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  The research archive of Gary W. Ewer regarding the history of the daguerreotype

On this day (August 30) in the year 1841, the following article appeared in the "Salem Register" (Salem, Mass.): - - - - - - - - - RUINS IN CENTRAL AMERICA. For some time past the Chevalier Frederichsthal, attache of the Austrian Legation, has been exploring the ruins of Central America. Perhaps no one better fitted for this labor than this gentleman, could have been induced to undertake it. Belonging to a noble family at home and of eminent attainments in science, his labor was undertaken merely for the advancement of science itself, and with the expectation of no reward but the reputation that should follow his success. This gentleman travelled by himself, lived like the Indians, and at night encamped on the ground as one of them. He has spent the last nine months in that country, and during that time has been among the ruins of cities where the foot of a white man never was before, and which are unknown even to the most recent travellers. He mentions the ruins of one colonnade where there are yet 10 rows of columns, in each of which are 48 columns,--in all 480 columns. He had with him a complete Daguerreotype apparatus, and with it has taken a great number of excellent impressions. This often required two Indians to hold his table against the force of the wind, two also to keep steady the apparatus, others to protect it from the sun, &c. We had yesterday the pleasure of seeing these impression at his hotel, and they surpass any thing of the kind which we have seen, in distinctness and excellence. From the impressions when magnified, he has made drawings which show the original, by their richness, elegance and finish, to be the work of a highly cultivated people. The work of Messrs. Stephens and Catherwood was on the table, and its sketches were compared with the Daguerreotype, when the sketches in every case were found defective, imperfect and different from the impressions. No idea can be formed from them of the perfection of art with which these structures are finished, as revealed in the impressions and their magnified drawing. The impressions of Uxmul when compared with the sketches of Palenque, show a far more advanced state of cultivation by the inhabitants of the former place. The ornaments on the temples signify that their religion was of a most sensual kind. In some future year it is expected that this invaluable collection, with the results of these labors, will be given to the public. And when it is recollected that Austria has in her possession the original manuscripts and the drawing of Cortez who invaded Mexico, with which these may be compared, it may be hoped that some light will be thrown on the character of that wonderful people who preceded us on this continent.--N. Y. Jour. of Com. -------------------------------------------------------------- 08-30-97

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