“Es la edición mas apreciada” (Palau)—Over 70 Superb Lithographs by Cumplido

“Set a new American standard for use of source materials” (Grolier)

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497. PRESCOTT, W[illiam Hickling]. Historia de la conquista de México, con una ojeada preliminar sobre la antigua civilizacion de los Mexicanos, y con la vida de su conquistador Fernando Cortés, escrita en ingles por W. Prescott, y traducida al Español por Joaquin Navarro. Mexico: Impreso por Ignacio Cumplido, Editor de esta Obra, 1844; [Vol. II reads: Mexico: Impreso por el Editor. Calle de los Rebeldes núm. 2, 1845]; [Vol. III, chromolithograph title page] Esplicacion de las laminas pertenecientes a la Historia Antigua de Mexico y a la de la Conquista, quien se han agregado a la traduccion Mexicana de la de W.H. Prescott, publicada por Ignacio Cumplido. Mexico: Imprenta Lito. y Typo. del Editor, 1846. Vol. I: [i-iii] iv-viii, [1] 2-563 [1, blank], [4] pp, chromolithograph title page; Vol. II: [1-3] 4-489 [1, blank], [2], [i] ii-xx, [1] 2-124 pp., chromolithograph title page, 2 tinted lithographs; Vol. III: [i] ii-iv, [1] 2-154 pp., including chromolithograph title page, 70 plates (1 colored, 4 folded), 1 folded map. Total: 3 gilt chromolithograph titles; 74 lithograph plates (2 on tinted grounds, 1 in full color, remainder uncolored, 4 folded), including scenes from the Conquest, portraits, codices, archaeology, most signed by Cumplido; plus one extra plate inserted at end (equestrian statue of Carlos IV); plus folded lithograph map with routes colored (Mapa del Valle de Mexico en tiempo de la Conquista, y Operaciones Militares en el sitio que sufrió la Capital en 1521, below neat line at right: Imprenta Litog. de Cumplido). 3 vols., 8vo (22.7 x 14 cm), original full Mexican tree sheep, spines gilt-lettered and decorated, covers gilt rolled. Spines faded and rubbed, minor shelf wear and rubbing, some hinges cracked or starting, but firm. Some scattered foxing, staining, and browning, but overall a very good, complete set. A very desirable edition. No copies of this Cumplido edition recorded in American Book Prices Current.

            Second Mexican edition, best edition, with the scholarly notes of José Fernando Ramírez, high-quality plates by Cumplido, and the third volume of explanatory text on the plates. Glass, p. 677. Mathes, Mexico on Stone, pp. 23 (discussing the book); 56 (cited in bibliography); 63 (Cumplido). Palau 236493: “Es la edición mas apreciada” (expressing preference for this edition on account of Ramírez’s contribution). Porrúa (1949) 9704. Sabin 65267 & 65268. For more information on the work itself, see Grolier American One Hundred, p. 13 & #51: “Beautifully written in a style which Prescott had labored for years to perfect, and based on the most searching inquiry into original sources, set a new standard for the narrative type of history.”

            According to Isidro R. Gondra, the editor of the plate volume, this volume was created to counteract the widespread ignorance and misunderstanding of Mexican antiquities. The images are divided thematically into “Monumentos é historia antigua de México” [24], “Época de la conquista” [22], and “Retratos” [23]. The number of plates was so great that only these general instructions were left for the binder: “No habiendo podido numerarse las láminas de esta obra, los encuernadores podrán colocarlas en el órden que en las anteriores esplicaciones se designa, con solo cotejar con cuidado los letreros llevan al pié” (Vol. III, p. 154). One can only imagine the binder’s surprise when he discovered there were no letters included except for the first few plates.

            José Fernando Ramírez (1804-1871) was one of the leading politicians, historians, and bibliophiles of nineteenth-century Mexico, holding numerous political offices and writing various historical works. He is best remembered for his huge library in Durango. After the fall of Maximilan, he emigrated to Europe, dying in Germany. His library, which had been left to his heirs, was eventually sold at auction in London and enriched not only Bancroft but also in a more material way Quaritch and Puttick & Simpson. Gondra (1788-1861), the editor of the plate volume, formerly a budding priest and revolutionary, later became interested in Mexican antiquities and was the third director of the Museo Nacional.

            Prescott’s work remains a cornerstone work for any collection of American literature or Mexicana. There is no more beautiful edition of this classic than the present one, which constitutes a landmark in the history of Mexican lithography. The chromolithograph title pages are especially striking.


Sold. Hammer: $1,500.00; Price Realized: $1,837.50.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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