Monday, March 20, 2017

What the Muse Sent Me About the Tenth Muse, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

Door to the quarters of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz,
"the Tenth Muse." Photo by C.M. Mayo, 2017.
Late last year my amiga the brilliant short story writer Paula Whyman invited me to send a "Dispatch from Mexico City" for her new magazine, Scoundrel Time. So I dialed in to Muse HQ... 

As I told Paula, woefully past the deadline, I had asked the Muse for a slider, a yummy little note about books in Mexico, but she delivered the whole ox. In other words, my "Dispatch from the Sister Republic or, Papelito Habla" is a novela-length essay about the Mexican literary landscape, from prehispanic codices to contemporary writers. It is what it is, I don't want start chopping (there would be blood!!), but of course, a 30 page essay is too long for a magazine. 

Scoundrel Time will be publishing an excerpt about Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca's Relación-- a nearly 500 year-old memoir little known outside of Mexico and Texas, yet that stands as one of the most astonishing and important books ever written. (As soon that goes on-line, I will be sure to link to it from here.) As for my full-length essay, "Dispatch from the Sister Republic," look for it as a Kindle under my own imprint, Dancing Chiva, ASAP. 

Herewith my other favorite excerpt, about the Tenth Muse, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz:

Excerpt from 
"DISPATCH FROM THE SISTER REPUBLIC OR, PAPELITO HABLA"
by C.M. MAYO 


For rare book collectors, Mecca is Mexico City’s Colonia Centro, and for such aficionados of mexicana as myself, its sanctum sanctorum, the Librería Madero—by the way, recently relocated from the Avenida Madero to the Avenida Isabela La Católica, facing the the formidable wedding cake-white corner of the 16th century ex-convent of San Jerónimo, known today as the Claustro de Sor Juana, that is, the Convent of Sister Juana.

And if you would not know Sor Juana from a poinsettia, gentle reader, with all respect, you must crowbar out that boulder of ignorance, for which you will be rewarded by a glimpse of the diamond of the Mexico’s Baroque period, the first great Latin American poet and playwright, “the Tenth Muse,” a cloistered nun.

Texan poet John Campion was the first to translate Sor Juana’s magnum opus, “Primero sueño,” as “The Dream,” in 1983. (Alas, that date is not a typo.) Campion’s translation is out of print, but he offers a free PDF download of the text on his website, worldatuningfork.com. The first lines of Campion’s translation beautifully capture Sor Juana’s uncanny power:
Pyramidal
death-born shadow of earth
aimed at heaven
a proud point of vain obelisks
pretending to scale the Stars


In her time Sor Juana was one of the most learned individuals, man or woman, in the New World, and her prodigious oeuvre, from love poems to polemics, comedies to enigmas to plays to villancicos, was exceptionally sophisticated, so much so that its interpretation is today the province of a small army of sorjuanistas. As Mexico’s Nobel laureate poet Octavio Paz writes in Sor Juana: Or, the Traps of Faith (translated by Margaret Sayers Peden), “A work survives its readers; after a hundred or two hundred years it is read by new readers who impose on it new modes of reading and interpretation. The work survives because of these  interpretations, which are in fact resurrections.”


And perchance startling discoveries. In his 2011 El eclipse del Sueño de Sor Juana, Américo Larralde Rangel makes a radiant case that her “Primero Sueño” describes the dawn over Mexico City after a lunar eclipse on the solstice of the winter of 1684.

In the Librería Madero I find on the first shelf, facing out, two new books by sorjuanistas: one about Sor Juana’s family, another, just published by a Legionario de Cristo, that purports to decipher her twenty enigmas. The latter work incorporates a series of contemporary paintings of Sor Juana in the baroque style—dim backgrounds, crowns and scepters of flowers, and afloat above her head, fat-tummied cherubs, flounces, unspooling bundles of draperies. But these Sor Juanas look too pert, make too coy a tilt of the head. It seems to me as if, session over, the model might have just tossed off that habit to wriggle into some yoga wear.

Yes, just as in the United States, in Mexican cities yoga studios have been popping up like honguitos. 

But if a vision of modern Mexico would have been obscure to Sor Juana, by no means is Sor Juana obscure in modern Mexico. She has inspired scores of poets and musicians; there have been movies, documentaries, and novels, most recently, Mónica Lavin’s 2009 best-seller Yo, la peor (I, the Worst—yet to be translated into English—fingers crossed that Patricia Dubrava will do it). 

As I write this in 2017, Sor Juana graces the celadon-green 200 peso bill. From the portrait by Miguel Cabrera, now hanging in Mexico’s National Museum of History: a serenely intelligent young woman’s face framed in a wimple, and behind her, her quills and inkpot and an open book of her poetry—and a few lines:

Ex-convento of San Jerónimo,
now the Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana,
Mexico City. Photo by C.M. Mayo, 2017.
Hombres necios que acusáis 
a la mujer sin razón, 
sin ver que sois la ocasión
de lo mismo que culpáis.

I cannot pretend to render the music of Sor Juana’s lines into English. But here’s a rough go at their literal meaning: You pig-headed men who accuse women unjustly, blind to the fact that you are the cause for that which you cast blame. 

[.... CONTINUE READING]



# # #

P.S. Those of you who follow my blog may be wondering, what in blazes does this have to do with my book in-progress on Far West Texas? More anon about the truly fantastic connections.

>> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.








Monday, March 13, 2017

One Simple Yet Powerful Practice in Reading as a Writer

I'll be giving my annual one day only workshop on Literary Travel Memoir at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, Maryland this April 22. [Learn more and register online here.] New in ye olde packet  of handouts for this workshop is "Words I Like," my name for a powerful yet simple practice that you might think of as Feldenkrais for your vocabulary. 



"WORDS I LIKE"

As writers, albeit human creatures of habit, we tend to use only a woefully limited portion of our vocabularies. Hence our first drafts may be stiff, dull, and vague. To add verve, freshness, and focus, it helps to loosen up our mental joints, as it were, and reach for a greater variety of words.


The challenge is not necessarily to expand your vocabulary --I am not talking about trying to sound fancy-- though perhaps you or one of your characters may want to do that-- but to bring more of your writerly attention to words you know but do not normally use.


Towards that end reading is vital-- but not reading passively, as a consumer of entertainment, nor reading for facts and concepts, as would a scholar. Instead, read as a writer, with a pencil or pen in hand, noting down any words that strike you as especially apt or somehow, for whatever reason, attractive to you. 


These might be simple words such as, say, brood; caprice; crackpot; pall; nougat; persimmon. 





When I read I keep a notebook, PostIt, or index card handy so I can jot down any words and phrases that I like. I used to worry about keeping all these notebooks and bits of paper in some semblance of order, but I now believe that most of the benefit is in simply noticing what it is that I like; and second, writing it down. (In other words, when it comes time to declutter, I will, as I have, and so what?) Of late I toss these index cards in a recipe box that I keep on a shelf behind my desk. When one of my drafts needs an infusion of energy, I pluck out a random batch of cards, shuffle though them, and see if anything might be of use. Often it is. 


From another card plucked out at random:

shrewd; sagacious; "intrigue and shifting loyalties"; surmise; astute; console; relentless; do not relent; never relent; pout; nuanced; verdict; deadly; banal; banalities; dejected; munificence; fail to grasp; thieving toad
Thieving toad! I don't know why, that makes me laugh. And it makes me want to start (or perhaps end?) a short story thus:
She failed to grasp that he would never relent, he was a thieving toad.
I also note phrases and sayings I like, e.g.:
"Trust in Allah, but tie your camel."
"Birds of prey don't sing"
"the apostles of -- " 
"camarón que se duerme amanece de botana" (the shrimp that sleeps wakes up as an appetizer-- that's a variation on the old Mexican saying, "the shrimp that sleeps is carried off by the current.")



Bonhomie! I love it! Why? 'Cuz!


From that second index card pictured above: bonhomie; obviate; banal; decrepitude; penumbra; chronic; salient; pieties; vim; dour; bouyancy; bouyant; circumlocutions.

Why these words? Because I like them. You might not. The point is, as you read, write down whatever words you like.

Well now, I hear Henry James' Muse yelling! 
So many salient pieties... In the penumbra of his chronic bonhomie, she felt at once dour and bouyant.


>> Workshop Page 

>> Resources for Writers
(Includes Tips & Tools; On Craft; On Editing; On Publishing; On Digital Media & more) 
>> Giant Golden Buddha & 364 More Free 5 Minute Writing Exercises
>> For more on reading as a writer, see my archived blog, Reading Tolstoy's War and Peace.

>> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.

P.S. Still working on Marfa Mondays Podcast 21. Twenty podcasts have been posted so far; listen in anytime here. 







(Remarks for the panel on Writing Across Borders and Cultures, 
Women Writing the West Conference, Santa Fe, November 2016)

Monday, March 06, 2017

Email Ninjerie Update: My Old-School Tool to Break the Ludic Loop

Behold the Zassenhaus.
Back in December of 2016 I posted "Email Ninjerie in the Theater of Space-Time or, This Writer's 10 Point Protocol for Inbox 10 (ish)." As I explained, for me the game-changer was point #1, tackling email in scheduled batches using a stopwatch. To quote:
I usually do 20 minutes of email processing with a stopwatch. It's not that I am trying to hurry through my email, but rather, I am respecting the limits of my brain's ability to effectively focus on it. I'm a speed-reader and I can type faster than lickety-split, but on most days I can deal with email for only about 20 minutes before my brain cells run low on glucose and I end up scrolling up and down the screen, dithering, feeling scattered in short, procrastinating. (You might be able to do 10 minutes, or, say, an hour in one go of course, not everyone's energy to focus on their email is the same, or the same every day and in every circumstance. One can always set the stopwatch for a different amount of time.) 
Don't believe me about batching? Check out the extra-crunchy research at MIT (PDF). 
By processing email in 20 minute batches, when the sessions all add up over the arc of the day, I find that I accomplish more in, say, one hour of three separate 20 minute sessions than I would have had I plowed on for an hour straight.
When the stopwatch dings, I do not expect to have finished "inbox zero" is a fata morgana! And that's OK, because I have another email batch session already scheduled (a few hours later, or five minutes later. It's important to take a break, at the very least stand up and stretch.)
Above all, because I am focussing on email at my convenience, on my schedule, my attention is no longer so fractured... [Read the complete post here

I didn't put it this way in that post, but now that I've grokked the term ludic loop, I must say, that rrrrrring slices right through it. In other words, paradoxically, the reason I was drowning in email was that I was spending too much time on it. That is, I would get stuck in a ludic loop, checking, looking, checking, looking. 

Yes, indeed, gentle reader, batching with a stopwatch works. But of course, when it goes off, you have to actually stop. I added the habit of standing up. Bell rings, I stand up. 

Which stopwatch to use? Of course everybody and their uncle's cousin's zonkey has a smartphone with a stopwatch app, and I know, for a lot of people, especially those under the age of 30, any other option would be, like LOL, a total eye-roller. 

For those answering email on their laptop, such as myself, I recommended using a free on-line stopwatch (get yours here). 

But of late, I have switched to using a mechanical Zassenhaus kitchen timer.* I chose that particular brand because it's better quality and heavier than the average cheap-o plastic kitchen timer.

Why an old-fashioned kitchen timer, pray tell? Because using something not on the computer screen but in the real world-- ye olde meatspace-- helps me stay focused on the task at-hand. It's one less reason look at the "desktop," one less thing to have to go click on (and so reduce the risk of another journey down the rabbit hole, or to put it another way, of getting caught in a ludic loop). 

As I quoted David Allen in my guest-blog for "Cool Tools" on why I use a paper-based organizing system, "low-tech is oftentimes better because it is in your face."


Methinks Dmitry Orlov is onto something. But that's another post.


*Perhaps you are wondering if I have not heard of Francesco Cerillo's The Pomodoro Technique and  his tomato-shaped kitchen timer? (Pomodoro means tomato in Italian.) Actually, I have... long, long ago... so long ago that I had entirely forgotten about it until this very moment! Well, definitely, Cerillo is onto something! Check out his website and watch his introductory video about the technique here. But I am not actually using the  "pomodoro" technique which, as I understand from having just watched the above-linked video, is about doing all kinds of work in stopwatched 25 minute "pomodoros," or chunks of time. For the past months I have been working on email in not only 20 minute batches but also 10 minute and, on occasion, even 5 minute batches. Neither do I want to stopwatch all the work I do... I like a lot of fluidity in my day.


One of the benefits of fluidity in one's day:
As the Muse does not call,
one can ever and always take the opportunity to 

assume energizing random yoga poses.
My writing assistant demonstrates.

> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.





Monday, February 27, 2017

Catamaran and Tiferet: Two Very Fine Independent Literary Journals




While it is a joy to be able to publish without gatekeepers-- joy enough that I for one have been blogging every Monday and oftentimes more often since 2006 on this free & open-to-all blogger.com platform-- a curated presentation of poetry and prose, that is, the traditionally edited literary magazine on ye olde paper, has not disappeared, nor will it, and thank goodness.

I happy to report that a pair of very fine independent literary magazines has landed in my mailbox: Catamaran Literary Reader and TiferetI am also honored to report that the Fall 2016 issue of the former includes my translation of Mexican writer Rose Mary Salum’s short story “The Time,” and the Fall 2016 issue of the latter, an excerpt from my book, a work of creative nonfiction about a translation: Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual. 
As an ex-literary magazine editor myself (Tameme), I have a big heart full of appreciation for such magazines. And when they are as unique, and as beautifully edited and exceptionally well-designed as these two, I want to get up on the top of the roof and toot a tuba-- or something! 

CATAMARAN LITERARY READER
Founding editor Catherine Segurson describes Catamaran as “pages full of color, inviting images, and engrossing stories, poems and essays—all from curious and inventive minds.”  
Indeed: standouts in this issue include a poem and an essay by Richard Blanco, and the several paintings by Bo Bartlett, whose “Via Mal Contenti” graces the cover.  More about artist Bo Bartlett in this brief video:

Catamaran makes a special effort to include literary translation in every issue. N.B.: Catamaran's contributing editors include essayist and translator Thomas Christensen and poet, teacher, and noted translator Zack Rogow.  


Mexican writer, poet, editor
Rose Mary Salum
ABOUT ROSE MARY SALUM, 
Mexican Poet and Writer
Mexican writer and poet Rose Mary Salum is the editor of Literal, and editor of the anthology Delta de las arenas: Cuentos árabes, cuentos judíosHer collection of linked short stories set in the Midde East, which includes "The Time," is El agua que mece el silencioMy translation, in-progress, is entitled The Water That Rocks the Silence. If you read Spanish, check out her interview in El Páis.
>> See my previous post about her work in Origins. 
>> See also my in-depth interview with Salum in Conversations with Other Writers.


TIFERET
Tiferet is published by novelist and poet Donna Baier-Stein. I echo poet Molly Peacock's praise: “Thank you for this journal which combines spiritual issues, imaginative issues, esthetic issues. All of those, I think, need to be in the mix for the richly lived life, the richly observed life.” 

This Fall 2016 issue opens with a splendid essay by poet Mark Doty, “Luckier / Rowdyish, Carlacue, Wormfence and Foosfoos.” Just for that yonder-galaxy-beyond-the-Cineplex-title: Another thank you! 

Francisco I. Madero
ABOUT FRANCISCO I. MADERO,
Leader of Mexico's 1910 Revolution and President of Mexico, 1911-1913
My piece in Tiferet  about Madero's 1911 Spiritist Manual did not include any of my translation, but you can read some of that here. Caveat: If you are unfamiliar with metaphysics you might find Madero's Spiritist Manual... oh, I guess I would say... wiggy-zoomy. In which case, I invite you to read my book about that book, my own wiggy-zoomy attempt to give it some cultural-historical-political context, which is available from amazon and other major sellers, and the website offers several lengthy excerpts, as well as extentive Q & A, a podcast of my talk for the University of California San Diego US Mexican Studies Center, the Centennial Lecture for University of Texas El Paso, and several other talks and interviews here. (My personal fave is Greg Kaminsky's Occult of Personality.)


P.S. & P.S.S.
P.S. For those of you, dear readers, looking to publish in literary magazines, everything I have to say about the oftentimes crazy-making lottery-like ritual is here. If you are audacious enough to start your own journal, I say, go for it! Please! (But bring a case of apirin and a few wheelbarrows of dough. The green kind.) I have more to say about literary magazines, past, mine, and future, here. And for an interview with an editor who managed to establish an unusual level of financial viability, be sure to check out my podcast interview with Dallas Baxter, founder of Cenizo Journal.
P.S.S. If you're wondering what's up with Marfa Mondays, stay tuned, the long overdue podcast 21 is still in-progress. Listen in to the other 20 podcasts posted to date here.
>> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.


Monday, February 20, 2017

Heribert von Feilitzsch on Dr. Arnold Krumm-Heller and the Mexican Revolution, Plus a Note on "El Tatwametro"

One hundred years and counting since the explosion of the Mexican Revolution in 1910, treasures are still being pulled out of the dust of various archives, and narratives refashioned accordingly. The latest contribution should spark the interest of anyone who ponders the whys, wherefores and eye-crossing chaos of that tumult-- and the history of German-Mexican relations and of metaphysical religion: The essay by Heribert von Feiltzsch entitled "Medical Doctor, Occultist, Revolutionary, Spy: Arnold Krumm-Heller and the Mexican Revolution," which is included in the anthology edited by Roberto Cantú, Equestrian Rebels: Critical Perspectives on Mariano Azuela and the Novel of the Mexican Revolution (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016).

Little known as he may be at present, Dr. Krumm-Heller was a key figure in the Mexican Revolution, and in particular, for his role in the defeat of Pancho Villa. Why then have historians, with counted few exceptions, tended to overlook him? I would wager that it could be for one or more of three reasons: (1) lack of archival resources about Krumm-Heller and/or lack of access to those in German; (2) resistance to reconsidering enduring paradigms of the revolution; (3) resistance to considering the occult / metaphysical religion and

anyone connected with it. Indeed, Dr. Krumm-Heller, aka "Maestro Huiracocha," was a flamboyant enthusiast and a prolific author of esoterica, a Spiritist, a Mason, a Theosophist, and a leading figure in 20th century Rosicrucianism and the Ordo Templi Orientis.

For many historians, alas, it has been easier to dismiss such ideas and movements than to dig in and attempt to come to a broader understanding of their nature and context. I know from first-hand experience how challenging this can be: for my book on Manual espírita of 1911, the secret book by the leader of Mexico's 1910 Revolution, Francisco I. Madero, I had to read through a Himalaya of works that were at times for me--as I surmise they would be for most researchers of the Mexican Revolution-- discomfiting in the extreme. (I discuss this challenge at some length in my review of Strieber and Kripal's Super Natural.)


In his detailed and well documented article, von Feilitzsch has made a vital contribution not only to the literature on the Mexican Revolution but also to German-Mexican relations and the history of metaphysical religion. Those interested in the latter subject will recognize names of Dr. Krumm-Heller's teachers and mentors, among them, Madame Blavatsky, Papus, Franz Hartmann, and Rudolph Steiner. 

I am honored that von Feilitzsch cited my work on Madero's Spiritism, as well as some of my correspondence speculating about Madero's attitude towards Theosophy and the nature of Madero's relationship with Dr. Krumm-Heller. 

One thing that jumped out as new to me was von Feilitzsch's mention that Krumm-Heller "had his first training in esotericism through the French spiritist León Denis." Denis was one of the leaders of the Spiritist movement after Allan Kardec. Francisco I. Madero and his father, Francisco Madero, were the sponsors of the Spanish translation of Denis's book, Après la Mort (After Death). Since some historians erroneously claim that that translation was never published, I made this little video showing my copy of that title, Después de la muerte, which was indeed published in 1906. 


Related posts of interest:

>> Professor Roberto Cantú

>> Heribert von Feilitzsch's webpage and Mexican Revolution blog.

>> von Feilitzsch: "A Decision with Grave Consequences: Arnold Krumm-Heller and the Demise of Pancho Villa"

>> My review for Literal of von Feilitzsch's In Plain Sight: Felix A. Sommerfeld, Spymaster in Mexico, 1908-1914 (which mentions Dr Krumm-Heller)


>> Some of my blog posts on Dr Krumm-Heller:



More About the Mysterious Dr. Krumm-Heller and His Book Fur Freiheit und Recht (For Freedom and Justice)
Del Incienso a la Osmoterapia (From Incense to Osmoptherapy) by Arnoldo Krumm-Heller
Arnold Krumm-Heller (1876-1949) and Francisco I. Madero (1873-1913): Some Notes on Sources



A NOTE ON KRUMM-HELLER'S EL TATWAMETRO: LAS VIBRACIONES DEL ETER (The Tatwameter: Vibrations of the Ether)




Dr. Krumm-Heller prepared the draft of El Tatwametro in 1911-- when he was in Mexico with Madero-- although he did not publish it until 1926. The photos shown here are of my copy, a first edition from Barcelona. 

Here is my translation of the opening page:

THE TATWAMETER, VIBRATIONS OF THE ETHER
By Dr. Krumm-Heller

Upon receiving my initiation, my guru gave me detailed instructions about the tatwas and the tatwameter, but I was never able to find a way to publish them. Around the year 1912 in Mexico I read an article about this matter, by my friend Brandler-Pracht* of Berlin, and then I wrote a 
pamphlet about the practical application of the tatwas.

Five years later in Berlin we had some occult experiences together and Brandler-Pracht told me that he had published a larger work on this same subject. 

I have not been able to find a copy of of the latest edition, but it is likely that my book and Brandler-Pracht's are very similar, since they are based on material from the same source. At the end of this work there is something by that author.

But, what is tatwa?

It is the name the Hindus give to powers that are as mysterious as they are powerful.

For us westerners tatwas is the vibration of the ether.




*Karl Brandler-Pracht was the author of several works on the occult. The German National Library (Deutsche National Bibliotek) has a catalog of his books here. The book he wrote on the tatwas is Tattwische und astrale Einflüsse: ein Schlüssel zur prakischen Verwendung der it dem menschlichen Leben enverbundenen kosmischen Schwingungen, wodurch jedermann sein Geschick günstig beeinflussen kannHere's my rough go at translating that mouthful: The Tatwas and Astral Influences: A Key to the Practical Use of the Cosmic Vibrations that are Intimately Connected to Human Life, Whereby Everone Can Influence Their Fate Favorably. As far as I can ascertain it was originally published in 1924.



+ + + + + +


For those of you wondering what's up with my Far West Texas book and Marfa Mondays Podcasts, bless y'all, and stay tuned. Meanwhile, I invite you to listen in anytime to the 20 podcasts posted to date. The 21st podcast, an essay, has required a heap more background reading than I bargained for... To give you an idea of the complexity, should that be your cup of buffalo blood, check out my review of Hamalainen's The Comanche Empire.




>> YOUR COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME. WRITE TO ME HERE.








Monday, February 13, 2017

Lord Kingsborough's ANTIQUITIES OF MEXICO

Mexico has been very much on my mind these past days because I have been working on some translations of works by Mexican writers Agustín Cadena and Rose Mary Salum... more news about those soon... and also (not entirely a digression from the book in-progress about Far West Texas) I have been working on an essay about books in Mexico tentatively titled "Dispatch from the Sister Republic." A brief excerpt from that as yet unpublished essay:
The Dresden Codex was water-damaged in the firebombings of World War II. Fortunately for us, around 1825, a facsimile had been made by the Italian artist Agostino Aglio, commissioned by the Irish peer Edward King, Lord Kingsborough—the latter a believer in the theory, to become an article of faith for the Mormons, that the Mesoamericans were descendants of one of the Lost Tribes of Israel. 
archive.org
Aglio’s facsimile is included in Kingsborough’s colossal multi-volume Antiquities of Mexico. And when I say “colossal” I do not exaggerate. In those days before photography, Lord Kingsborough sent Aglio all over Europe, to the Vatican Library, the royal libraries of Berlin, Dresden, and Paris, and the Bodleian Library at Oxford, among many others, to copy their Mexican codices, painstakingly tracing the elaborate diagrams and glyphics, and then coloring them in. Aglio also made paintings of Mexican sculptures and other artifacts in European collections. The whole project, from making the fascimiles to the state-of-the-art color printing and luxury binding, was at once a visionary contribution to world culture and an extravagance beyond folly. It could be said that Antiquities of Mexico killed Lord Kingsborough; having exhausted his liquidity before paying for the paper, he was imprisoned in Dublin, where he contracted typhoid.*
archive.org
 Lord Kingsborough never made it to Mexico, but it was in Mexico City, on a tour of the Biblioteca Vasconcelos, that I saw one of those volumes of Antiquities of Mexico up close. That particular volume was part of the personal library, then recently acquired, of Carlos Monsiváis, one of Mexico’s most esteemed journalists and leftist social critics, who died in 2010. I could not tell you which volume of Antiquities of Mexico it was nor why nor how it was separated from its fellow volumes in its set, nor why nor how Monsiváis, famous for his witty musings on Mexican popular culture, had acquired it.
The librarian, wearing white gloves, strained to lift the volume off its shelf. Bound in navy-blue Morrocco leather, it was the size of a small suitcase. With the grimace of a weight-lifter, he slowly lowered it onto the table. He levered up the cover, then turned a couple of the pages. The colors of the prints of Aglio’s paintings of the leaves from a codex— red, yellow, turquoise, ochre— were as bright as if painted that morning. 
I later learned that that single volume weighed some 65 pounds.

*Sylvia D. Whitmore, "Lord Kingsborough and His Contribution to Ancient Mesoamerican Scholarship: The Antiquities of Mexico," The PARI Journal, Spring, 2009 



>> Read more about the Antiquities of Mexico at Dorothy Sloan-Rare Books, a description of a set that was auctioned for USD 61, 625.


>> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.