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MEXICAN ANTIQUITIES
IN CONTEMPORARY HANDCOLOR

Dupaix, Guillaume; Castaneda, José Luciano (illustr.); . Antiquités mexicaines. Relation des trois Expéditions du Capitaine Dupaix, ordonnées en 1805, 1806, et 1807, pour la Recherche des Antiquités du Pays, notamment celles de Mitla et de Palenque… . Paris, Didot, 1834.

[54 x 35 cm], Three parts in two folio volumes. Text volume: (2) ff, XIV pp., (1) ff., 20 pp., 56 pp., 40 pp., 88 pp., (4) pp., 82 pp., 224 pp., (2) ff. Plates: (2) ff., [frontispiece], LXIX pl., [2] ff., XLVI pl., [2] ff., IX pl., X pl., (2) ff., [1 map unbound at rear]. In total 1 frontispiece, 1 map, and 166 hand-coloured plates. Bound in splendid contemporary French red morocco with blind and gilt fillets on sides, spines gilt. Provenance: Henri, Count of Chambord (1820-1883, grandson of Charles X and pretender to the French throne) / Sir Robert Abdy. Occasional foxing to text and browning to the odd leaf, frontispiece foxed but remaining plates very clean and crisp with fresh contemporary colouring.

$175,000

First edition, first issue of this monumental work, here in a rare example with fine contemporary hand-colouring. An “indispensable supplement to Humboldt’s Voyage dans l’Amerique” (Sabin), Dupaix’s arduous work represents in many cases the first glimpses – and first published records - of untouched Mayan ruins emerging from the jungle. The remarkably faithful engravings in the Antiquités mexicaines have ensured that the work remains one of the most valuable colonial sources on Mayan art and architecture to the present day. The first half of the 19th century saw the sudden explosion of European interest in the ancient inhabitants of Mexico thanks to works such as the present one; Dupaix’s, however, must be counted far and away the most visually striking and resplendent depiction of this forgotten civilization, replete with ruins overgrown by greenery.

“Bearing messages of fraternity and indigenous achievement, Antiquités mexicaines made quite a splash in France. Luxuriously produced, it was the most comprehensive visual and written account to date of Mexico's ancient monumental architecture and sculpture. It benefited from a first-rate team of engravers and a distinguished line-up of contributors, including Chateaubriand, Alexander von Humboldt, and the antiquarian Alexandre Lenoir. It received a subsidy from the French government, and it inspired the European Historical Congress to take up the question of the origins of ancient American civilizations at its meeting of 1835.” (Edison, “Colonial Prospecting in Independent Mexico”). No copy of the first edition, first issue with contemporary hand-colouring has been seen at auction in the last 30 years. The work was published by subscription, a coloured copy commanding 780 francs.

Provenance: with printed bookseller’s ticket by Maggs of London recording the volume’s purchase from the library of the exiled Henri, Count of Chambord (1820-1883). Henri had a rightful, if disputed claim to the French throne in 1830 and was illegally prevented from assuming the title by Louis Philippe of Orléans. He very nearly returned to power in the early 1870s after a long period of exile, but arrangements fell through at the last moment due to his refusal to accept the Republican ‘tricolor’ flag.


* Sabin 40038 (“an indispensable supplement to Humboldt’s Voyage dans l’Amerique as it contains many interesting discoveries not in the latter work”); Palau 13, 069 (“a sumptuous work”); Edison, “Colonial Prospecting in Independent Mexico: Abbé Baradère's Antiquités mexicaines (1834-36),” Proceedings of the Western Society for French History, 32 (2004); Evans, Romancing the Maya: Mexican antiquity in the American imagination, 1820-1915 (University of Texas Press, 2004).

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