Monumental Americana

Kingsborough’s Antiquities of America

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199. KINGSBOROUGH, Edward King (Viscount), Agustine Aglio & Guillermo Dupaix. Antiquities of Mexico: Comprising Fac-similes of Ancient Mexican Paintings and Hieroglyphics, Preserved in the Royal Libraries of Paris, Berlin, and Dresden; in the Imperial Library of Vienna; in the Vatican Library; in the Borgian Museum at Rome; in the Library of the Institute of Bologna; and in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. Together with the Monuments of New Spain, by M. Dupaix: With Their Respective Scales of Measurement and Accompanying Descriptions. The Whole Illustrated by Many Valuable Inedited Manuscripts, by Lord Kingsborough. The Drawings, on Stone, by A Aglio. In Seven [Nine] Volumes. London: Vols. I-VII: Printed by James Moyes, Castle Street, Leicester Square; Published by Robert Havell, 77, Oxford Street; Colnagi, Son, and Co. Pall Mall East; Vols. VIII-IX: Printed by Richard and John E. Taylor, Red Lion Court, Fleet Street, Published by Henry G. Bohn, York Street, Convent Garden, 1831-1848. Collation in next paragraph. 741 plates (in volumes I-IV), mostly by Augustine Aglio, comprising: 587 lithographs, mostly of Mesoamerican codices, with original hand coloring (39 of which are colored in part only), 144 uncolored lithographs archaeology, architecture, and scenes (of which 127 are chalk lithographs on mounted India tissue paper), 4 engravings, and 6 aquatints (one folded), 2 lithographic tables in text volumes V and VI. 9 vols., large folio (55 x 39 cm), contemporary three-quarter calf over marbled boards, spines gilt with raised bands. A very good set, some hinges and joints weak or cracked, occasional binding wear, interior fine, with occasional light foxing and browning and a few neat repairs.


Vol. I: [3] pp., 71 plates; [2] pp., 70 plates; [2] pp., 11 plates; [2] pp., 40 plates; [2] pp., 21 plates; [2] pp., 12 plates. Total: 225 plates.

Vol. II: [6] pp., 102 plates; [2] pp., 23 plates; [2] pp., 10 plates (2 folded); [4] pp., 65 plates; [2] pp., 19 plates. Total: 219 plates.

Vol. III: [6] pp., 76 plates; [2] pp., 27 plates; [2] pp., 22 plates; [2] pp., 24 plates. Total: 149 plates.

Vol. IV: [6] pp., 17 plates (1 folded); [2] pp., 57 plates (1 folded); [2] pp., 58 plates (2 folded); [2] pp., 5 plates; [2] pp., 4 plates; [2] pp., 7 plates. Total: 148 plates (some on mounted india proof paper).

Vol. V: vii [1 (blank)], [2], 493 [1] pp.

Vol. VI: [4], 540 pp.

Vol. VII: [2], vi, [2], 464 pp.

Vol. VIII: [2], 268, [4], 424 pp.

Vol. IX: 468, 60 pp.

     First edition, the Havell issue, colored copy. The work was intended to contain seven volumes. Vols. VIII and IX were published as a supplement. Vols. I to V first began to be published in 1830 by Augustine Aglio, but in 1831 Aglio transferred all seven volumes to Havell and Colnagi, who printed new title pages as in this copy. Bibliotheca Mejicana 879. Boban, “Notes Explicatives...sur les Antiquitès du Mexique,” pp. 67-114 (lengthy analysis of content): “La superbe et unique publication.” Brunet III, col. 663. Glass, p. 631: “Handcolored lithographs of copies by Augustine Aglio of sixteen pictorial manuscripts. They are first editions for almost all of these documents... A monumental and historic work.” Griffin 1397n: “Mammoth pioneering collection.” Lipperheide Md11. Palau 128006. Pilling 2089: “There are many aboriginal terms scattered throughout each of the volumes.” Pinart 513: “Splendide publication.” Sabin 37800. The work includes Dupaix’s Antiquitiés Mexicaines...1805-1807 (Paris: Didot, 1833-1834), “the first drawings of Maya architecture to be published” (Wauchope). For a discussion of the Sutro's unique volume that contains sixty original watercolor drawings by Aglio, see, Gary F. Kurutz, "The Antiquities of Mexico:  A New Manuscript Volume Acquired by the Sutro Library," California State Library Foundation Bulletin, No. 38 (January 1992), pp. 7-13.

     Edward King, Viscount Kingsborough (1795-1837), was an Irish antiquarian who intended to prove that the indigenous people of the Americas were a lost tribe of Israel, but the unintended result was the creation of this splendid work, which is considered among the most important books ever printed on the subject of Mexican and Central American codices and archaeology. His principal contribution was in making available sixteen facsimiles of ancient Mesoamerican pictorial codices (many for the first time). He also included some of the earliest explorers’ reports on Pre-Columbian civilization and its ruins and accounts of the early conquest. Kingsborough’s work inspired further exploration and research by Charles Étienne Brasseur de Bourbourg, John Lloyd Stephens, Frederick Catherwood, and others.

     R.A. McNeil & M.D. Deas, in Europeans in Latin America: Humboldt to Hudson (entry 69), comments on the Bodleian copy of Kingsborough on vellum (one of four such copies) and describes the sequence of events that made these tomes fatal to their author:

Kingsborough was stimulated by the sight of a Mexican manuscript in the Bodleian to devote himself to the study of Mexican antiquities, and this set of books was his life’s work. He developed the theory that the original inhabitants of the country were the lost tribes of Israel, and decided to prove this by publishing facsimiles of all the Pre-Columbian manuscripts then known. To locate the manuscripts he availed himself of the help of the irascible bibliophile Sir Thomas Phillipps; to reproduce them he employed the émigré Italian artist Augustine Aglio; and in 1830 the first volumes appeared, with copious notes by Kingsborough himself. The cost, however, was very high: Kingsborough spent upwards of £32,000 on production costs, and these expenses helped to drive him to a debtor’s prison in Dublin.... The Antiquities themselves continued to appear until 1848.

     By 1831, Kingsborough and Sir Thomas Phillips were apparently in litigation. Aglio was not paid for all his work, and he became embroiled in actions against Kingsborough by stationers in 1832 and 1833, requiring thousands of pounds for the supply of paper for printing the manuscripts. Both Aglio and Kingsborough went bankrupt, and Kingsborough was sent to debtor’s prison three times, finally dying of typhoid fever contracted when jailed for debt to a paper manufacturer. Part of the problem was the outstanding payments due to Kingsborough from bibliomaniac Sir Thomas Phillipps, whose assistance to the project was critical. On a note of tragic irony, if Kingsborough had survived a few more months he would have inherited an annual estate of about £40,000 from his father the Earl of Kingston. At the time of publication, the price for an uncolored set was £120, and £175 for a colored set like the present one. (See David Hook, “Of Books and Bankruptcy: Some New Light on Lord Kingsborough,” Agostino Aglio, and The Antiquites of Mexico in Xth Bristol Colloquium on Hispanic Books and Manuscripts, May 2008.)

     There were many codices in existence at the time of the conquest, but most were destroyed in bulk by the conquistadors and priests, resulting in severe damage to Mesoamerican cultural heritage. With the destruction of so many sacred books in a senseless, arrogant biblioclasm, the opportunity for insight into key areas of Maya life was greatly diminished—to say nothing of the pain and loss suffered by the Maya. The most important codex in Kingsborough’s work is the Dresden Codex, which is one of the few genuine survivals from the pre-conquest era. It contains a series of almanacs related to the timing of religious ceremonies, and some scholars believe it was a major source of astronomical information for the Maya. It survived because Córtes brought it back to Europe as a curiosity, where it promptly disappeared until acquired in 1739 by the director of the Saxon Royal Library in Dresden. The codex remained inaccessible to the public until Humboldt published five pages of it in 1810. Kingsborough and Aglio published the Dresden Codex in its entirety for the first time in the present work. This is an especially valuable publication as it reflects the Codex in its original state, before it sustained water damage during the fire storm in Dresden in World War II.

     In addition to the presentation of codices by Kingsborough, some of the volumes relate to other primary documentary sources for Mesoamerica civilization: archaeology, stelae, and other inscribed and pictorial physical remains. The extraordinary plates, nearly all after original artwork by José Luciano Castañeda of National Mexican Museum, constitute “the first drawings of Maya architecture to be published” (Wauchope). They are the work of the Dupaix expedition (Antiquités Mexicaines, 1834). Castañeda accompanied Dupaix on all three voyages (1805-1807), and his imagery gave Europeans their first in-depth look at Mayan civilization. The resulting reports and illustrations were the most comprehensive account of archaeological remains in Mexico for years to come.

     The codices, archaeology, and chronicles which Kingsborough conserved in this great work are set out below. Kingsborough’s extensive notes on his theories of the possible Hebrew origins of indigenous culture and extracts from various authors are in Vols. V and IX. Vols V-IX contain notes on the plates.

Vol. I: Codices Mendoza, Terreriano-Remensis, Boturini, Bodley, Selden, and the Seldon Roll.

Vol. II: Codices Ríos, Laud, Cospi, Vienna, and Humboldt Fragments 1 and 2.

Vol. III: Codices Borgia, Dresden (generally considered the most important of the few Mesoamerican codices that survive, and printed first in Kingsborough), Féjérváry-Mayer, and Vaticanus B.

Vol. IV: Reproductions of five drawings from Codex Ixtlilxochitl, part 2, of Mapa Sigüenza (both after Gemelli Careri), and of Veytia Calendar Wheel no. 4 (variant).

Vol. V: Transcripts of the Spanish texts of Codices Mendoza and Telleriano-Remensis and of the Italian text of Codex Ríos. Viages de Guillermo Dupaix sobre las antiguëdades Mejicanas. Sahagún, Historia, book 6.

Vol. VI: English translation of the texts of Codices Mendoza, Telleriano-Remensis, and Ríos. The Monuments of New Spain, by Dupaix. Continuation of Sahagún Historia.

Vol. VII: Sahagún, Historia, books 1-12, except Chapters 1-40 of book 6.

Vol. VIII: Veytia, Historia del origen de las gentes que poblaron la America septentrional que llaman Nueva Espaãna, preface and book 1, chapters 1-23; Pedro Simon, Tercera [y cuarta] noticia[s] de la segunda parte de las Noticias historiales de las conquistas de Tierra Firme; Adair, History of the North American Indians; Cartas ineditas de Hernando Cortés; Relaciones inéditas de Fernández de Oviedo.

Vol IX: Alvarado Tezozomoc, Crónica Mexicana; Ixtlilxochitl, Historia Chichimeca and Relaciones; Motolinía, Historia.

     This weighty set is a remarkable example of the art of bookmaking, with its massive thick volumes, excellent printing, and profusion of illustrated material.


Sold. Hammer: $50,000.00; Price Realized: $61,250.00.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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