Palenque Lavishly Illustrated

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Note “elephant” headdress.

578. WALDECK, [Jean Frédéric Maximilien, compte] de & M. de Charles Étienne Brasseur de Bourbourg]. Monuments anciens du Mexique Palenqué et autres ruines de l’ancienne civilisation du Mexique. Collection de vues, bas-reliefs, morceaux d’architecture, coupes, vases, terres cuites, cartes et plans, dessinés d’après nature et relevés par M. de Waldeck. Texte rédigé par M. Brasseur de Bourbourg. Membre de la Commission Scientifique du Mexique, etc. Ouvrage publié sous les auspices de S.E.M. le Ministre de l’instruction publique. [Second title] Recherches sur les ruines de Palenqué et sur les origines de la civilisation du Mexique par M. l’abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg... texte publié avec le dessins de M. de Waldeck.... Paris: Arthus Bertrand, Éditeur, Libraire de la Société de Géographie, 21, rue Hautefeuille, 1866. [2, half title], [2, title], [i-ii, second title] [iii] iv-xxiii [1, blank], [1] 2-83 [1, Table des Matières], [i] ii-viii pp., 52 leaves of lithograph plates numbered 3-56 (4 folded leaves with 2 plate numbers each), mostly tinted, 2 full-color, 5 uncolored plans (archaeology, sculpture, artifacts, views, plans) by Waldeck (several of the plate leaves have more than one image); plus folded lithograph map with original outline color (Carte du Yucatan et des régions voisines pouvant servir aux explorations dans ce pays par V. A. Malte-Brun. MDCCCLXIV; below neat line: Gravé chez Erhard, 12 r. Duguay-Trouin. | Arthus Bertrand. Lib.-Editeur. | Paris-Imp. Becquet, 37 r. des Noyeurs; 43.9 x 53 cm, key with pyramids hand colored in scarlet). Folio (55.7 x 38 cm), contemporary half brown morocco over brown pebbled cloth, spine with gilt lettering and raised bands, red and blue marbled endpapers. Binding moderately worn with a few stains and chipping at spinal extremities, corners bumped (some exposure of boards beneath), edges with mild rubbing and one bump at top; light to moderate foxing to interior, including some plates, but generally a fine copy with generous margins. Very rare.

     First edition of a rare illustrated work on the ruins at Palenque. Located near the Usumacinta River in the Mexican state of Chiapas, Palenque was a Maya city state in southern Mexico that flourished in the seventh century. While smaller than well-known sites such as Tikal, Palenque provides very fine examples of Mayan architecture, sculpture, and bas-relief carving. The present work lavishly illustrates these features. Angrand, Inventaire des livres et documents relatifs à l’Amérique 1. Bernal 843. Brasseur de Bourbourg, Bibl. Mexico-Guatémalienne, p. 31. Brunet (Supplement) II, col. 939: “Très beau livre.” Leclerc, Bibliotheca Americana (1878) 605 & 1302. Palau 34537, 34538 & 373690. Pilling 448. Sabin 7435 (noting that text was also issued separately). Saville, Palenque, p. 141. Valle, Bibliofgrafía Maya, pp. 392. According to Bertrand’s ad on the back wrapper of Combier’s Voyage (Paris, 1864), the present work was to be composed of 56 lithograph plates, several in color, which would be issued in thirteen fascicules, each at a price of 10 francs. At the time of printing, the first five fascicules were available. Various sources give differing publication dates, although most copies are dated 1866. For example, the British Library dates their copy as 1866, but provides a conjectured date of [1860-1866], whereas Harvard calls for a date of 1864. Perhaps the varying dates relate to the time of issue of various fascicules. References to map: Angrand, Inventaire des livres et documents relatifs à l’Amérique 143. Antochiw, Historia Cartografía de la Peninsula de Yucatan, p. 288 & Plate 29. Means, History of the Spanish Conquest of Yucatan and of the Itzas, p. 198: “A reliable and invaluable modern map with many place names, routes, etc.”

     When Waldeck’s patron Kingsborough died (see preceding entry), he was unable to raise the money to publish the results of his explorations, and finally, when he was a hundred years of age, the French Academy published his grand work on Palenque. Waldeck intended to publish three works on Mexico and its monuments. The first of these was the Voyage Pittoresque (see preceding), based on his two-year sojourn at Palenque where he took up residence atop the “Temple of the Cross” and undertook various excavations and documentation on site. The second was the present work in which he focused his attention entirely on Palenque. His projected publication on manuscripts never was issued. Although Waldeck’s depictions of the ruins at Palenque were based on first-hand examination, he employed a flamboyant approach to image creation, often inferring a close relationship between Maya art and architecture and that of Roman and Greek Classical antiquity. He studied with the great and influential artist, Jacques Louis David, who combined Neoclassicism with heightened feeling. Waldeck’s illustrations reflect in a vivid way various spurious theories about the mysteries of Mesoamerica that inspired speculation about contact between New and Old World civilizations (see preceding). Here Waldeck introduced the idea of elephants in Mesoamerica to promote his imaginative theories. “Elephants have a long history on the fringes of Maya Studies. The Maya could treat the head of a macaw in such a stylized way that its beak came to resemble an elephant’s trunk.... Waldeck was an engaging opportunist and much of his invention was calculated to appeal to the audience for publications that he planned after his return to Europe. For by the 1830s, romantic travelogues combining antiquarian ‘researches’ with descriptions of adventures and hardships in exotic, little-known parts of the world were greatly in demand.... Waldeck’s brief but marginal value was as a publicist, for himself and for the Maya as well, and as a catalyst to encourage others to find out the truth for themselves” (David Drew, The Lost Chronicles of the Maya Kings, Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California, 1999, p. 50). A notable “elephant” image appears on Plate 13.

     The author of the text, Brasseur de Bourbourg (1814-1874), shared such beliefs with Waldeck, Kingsborough, and others. Brasseur de Bourbourg, noted Belgian writer, linguist, ethnographer, historian, and archaeologist contributed much to knowledge of the Maya and Aztec languages, writing, history and culture through his publications and recovery of historical documents, such as Diego de Landa’s manuscripts and study of the Popul Vuh. He and Waldeck travelled and worked with the French military expedition in Mexico, and, as noted, the present work was published by the French Government in 1866.

     The rare map by Malte-Brun gives credit to the printed maps of M.M. Owen, Barnett, Lawrence, Kiepert, Garcia y Cubas, Stephens, and Waldeck’s manuscript map. Antochiw comments on this map in Historia Cartografía de la Peninsula de Yucatan (p. 288, paraphrase in English): “Malte-Brun’s 1864 map was the first map published abroad dedicated to the peninsula geography. In his Coup d’oeil that accompanied the map, Malte-Brun states that he made use of a 1651 catechism, which was itself republished that same year in Yucatan as part of an Itinerario and included information from Juan Pablo Celarain and José Antonio García. The map marks archeological sites [and] preserves older features such as the north-south mountain chain that crosses the peninsula.”


Sold. Hammer: $15,000.00; Price Realized: $18,375.00.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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