Fine, fresh Copy of Catherwood’s Maya Portfolio, Tinted Issue

“In the whole range of literature on the Maya there has never appeared a more magnificent work.”

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80. CATHERWOOD, Frederick. [Lithograph title] Views of Ancient Monuments in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan by F. Catherwood, Archt. London: F. Catherwood, 1844 [at end of text: Vizetelly Brothers and Co., Printers and Engravers, Peterborough Court, 135 Fleet Street]. [2, dedication to John L. Stephens], [1] 2-24 pp. (text printed in letterpress), decorated lithograph title by Owen Jones, 25 lithograph plates with original color tinting (archaeological subjects made under Catherwood’s supervision and based on his exceptionally accurate drawings done on site 1839-1842, lithographed by John C. Bourne, Thomas Shotter Boys, George Belton Moore, William Parrott, Andrew Picken, and Henry Warren), map. (Plates & map described below.) Folio (55 x 38 cm), publisher’s original green morocco over green moiré cloth, title in gilt on spine and upper cover, original pale yellow coated endpapers. Minor shelf wear to text and one snag to cloth on upper cover (no loss, neatly pasted down). Map and most of plates detached from binding, as usual. The type of binding used by the publisher for this work is known as Caoutchouc, or “perfect binding,” and it dates back to William Hancock who invented the method in England in the 1830s. Instead of securing the leaves and plates by the traditional method of sewing or stitching, the leaves and plates were inserted in the binding by means of adhesive. Ironically, the “perfect” method turned out to be imperfect, since most copies of the bound version of this book have text and plates detached from the binding. This copy has not been compromised by misguided attempts to rebind. The plates are not marred by stitch holes or side stabbing, and thus they are ready to be exhibited with clean, untrimmed edges all around. This copy is as fine a copy as one might expect to acquire, untrimmed, in original binding, the plates exceptionally fresh and bright, tissue guards present. This work is not only a monument of Mesoamerican studies, but also one of the great plate books on any subject.


Outline Map of Central America & Yucatan Shewing the Situation of the Ruined Cities & Monuments Visited by Messrs. Stephens & Catherwood In the Years 1839. 1840. 1841. 1842. The dotted red line shews the route. F. Catherwood. 1844. Neat line to neat line: 35.8 x 30.5 cm. Lithograph map with routes and sites in terracotta. Antochiw, Historia cartográfica de la Península de Yucatán, p. 289. Phillips, Central America, p. 23.

List of Plates

[Pictorial title] Views of Ancient Monuments in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan by F. Catherwood, Archt. [below border] Owen Jones, Chromolith. 9 Argyll Place | Published by F. Catherwood, 9. Argyll Place. London, 1844. Highly decorative illuminated title in gold, red, and blue within mosaic and gilt line border, by Owen Jones. Border to border: 42.5 x 28.5 cm (not including imprint below).

Plates have pastel line borders, and each image measures border to border approximately 42 x 28 cm; titles below not included in measurement, overall sheet size: 53.6 x 36.5 cm.

1.   Idol at Copan. Green, grey, and beige tint. Formidable stone statue from the early eighth century thought to be King Waxaklajun Ub’aah K’awiil, in the guise of a maize god.

2.   Pyramidal Building and Fragments of Sculpture, at Copan. Pale slate blue and tan tint. The abandoned city of Copán in an overgrown jungle with remains of scattered monumental sculpture in foreground.

3.   Back of an Idol at Copan. Pale yellow and grey tint. The back of an intricately carved tall statue (Stele F), bordered with quetzal feathers and accompanied by glyphs relating history. Two Natives lounge by the statue at left.

4.   Broken Idol at Copan. Pale green and grey tint. A broken monumental stone idol lays in a reflective pool of water in a dense, stormy jungle scene, with leaping deer and lightning in the distance. The image and dramatic lighting demonstrate Catherwood’s Romantic style combined with fastidious attention to detail of the artifact.

5.   Idol and Altar at Copan. Pale green, pale blue, and tan tint. A fearsome altar and stele depicting the 13th ruler of Copán, King Waxaklajun Ub’aah K’awiil (Lord 18 Rabbit), with mask of an ancient god.

6.   General View of Palenque. Grey and beige tint. Beautiful, airy landscape with wooded hills illustrating the Temple of Inscriptions and the Palace. Stephens tried to buy this site.

7.   Two views on one sheet: Principal Court of the Palace     at Palenque. [And] Interior of Casa, No. 3 Palenque. Beige and     grey tint. The first image is the East Court of the Palace in Palenque facing toward House A (superb architecture of the late 7th or early 8th century), indigenous people lounge in front. The lower image shows the interior of the Temple of the Sun at Palenque, referred to by some as “the most perfect of all Maya buildings.”

8.   General View of Los Monjas at Uxmal. Grey and beige tint. The religious focal point of the Maya between ca. 800-1000 is shown in a panoramic landscape. Nunnery Quadrangle at left, Pyramid of the Magician at right. Local people are shown working in front of the House of the Governor, accompanied by the faithful dog who appears in several of the plates.

9.   Ornament over the Principal Doorway. Casa del Gobernador Uxmal. Pale blue and beige tint. Intricate carvings of masks of rain gods, snakes, and intricate shapes loom over a darkened doorway below. When Stephens entered, he discovered a wooden lintel covered with Maya writing. Hoping to save it from “the wanton machete of an Indian,” he had part of the lintel shipped to America.

10.  Gateway, Casa del Gobernador, Uxmal. Beige and grey tint. Dramatic scene suffused with light, showing the north façade of the House of the Governor with elaborate carvings that include many serpents and Chac masks of rain and storm gods.

11.  Gateway of the Great Teocallis at Uxmal. Beige and grey tint.Before the grandly carved gateway several indigenous workers sit, walk, and explore the remains of their ancestors.

12.  Ornament over the Gateway of the Great Teocallis Uxmal. Pale blue and beige tint. Before the graceful stonework of the façade of the House of the Dwarf repose several of the Native workers.

13.  General View of Uxmal, Taken from the Archway of Las Monjas Looking South. Beige and grey tint. This atmospheric landscape shows the major ruins of Uxmal in the distance, as descendants of the ancient Maya relax by the Nunnery Quadrangle in the foreground.

14.  Portion of a Building Called Las Monjas at Uxmal. Tan and grey tint. Catherwood’s training in architecture are employed brilliantly in this view the ruin with the exposed foundation revealing how the structure was built. A woman, child, three men, and the trusty dog inhabit the foreground.

15.  Portion of La Casa de Las Monjas, Uxmal. Tan and beige tint. Catherwood’s detailed drawings of the intricate carvings show more clearly than in Charnay’s later photographs. Here a dozen local Maya are depicted more prominently and detailed—men, women, and children in a variety of dress (or undress, in the case of the little ones).

16.  General View of Kabah. Beige, tan, and grey tint. The image includes a member of the expedition. At left the white arch of Kabáh is shown next to an overgrown pyramid. Indigenous workers haul doorjambs down the road to Uxmal and Nohpat. Overseeing the workers is a figure conjectured to be John L. Stephens.

17.  Interior of the Principal Building at Kabah. Tan and grey tint. The structure, thought to have been used to store tribute or treasure, dates from ca. 800 and shows a graceful interior with high arched ceiling and block masonry.

18.  Well and Building at Sabachtsche. Beige and grey tint. Wonderful image crowded with workers from a ranch in Sabactsche, with beautiful women and scrappy naked children at the community well. One senses Catherwood’s connection with past and present.

19. Gateway at Labnah. Beige and grey tint. The focus of the architectures is the archway with flat peak. Atop the roof two men work, and other workers, including a member of the expedition, stand inside the archway as a crowd of locals observe. Stephens in his book refers to Labnah as “decaying but still proud memorials of a mysterious people.”

20.  Well of Bolonchen. Pale blue and beige tint. Very dramatic with underground cavern about 80 feet deep with men walking    about and very tall perilous ladder made of the rough trunks   of saplings lashed together with withes. At times, the Maya could only obtain water by descending into caverns hundreds of feet below ground, as at this Great Well of Bolonchen (The Village of Nine Wells).

21.  Las Monjas Chichen Itza. Beige and grey tint. Catherwood’s image of magnificent Chichén-Itzá set in a rough desert landscape is a far cry from the most visited Maya site, which now has been restored and includes a sound-and-light show. Three Natives lounge before the imposing structure.

22.  Teocallis at Chichen Itza. Grey tint. The grandiose 80-foot high Pyramid of Quetzalcóatl with staircases on four sides rises majestically to the sky. Catherwood identified the religious significance of the structure by placing the stone snakehead in the foreground.

23.  Castle at Tuloom. Beige and grey tint. The Maya abandoned Tulum (1220-1520), the only major Maya structure on the sea coast, after the Spanish conquest.

24.  Temple at Tuloom. Beige and blue tint. At right and left of the temple opening are Catherwood and Stephens. They are holding a line, perhaps for measuring. Indigenous laborers in the foreground are clearing the site. Catherwood notes that the site was completely covered with trees and discovered almost by accident.

25.  Colossal Head at Izamal. Pale blue and grey tint. Silvery moonlight scene of two men (a member of the expedition holding a gun and an indigenous helper) stalking a prowling jaguar. The expedition member was ornithologist Dr. Samuel Cabot, Jr. Looming above is the massive head of Maya sun god Kinich Kak Mo.

     First edition, limited edition (300 copies), tinted issue, plates on heavy paper, and with plate captions. Fifty of the copies were fully colored by hand and the lithographs mounted on Arches art board. Hill I, p. 47. Hill II:263. Palau 50290. Sabin 11520: “It exhibits, on a large scale, many of the views in Mr. Stephens’ works, with all the detail of ornament, sculpture, etc., of which the small engravings cannot convey an adequate idea. The edition of this beautiful book was limited to three hundred copies. Some with a London, and others with a New York imprint.” Tooley, English Books with Coloured Plates 1790-1860 133. Victor W. Von Hagen, Search for the Maya: The Story of Stephens and Catherwood (Westmead: Saxon House, 1973, pp. 82-77): “In the whole range of literature on the Maya there has never appeared a more magnificent work.” David Drew, Lost Chronicles of the Maya (University of California Press, 1999), p. 76: “Catherwood published on his own, at considerable expense a folio of twenty-five lithographs, Views of Ancient Monuments... The illustrations were reworkings of engravings from the original books, but Catherwood allowed himself rather more Romantic indulgences, with dramatic lighting effects, savage vegetation, compositions of exotic native figures and a certain license with archaeological exactitude to heighten the impression of mystery and fallen grandeur.... Yet these are quite distinct from the fabrications of Waldeck, powerful, picturesque yet essentially faithful images that are the equivalent for the Maya area of David Roberts’ lithographs of ancient Egypt.”

     Frederick Catherwood (1799-1854), architect, artist, archaeologist, panorama artist and proprietor, daguerreotypist, civil engineer, and publisher, accompanied John L. Stephens (1805-1852) on the expedition to Mexico and Central America during which they discovered the lost civilization of the Maya. With the appearance of Catherwood and Stephens’ splendid works on their discoveries, the serious study of Mesoamerican archaeology began. Before their fateful encounter in 1836, Catherwood apprenticed in architecture and enrolled in the Royal Academy art school, where he fell under the spell of Giambattista Piranesi and his dramatic drawings of Roman ruins. Catherwood travelled and sketched widely in Italy, Greece, the Middle East, and Egypt (1821-1836). Back in England he began producing panoramas, the most famous of which was a panorama of Jerusalem (Stephan Oettermann, The Panorama: History of a Mass Medium, New York: Zone Books, 1997, p. 114). His life changed in 1836 when he met John L. Stephens, daguerreotypist, attorney, merchant, author, archaeologist, diplomat, and railroad builder. At Stephens’ suggestion, Catherwood moved to New York and established himself as an architect. They became friends with John Russell Bartlett, who suggested they read the works of Gallindo and Waldeck (q.v.). By the middle of 1839, the two were fully captivated by Copán, Uxmal, and Palenque and determined to travel to Central America. The dream became a reality when President Van Buren appointed Stephens to be U.S. envoy to the Republic of Central America, and Stephens contracted Catherwood as an artist to accompany him. After Stephens tended to his initial diplomatic duties in the fall of 1839, he and Catherwood set off on an expedition to Copán, where Catherwood had his first bout of malaria. Catherwood began his artistic work drawing the ruins at Copán, Quiriguá, Palenque, Uxaml. Catherwood collapsed from malaria at Uxmal, and Stephens broke off the expedition. Back in New York, Catherwood supervised the drawing of the illustrations for Stephens’ Incidents of Travel (q.v.). In 1841, the pair resumed their work and headed for Yucatan. They continued their work single-mindedly under difficult conditions for several months, departing in May 1842. Upon Catherwood’s return to New York, most of his drawings were lost in a fire that also destroyed his panoramas.

     “During his first expedition to Central America, Catherwood relied as usual on his camera lucida to make his sepia drawings. Initially he had great trouble translating the utterly alien and intricately detailed glyphs and sculptures into drawings. Eventually, Catherwood would succeed in drawing Mayan sculptures with such fidelity that later archaeologist could decipher the inscriptions...” (p. 164, Peter Palmquist, et al., Pioneer Photographers of the Far West, Stanford University Press, 2000). Palmquist goes on to tell how on the second expedition, the two took a daguerreotype camera, which they practiced using by taking portraits in their rooms of each other and young ladies. In the field, however, Catherwood found the daguerreotype unsatisfactory because the contrast between light and shade made it impossible to capture useable images. Since he had to supply the shaded areas by hand anyway, Catherwood determined it was less labor intensive to use the camera lucida. Stephens went on to use the daguerreotype to provide views that were later used by the engraver for comparison. In March 1842, the daguerreotype apparatus was destroyed when a pack horse bolted, ending their experiment with archaeological daguerreotypes.

     Stephens and Catherwood embarked on a huge project to publish a folio of over a hundred engravings of American antiquities after Catherwood’s drawings. This came to naught. Catherwood pared down his vision and published instead the present work. “The resulting folio...contained a skillfully wrought introduction by Catherwood, a map, and twenty-five plates with descriptive texts. Despite its small edition—only three hundred copies were published—the work was a highly important early contribution to the understanding of Mesoamerican antiquities. In his introduction to Views of Ancient Monuments, Catherwood recounted how his and Stephens’ knowledge of the ancient civilization of the Old World had led them to the conclusion that the lost cities of Central America and the Yucatán peninsula were built by an indigenous civilization. Their theories have stood the test of time” (Palmquist, p. 165).


Sold. Hammer: $34,000.00; Price Realized: $41,650.00.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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