, Morales during his long career in print was one of the significant Mexican polemicists of his time.

     Cumplido (1811-1877) was the most important Mexican printer and lithographer of his day, introducing many modern machines and techniques that he discovered in Europe.  He was known as a proponent of liberal causes, some of which landed him in the calaboose, once ironically when he was director of prisons. Cumplido’s catalogue at the end is valuable documentation for the history of his firm and their offerings at the time.  ($1,500-3,000)

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