Rare Edition of León y Gama’s Treatise

On the Unearthing of Two Powerful Aztec Icons

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208. LEÓN Y GAMA, Antonio de. Saggio dell’astronomia cronologia e mitologia degli antichi messicani. Opera di Antonio Leon e Gama, Tradotta dallo Spagnuolo, e dedicata alla Molto Nobile, Illustre ed Imperiale Citta di Messico. Rome: Presso il Salomoni, 1804. [i] ii-xiii [1], 1-184 pp., 3 unattributed copper-engraved plates: pictorial title with Mexican eagle (not included in pagination) + 2 folded plates: Coatlicue statue and Stone of the Sun. 8vo (21 x 14.2 cm), contemporary green calf over navy blue and black mottled boards, gilt spine with raised bands, edges sprinkled. Spine slightly faded, light edge wear, first signature with mild scattered foxing, otherwise fine, the plates excellent. Uncommon.

     First Italian edition of preceding. Brinton Library 2407. Palau 135589. Pilling 2258. Sabin 26486 & 40065. Here the plates have been reduced, and the contoured view of the Stone of the Sun is merged with the line relief view to show the alphabetic key. The delightful title page sports a jaunty eagle wearing a Spanish crown and royal arms emblazoned on its chest, as it stands on a snake atop a cactus. Interestingly, both the engraved title illustration and the subject of the book are strong symbols of Mexican identity.

     This translation was edited by Pietro Giuseppe Marquez. He states that León y Gama chose to present his work in the common tongue (Spanish) rather than Latin because he wanted everyone to be able to understand this important discovery. The editor states that he, too, has chosen to publish this translation in the common tongue of Italy, so that all the people in his country can know about the remarkable find. This edition is an early example of what has been called the globalization of Native wisdom and the legitimacy of ethnographic memory. Marquez proclaims that the most glorious product of the world is not gold or silver, but rather, the spread and cultivation of science and knowledge.


Auction 23 Abstracts

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