Incidents of travel in Yucatan
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A great disappointment to fans of Stephens and Catherwood. If you're looking for the real thing - this isn't it.
More properly titled:
"Karl Akerman's Unfortunate Abridgment of Stephens' and Catherwood's Incidents of Travel in Yucatan," this 286 page compilation is abridged, elided, and largely meaningless for anyone wishing to get the look and feel of the 600 pages of the two original volumes brilliantly written and illustrated by John Lloyd Stephens And Frederick Catherwood.
This book barely resembles the two original books, as it's missing a tremendous amount of historically styled and interesting text - and around 100 of Catherwood's exquisite drawings.
Go hunt down the Dover two volume edition - gladly pay the price - and settle in for a stunning read that hasn't been repurposed as an overview for the modern casual traveler to the Yucatan.
I made the mistake of assuming the new edition, coming from Smithsonian Books, would be of high quality. How wrong I was.
Mr. Ackerman, in his own words, has reduced the text of this classic "by two thirds, but aims to preserve the spirit and essence of the original work". That's right, this "editor" cuts out 67% of one of the greatest works of literature in history, and has the impudence and effrontery to say he aims to preserve the book's spirit and essence. Then, taking the concept of hubris to a new level, he puts his name on the cover under that of the author--as though he had actually added something.
He has added nothing, only subtracted. Besides the 67% of the text, he also removed the name of Frederick Catherwood, who did the marvelous drawings, from the cover.
In the introduction, there is not the slightest hint of shame for the gut job, which he describes: "I have eliminated Stephens' description of the journeys to and from the region...I have tightened Stephens' prose, eliminated the detailed measurements of buildings and mounds, and excised long historical digressions and anecdotes...I have not used ellipses to indicate compression..."
With all the eliminations and excisions and hackings, Ackerman elects to leave in place misspellings because they "reveal Stephens' character and time". Let me get this straight. Historical digressions and anecdotes, admired by the likes of Poe and Prescott, must be cut. But misspellings must be preserved to reveal character and time? What sort of a wacky caricature of a scholar did the Smithsonian Scholarly Book Fund give a grant to?
I have tried to fathom why a person with an interest in archaeology and history and literature would maim a book in this fashion, but I'm at a loss. One would expect this sort of thing if Spielberg were making a biopic about Stephens. Then, the cuts would be necessary to fit the story into a 90-minute slot while keeping enough space for a sassy love interest and a talking jaguar. But this is a fantastic book that eight generations of readers from around the world have loved in its entirety.
Where is the Dover edition?