an exhibition chiefly from the books of the 
South Carolina College Library

 Introduction | 16th Century | 17th Century | Some 18th Century Historians | Alexander Von Humbolt | Revolution & Independence | Rediscovering Mexican Antiquity | Emergence of Mexico
exhibit brochureThis exhibit from the Department of Rare Books & Special Collections displays illustrated books and maps about Mexico from the sixteenth century through the late nineteenth century.   The exhibit documents the gradual  process by which the cultures and history of pre-Columbian Mexico were described and published in Spain, in rival European countries such as the Netherlands, Britain, and France, in Mexico itself, and in the United States.  

Most of the books on display have been in the USC library since the 1830's and 1840's. They are dramatic evidence of the intellectual ambitions of the original South Carolina College and of the worldwide range of the books that were purchased for its library.  The oldest item on display is an engraving of Mexico city printed in 1565, from the Italian writer Ramusio’s Voyages.  Other early works include illustrations of Aztec customs by the German Theodor de Bry from 1594 and Dutch engraved maps from the seventeenth century by the Dutchmen De Laet and Montanus.

Some of the most impressive volumes are from the early nineteenth century, in Alexander von Humboldt’s great folio Vue des Cordelleres et Monumens des Peuples Indigene de l’Amerique(Paris, 1810) and Lord Kingsborough’s seven-volume Antiquities of Mexico (London, 1830), with its colored facsimiles of pre-Columbian illuminated manuscripts.  The architecture of the pre-Columbian Aztec and Mayan cultures is represented both from Kingsborough’s work and from the American J. L. Stephens’s books about the Yucatan (1841, 1843).  Of special note in the final case is a copy of the Mexican military code of justice owned by General Santa Anna.  


Patrick Scott
Director, Rare Books & Special Collections
Thomas Cooper Library

Columbia Departments Campus Libraries
Columbia Libraries and Collections