The Most Complete Edition of the Major Work

by the Founder of the Science of Aztec Archaeology

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209. LEÓN Y GAMA, Antonio de. Descripción histórica y cronológica de las dos piedras, que con ocasion del nuevo empedrado que se esta formando en la plaza principal de Mexico, se hallaron en ella el año de 1790...con notas, biografia de su autor y aumentada con la segunda parte que estaba inédita, y bajo la proteccion del Gobierno general de la Union: Carlos Maria de Bustamante, Diputado al Congreso General Mexicano. Segunda edicion. Mexico: Imprenta del ciudadano Alejandro Valdés, 1832. 2 parts in one vol.: Part 1: [2] [i] ii-viii, 1-114 pp.; Part 2: [1] 2-148 pp., 5 folded engraved plates (sculpture of Coatlicue, 2 plates of the Stone of Sun, astronomical diagram used by the Ancient Mexicans, details from a pictorial manuscript). 4to (21.5 x 15.4 cm), nineteenth-century half sprinkled tan Mexican sheep over brown and yellow marbled boards, spine with red and black gilt-lettered leather labels, raised bands. Except for browning to title page and first few leaves, very fine, plates excellent.

     Second Mexican edition, the most complete edition, with previously unpublished related work by León y Gama. Editor Carlos M. Bustamante also added a biography of León y Gama, numerous extracts in Náhuatl from the manuscripts of Cristobal del Castillo, and appendix “Sobre la aritmética de los Mexicanos.” The first edition was published in Mexico in 1792 (see herein). Glass, p. 642: “Part 1 (with pls. 1-3) first published in Mexico 1792 (Italian translation, Rome, 1804). A pioneer work on Mexican calendrics. Refers to many documents from the Boturini collection (see BOTURINI herein), some of which the author owned or copied. Cited in pictorial census, however, only for references to, or descriptions of Reçus présentés par le Capitaine Jorge Cerón y Carabajal, Alcalde Mayor de Chalco; Plan de plusiers propriétés (Xochimilco); Veytia Celendar Wheels nos. 1 and 4; Historia Tolteca Chichimeca; and Codex Ixtlilxochitl. One of the two unnumbered plates illustrates details from an unidentified pictorial source, probably from a manuscript or manuscripts now in BNP.” Palau 135588 (noting that for academic work, this is the preferable edition). Pilling 2259. Sabin 40060.
     Part 2 of Bustamante’s edition is mostly composed of additional material León y Gama wrote, but which was not published before his death. Elizabeth Hill Boone sets out this matter in “Templo Mayor Research, 1521-1978” in The Aztec Templo Mayor: A Symposium at Dumbarton Oaks, 8th and 9th October 1983 (Washington, 1987), pp. 21-23:

Harsh criticism of [León y Gama’s] iconographic interpretations, especially by José Antonio Alzate y Ramírez in the Gaceta de literatura, led León y Gama to write in 1794 a supplement to his Descripción. Entitled “Advertencias anticríticas,” the supplement reaffirmed León y Gama’s interpretations and allowed him to discuss other major sculptures that had been discovered since 1791. This supplement was to be published with a number of illustrations, but the venture was put aside after León y Gama’s death in 1802, until 1832 when Carlos María de Bustamante issued it, without the added illustrations, along with León y Gama’s original Descripción. The Tizoc Stone had been discovered on 17 December 1791, off the southwest corner of the cathedral, and León y Gama (1832 pt. 2:46-73) interpreted it as a sacrificial stone, the sides of which depict priests from various towns dancing at the feast of Huitzilopochtli and the sun. León y Gama also announced and interpreted three major sculptures found in 1792—a Tlaloc statue, a large serpent head, and the colossal Xiuhcoatl, which he thought to be a merlon of the Templo Mayor (Léon y Gama, 1832, pt. 2:46, 73-74). In a separate section (1832, pt. 2:79-111) he systematically describes some twenty other Aztec sculptures, including those mentioned in his earlier study. Bustamante, who edited the publication, named the locations of additional stones, and he announced the March 1830 discovery of the Coyolxauhqui head, identifying it as Temazcalteci, the goddess of the bath house (León y Gama 1832, pt. 2:5n, 38n, 42n, 82n, 89-90n).... Although most of Bustamante’s and León y Gama’s interpretations have not stood the test of later scholarship, León y Gama was the first to examine and interpret newly found sculptures, and in so doing, he founded the science of Aztec archaeology.

     The plates which appeared in the first edition were slightly altered for the present edition. Although they are approximately the same size, there are a few minor changes, and they do not have the bold chiaroscuro of the engravings in the first edition.


Sold. Hammer: $1,000.00; Price Realized: $1,225.00.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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