The Return of 2012

On Thursday, the UNC Yucatec Maya Summer Institute visited the Rare Book Collection, as it does every summer, to view relevant holdings, including artists’ books made in Chiapas by Taller Leñateros and historical volumes on the Maya from the George E. and Melinda Y. Stuart Collection. The Institute offers beginning, intermediate, and advanced instruction in modern Yucatec Maya, and the annual visit takes place at the end of Chapel Hill coursework, before students relocate to Yucatan for immersive instruction there.

Teresa Chapa, Latin American, Iberian, and Latina/o Studies Librarian, lectures to students about contemporary Maya artists's books in the Rare Book Collection.
Teresa Chapa, Latin American, Iberian, and Latina/o Studies Librarian, lectures to students about contemporary Maya artists’s books in the Rare Book Collection.

The historical books on display were ones featured in the 2012 Wilson exhibition Ancient and Living Maya in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries: Archaeological Discovery, Literary Voice, and Political Struggle, an element of the “13 Bak’tun” symposium at UNC. We are pleased to write here that an enhanced online version of the exhibition—which tells the story of the Maya struggle for autonomy and self-expression alongside that of European peoples’ decipherment of Mayan hieroglyphic writing—is now available on the UNC Libraries website:

Screen Shot Maya Online



Yucatec Maya Summer Institute

This past Wednesday, students from the Yucatec Maya Summer Institute visited Wilson Library to learn about the rich resources of the Stuart Collection in the Rare Book Collection.

Stuart Folio-2 F1435.1.P2 B73 1866 superv'd / Brasseur de Bourbourg, Monuments anciens du Mexique (Paris, 1866)

Sponsored by the UNC-Duke Consortium, the Institute offers beginning, intermediate, and advanced level instruction of modern Yucatec Maya. The RBC’s Stuart Collection, gift of George Stuart (UNC Ph.D. 1975) and Melinda Stuart, supports the study of Maya archaeology, culture, and language, and the extensive Maya-related curriculum of UNC Chapel Hill.

Following the viewing of Stuart rarities, students had the chance to look at artists’ books made by the Taller Leñateros of Chiapas, Mexico – collected for UNC by Teresa Chapa, Librarian for Latin America, Iberia, Latina/o Studies.

The Rare Book Collection is excited about all things Maya in 2012. It looks forward to partnering with UNC colleagues to present “13 Bak’tun: New Maya Perspectives in 2012,” October 25-26, a symposium on Maya civilization in recognition of the end of the current great cycle in the Maya Long Count calendar. Noted scholar Víctor Montejo will give the keynote address; there will be open classrooms, poetry readings, exhibitions, and more. Follow our web site for details to come in the next weeks.

Original Sin Reprinted

Sometimes a book is so rare and so important, it gets to be reprinted. Last year the Rare Book Collection was thrilled to receive a copy of Un mejicano: el pecado de Adan (A Mexican: Adam’s Sin), printed in 1838 in the city of Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. The gift of George and Melinda Stuart, it joined the wealth of rare Yucatan imprints in our Stuart Collection. Our copy is one of only five listed in the WorldCat database.

We knew the book was important, being so early for a work of literature published in the Yucatan. But we didn’t know that just months before receiving it, the Instituto de Cultura de Yucatán had reprinted the volume because of its literary and historical significance.

The introduction to the new edition by Rubén Reyes Ramírez describes the work as the first “novel” of the Yucatan, inspired in form by Dante’s Inferno. The work was controversial because of its treatment of religious themes and Mexican and Yucatan independence. The author, Pedro Almeira, destroyed most copies after publication, hence its scarcity.

Our original has a bookseller’s label on its front pastedown: “Establecimiento de M. T. Almeida y de J. C. Caseres. Merida de Yucatan” – the former, perhaps a relative of the author. It also has the upside-down ownership stamp of one “G. Molina” on the title-page, that surname belonging to one of the prominent families of the Yucatan.

The physical attributes of the original speak to its moment in history in a way that the 2010 reprint cannot. Ironically enough, however, as rare as the 1838 printing is, the reprint is even scarcer among U.S. libraries. At this writing, UNC Chapel Hill is the only institution listed in WorldCat as holding it! Institute publications are notoriously difficult to obtain. We were lucky that UNC Mayan literature expert Prof. Emilio Del Valle Escalante obtained a copy for the Library while visiting Merida.

We’re holding fast to our original – and glad to have the reprint accessible in Davis Library. Perhaps this post will encourage other U.S. libraries to acquire copies of the new edition of Un mejicano: el pecado de Adan.