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Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan: v. 1 (Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas & Yucatan) Paperback – 1 Apr 1970


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Product details

  • Paperback: 892 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications Inc.; New impression edition (1 April 1970)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 048622404X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486224046
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 14 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 275,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Book Description

John Lloyd Stephens (1805–1852) was an American politician who is renowned for his pioneering research into the ancient Maya civilisation. First published in 1841, this book describes the ancient Mayan sites he visited in 1839 and 1840. Volume 2 contains his descriptions of Palenque, Uxmal and other Mayan sites. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 1 July 1998
Format: Paperback
This is one of the rare occasions when 5 stars doesn't measure up to the book being rated. I have read every volume of "Incidents..." many times (there are two volumes of this book, as well as two volumes of "Incidents of Travel in Yucatan"), and I've also given the four volumes as gifts many times. Additionally, I have traveled to most of the sites Stephens writes about, with book-in-hand, to simultaneously gaze with wonder at the magnificient sketches made over 150-yrs ago, and at the same objects sketched as they exist today. But this is not the only attraction of these volumes. Unlike most books about archeology, which are dry and overly academic, these volumes vividly recount the exciting, and often dangerous, day-to-day adventures of a couple blokes looking for ancient lost cities in a region that just happens to be smack-dab in the middle of a sanguinary 19th-century civil war. These books could be mistaken for a terrific adventure novel, were it not for the fact that every word is true. Stevens' graphic descriptions of the local characters and events is heavily laced with humor and insight. What a delight these books are. I think I'll start reading them (again!).
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Format: Paperback
This book (and the other volumes by Stephens and Catherwood) is what dreams are made of. I read it at age 19 as an archaeology undergraduate and I have been slinging my hammock across jungle-covered ruins the world over ever since. Through my masters, my PhD, and now my academic career in archaeology, I fall asleep and wake up to the written (and drawn) images in this book. Read it before you visit Central America...and during...and after.
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By Ernie on 26 Jun. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An elegantly written account of the trials and tribulations of travel in Mesoamerica in the mid nineteenth century, which coloufully describes the hostile conditions and the chaotic nature of the lack of politics in the region at the time, while making light of the admirable fortitute shown by the author. I had hoped for more information on Mayan ruins which is why I've dropped a star, but as a travel book it's worth the full five.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 24 reviews
44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
Unabridged John Lloyd Stephens 14 Dec. 2001
By Mark Robertson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
And real full strength Catherwood illustrations.
Unlike some of the recent re-edited editions of Stevens' and Catherwood's work, this Dover Publications edition Volume One of the two volume "Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan presents dense, complex, and revealing insights into a brilliant writer's impressions of travel in nascent Central American countries.
Regarding his charge to enter into diplomatic relations with the governments of these countries, Stephens reports, "I was not able to find one..."
In following Stephens eccentric and sometimes high-handed travels through these unsettled societies, we are by contrast in his ruminations given glimpses of the political and social climate in the United States at that time - a commercially predatory, exuberantly expansionist, segregated society. Despite the biases of his times, Stephens is always adaptable to the ways of his hosts.
Although not great in number, Catherwood's illustrations of the stelae at Copan are truly great. His revealing comments on the difficulty of adapting his Western perception enough to capture the scenes even with the help of his camera lucida - tell us just how unusual the sculptural forms were.
As a team - Stephen's enthusiasm and wry humor and Catherwood's sublime skill and dogged persistence - consistently produced great and discerning works of scientific and historical value.
It should be illegal for anyone to edit or abridge these books.
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Five Stars is an understatement 1 July 1998
By asker@pacbell.net (Alan Asker) - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is one of the rare occasions when 5 stars doesn't measure up to the book being rated. I have read every volume of "Incidents..." many times (there are two volumes of this book, as well as two volumes of "Incidents of Travel in Yucatan"), and I've also given the four volumes as gifts many times. Additionally, I have traveled to most of the sites Stephens writes about, with book-in-hand, to simultaneously gaze with wonder at the magnificient sketches made over 150-yrs ago, and at the same objects sketched as they exist today. But this is not the only attraction of these volumes. Unlike most books about archeology, which are dry and overly academic, these volumes vividly recount the exciting, and often dangerous, day-to-day adventures of a couple blokes looking for ancient lost cities in a region that just happens to be smack-dab in the middle of a sanguinary 19th-century civil war. These books could be mistaken for a terrific adventure novel, were it not for the fact that every word is true. Stevens' graphic descriptions of the local characters and events is heavily laced with humor and insight. What a delight these books are. I think I'll start reading them (again!).
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Outstanding Book! 24 July 2000
By Pierre Renault - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
As a resident of Mexico who enjoys my ruins and travel within Mexico, this book offers a fantastic glimpse into Mexico and the Yucatan long before it became a resort for Gringos. Not only is it well-written, but also has an excellent collection of visual drawings from a time long lost. An excellent book, and as is always with Dover, and excellent value.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A glimpse in Central American history 26 July 2005
By Alejandro Contreras - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I think this book is fascinating for two types of people:
- Those who are interested in the history of Central America, who will see in Stephens a witness of time
- Those very familiar with Central America's geography (specially Guatemala's), who will enjoy reading Stephens' descriptions of many places that (in their majority) still exist

In 1839, at 34, John L. Stephens was appointed as "United States Minister" - a sort of US envoy - for Central America (which at the time was still one country). Stephens was a serial traveler: 5 years ago, he had visited Eastern Europe (Greece, Turkey, Russia and Poland) and the Middle East (Egypt and Syria), and had already published a couple of books about these trips.

Stephens decided to combine his diplomatic duty with his interest in searching for Mayan ruins in the region. By October, he embarked with his friend Frederick Catherwood (another extensive traveller) in a trip that would take them to what was (already) a politically convulsed region.

At the time, Central America was filled with political turmoil. The largest state of the country, Guatemala, had basically fallen in the hands of Rafael Carrera, a non-educated peasant. Carrera refused to recognize the authority of Francisco Morazán who, based in San Salvador, was at least in theory, the President of the Central American confederation. Rumours, political intrigues and suspicions abounded at the time.

And so, in this setting, Stephens got into a boat, and after a few days in Belize, travelled (by boat again) to the Caribbean shore of Guatemala. He entered the country through Rio Dulce and touched land in a small village in the shores of the Izabal Lake.

Starting there, Stephens made a trip, generally by mule's back, that took him to Zacapa, Chiquimula, Copan (in Honduras), Esquipulas, Guastatoya, Guatemala City (already established by then where it is now), Antigua Guatemala, Escuintla, Iztapa (in the Pacific shores) and Amatitlán. He later took a boat and went to El Salvador, and then to Costa Rica, where he disembarked and returned to Guatemala by land.

Apparently, Stephens was one of the first "adventure tourists" of modern times. He ascended many volcanoes and spent a considerable time in Copan, cleaning up the forrest that was still covering the ruins and helping his friend Catherwood to draw reproductions of the ruins (these drawings are included in the book). In addition, and as part of his diplomatic duties, he met some of the leading political figures of the time, like Carrera himself.

Stephens not only did all the above, but ended up writing a very nice and enjoyable book that describes very well what he saw and thought at the time.

In short, this book is a rare jewel that allows the reader to better imagine how was life and nature in Central America in the middle of the XIX century.

(Note: the review above is based on Volume I - a book that curiously did not exist in Amazon's inventory at the time of my reading in 2005. Being respectful of my own past review, I havent' changed it. The next paragraphs though, are 2007 additions in which I comment on Volume 2)

If the reader enjoyed Vol 1, she/he will surely find Vol 2 a satisfying read. Vol 2 starts in Nicaragua, and continues in El Salvador, where Mr Stephens continues in his search of a Central American government. I will not delve into the details of all of Mr Stephens' adventures. Suffice it to say that he gets to meet the recently defeated Francisco Morazán, meets Rafael Carrera (again), travels through the Guatemalan western highlands, gets to know the story of the Los Altos state, crosses the border to Mexico, visits Palenque and Uxmal, finally returning to the US.

Its particularly interesting to read Stephens' account of Carrera and his young government. The fact that Carrera was even known at the time as the King of the Indians is an interesting point to notice -any reader knowledgeable with Guatemala's history and societal dynamics could extrapolate this to many events of the past 50 years.

Also interesting is Stephens' rebuttal of previous accounts regarding the difficulty of visiting ruins like the ones in Palenque. The more widely known stories at the time created the impression that visiting the ruins was full of dangers. Always the practical and matter-of-factly adventurer, Stephens bluntly says that they are (were) untrue, and that the greatest hardships he and Mr Catherwood endured were due to the unstable revolutionary state of the countries.

If the reader is interested or has knowledge of archaeology, he/she must also know that Vol 2 has plenty detailed descriptions and diagrams prepared by Mr Catherwood (who in my opinion was a very gifted artist, being able to draw the intrincated details of many Mayan ruins).

I strongly recommend Vol 2 to anyone interested in Central American history, archaeology, the mayans, or true old-fashioned adventure travel.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
A timeless calssic 12 April 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
A must for anyone who has already seen or is planning to visit Central America. Stephens writes with such enthusiasm on experiences so unique and groundbreaking. The text still manages to convey its original message of discovery with complete fasination, and is a timeless classic. The illustrations by Catherwood are incredible and the reader is guided through them by the Author with his initial excitement of the object's discovery.
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