Incidents of Travel in Yucatan, Vol. I

As director of the Ocean Steam Navigating Company and president of the Panama Railway Company, Stephens (1805-1852) knew a lot about travel, and he wrote about it. His first book, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan, went through 12 printings and earned its author $15,000 in its first three months, making him one of America's first bestselling writers. Edgar Allen Poe called it "perhaps the most interesting book of travel ever published." This more seasoned and focused account of Stephens's second trip, originally published in 1843, is packed with detailed accounts of travels in newly discovered Mayan ruins and with equally fascinating lithographs by his travel companion, Frederick Catherwood. Through Stephens's eyes, readers see Yucatan villages of 150 years ago, when Indians used cacao beans instead of money in their marketplaces; a Catholic/indigenous hybrid funeral that seems no more barbaric than the crude medical treatments rendered by another of Stephens's travel companions, Dr. Cabot, on their Mayan guides. One of the first to acknowledge that indigenous Americans might have built the great American pyramids and temples, not Egyptians, Greeks or one of the lost tribes of Israel, Stephens voiced a rare, nonjudgmental viewpoint in a time when European cultural elitism was the unquestioned norm. Not just a curiosity for archeology buffs or cultural studies types, this is also an informative, intriguing guide for armchair travelers.

american history, american west, travel
Dover Publications
John L. Stephens
9780486209265 (find on Amazon)

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