Read Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas & Yucatan, Vol 1 by John Lloyd Stephens Free Online
Book Title: Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas & Yucatan, Vol 1|
The author of the book: John Lloyd Stephens
ISBN 13: 9780486224046
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 14.32 MB
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Reader ratings: 4.3
Edition: Dover Publications
Date of issue: June 1st 1969
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Few explorers have had the experience of uncovering a civilization almost entirely unknown to the world. But Stephen's two expeditions to Mexico and Central America in 1839 and 1841 yielded the first solid information on the culture of the Maya Indians. In this work, and in his other masterpiece Incidents of Travel in Yucatan, he tells the story of his travels to some 50 ruined Mayan cities.
In this book, he describes the excitement of exploring the magnificent ruined cities of Copan and Palenque, and his briefer excursions to Quirigua, Patinamit, Utatlan, Gueguetenango, Ocosingo, and Uxmal. For all these cities, his details are so accurate that more recent explorers used the book as a Baedeker to locate ruins forgotten by even the Indians.
In addition to being a great book on archaeological discovery, Stephen's work is also a great travel book. Telling of journeying by mule back on narrow paths over unimaginable deep ravines, through sloughs of mud and jungles of heavy vegetation, describing dangers of robbery, revolution, fever, mosquitoes and more exotic insects, Stephen's narrative remains penetrating and alive. His account of his attempt to buy Copan for $50 is told with the adroitness of a Mark Twain, and his descriptions of Indian life — primitive villages a few miles from the ruins, burials, treatment of the sick, customs, amusements, etc. — never lose their interest.
Frederick Catherwood's illustrations virtually double the appeal of the book. Highly exact, remarkably realistic drawings show overall views, ground plans of the cities, elevations of palaces and temples, free-standing sculpture, carved hieroglyphics, stucco bas-reliefs, small clay figures, and interior details.
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John Lloyd Stephens was the son of Benjamin Stephens, one of the "oldest inhabitants" of New-York; his mother was a daughter of Judge Lloyd, of Monmouth county, New Jersey. The future traveller was brought up and educated in the city of New-York. He received his classical education at the schools of Mr. Boyle and Mr. Joseph Nelson, the blind teacher, from the latter of which he entered Columbia College at the early age of 13. He entered low in his class, but left at its head. He remained four years in college, where he was a general favorite with his fellows. On graduating, he entered the office of Daniel Lord, as a student-at-law. He remained in his office about a year, and then entered the Law School, at Litchfield, Conn. at that time under the charge of the late Judge Gould. Here he remained a year, and on his return to the city of New-York entered the office of George W. Strong as a student-at-law, where he remained until admitted to the practice of the law. On his return from Litchfield his early taste for travelling developed itself.
In company with a cousin, of about the same age with himself he projected a visit to a sister of his mother's residing in Arkansas, at that time almost terra incognita. After making their visit, instead of returning home, as at first contemplated, it was determined to go to New-Orleans. They accordingly descended the Mississippi in flat-boats, at that time the only mode of conveyance on its waters. After an absence of some months, he returned home by sea, from New-Orleans and resumed his study of law.
At the end of his novitiate he entered upon the practice of the law, at which he continued for about eight years; but he never felt or exhibited much ardor or zeal in the pursuit of this profession. During that period he took a somewhat active interest in politics, united himself to the Democratic party, and became a sort of pet speaker at Tammany Hall. He always advocated the doctrine of free trade, and was strongly opposed to all monopolies. Owing, perhaps, to his public speaking, he contracted a disease of the throat, which bid fair soon to break up his constitution. His physician happening to hint at a voyage, he seized upon it immediately, and hastened to carry it into effect. He embarked in the autumn of 1834, in the packet 'Charlemagne,' for Havre, and landing on the coast of England, went up to London, and from thence crossed to France. Thence he visited Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Russia, returning by the way of Poland and Germany to France. On his return to France from the North of Europe, and when his family expected to hear of his embarkation for home, he suddenly took passage on board a steamer at Marseilles for Egypt, by the way of Malta. He landed at Alexandria, visited Cairo, ascended the Nile as far as Thebes.
He returned home in the latter part of 1836. Prior to his return, some of his letters written from Scio, in Greece, and other places, were published, by the request of his friends, in a magazine, edited by Mr. Charles F. Hoffman, and were generally copied in the papers of the day. In 1837 he published his first work, entitled, "Incidents of Travel in Egypt, Arabia Petraea and the Holy Land." This was followed, in 1838, by "Incidents of Travel in Greece, Turkey, Russia, and Poland."
In 1839, he was recommended to Governor Seward for the appointment of Agent of this State to visit Holland, for the purpose of collecting records of our colonial history; but, being opposed by the Whigs in the legislature, he did not receive the nomination. About that time Mr. Van Buren, being then President, gave him the appointment of Special Ambassador to Central America, for the, purpose of negotiating a treaty with that country. On his return to the United States he prepared a third work, entitled, "Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan;" it appeared in June 1841. While on this mission his attention was fir