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El Album Mexicano, With Unusual, Fanciful French Lithographs


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417.     [MEXICAN LITHOGRAPHY]. El Album Mexicano. Periódico de literatura, artes y bellas letras. Publicado por Ignacio Cumplido. Mexico: Imprenta del Editor, calle de los Rebeldes, num. 2, 1849. 2 vols. Vol. I: [2], [i] ii-iv, [1] 2-191 [192], 197-616, [4] pp. (text complete), lithograph title page in blue and black on tan toned ground, 50 plates (including 25 hand-colored lithographs); Vol. II: [2], [i]-iii [1, blank], [1] 2-616, [6] pp., lithograph title page, 49 plates (including 24 hand-colored lithographs and two leaves of music). 4to (Vol. I: 26.6 x 19 cm; Vol. II: 26.2 x 18.3 cm). Vol. I in contemporary green half sheep over brown and blue marbled boards, spine gilt lettered and decorated; Vol. II in contemporary full brown sheep, spine lettered and decorated in gilt, boards with gilt rolls. Both volumes lightly shelf worn and scuffed. In Vol. I four leaves have an ink stain and pp. 247/248 are torn at margin costing a few letters; Vol. II has last index leaf in photographic facsimile. Overall light foxing, including plates, but otherwise a very good set. No more were published.

     First edition. Dicc. Porrúa: “Notable por sus ilustraciones…. En el Album se encuentran, mas que en otras publicaciones similares, ensayos poéticas de muchos escritores de la provincia….” Mathes, Mexico on Stone, pp. 24, 56 (title cited in bibliography) and 63 (Cumplido): “Cumplido returned to his position of excellence in 1849 with El Album Mexicano, containing extremely fine lithographs as well as engravings by Ch. Geoffroi imported from France….” Palau 5414. Porrúa 8968: “Importante para el estudio de la literatura mexicana del Siglo XIX.” Toussaint, p. xxv & Plates 2 & 21.

     As the introduction makes clear, this publication was born out of the ashes of the Mexican-American War and intended to ameliorate some of the societal evils that the editors observed. As such, it was intended as one method of elevating culture and society, although the editors are frank about their dependence on French sources. The Album commenced publication on January 6, 1849, was to appear weekly in numbers of 24 pages, and each was to be accompanied by a color plate and usually by one in black and white. Subscriptions were 2-1/2 reales for the capital and 3 in the countryside.

     The beautiful hand-colored lithographs illustrate fanciful depictions of anthropomorphic flowers. They were composed by Jean Ignace Granville (1803-1847), drawn on stone by Charles Michel Geoffroy (1819-1882), and accompanied the series “Las floras animadas” that ran through both volumes. The lithographs and text are drawn from Taxile Delord’s whimsical 1847 Les Fleurs animées, in which women taken on characteristics of various flowers. This is the first translation into Spanish of that work. Where the plates were printed and colored is not clear. The plate at Vol. I, p. 32, states it was printed by G. de Gonet, Éditeur; however, all the others bear Cumplido’s imprint. In addition to those plates, however, there are provided two handsome, appropriate chromolithograph half titles with Cumplido’s name as publisher, although they, too, were probably drawn abroad. Toussaint implies that everything was printed by Cumplido himself, but it is not clear if Cumplido imported printed lithographs or the stones themselves from which he printed and colored his own plates. All the other lithographs, which generally depict scenes and portraits, and the title pages seem to have been done by Cumplido himself and reflect the usual high quality of his compositions and printing.

     The articles are aimed at the general, intelligent reader and include poetry, fiction, history, current events, and a few scientific pieces. Among those of U.S. interest are articles about William Prescott (Vol. II, pp. 49-51), Henry Clay (Vol. II, pp. 83-84), and Washington Irving (Vol. II, pp. 178-180), each accompanied by a lithograph portrait. In a critical article on George Lippard’s 1847 Legends of Mexico, reviewed under the title “Leyendas sobre la guerra de Mexico,” the reviewer laments the inaccurate history given by Lippard of the Mexican-American War and its battles (1:185-189). An article on “La Garita de Belén” briefly recalls the tragic events that had so recently happened there: “En la época luctuosa de los americanos, la garita de Belén fué testigo de los últimos esfuerzos de defensa de un pueblo que se hundia en la más horrible de las desaventuras” (pp. 612-613). A series of articles entitled “Frontera de la República” gives numerous historical, social, and cultural details of that area, including El Paso, where part of the Mexican-American War had been fought (Vol. I, pp. 93-97, 165-168, 219-224, 297-300, 372-375, 590-592). The articles consist of letters starting in 1842 from the frontier. The anonymous author, always sympathetic to the area and its people, is nevertheless quite candid and frank about the results of remoteness and government neglect that have afflicted the area and its residents, a situation he laments. He also alludes to the ill effects the recent loss of territory the war has entailed. Although the last article says the series will continue, no more were published because the Album ceased publication.

     Among the most gripping articles in the Album is “El Salvage” (Vol. II, pp. 567-568). The anonymous author well displays both the deep-seated Mexican admiration for and fear of the frontier Native Americans, whom the author describes as nothing more the thieving, blood-thirsty savages to be avoided when possible lest one be killed by them. The Native Americans’ skills as horsemen and masters of their desert universe are described in the most awestruck terms, even if the denunciations are just as sincere. To the contrary, the artist who drew the accompanying lithograph apparently did not receive the memo. The beautiful scene shows a handsome warrior and squaw lounging outside their tepee with their papoose and dog before a small fire that she tends. A more non-threatening, idyllic image could hardly have been conceived and belies the text itself, although in some ways it does reflect the ambivalence of the author, who concludes that in the desert “el salvage reina como el primer hombre en el Paraiso.” The scene truly reflects a latter-day Adam and Eve.


Sold. Hammer: $750.00; Price Realized: $900.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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