“A rare and important work on Pre-Columbian archaeology, one of the earliest major publications on the sites of the Yucatán” (Hill)

A Superb Copy in the Preferred Issue with Colored Plates


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577. WALDECK, [Jean] Frédéric [Maximilien, compte] de. Voyage Pittoresque et archéologique dans la province d’Yucatan (Amérique Centrale), pendant les années 1834 et 1836, par Frédéric de Waldeck, Dédié a la Mémorie de Feu Le Vicomte de Kingsborough. Paris: Bellizard Dufour; London: J. & W. Boone; Bossange Barthès et Lowell [half-title verso: Imprimerie de Firmin Frères, rue Jacob, 56], 1838. [2, title with india proof engraving], [i-ii, title], [i-ii, half title], [v]-x, [iii]-iv (table of contents), [1]-110 (p. 89 misnumbered 91) pp., title and half-title bound in reverse order, table of contents bound at end of prelims (errata leaf, which did not appear in all copies, not present), title with mounted copper-engraved vignette on india proof paper of 2 silver medallions; engraved map with original outline color of routes and borders: Carte de la province de Yucatan Amérique Centrale pour l’intelligence du Voyage pittoresque et archaéologique de Frédéric Waldeck...par Ambroise Tardieu...1838 (neat line to neat line: 47.3 x 30.3 cm; map with text outside neat lines: 48.5 x 31); 22 plates on 21 sheets (Plate XIV/XV numbered as two; and including title, all but one lithograph): 16 in full color or tinted (including 6 costume plates in magnificent color); 5 black and white (plans and architectural elevations); 3 plates double-page; one engraved plate (title). Folio (60 x 43 cm), contemporary three-quarter russet morocco over russet, blue, and yellow marbled boards, spine with raised bands and gilt lettering, ruling, and ornamentation, matching marbled endpapers, t.e.g. Minor rubbing to binding (mainly affecting joints and edges), hinges split but holding very strong and with original stitching. Occasional very mild age-toning to text. Small expertly repaired tear (approximately 2 cm long) at lower blank margin of title. Map with mild to moderate foxing (mainly confined to edges and blank margins), lower edge of map slightly worn and with a few tiny chips, one repair to right blank margin of map (approximately 5.5 cm). Plates with occasional light foxing, Plate VI with darkening to lower blank margin (not affecting title or image), a few of the tinted plates with very mild foxing or spotting. Overall the plates are exceptionally fine and fresh with vibrant coloring and a complete lack of offsetting to tissue guards, all of which are present. An excellent, large copy of the more desirable colored version, in a handsome contemporary binding.

     First edition. This work may have appeared in more than one version. The present copy has the majority of plates beautifully colored by hand and the title vignette on india proof paper. Another version has all plates in black and white and mounted on india proof paper. Brunet (V, col. 1402) describes two issues, one with plates in color at a cost of 100 francs, and the uncolored version at 75 francs. Bénézit VIII:651. Bernal 8961. Brasseur de Bourbourg, Bibl. Mexico-Guatémalienne, p. 155. Perrault-Dabot, Catalogue de la bibliothèque de la Commission des monuments historique 2849. Ceram, March of Archaeology, pp. 276-280: “After Dupaix and Kingsborough, Waldeck was the third European to throw himself heart and soul into the exploration of Middle America’s past—at a period when the world cared nothing for it.” Graesse VIII:493. Hill I, pp. 317. Hill II:1812: “Count Waldeck was a celebrated artist and traveler, who lived to be 110 years old. This is a rare and important work on Pre-Columbian archaeology, one of the earliest major publications on the sites of the Yucatán.” Palau 373688. Pilling 4074 (noting Maya place names, phrases, and vocabulary translated into French and Spanish). Sabin 100994. Saville, Palenque, p. 136. Valle, Bibliofgrafía Maya, pp. 391.

     Waldeck (1766-1875), notable and enigmatic artist, explorer, and self-proclaimed archaeologist, studied art under Jacques Louis David in Paris. In this work, dedicated to his patron Lord Kingsborough (see herein), Waldeck discusses the varied aspects of Yucatan—its people, culture, linguistics, antecedents, and remains. The exceptional plates depict the people and customs of the region, along with pyramids, temples, idols, grotesque masks, sculpture, and other artifacts. Of special note among the costume plates are two exceptionally beautiful images of strong women, for which the region is noted.

     Waldeck’s first contact with the art of ancient Mesoamerica is thought to have been when Kingsborough hired him to make engravings based on drawings of Palenque, which appeared in Antonio del Río’s Description of the Ruins of an Ancient City, Discovered Near Palenque, in the Kingdom of Guatemala, in Spanish America... (London, 1822; see Río herein). Río’s work was the first book on Maya archaeology, a cornerstone in Mesoamerican studies. Waldeck and Kingsborough became fast friends. Waldeck was so captivated with Mesoamerica that in 1834 at the age of sixty-four, he returned to Palenque where he encamped and proceeded with his drawings and researches. Kingsborough financed his three-year expedition to America.

     Upon Waldeck’s return to Paris three years later, he published this account of his explorations in Yucatan. Waldeck’s prints were much more dramatic and artistic than the original illustrations from which he worked. His depictions of monumental Maya architecture are very precise, yet it is obvious that he was influenced by the beliefs of his patron Kingsborough that the Maya were the descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel. His drawings of these ancient remains sometimes have a decidedly Egyptian appearance. Waldeck was a man of many facets. His other claim to fame was the publication I Modi (De omnibus Veneris Schematibus), the famous erotic book of the Italian Renaissance destroyed by the Catholic Church. Waldeck published a new edition of the work which he claimed was based on tracings he made of the prints found in a convent near Palenque, but more likely a direct copy of a combination of the British Museum fragments and the Caracci edition.

     Tardieu’s map is one of the more important maps of Yucatan. Many local maps were consulted to create one of the first general printed maps of Yucatan with any semblance of reality. Antochiw comments on this map in Historia Cartografía de la Peninsula de Yucatan, (p. 289): “Waldeck dice que esta mapa es producto de sus propios trabajos y de los mapas de Owen, etc., sin decir quiénes fureon. Sin embargo, una simple ojeada basta para reconocer de inmediato el mapa que dibujó León en 1798, con excepción del contorno tomado de los ingleses.”

     Finally, the book itself is an elegant monument to the art of fine printing, with high production values. It was executed by the French firm of the Didot family of printers, punch-cutters, and publishers known for their achievements and advancements in printing, publishing, and typography. Firmin Didot appears on half-title verso, along with the names of the booksellers in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Odessa, Florence, Venice, Brussels, Amsterdam, and Hamburg, from whom the book could be obtained.


Sold. Hammer: $24,000.00; Price Realized: $29,400.00.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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