Publisher Information: New York: Colt, Burgess & Co., 1839.
Delafield, John, Jr. (1812-66). An inquiry into the origins of the antiquities of America . . . with an appendix, containing notes, and “A view of the causes of the superiority of the men of the northern over those of the southern hemisphere,” by James Lakey, M.D. 142pp. 10 lithograph plates (5 colored), plus 17.5-foot (5.334-meter) folding lithograph frontispiece printed on tissue paper, tipped to the leaf facing the title. New York: Colt, Burgess & Co.; London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green & Longman; Paris: A. & W. Galignani & Co., 1839. 287 x 245 mm. Original cloth, all edges gilt, stamped in gilt and blind, spine repaired, minor spotting and edgewear. Minor foxing especially to frontispiece and a few plates, frontispiece leaf starting, but very good. Pencil annotations on front flyleaves. From the library of American anthropologist Samuel George Morton (1799-1851), with slip inscribed “For S. G. Morton Oct. 25/42” tipped to front pastedown; bookplate of Morton’s son, Thomas G. Morton M.D., pasted beneath; bookplate signed “B. M. [Bertha Morton] Gittings.”
First Edition, issue with New York imprint (another issue exists with the Cincinnati imprint of Burgess & Co.). Like many early anthropologists, Delafield was concerned with discovering the origins of the aboriginal American races—whether they had descended from Old World peoples such as the Egyptians or Israelites, migrated from Asia, or arisen sui generis on the North and South American continents. He was particularly interested in the ancient tumuli left by the Mound Builders culture in the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes regions, concluding that these had been built by ancient Egyptians “on the basis of ‘evidence’ gleaned from Humboldt’s illustrations of monuments in South and Central America, from ancient and modern skulls, and from the cranium of an Egyptian mummy” (Achim, p. 38). The remarkable 17.5-foot frontispiece to Delafield’s work reproduces, at about a 1:1 ratio, the 16th-century Boturini Codex (now in the Museo Nacional de Anthropologia in Mexico City), depicting the legendary journey of the Aztecs from Aztlán to the Valley of Mexico.
This copy is from the library of Samuel George Morton, founder of the polygenist “American School” of ethnography, based on the idea that the various human races had all been created separately and that each race possessed specific immutable characteristics. To buttress his theories Morton amassed an enormous collection of skulls from around the world, measuring and comparing their cranial capacities and ranking the races by brain size—Caucasians, of course, being at the top, followed by Asians, Polynesians, Native Americans and Africans. Morton’s Crania Americana, a systematic study of skulls from the native peoples of North and South America, was published the same year as Delafield’s Antiquities of America. Achim, “Skulls and idols,” in Kohl, Podgomy and Gänger, Nature and Antiquities: The Making of Archeology in the Americas, pp. 23-44.
Book Id: 44850