“All the other books that have been elaborated since on the same subject, instead of superseding Clavigero’s, have tended rather to magnify its importance.”

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99. CLAVIGERO, Francesco Saverio. Storia antica del Messico cavata da’ migliori storici spagnuoli, e da’ manoscritti, e dalle pitture antiche degl’ Indiani; divisa in dieci libri, e corredata di carte geografiche, e di varie figure: e dissertazioni sulla terra, sugli animali, e sugli abitatori del Messico. Opera dell’ abate D. Francesco Saverio Clavigero. Cesena: Per Gregorio Biasini all’ Insegna di Pallade, con Licenza de’ Superiori, 1780-1781. Vol. I: [i-ii] iii-vii [1], 1-303 [1, blank], 303-306 pp., 1 folded map, 2 plates, folded chart. Vol. II: [1-2] 3-268, 273-276 pp. (pp. 269-272 in facsimile), 17 plates (5 folded). Vol. III: [1-2], 3-260 pp., 1 folded map, 1 plate. Vol. IV: [1-2] 3-331 [1, colophon] pp. Total map & plate count: 2 folded copper-engraved maps; 20 copper-engraved plates (5 folded); 1 folded letterpress chart (genealogical chart of Mexican kings); titles and text with wood-engraved ornamentation, head- and tailpieces, initial letters. 4 vols., 4to (26.7 x 19.3 cm), contemporary three-quarter vellum over contemporary Italian decorated paper with hand-painted pink and green floral design, a few remains of original gilt-lettered paper spine labels, edges tinted red. Except for shelf wear and very minor staining to fragile binding, fine, original condition in a beautiful state of preservation with original endpapers, plates and maps very fine, in excellent impressions. With early nineteenth-century label of bookseller Nicolas de Mariano de Romanis in Rome.


Anahuac o sia l’impero Messicano. i regni d’Acolhuacan, e di Michuacan etc: Siccom’ erano nell’ anno 1521 per servire alla Storia antica del Messico delineati dallo stesso Autore della suddetta Storía nel 1780. Neat line to neat line: 29.1 x 40 cm; overall sheet size: 38.2 x 47.4 cm. Elaborate cartouche at lower left corner illustrating an eagle sitting on a cactus devouring a snake on a dead tree, at the base of the tree is a banner declaring the image to be the ancient arms of Mexico. Map of Mexico depicting Anahuac (the Mesoamerican name for the Valley of Mexico) in 1521. Shown are the ancient Native empires and kingdoms as far north as the Chichimeca, an array of Native American settlements, four frontier garrisons, lakes, rivers, etc. The Gulf of Mexico is shown as far north as La Huasteca in the northeastern part of Mexico. The Pacific coast runs from Xalahua (in Colima) to south of Xoconocho (Soconusco in present Chiapas). Mapoteca Colombiana (Méjico), p. 38, #36. According to Palau (55496) this map also circulated separately. Map is in Vol. I, between pp. 26 & 27.

Laghi di Messico. Copper-engraved map of the Valley of Mexico prominently showing the lakes of Tezcuco and Chalco, constructed to recreate the region at the time of conquest. Neat line to neat line: 25 x 35 cm; overall sheet size: 38 x 47 cm. Apenes, Mapas antiguos del Valle de Mexico, Plate 29 & pp. 26. Mapoteca Colombiana (Méjico), p. 38, #37. Phillips, America, p. 424. Map is in Vol. III, before p. 3.

     First edition of the first complete history of ancient Mexico (Ronan, p. 281), and the most complete edition of the work until modern times. Subsequent editions were bowdlerized due to Spanish authorities’ negative reaction to what they considered the author’s alleged hispanophobia and exaggeration of the value of Mexican culture to a point that Spain appeared to suffer by comparison. Editions of Clavigero’s work were subsequently printed in English (London, 1787, Richmond, Virginia, 1806, and Philadelphia, 1817), German (1787-1790, a problematical translation from Cullen’s English edition), and in Spanish (London, 1826, and Mexico, 1844 & 1853). JCB III (1, 1700-1771) #2629. Brunet II, col. 91n. Dumbarton Oaks, Archaeological Illustrations in America, pp. 11-12. Field 326. Glass, p. 585: “Major, late Enlightenment survey of pre-Hispanic Mexican Indian culture and history. A very influential work, which constituted the most ambitious treatment of its subject since Torquemada. Illustrations include details from such manuscripts as Codex Mendoza... Mention of Codex Cospi is among the earliest published references to that manuscript.” Griffin 1351n: “An eighteenth-century Jesuit’s reconstruction of native history, principally from Torquemada and other standard sources, with some further data on native life of the colonial period. One of the late writings that reveals the emergence of a sense of local identification and patriotism. A work of exceptional interest from many points of view.” Hill I, p. 54. Hill II:304. Leclerc, Bibliotheca Americana (1867) 342; (1878) 1103. Palau 55479. Pilling 817: “Su la lengua Messicana, Vol. IV, pp. 240-247.” Porrúa Catalogue 5 (1949) 6322. Ramos 980. Sabin 13518. Stevens, Biblioteca Historica 377: “All the other books that have been elaborated since on the same subject, instead of superseding Clavigero’s, have tended rather to magnify its importance.” Streeter Sale 194 (London edition). Wilgus, pp. 236-237: “A mine of information on archaeology and antiquities of Mexico, and it listed many manuscripts—including Indian picture writing—and documents not only from the Mexican archives but from the Vatican, Italian, and Spanish collections. The author listed thirty Indian and Spanish writers who gave accounts of Mexico, showing that Clavigero was indeed a bibliographer and historiographer of the first rank.” Winsor II, p. 425.

     The work is divided into four parts: geography and natural history; (2) history of the Aztecs and other pre-Hispanic cultures; (3) history of the Conquest; (4) dissertations on various aspects of Mexican culture, including linguistics, bibliography of books on Mexico, boundaries of the various kingdoms, and much more.

     Clavigero (1731-1787), a Jesuit and a native of Veracruz, Mexico, spent many years researching the archaeology and antiquities of Mexico. Early on he learned Nahuatl in order to communicate effectively with Native Americans because he futilely hoped to be a missionary. His teaching and scholarly skills caused the authorities to keep him closer to the capital. While serving as chaplain of Mexico City’s prison for Indians, he discovered nearby Colegio Máximo, whose library housed the collection of the great Mexican savant Sigüenza y Góngora. It was there that he was introduced to Mexican antiquities and pictorial codices. That collection and his knowledge of Nahuatl would serve him well in later years when he wrote defending Aztec Mexico. After the Jesuit order was expelled from New Spain—quite a blow to a native-born Mexican—he went to Italy and threw himself into writing this book and other learned works on his native land, including Storia della California.

     Clavigero has been accused of plagiarism, particularly of Torquemada’s work, but recent scholarship indicates that Clavigero utilized all available sources while subjecting them to rigorous critical standards. For an able discussion of this issue, see Cañizares-Esguerra’s How to Write the History of the New World (pp. 240-243). It was not until the late 1950s that Clavigero’s original Spanish manuscript was discovered and finally published. In the 1970s his body was disinterred from Bologna, Italy, and reburied in Mexico City. An excellent updated biography and analysis of the man and his work is the essay by Charles E. Ronan S.J. in Handbook of Middle American Indians (Vol. 13), Guide to Ethnohistorical Sources, Part 2, pp. 278-294. Ronan does a good job of clearing up many elements of the “Clavigero myth,” and carefully sets out the publishing history of each of his works and the unsuccessful attempt to obliterate or alter his manuscripts. Ronan concludes (pp. 290-291):

When Clavigero took up the historian’s pen, he came to the field well prepared. In addition to having an excellent training in the humanities, he also possessed an understanding of the native Mexicans, had acquired a fluency in Nahuatl, and knew well the story of Mexico’s Aztec past. The Jesuit historian’s background eminently fitted him to try his hand at historical writing, which in the eighteenth century was “a species of literature, a humane study, an art, rather than a science.”...The able role that Clavigero played in the lively polemics of his time over the relative merits of the Old World versus the New gave added prestige to his history. It vaulted him to international fame and made him the outstanding “Voice of America” of the eighteenth century... His history has always been held in high esteem by historians.

     Among the illustrations are flora and fauna of the Aztecs; two Aztec calendar wheels; Aztec numbers and symbols with key; symbols of Aztec emperors; Aztec ball game and flying dance; musical instruments and Native Mexicans playing them; costume plate of Aztec types; sacrificial rite; portraits of Moctezuma, Alvarado, Sandoval, Córtes, and Olid; architecture (including the fanciful Aztec Great Temple, with the twin shrines looking more like European bell towers and the platforms connected at each corner); iconic image of lovely ladies preparing tortillas; etc. The cartouche on the map of Mexico is an exceptionally dynamic, elegant rendering of the symbol of Mexico eagle.


Sold. Hammer: $2,000.00; Price Realized: $2,450.00.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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