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.