Extraordinary Photogravures of Central America & Maya Archaeology

“Maudslay was the greatest of the late nineteenth century Maya recorders”

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409. MAUDSLAY, Anne Cary & Alfred Percival Maudslay. A Glimpse at Guatemala, and Some Notes on the Ancient Monuments of Central America...With Map, Plans, Photographs and Other Illustrations. London: John Murray, Albemarle Street [colophon: Printed by Taylor and Francis, Red Lion Court, Fleet Street], 1899. [i-iv] [2, inserted dedication leaf, verso blank] [v]-xvii [1, blank] [2, map and plate list, verso blank], [1] 2-289 [1, blank] pp., title printed in red and black, 57 leaves of plates, maps, and plans: Plates: 44 plates (mostly sepia tone photogravures by Swann Electric Engraving Company, but including two chromolithographs of textiles and 4 line drawings; Maps and plans: 13 maps, elevations, and plans (some double-page and colored or tinted), including tinted folded map: Map of Guatemala and Adjacent Countries from the “Biologia Centrali Americana [below left] William Shawe, F.R.G.S. 43 Brewer Str. W., inset of Central America at upper left, neat line to neat line: 54.5 x 42.2 cm), numerous text illustrations, many of which are photogravures and/or toned (iconography includes scenes, views, plans, archaeology, ethnic types). 4to (29.8 x 24.4 cm), publisher’s original ivory linen over beige boards with Maya motif in color on upper board, spine lettered and decorated in red and brown, original endpapers with Maya design in red on beige paper. Binding moderately soiled and edge worn with a few chips to the boards (as usual for this fragile format), lower joint with split (approximately 11 cm) but strong. The interior is exceptionally fine, the text untrimmed, and all the illustrations pristine. The high-quality photogravures are the most beautiful ever done of Central America.

     First edition. Griffin 1189: “Charming narrative of the Maudslays’ early travels in the Guatemala highlands and the Maya lowlands.” Larned 40n: “An elaborate and beautiful book. Mrs. Maudslay...describes the country and the people, and explains what has been accomplished by the scientific investigations.... This volume is easily worth all the other books which have appeared or are likely to be published for many years, as a guide to the things which make Central America of general world interest.” Palau 158504.

     British diplomat, explorer, and archaeologist Alfred Percival Maudslay (1850-1931) resigned his civil service career in 1880 and sailed to Guatemala to pursue his interest in Maya archaeology. Like Charnay (see CHARNAY herein) and others, Maudslay was inspired by the work of John L. Stephens (see STEPHENS herein) and Frederick Catherwood (see CATHERWOOD herein) and wished to continue their legacy with a more systematic, scientific approach with documentation that would enable scholars in their research. “The relief sculpture of Yaxchilán is prolific and world-famous, due indirectly to Maudslay.... Between 1881 and 1894 Maudslay mounted seven expeditons in all to the Maya area. Apart from Tikal and Yaxchilán, he devoted his attention to Copán, Quiriguá, Palenque, Chichén Itzá, and the lesser-known site of Ixkún in the Petén, attempting to achieve as complete a documentation of their monuments and inscriptions as possible through photography and two kinds of mould-making.... For the work at Copán and Quiriguá he hired a Mr. Guintini from an established Italian firm of cast-makers in London, and bought tons of plaster from a supplier in Carlisle. The logistic problems were formidable. Besides photographic and survey equipment, and supplies for many weeks in the field, he had to arrange for shipment of the plaster, the bales of paper, wrapping materials for the moulds, and specially designed boxes to transport them.... The immense trouble and patient care that Maudslay took in his photography and the making of moulds has rarely been paralleled in the history of archaeology.... Maudslay was the greatest of the late nineteenth century Maya recorders” (pp. 91-95, David Drew, The Lost Chronicles of the Maya Kings, Los Angeles: University of California, 1999). Maudslay’s fifteen years of exploration were published in the magnificent Archaeology section of Biologia Centrali-Americana (1889-1902), “the first scientific publication about the Maya civilization” (p. vii, Sylvanus Griswold Morley, The Ancient Maya, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1956, third edition, Revised by George W. Brainerd). Michael D. Coe notes that through Maudslay’s publication of the Maya calendrical script “a real breakthrough was achieved in Maya chronology” (p. 28, The Maya, New York & Washington: Praeger, 1966). Maudslay’s explorations of Maya sites paved the way for a program of systematic investigation. For one who travelled to Mesoamerica for pleasure, Maudslay certainly left us a great deal more than most pleasure seekers. “What began as ‘a journey of curiosity’ culminated in authoritative volumes that guide Maya scholars today” (pp. 78-79, George E. Stuart & Gene S. Stuart, The Mysterious Maya, National Geographic Society, 1977).

     The present volume certainly had its genesis in pleasure. Maudslay and his wife, Anne Cary Morris (1847-1926), granddaughter of Gouverneur Morris, sailed to Guatemala on their honeymoon. In his preface to the present work, Maudslay writes:

The Archaeological results of my seven expeditions to Central America are in course of publication in the ‘Biologia Centrali-Americana,’ and eight parts containing about 200 plates have already been issued to the public; this is necessarily a costly work which is not likely to finds its way into many private libraries. It has therefore frequently been suggested to me that I should publish a less ambitious and less expensive volume giving a general account of my travels as well as some description of the ruins visited; but alas! I have to confess a hopeless inability to keep a regular journal, and my notebooks are for the most part full of measurements and compass and sextant observations, and would furnish but a poor basis of a book of travel. When, in 1894, my wife accompanied me to Central America, a splendid opportunity offered of avoiding all responsibility in the matter. She should keep a diary and write the book, and I would add some archaeological notes! It was to be a small book with a few illustrations, and was of course to be published within six months of our return home. However, when we did get back to England...a fair start was made, and some experimental illustrations were prepared; but each of us discovered in the other a deeply-rooted objection to process-blocks and shiny paper, so we began to dabble in photogravure and typo-etching.... [continues with a delightful explanation of their “whims and fancies” in the making of this extraordinary book].

     The Maudslays’ decision to splurge on hand-made paper, photogravures, and a plethora of elegant images resulted in a most unusual book, with important, well-written commentary complemented by lavish iconography. Photogravure prints have the subtlety of a photograph and the art quality of a lithograph. They are used here in a manner that captures the dramatic quality of the astounding remains of a vanished civilization.


Sold. Hammer: $1,700.00; Price Realized: $2,082.50.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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