The history of the early Americas is a story of before and after, defined and divided by a pivotal moment of contact between two distinct cultures. On the European side it is a tale of exploration, high-stakes treasure-seeking, and conquest. For indigenous Americans—including the Maya, the Nahua, the Taíno, and the Wari—it is the beginning of the end, a violent saga of disease, enslavement, and the loss of languages and rituals.
This collision of cultures comes to life in the manuscripts, maps, archaeological objects, and rare books that make up the collection of early American treasures in the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. Collecting for a New World: Treasures of the Early Americas relates these encounters through vivid illustrations and interpretive descriptions of more than sixty rare and priceless items.
In describing for the first time the journeys of the objects themselves—via African shipwrecks, secret meetings on airstrips, discoveries in castle libraries, and journeys into unknown archaeological sites hidden deep in the jungles of Guatemala—curator John Hessler reveals the role played by private collectors, whose knowledge, vision, and—in many cases, philanthropy—contribute so significantly to the collective understanding and interpretation of history and culture.
"Well put together, a compact, tight design makes it a comfortable read, as well as an informative one." "Ticks all the right boxes"—Clayton C. Kirking, ARLIS/NA
"Beautifully and profusely illustrated throughout, Collecting for a New World: Treasures of the Early Americas is an original, extraordinary and impressively informative work of exemplary scholarship and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Aztec/Mayan/Caribbean history collections and supplemental studies reading lists."—Micah Andrew, Midwest Book Review This splendidly produced and illustrated book is much more than a mere collection of photos of 60 notable artefacts. As well as exploring their history and provenance, it gives copious detail on the historical and social environment in which they originated."—Richard H Maudslay CBE, Chairman, British Mexican Society “The pivotal moment in the 16th century, when Europeans and indigenous Americans first came into contact, is brought to life with John Hessler’s vivid descriptions of more than 60 rare items, held in the Library of Congress.”—The Art Newspaper, Hot off the Press, November 2019