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A Classic of American Anthropology - Gravures of Southern Mexican Tribes

Wonderful Copy with Publisher’s Original Dust Wrapper & Box


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511.     STARR, Frederick. Indians of Southern Mexico: An Ethnographic Album. Chicago: [Privately printed for the Author at the Lakeside Press], 1899. 32 pp. (descriptive letterpress), 141 gravure plates on maize grounds (some with two images per plate) of Native Americans (portraits, costume, scenes, landscapes), made from negatives of original photographs taken by Charles B. Lang and Bedros Tartarian. Oblong quarto (27.6 x 35.5 cm), publisher’s original navy blue cloth, lettered in gilt on upper cover and spine. A few light spots on spine and upper board, end leaves lightly foxed, scattered light foxing to text, but overall a very fine copy in the rare plain dust wrapper and publisher’s original box (both of which have been professionally restored). Due to the heavy weight of the text block, the book is usually found with text separated or separating from the binding or rebound. A very scarce work, especially in such fine condition.

     First edition, limited edition (560 numbered and signed copies, this being #329 of 500 printed on heavy paper, numbered and signed by author). American Review, Vol. V, October 1899-July 1900, pp. 421-422: “Professor Frederick Starr, of the University of Chicago, who has made several tours in southern Mexico for purposes of anthropological study, publishes privately, in a limited edition, a volume of 141 photogravure plates with descriptive letter-press entitled The Indians of Southern Mexico: An Ethnographic Album. From the specimens which accompany the prospectus the volume appears to be one of great excellence and value in its field.” Brooklyn Public Library, A Reading and Reference List on Costume (Brooklyn: Brooklyn Public Library, 1909), pp. 44 & 49. Palau 322064. Porrúa (1949) 8266: “Espléndida publicación.”

     Frederick Starr (1858-1933), pioneer anthropologist, was a New York native who worked at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, then spent the majority of his career at the University of Chicago. In addition to this famous study of Mexican Native Americans, he also researched the peoples of Brazil, Guatemala, Guiana, Central Africa, the Philippines, Japan, and Korea. He survived the large 1923 earthquake in Japan and died there ten years later. A large collection of his negatives and lantern slides is held by the Smithsonian Institution. He also gave a collection of Mexican folklore objects to the Folklore Society in England. The bulk of his papers are held by the University of Chicago.

     This important ethnographic survey of thirteen tribes (Aztec, Tlaxcalan, Chinatec, Otomi, Tarascan, Cuicatec, Mixtec, Chontal, Mixe, Tehuantepecano, Zapotec, Juave, Triqui, and others) in Puebla, Mexico City, Michoacán, Tlaxcala, and Oaxaca was made under the auspices of the University of Chicago. The party made two expeditions on horseback (in 1896 and 1898) through some of the wildest territory of Mexico. Starr makes what assuredly is a vast understatement in his introduction: “In making journeys of more than fifteen hundred miles through mountain regions and districts almost purely Indian, carrying with him the materials and instruments necessary for this work, the author has encountered some difficulties and hardships.” (p. 8) In addition to the large number of photographs in various sizes, the party made about fifty plaster busts from living subjects of each tribe.

     Starr is credited with encouraging popular interest in anthropology: “His greatest contribution to anthropology lies…in the wide interest he personally created in the subject, and in the appreciation of other peoples which he engendered in his students” (DAB). All but thirty-four of the photographs were executed by Charles B. Lang, a pioneer in ethnographic photography from Bluff City, Utah. In addition to portraits and costumes, images of daily life, industries, and views are included. A scarce and enduring work.


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

Auction 22 Abstracts

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