Antiquities of Mexico:


Antiquities of Mexico:
comprising facsimiles of ancient Mexican paintings and hieroglyphics … together with the monuments of New Spain, by M. Dupaix … the drawings on stone by A. Aglio.
London, Robert Havell, Colnaghi Son & Co., 1831-1848.

In stock


First edition of the hand-coloured issue of the greatest illustrated work on Mexican antiquities.

‘Kingsborough’s nine-volume set, The Antiquities of Mexico, is, quite simply, stupendous. Each massive volume is roughly two feet square, weighs about 65 pounds, and consists of hundreds of pages of text and magnificent illustrations in colour and black-and-white, painstakingly copied from originals by a talented artist named Augustine Aglio. The set took 18 years to produce and the cost of £40,000 was a truly enormous sum in terms of the currency of the time, when a family could live quite well on £500 a year’ (BAS Library).

The story of Kingsborough’s fateful attraction to Mexican manuscripts is well known: during his studies at Oxford he became fascinated by one of the Bodleian’s manuscripts — the very one described by Samuel Purchas in 1626 (in Purchas his Pilgrimes, vol. III) — and decided to devote himself to the study of Central American manuscripts and artifacts. With the support of Sir Thomas Phillipps, many of whose manuscripts are described in the Antiquities, he employed the Italian painter Agustine Aglio to scour Europe’s greatest libraries and private collections for Mexican manuscripts, which Aglio sketched and later lithographed for publication. Besides Aglio’s reproductions of manuscripts in the Bodleian, the Vatican Library, the Borgian Museum, the Imperial Library of Vienna, the Library of the Institute at Bologna, and the royal libraries of Berlin, Dresden, and Budapest, the work includes Dupaix’s Monuments of New Spain, taken from Castaneda’s original drawings, and descriptions of sculptures and artifacts from several private collections. The text, with sections in Spanish, English, French and Italian, includes Sahagun’s Historia General de la Nueva Espana and the chronicles of Tezozomoc and Ixtlilxochitl.

The immense project cost Kingsborough £32,000 (equivalent to about £3.5M today) and his life: in 1837 he died of typhus contracted in prison in Dublin, a few days after being arrested for a debt to a paper manufacturer. His father the Earl of Kingston died a few month later; Kingsborough would have stood to inherit an annual estate of £40,000.


First edition, 9 volumes, folio, with 741 plates (in volumes I-IV), mostly by Augustine Aglio, comprising: 587 lithographs by Aglio finely hand-coloured, 144 uncoloured (one folding, of which 127 are chalk lithographs on mounted India tissue paper), and 10 engraved or aquatint plates; 2 folding tables in text volumes V and VI, contemporary green half morocco gilt, a little spotting to some text pages, a fine set.


Brunet III, 663; Lipperheide Md11; Palau 128006; Sabin 37800.


Stock ID: 88517