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Glimpses Into a Monumental Past

Illuminating Mesoamerican history, one sale at a time By Emily Byrd Emily Byrd lives in North Carolina and is the editorial cordinator of special publications at Journalistic, Inc.

In 1844, British artist and architect Frederick Catherwood indelibly changed the way the Western world imagined ancient life in Mesoamerica through his intricate drawings of lost cities and the awe-inspiring monuments and ruins within.

Catherwood, along with writer John Lloyd Stephens, compiled the accounts of their explorations in the collection Views of Ancient Monuments in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan.

After reading a former account of the ruins of Copán written by Juan Galindo, Catherwood and Stephens were inspired to create a more vivid and complete view of Mayan ruins.

By all accounts, Views of Ancient Monuments succeeded in this regard, and the pair managed to shed light on many previously undocumented sites.

Catherwood’s lithographs capture intricate details of the stonework and strikingly singular architecture of the monuments he explored. In many of the meticulous representations, Catherwood also draws locals into the scene, providing intriguing snapshots of social interactions and prevailing styles.

A copy of this seminal work was recently available for auction at Morton Casa de Subastas—the largest auction house in Mexico, Central, and South America.

Frederick Catherwood (1799-1854). Views of Ancient Monuments in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan. London: 1844. First Edition. Courtesy of Morton.

“We are proud to have consigned and sold in our January 2016 books and manuscripts auction, one of the three hundred first edition copies of the Views of Ancient Monuments in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatán from 1844,” said representative Jesús Cruz. “[Views is] a tangible cultural heritage example in excellent condition, with a map and twenty-five lithographs with which Frederick Catherwood unveiled to the world the existence of Mayan cities, its pyramids, and monumental sculptures.”

Morton prides itself on consigning and selling compelling works that provide vital insight into Central and South American culture spanning the ages.

The remarkable growth of the brand in Mexico City has allowed the house to expand to its location in Houston, Texas, and Morton’s professionals conduct monthly auctions on fine books & manuscripts at their Mexico location.

Frederick Catherwood (1799-1854). Views of Ancient Monuments in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan. London: 1844. First Edition. Courtesy of Morton.

In its history, Morton has facilitated the sale of original documents associated with some of the most significant figures in the history of Mexico, with signed items from names such as Miguel Hidalgo, José María Morelos y Pavón, Antonio López de Santa Anna, Benito Juárez, and many more. The auction house frequently focuses on items illuminating Mexican history and indigenous culture through the lens of its many explorers and biographers.

“Morton has enriched both national and international private collections through the large number of items consigned to its care,” Cruz said.

To date, one of Morton’s most notable sales has been a collection of sketches produced by the nineteenth-century Italian artist Claudio Linati, produced during an exploration of Mexico. Linati is famous for bringing the technology of lithography to Mexico in 1826, when he produced a periodical including lithographic images of fashions and antiquities. Despite the prejudice portrayed in Linati’s accompanying essays, his works remain intriguing pieces for collectors and enthusiasts of Latin-American history.

Another fascinating item that has come through Morton’s doors was Bernal Diaz de Castillo’s The True History of the Conquest of New Spain. Castillo was a soldier and first-hand participant in the conquest of Mexico in the sixteenth century. Castillo’s simplistic but searing style in True History narrates the conquest of Mexico, along with vivid descriptions of the places and people he encountered along the way, making it a highly coveted collectible.

By serving as a dependable source for unique historical documents and works on paper month after month, Morton has made a name for itself that transcends borders.

Emily Byrd lives in North Carolina and is the editorial cordinator of special publications at Journalistic, Inc.

Emily Byrd lives in North Carolina and is the editorial cordinator of special publications at Journalistic, Inc.
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