“The most important album of Mexican views of the century”—Mathes, Mexico on Stone

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511. RIVERA CAMBAS, Manuel. México pintoresco, artístico y monumental. Vistas, descripcion, anecdotas y episodios de las lugares mas notables de la capital y de los estados, aun de las poblaciones cortas, pero de importancia geográfica ó histórica. Obra ilustrada con gran número de hermosas litografias.... Las descripciones contienen datos científicos, históricos y estadísticos. Arreglada y escrita por Manuel Rivera Cambas. Ingeniero; autor de la obra titulada Los Gobernantes de México y otras. Mexico: Imprenta de la Reforma, Perpetua Num 7½, 1880-1882. Vol. I: [i-iii] iv-xxxv, [1] 2-515, [1] 2-16, [2] pp., lithograph half title, 66 lithograph plates; Vol. II: [i-iii], iv-vi, [1] 2-534, [1] 2-7 [1] pp., lithograph half title, 67 lithograph plates. Total plates (including lithograph half titles): 135 (of 140), art work and lithography by Luis Garcés and M. Restori. According to the plate lists, Vol. I lacks plates at pp. 7 and 50, and Vol. II lacks those at pp. 174, 245, and 494, although there is no evidence they were ever present. 2 (of 3) vols. Folio (28.5 x 20.5 cm), contemporary quarter Mexican sheep over marbled boards (bindings not uniform), moderate to heavy shelfwear and rubbing, corners bumped, Vol. I upper hinge cracked, Vol. II text block split (pp. 172-173). Interior very good, plates fine. A third volume was published in 1883 and dealt with areas outside Mexico City. Complete sets are very rare in commerce, only one copy having been offered at auction in over thirty years, and it had almost forty plates in facsimile. Institutional holdings for complete sets are uncommon.

     First edition of a rare pictorial work documenting the progress of the Mexican nation through its monuments, people, and events. The work issued in fascicules over a three-year period. Mathes, Mexico on Stone, pp. 41-44: “The most important album of Mexican views of the century”; 60 (title cited in bibliography); 64 (Murguía). Palau 270223. Toussaint, La Litografía en Mexico, p. xix.

     The text and plates discuss and show all that is old and majestic and all that is new and wonderful in Mexico City. The very first plate, for example, shows the first Mexican palace, with the comment that it was “incendió en 1692.” The colossal equestrian statue of Carlos IV is given extensive discussion, including republication of several contemporary verses that contain lower-class words so obscure that Rivera Cambas is compelled to provide a gloss. A handsome plate shows the statue in its new location. The most venerable relic is the Aztec calendar stone, illustrated with a plate. In Vol. II the text picks up a great deal of speed, and individual topics are given only fairly short descriptions. It contains nearly a hundred descriptions, as opposed to only 51 in Vol. I. Vol. II contains, however, numerous discussions of repurposed buildings, and several of them begin with the term “Ex-convento” or “Ex-colegio.” A great deal of ink is spent on La Villa de Guadalupe and the country’s reverence for the Virgin of Guadalupe, which section is illustrated with five plates, far more than are devoted to any other topic, and including one of the chapel interior showing the Virgin ensconced above the altar.
     Among more modern progressive subjects are a rare, handsome interior view of the “Archivo general y pública de la Nación” (I, p. 15), showing materials stacked to the ceiling, readers’ desks, and the central reference station. Rivera Cambas flatters and praises this institution highly, although he ruefully notes that it is “generalmente poco conocido” (I, p. 16). No new topic, however, is alluded to more than the newly established Mexico City trolley system and the Mexican railway system. The topics occupy several pages (I, pp. 341-363), and the trolley system is shown in or alluded to in no fewer than twenty of the lithographs. One passage discusses the rail line from Mexico City to Veracruz (I, pp. 352-363). Even that topic, however, is tinged with problems, since it includes discussion of the Barranca del Muerto disaster of June 17, 1869, a derailment that killed thirty men, women, and children.

     Finally, in addition to scenes from the Conquest, the Mexican-American War intrudes on the subject, especially those actions that occurred in or near Mexico City. The disaster at Chapultepec is extensively covered, including the inscription on the monument to “Los Niños Héroes” and others who died in the battle (I, pp. 309-319). Rivera Cambas notes that “en la fantasia del vulgo,” the place is haunted with both Aztec spirits and those of the soldiers who died there during the war (I, pp. 317-319). The English and American graveyards at Tlaxpana are also discussed, the latter containing remains of those Americans killed in the Mexican-American War. Finally, the Battle of Churubusco is discussed (II, pp. 430-434), including a view of the monument to the Mexican defenders, about which the author notes, “Ese monumento es digno de visitarse” (II, p. 433). Rivera Cambas (1840-1917) was an engineer by training but wrote several important historical works, including a history of Jalapa.

     Magali M. Carrera, Traveling from New Spain to Mexico: Mapping Practices of Nineteenth-Century Mexico (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011), pp. 189-194:

The expansion of Mexicans’ intellectual production of comprehensive histories is exemplified by Manuel Rivera Cambas’ México pintoresco, artístico y monumental.... The texts repeat the encyclopedia-entry format found in Rivera Cambas’ Los Gobernantes de México [see preceeding herein].... México pintoresco is an updated and expanded version of Marcos Arróniz’s 1858 Manuel de historia y cronología de Méjico. Both are structured as tours through Mexico with visits to specific sites and monuments associated with events of Mexican history or culture.... Many of the numerous prints are initialed with “L.G.,” Luis Garcés, who illustrated Rivera Cambas’ earlier works, as the artist with Murguía signed as the lithographer.

The images included...refer back to Sartorius, Nebel, Gualdi, and other artists.... Other images adapt imagery from early nineteenth-century publications.... The entries in the volume cover New Spanish and Mexican history from the 1520s to the 1870s, particularly focusing on the identification of sites and monuments and their role in historical events. For example, in Rivera Cambas’ recitation on the Palacio Nacional, the visitor is told of its use as a palace by Moctezoma and subsequently by the Spanish viceroys, the attacks on the building during various wars, its occupation by the U.S. General Scott during the Mexican-American War, and its return to use by Juárez and Maximilian....

[Rivera Cambas’] entries and lists are premised by the idea that monuments, events, and people manifest the progress of history. This is to say, that by viewing a monument, the Palacio Nacional for example, one can associate it with specific events and people. Rivera Cambas’ work amplifies the call made by Francisco Zarco in the 1860s work México y sus Alrededores: “Without history there are no monuments, without events, there is nothing to retain the memory.”

This is an invaluable work for the history of Mexican architecture.


Auction 23 Abstracts

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