Now available, the original text Mr. Catherwood wrote for the 1843 publication.
Mr. Catherwood speaks in his own words!
Views of Ancient Monuments by F. Catherwood:
THE MONUMENTS represented in this Volume seem, from their novelty and peculiar character, to demand some preliminary explanations of the circumstances under which they are found to exist, and the historic interest that attaches to them, as the most important aids we possess, for the investigation of that great unsettled problem – the origin of the inhabitants of the American continent, and the sources from whence their early civilisation was derived. No questions, merely antiquarian, have given rise to more earnest discussions than those involved in this subject; and, until of late years, the hardihood of the disputants has been in proportion to the scantiness of the evidence that had survived the ravages of conquest, and the iconoclastic bigotry of early Christian missionaries. It is only within the present century that the attention of European scholars has been drawn to the fact, that a new and unexceptionable class of testimony, being directly on the Anti-Columbian History of the American continent, was within their reach; that they yet mouldered within the Forests of Yucatan and Guatemala, architectural and sculptural remains of vast size and mysterious purpose, still displaying (though yielding to a daily process of disintegration and decay) a high degree of constructive skill, and attesting, in their ornaments and proportions, to the prevalence of an indigenous and well established system of design, varying from any known models in the old world. The truth of this statement, though at first received with incredulity, has been satisfactorily established by later researches; and I may appeal to the following Drawings for its confirmation. They illustrate some of the more striking object which engaged my notice as an Artist, during two expeditions, undertaken expressly with a view of exploring the ruined sites of Central America, and preserving some memorials of their present state. The first of these was devoted chiefly to the countries known under the above general title, including the States of Honduras, Guatemala, Chiapas, &c. The ruins at Copan and Palenque were visited during this journey, which occupied part of the years 1839 and 1840. A brief sojourn in Yucatan having shown the richness of the antiquarian harvest that there awaits the gleaner, a second journey, for its more thorough examination, was determined on, in the year 1841: in its progress most of the Drawings in the present Volume were made. The narrative of these expeditions will be found in the well-known works of Mr. J. L. Stephens, “Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan,” 4 vols. 8vo., New York and London; to them, and to the lately published “History of the Conquest of Mexico,” by Mr. Prescott, I must refer the reader desirous of further knowledge. In the one, he will meet with all the information that personal observation, directed by enterprise and enthusiasm, can supply; and in the other, all the light that a most extended range of research through the whole body of existing documentary evidence, can throw on the obscurity that shrouds the history of the unrecorded races – beyond the page of written annals – whose very existence we should be ignorant of, but for the contemplation of their colossal works, still before our eyes.”
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