The Long & Winding Road to the British Museum

Click thumbnails to open zoomable images.

582. WETHERELL, Juan. Catalogo de una coleccion de antigüedades Mejicanas con varios idolos, adornos, y otros artefactos de los Indios, que ecsiste [sic] en poder de Don Juan Wetherell. [Seville, 1842]. [1-2] 3-7 [1, blank] pp., 11 lithograph plates all entitled Antigüidades Mejicanas and with plate 9 signed at lower left Salvador Gutíerrez Litogo and at lower right Litoga de Colomina y Portole=Sevilla. 8vo (22 x 14 cm), modern quarter red sheep over contemporary gray mottled boards, with original printed label on upper cover (Antigüidades Mejicanas. Wetherell. Sevilla: 1842). Boards lightly rubbed and bumped, front hinge open but holding, plates slightly foxed; overall very good. With author’s ink presentation on title page, “Al Sr. Dn. Joaquin Rubio, Su amigo Juan Wetherell Agto. 1849” and with contemporary bookbinder’s ticket of Dodson & Co., Holborn. Very rare. Only one copy listed on OCLC (in the National Library of Chile); the British Museum has two copies in the Anthropology Library. Only one copy at auction in thirty years, and it was the present copy (Sotheby’s June 26, 1997).

     First edition. BMC 26:1077.41. David Murray, Museums, their History and their Use: With a Bibliography... (Glasgow: J. MacLehose and Sons, 1904), p. 270. Palau 374820. The images were all printed from one stone and then cut apart. The plates show 107 separate images, all with numbers keyed to the explanatory text. In his brief explanations of the images, the author tells of what materials the originals were made (almost always stone), what uses he believes they had, and how large they are—the last description particularly important to convey the actual size of some of the objects, which are far larger in reality than they appear to be in their representations. He further states that he is publishing this work in the hopes that it will interest such diverse people as Humboldt, Kingsborough, and members of the Royal Geographical Society in London.

     In his introduction Wetherell states that the collection was initially formed by Ciriaco Gonzales Carvajal, although he does not inform the reader how it came into his own possession. Gonzales Carvajal, a Spanish functionary in the Philippines, was the first President of that country’s Economic Society of Friends of the Country (founded 1781). Initially an oidor, he became an intendant. He later became secretary of Spain’s Gobernación del Reyno de Ultramar. The collection of antiquities was taken to Spain after Mexico’s independence in 1821. It was later acquired by Wetherell and illustrated in the present catalogue. The British Museum purchased the entire Wetherell Collection in 1849.      Wetherell, perhaps the son of English manufacturer Nathan Wetherell, who established a leather-working factory in Spain, lived at one time in Seville before going to England with his collection about 1830.

     The Magazine of American History, Vol. 10, July, 1883, p. 345, refers to this publication: “In the year 1842 I saw a very valuable collection of these articles at the residence of Don Juan Wetherell, and he entrusted me with a 12mo catalogue of them, containing several plates, for our Minister in Madrid, Washington Irving. Ford, in his Hand-book of Spain, 1855, notices the collection and this catalogue, adding that they were gathered by Gonzales Carvajal. J.C.B. Brooklyn, N.Y.”


Sold. Hammer: $500.00; Price Realized: $612.50.

Auction 23 Abstracts

Click thumbnails to open zoomable images.

DSRB Home | e-mail: