Dorothy Sloan -- Books

Copyright 2000- by Dorothy Sloan-Rare Books Inc. for all materials on this site. All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

AUCTION 20

“Pioneer work with first partial publications of various Mesoamerican pictorial manuscripts”—Glass

33.  HUMBOLDT, F. H. Alexander von. Vues des cordillères, et monumens des peuples indigènes de l’Amérique. Paris: Chez F. Schoell, Rue des Fossés-Saint-Germain-L’Auxerrois, No. 29, 1810-[1813]. [On half-title verso]:  De Imprimerie de J. H. Stône. [4], xvi, 350 [2, verso blank] pp. (pagination error:  186 for 189), 69 engravings and aquatints on 68 sheets, 25 with full original hand-coloring, 4 in sepia tone, remainder uncolored (codices, archaeological ruins, views, plans, Native American costume groups) by various engravers after the artwork of Humboldt and others.  Folio, later green three-quarter morocco over green cloth, spine with raised bands with red morocco title piece lettered in gilt.  Moderately scuffed and shelf worn; light to moderate foxing throughout; some leaves lightly waterstained in blank margins.  A few plates with moderate darkening.  Some original tissue guards present.  Small ink oval library stamp of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland on a few leaves.  Contains added presentation leaf after title page with ink inscription in fine, calligraphic hand reading, “A Monsieur Ennius-Quirinis Visconti Membre de l’Institut de France A. de Humboldt Aimé Bonpland.”  Overall, a good, complete copy with fine, fresh coloring. Difficult to find complete.

     First edition of “the most beautiful and generally interesting of Humboldt’s works” (Sabin 33754). This version contains Humboldt’s 16-page introduction dated 1813.  Brunet 21086.  Field 739.  Field Sale 1052:  “In this work the Picture-writing of the Mexicans first received the attention and the ample treatment which [they] are due.”  Glass 627:  “Pioneer work with first partial publications of various Mesoamerican pictorial manuscripts.”  Hiler, p. 451.  Hill (1) I, pp. 148-149. Hill (2) 839.  Jones, South America Rediscovered, p. 16.  Lipperheide 1630.  McNeil & Deas, Europeans in Latin America 12n. Palau 117026.  Pilling 1871.  Sabin 33754: “Every class of Mexican or Aztec, and Peruvian Antiquities receives in this work the clearest philosophical analysis. Many of the plates are beautifully colored; indeed, it is the most beautiful and generally interesting of Humboldt’s works.”

     This work, the first major one to result from Humboldt’s American explorations, fell like a thunderbolt on the European intellectual, scientific, artistic, and political community.  Just as Columbus had returned from his own voyage with wonderful things to relate, so had Humboldt, whose coffers were so full of treasures that it required the rest of his life for him to empty them and display their contents to the astounded world.  Departing Europe in 1799, Humboldt and his partner, Bonpland, caused a sensation merely by returning to Europe six years later, since they had widely been given up for dead. Almost an accidental voyage, it took place only because Humboldt was repeatedly frustrated in his attempts to explore elsewhere.  While in Spain, however, after a series of fortunate events and crucial introductions, he was issued a rare passport and recommendation by Carlos IV for Spain’s overseas possessions and, thus, for the first time could indulge his passion for travel and exploration.

     Two more energetic, inquisitive, learned, and gifted explorers than Humboldt and Bonpland would be difficult to find, although in an historic coincidence, their U. S. counterparts, Lewis and Clark, would also be making equivalent history at the same time.  Humboldt and Bonpland travelled extensively in South and Central America, paying particular attention to plant life, geology, antiquities, minerals, and geography.  The pair seems to have been especially fascinated by volcanoes, of which they explored several by climbing them.  The fascination the geological features held for the two is clearly indicated by the magnificent folded plate showing the great volcano of Chimborazo in the Andean highlands, probably the finest and most arresting scene in the entire volume, and a production showing an American scene that would remain practically without rival until the works of Nebel and Gualdi later in the century.

     Humboldt also included the first extensive reproductions of codices dating from around the Columbian era, including materials from the Dresden Codex (the first publication), the Codex Mendoza, and others. These plates inspired a renewed interest in American indigenous antiquities and were basically without rival until Kingsborough’s larger, more elaborate work nearly thirty years later.

     The production of this atlas was overseen closely by Humboldt, and many of the aquatint plates were based on his own drawings.  He personally oversaw the coloring to ensure that it was accurate. The work was published mostly at his own expense.  Humboldt’s technique is sophisticated, sympathetic, and erudite, seeking as it does to place objects in both their human and natural context rather as disembodied pieces of cultural fragmentation.  Sabin’s praise, quoted above, that here Humboldt’s subjects receive the “clearest philosophical analysis” must be understood in its widest concept, an intellectual point of view that stretched back to Diderot, Alambert, and their fellow encylopédistes.

     Although Carlos IV lived to see the beginnings of Humboldt’s publications resulting from the voyage he authorized, Humboldt’s work was not translated into Spanish until the next decade.  Those early editions exclude Humboldt’s warm dedication to his benefactor, who by that time had fallen into disgrace but who with a stroke of his pen had advanced knowledge in a way theretofore unknown. ($10,000-20,000)

Sold. Hammer: $19,000.00; Price Realized: $22,325.00

<< Previous Lot (32) | Auction 20 Abstracts | Next Lot (34) >>

Images (click to enlarge)
item illustration
item illustration
item illustration
item illustration
item illustration
item illustration
item illustration
item illustration
item illustration
item illustration
item illustration
item illustration
item illustration
item illustration
item illustration
item illustration
item illustration
item illustration
item illustration
item illustration
item illustration
item illustration
item illustration
item illustration
item illustration

Home | e-mail: rarebooks@sloanrarebooks.com