Exceedingly Rare Early Entirely Engraved Mexican Book

Reprise of the Ages of Man Genre

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1. [AGES OF MAN]. Soneto. [With poem below, commencing]: Pídeme de mi mismo el Tiempo Cuenta | Sí á dar voy, la Cuenta pide Tiempo | Que quien gasto sin Cuenta tanto Tiempo, | ¿Como dará sin Tiempo tanta Cuenta?.... Mexico MDR Año de MDCCCIII. Mexico, 1803. 14 leaves printed on rectos, from 14 copper-engraved plates by N. Cobo (alternately Covo) and Garrido, after artwork by Coronel, Altarriba, Rosi, and Bonet. Printed entirely from engraved plates. 14.6 x 9 cm, original full mottled calf, spine and covers gilt-rolled. Gilt slightly rubbed in a few places, corners lightly bumped. Hinges open, but holding, front flyleaf with closed tear, several plates with short marginal tears cleanly repaired, some plates lightly water stained, one plate with small ink stain in lower margin. Plate versos strengthened with translucent white wash. Overall a very good copy with strong impressions and in a handsome contemporary binding. Contemporary ink signature of F. Morales on front flyleaf. An exceedingly rare and interesting illustrated work. Single copy located by OCLC in Biblioteca Nacional España, but engraved title only.

List of Engravings

All measurements are image size. All within framed borders.

[Plate 1 (allegorical title)] Soneto. Pídeme de mi mismo el Tiempo Cuenta.... [below frame] J Coronel le dibu | N. Covo. 13.5 x 7.8 cm. At bottom allegories of life and death, including winged archetypal Satan figure (with woman’s head and breasts, wings, and cloven hooves), hour glass, scythe, extinguished candle, the cord and shears of the Fates.

[Plate 2] Un Año | Es un relox la vida.... [below frame] J Coronel | N. Covo. 13.5 x 7.8 cm. Mother and child seated in an elegantly appointed room in front of a window and a large clock.

[Plate 3] Seis años. | Salto y brinco en años tiernos.... [below frame] F. Coronel del | N. Cobo. gr. 13 x 7.7 cm. Two children cavorting, the one in the foreground riding a stick horse, and the one in the background flying a kite.

[Plate 4] Diez años. | En medio de nuestro juego.... [below frame] Altarriba del. | Garrido gr. 12.7 x 7.5 cm. Two stylishly dressed young boys embrace in a street, one holding a schoolbook; a dog slouches in the foreground.

[Plate 5] Diez y seis años. | La Musica me deleita.... [below frame] Coronel del. | Garrido gr. 12.5 x 7.3 cm. An elegant buxom young lady in a fancy gown sits before a clavichord while a young man peeks through a doorway.

[Plate 6] Veinte años. | Indomable potro soy.... [below frame] F. Coronel del. | N. Cobo gr. 13 x 7.8 cm. A young, amorous, richly dressed couple walks arm in arm in a landscape.

[Plate 7] Trenta años. | Oy mi brazo valerosa.... [below frame] J. Coronel del. | N. Cobo gr. 12.7 x 7.5 cm. A dashing matador, sword and cape in hand, dominates the foreground, while in the background, a team of horses drags away the bull’s carcass.

[Plate 8] Quarenta años. | Soi Leon á los quarenta.... [below frame] J. Coronel del. | N. Cobo gr. 12.7 x 7.5 cm. An heroic military officer triumphantly holds his swagger stick in his left hand while signaling with his right, against a backdrop of dead men and horses.

[Plate 9] Cincuenta años. | Si de mi ciencia el consejo.... [below frame] Rosi del. | Cobo sc. 12.7 x 7.5 cm. A professional man sits behind a desk and in front of a book case while consulting with a client.

[Plate 10]     Sesenta años. | Hasta aora agitatos siempre.... [below frame] Altarriba del. | Cobo sc. 12.7 x 7.5 cm. A man seated at a table upon which gold coins and bags of gold sit reaches for another bag held by a second man who stands in front of an open chest full of bags of gold.

[Plate 11] Setenta años. | Al cuidado de mi vida.... [below frame] Rosi dib. | Cobo gr. 12.5 x 7.4 cm. A robed figure seated in a chair in front of a bed mixes a potion in mortar and pestle; a rosary hangs from his left wrist.

[Plate 12] Ochenta años. | No teneis de que quejaros.... [below frame] Bonet dib. | Cobo gr. 12.5 x 7.4 cm. A physician, whose image is reflected in a mirror, tends to his patient seated in front of a foot warmer.

[Plate 13] Noventa años. | Dos infancias tiene el hombre.... [below frame] Rosi del. | Cobo gr. 12.5 x 7.4 cm. An old man supported by a cane and a young boy play with a whirligig in an outdoor setting; a house with smoking chimney in background.

[Plate 14] Cien años. | Mi memoria te asustaba.... [below frame] Bonet del. | Cobo gr. 12.5 x 7.4 cm. Death in the form of a skeleton with a scythe draws back the bed curtains to claim his victim; an extinguished candle lies on the floor.

     First edition of one of the earliest entirely engraved Mexican imprints. Not in Mathes (La Ilustración en México colonial), Medina, Palau, Romero de Terreros (Grabados y grabadores in la Nueva España), or other standard sources. The engravers and artists are not listed in Bénézit. Carrillo y Gariel (Grabados de la Colección de la Academia de San Carlos) provides a terse entry on an engraver by the name of Garrido (p. 67).

     This unusual book is another manifestation in the ancient tradition of “Ages of Man” literature, the best known of which in the English canon is Shakespeare’s “Seven Ages.” The immediate inspiration for this book has not been identified. This entirely engraved book consists of illustrations explained by a chronological age and three lines of poetry about that particular age of human life. The book moves from year one to year one hundred, with the first five plates bringing the subjects up to twenty years of age and then proceeding by decade after that. The illustrations depict activities or attitudes appropriate to every age (play, school, courtship, soldiering, sickness, death, etc). The final engraving illustrates a man lying in bed while Death, in the form of a skeleton, pulls back the bed curtains. The engravings are detailed and exquisite, capturing the modes and mores of the time, without being moralistic. Despite the lack of pietistic moralizing, the work clearly seems intended as a devotional, urging the reader to consider the ultimate end of life, no matter at what stage this book might come into one's hands.  Unlike the Danza de la muerte tradition, wherein Death cuts off the lives of people of any rank at any point, this text contemplates a full life, although making it clear that all life, no matter how long, ends in death.


Sold. Hammer: $11,000.00; Price Realized: $13,475.00.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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