First Edition in English of Clavigero’s Enlightened Account of Mexico

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100. CLAVIGERO, Francesco Saverio. The History of Mexico. Collected from Spanish and Mexican Historians, from Manuscripts, and Ancient Paintings of the Indians. Illustrated by Charts, and Other Copper plates. To which are Added, Critical Dissertations on the Land, the Animals, and Inhabitants of Mexico. By Abbé D. Francesco Saverio Clavigero. Translated from the Original Italian, by Charles Cullen, Esq.... London: Printed for G.G.J. and J. Robinson, No. 25, Pater-noster Row, 1787. Vol. I: [2], [i-iii] iv-xxxii, [4], [1] 2-240, [2, letterpress genealogy chart of kings], 241-476 pp., frontispiece map (folded), 24 plates. Vol. II: [4], [1] 2-463 [1, blank] pp., frontispiece map, 1 plate. Total map and plate count: 2 copper-engraved folded maps, 25 copper-engraved plates (archaeology, religious rites, calendar, glyphs, artifacts, recreations, tortilla makers, types and costumes, natural history, portraits). 2 vols., 4to (28 x 22.7 cm), half antique-style russia over terracotta and blue marbled boards, spine gilt-ruled and with raised bands, edges sprinkled (skillfully recased). Front pastedown of Vol. I has engraved armorial bookplate of Marcus Gage, Esq. with coat of arms, ram, and motto “Courage san peur”; both vols. signed in ink by Gage on title. Old ink manuscript shelf notations on pastedowns. Marbled paper on boards chafed, otherwise very fine in handsome bindings.


Anahuac, or the Empire of Mexico, the Kingdoms of Acolhuacan & Michuacan &c. as they were in the year 1521. [above neat line at top left] Frontispiece, Vol. I. [below neat line at right] T. Conder Sculpt.). Title with pictorial cartouche with Mexican symbol of eagle with snake perched on cactus. Copper-engraved map. Neat line to neat line: 28.7 x 39.2 cm. Overall sheet size: 32 x 42.2 cm.

Lakes of Mexico. [above neat line at top left] Frontispiece, Vol. II. [below neat line at right] T. Conder Sculpt. Copper-engraved map. Neat line to neat line: 25 x 34.9 cm; overall sheet size: 27 x 44 cm.

     First edition in English, translated from the Italian by Charles Cullen (first edition, Cesena, Italy, 1780-1781; see preceding). JCB III (2, 1772-1800) #3118: “The translator was a son of the celebrated Dr. [William] Cullen.” Field 1873. Lowndes, Bibliographer’s Manual of English Literature, Vol. 1, p. 441. Palau 55485. Pilling 818. Sabin 13519. Streeter Sale I:194. The engravings in this edition are the same images as found in the first edition; however, there are a few of the images that formerly were on a single plate have been engraved on separate plates, thereby increasing the plate count, but not the number of images.

     Translator Charles Cullen explains why a translation from Italian to English was made:

The discovery of America constitutes one of the most remarkable eras of the world; and the history of it a subject not only curious but universally interesting, from its various connections with almost every other part of the globe. The Spanish historians of the two preceding centuries have done little towards elucidating this point. Partiality, prejudice, ignorance, and credulity, have occasioned them all to blend so many absurdities and improbabilities with the accounts, that it has not been merely difficult, but altogether impossible, to ascertain the truth. To collect from their scattered materials whatever wore the face of probability, that was naturally curious, or politically interesting, so as to form one uniform consistent relation of the whole, was a task in which, for a long time, no modern writer dared to engage.... The history of Mexico, by the Abbé Clavigero, a native of Vera Cruz, who resided near forty years in the provinces of New Spain, examined its natural produce, acquired the language of the Mexicans and other nationals, gathered many of their traditions, studied their historical paintings, and other monuments of antiquity, it is presumed, has supplied their deficiencies. The translator, therefore, hopes the present work which contains all the valuable matter of authors, besides many important particulars never before published, will prove acceptable to the public.

     This was the first history of ancient Mexico in English that presented a view of the indigenous Aztecs as sensitive and sympathetic to a degree previously unknown. See p. 61 of Cañizares-Esguerra’s How to Write the History of the New World.


Auction 23 Abstracts

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