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AUCTION 22

 

Extraordinary Photogravures of the Cliff Dwellings at Mesa Verde


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444.     NORDENSKIÖLD, G[ustaf]. Ruiner af Klippboningar i Mesa Verde’s Cañons af Nordenskiöld. Med talrika illustrationer efter originalfotografier af Författaren. Stockholm: P.A. Norstedt & Söners Förlag, [1893]. [6], 1-193 [1, blank], [i] ii-iv [index] pp., title printed in red and black, 17 plates (including 12 photogravure plates by Nordenskiöld on 9 sheets printed on heavy rag paper, one of which is folded, and 5 lithograph site maps with sepia, grey, and black tint), numerous text illustrations (maps, plans, ruins, designs, artifacts, archaeological team at work, etc.), untitled lithograph map at end showing parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, and northern Mexico to Hermosillo, tribal lands located and indicated by dashed lines, imprint at lower left below neat line: Gen. Stab. Lith. Anst. (neat line to neat line: 28.6 x 25.5 cm). Folio (37.2 x 26 cm), publisher’s original burgundy cloth with blind-tooled Native American designs on borders of upper cover and spine, spine lettered in gilt, dark green end papers. Except for light to moderate offsetting opposite some gravures and inconsequential shelf wear, an exceptionally fine, bright, tight copy. Early ownership inscription in ink on title. Not in Laird’s bibliography on the Hopi.

     First Swedish edition of the first scientific investigation of Mesa Verde. The work appeared in English the same year (no priority; cf. Alliot, p. 168). Howes N174. Larned 671: “[Nordenskiöld’s] contribution to the literature of this interesting field of American archaeology is one of the best that has ever been presented. In addition, he has given a good summary of the characteristics of the Moki (Hopi) Indians of Arizona and of the condition of the Pueblos of New Mexico at the time they were first visited by whites…as well as a brief review of our present knowledge of the Pueblo tribes.” Powell, Southwestern Century 69. Wynar 1654.

     Powell refers to Mesa Verde as the “Queen of Pueblos” (Southwestern Book Trails, p. 27). Among the more spectacular of U.S. national parks, the site was abandoned in the twelfth century due to drought. In 1888 Richard Wetherill and Charlie Mason, cowboys from Mancos, spotted Cliff Palace from the top of a mesa and commenced some maladroit excavations and artifact gathering. In 1891 Wetherill hosted Nordenskiöld (1868-1895), who continued excavations begun by the Wetherills on the impressive Cliff Palace, which led to the publication of the present work. Unfortunately, Nordenskiöld’s activities produced much controversy, and he was arrested while trying to leave the area with artifacts, which were loaded on a train for transport east. He nevertheless managed to return to Sweden with about 600 artifacts, which were bought by a Finnish collector who subsequently gave them to the University of Helsinki (they are now held by the National Museum of Finland). The area was made a national park in 1906, effectively ending all excavations unless sponsored by the government. See Judith & David Reynolds, Nordenskiold of Mesa Verde (Xlibris Corporation, 2006).

     Despite the controversies surrounding his activities, Nordenskiöld’s work and book are credited with bringing the site to national attention and with its eventual establishment as a national park. The striking photogravures, made from Nordenskiöld’s original photographs, were printed onto a special paper stock that enhanced the spectacular views and brought out fine details and depth. Photogravure prints have the subtlety of a photograph and the art quality of a lithograph. They are used here in a manner that captures the dramatic quality of the awe-inspiring remains of a vanished civilization. These images are among the earliest photographs of the Mesa Verde area, the first being by William Henry Jackson in 1874; however, Nordenskiöld’s images were the first of the Cliff Palace and numerous other sites. See Doug Hamilton, et al., Photographing Mesa Verde: Nordenskiold and Now (Durango Herald Small Press, 2006).

($1,500-3,000)

Sold. Hammer: $1,500.00; Price Realized: $1,800.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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