Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - February - 2009 Issue

Mexico and Latin America from Plaza Books

Plaza26

Works from Mexico and Latin America from Plaza Books.


By Michael Stillman

Plaza Books has issued List 26, forty-seven items within their specialty. That specialty is Latin American books, primarily those pertaining to Mexico. There are items published during each of the past four centuries, and they describe the land south of the United States all the way back to pre-Spanish times. Here are a few of the items Plaza has to offer.

Item 34 provides one of the earliest looks at Mexico, though it was not published until 1829-30. The author, Fr. Bernardino de Sahagun, was one of the first Franciscans to go to Mexico. He gathered much of his information from Aztecs still living in the area, and wrote the original drafts in Nahuatl, the native language. He later translated his accounts into Spanish and sent them back to Spain, where they were lost for many years. That explains the much later publication of his 11-volume account, Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva Espana. Priced at $2,000.

To learn more about the conquest of Mexico, item 14 is The True History of the Conquest of Mexico, by Bernal Diaz del Castillo. This is the first English language edition of this history, published in 1800. $1,150.

You don't usually find books pertaining to Mexico written in French, but there is a good reason for this one. Item 21 is John de Havilland's Le Mexique sous la Maison de Hapsbourg. De Havilland was an ardent royalist, and in this 1863 work, he calls for the establishment of a Hapsbourg emperor in Mexico. He argues against democracy, citing the U.S. Civil War as an example of what can go wrong with that form of government. De Havilland was also a strong Confederate sympathizer. Maximilian is not mentioned by name, but we now know that the author soon got his wish when the French established Maximilian on the thrown of Mexico. This imposed royalty was short lived, Maximilian being overthrown and executed a few years later. $500.

The primary instigator of Maximilian's downfall was revolutionary leader Benito Juarez. Item 23 is a letter Juarez wrote to Antonio Ochoa, dated January 31, 1865. It concerns the location of some of his troops and those of Maximilian. Two years later, Maximilian's forces were defeated and Juarez resumed his presidency of Mexico. $1,950.

Item 5 is the first Mexican cookbook printed in Mexico: Novisimo Arte de Cocina... by Simon Blanquel. This is an 1845 edition of a book first published in 1831, but still in print as late as 1893. You won't find any tacos, enchiladas or Taco Bell fare in this catalogue, but rather delicacies that were actually consumed in the land more than a century ago. $2,500.

Item 1 is A Voyage Round the World, in the Years 1740-44... by George Anson (compiled by Richard Walter). Anson set out to South America to disrupt Spanish shipping, though it was his mission that was terribly disrupted. He lost five out of six ships and most of his men. However, late in his journey, he intercepted a Spanish vessel laden with coins and returned to England a wealthy man. Offered is an eighth edition from 1756 (this was a popular book as the first was only published in 1748). It contains three maps, including one of the last of California to still show it as being an island. $1,050.

Plaza Books may be reached at 707-546-3544 or plazabks@sonic.net. Their website is located at www.plazabooks.com.

Rare Book Monthly

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    <b>TO AKABA! T.E. Lawrence and the Arab Revolt. Books, manuscripts and pictures. On exhibition 16 to 24th July at Maggs' new premises 48 Bedford Square.</b>
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