Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - January - 2014 Issue

Mexico and Central America from Plaza Books

Mexico & Central America.

Plaza Books has released List 36. Mexico & Central America. Most items here pertain to Mexico though there are some from Nicaragua and Honduras. Some are in Spanish, others in English. A few go back as far as the 16th century, while a few are from the century just passed. There are both printed works and manuscript documents to be found. And, with that introduction, we will move on to a few samples of the material offered.

 

Item 14 is Instrucciones que los Virreyes de Nueva Espana dejaron a sus Sucesores, published in 1867. This is a compilation of instructions the Mexican Viceroys from Spain had left their successors, along with instructions received from the Kings of Spain. They provide insights about conditions in the country, including today's California and the American Southwest, as well as Florida, once a possession of Spain, and Central America. The printing of this material was ordered by Emperor Maximilian, though it is doubtful he had much opportunity to enjoy it, his having been overthrown and executed in the year it was published. According to Sabin, most copies were destroyed during the siege of Mexico City, accounting for its scarcity in the market. This book was once owned by U. S. Ambassador to Chile Walter Howe and his notations of certain mining references indicates he used it in the preparation of a book he wrote on mining. Priced at $3,000.

 

Item 16 is Narrative of the Texan Santa Fe Expedition, by George Wilkins Kendall, published in 1844. It is an account of an ill-fated attempt by the young Republic of Texas in 1841 to capture part of New Mexico. Texas believed the border should continue to be the Rio Grande, even north of the El Paso area where it instead dissects New Mexico. Texas sent a convey of traders and soldiers, hoping to convince New Mexicans to join their state. The armed participants were there to defeat any objecting Mexican soldiers (New Mexico was still a Mexican state at the time). The convoy was sent to Santa Fe, the trading headquarters, but it was poorly prepared. They had trouble finding their way, were short on supplies, were not welcomed as hoped, and were then met by a Mexican force many times the size of their own. They were overwhelmed. The Texans were fortunate that after some debate, the Mexicans decided against just killing them on the spot. Instead, they were marched the long distance to a prison awaiting them in Mexico City. They were fortunate again in later being released through the diplomatic intervention of the United States. $1,850.

 

Item 4 is a Testimonial of Membership certificate in the Aztec Club of 1847, dated October 10, 1849. While the certificate was created in Washington, it certified that Major Gaines, Volunteer, was elected a member in Mexico City. The organization was formed during the Mexican War to provide fellowship, relaxation, entertainment and such for American officers once the U. S. forces secured Mexico City. The list of officers who joined would later read like a who's who of the Civil War. Grant, Lee, Sherman, and Longstreet were all members. The President of the organization, who signed this document, John B. Grayson, became a Brigadier General in the Confederate Army. First and Second Vice-Presidents Charles F. Smith and Robert C. Buchanan became Generals for the Union. Major Gaines had been captured during the Mexican War and held prisoner until until its conclusion, explaining his somewhat later arrival to the organization. While in prison, he was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives from Kentucky. Gaines would go on to be Governor of the Oregon Territory. The Aztec Club of 1847 was one of America's first veterans' organizations and exists to this day, though obviously its members are no longer veterans of the Mexican War. It is now open to their descendants. $1,750.

 

Next we have a manuscript arrest warrant for five escaped prisoners from the Mexico City Inquisition prison. The date is March 9, 1573, when there was still an active Inquisition. The five were seamen on John Hawkins' (later Sir John Hawkins) privateering mission to the Americas. Hawkins had stopped off to gather some slaves to bring to the New World on his way, but after delivering the poor souls, accidentally ran in to a large Spanish force off of Vera Cruz. Only two of his ships, including Hawkins and his second-in-command, Francis Drake (also later knighted and the first English captain to circumnavigate the globe) escaped. These five were not so lucky. However, they later made their escape from prison, hence this warrant for their arrest. One of the five was Phil Hawkins, a nephew of the Captain. Nephew Hawkins had a great naval pedigree with others in the family, father included, serving as officers in the Royal Navy. However, he was only 15 or 16 years old and served as his uncle's page. He was evidently recaptured as he spent a few more years in prison and after he was released, got married and settled in Mexico. No hard feelings. Item 21. $8,500.

 

Item 6 is Guatemala The Land of the Quetzal, by William T. Brigham, published in 1887. For those not in the know, the quetzal is a brightly colored bird native to the area. I guessed it was a native tribe before looking it up. Plaza says this is “one of the most thorough guides to Guatemala that we have seen.” They add that he must have gone everywhere in the country, which would not have been easy to do in the 1880s. $550.

 

Plaza Books may be reached at 707-217-9229 or plazabks@sonic.net. Their website is www.plazabooks.com.

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