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1721 Gemelli Aztec Calendar Wheel

Secolo Mexicano. - Main View

1721 Gemelli Aztec Calendar Wheel



Secolo Mexicano.
  1721 (undated)     10.5 x 10.5 in (26.67 x 26.67 cm)


This unusual 1721 chart, drawn by Giovanni Francesco Gemelli Careri, depicts the Aztec calendar wheel, or the Veytia Calendar Wheel. This wheel represents a 52 year cycle and an 18 month annual cycle with symbols of the 18 festivals. The phases of the moon are shown in the inner circle with a serpent moving clockwise. Mariano Fernandez de Echeverria y Veytia, before his death in 1780, copied seven central Mexican calendar wheels for an unfinished work.  He is said to have copied his wheel from several unknown sources. This wheel was acquired by Gemelli in 1697 and first published in 1699. Subsequently, the original has been lost and all subsequent publications are based on Gemelli's depiction.

Giovanni Francesco Gemelli Careri was a Neapolitan lawyer and adventurer who spent several years traveling the world in the 1690s. In Mexico, Gemelli was inspired by pre-Columbian culture and dedicated several chapters of his important book Giro Intorno al Mondo to discussing Aztec history and legends. Though Gemelli's work attained great fame in Europe, by the end of the 18th century it was considered to be mostly fictional. This map was published in the 1721 Italian edition of Gemelli's A Voyage Round the World.


Giovanni Francesco Gemelli Careri (1651-1725) was a seventeenth century Italian adventurer and traveler. Gemelli Careri was born in a middle class family in Taurianova, Italy, 1651, and died in Naples in 1725. He obtained a doctorate in law at the College of Jesuits in Naples. After completing his studies he briefly entered the judiciary. In 1685 he took time off to travel around Europe (France, Spain, Germany, and Hungary). In 1687 he returned to Naples and re-entered the judiciary. He also began work on his first two books: Relazione delle Campagne d'Ungheria (1689) with co-author Matteo Egizio, and "Viaggi in Europa" (1693). At this time Gemelli experience growing frustrations with the legal profession when he was denied certain opportunities because he did not have an established aristocratic origin. Eventually, he decided to suspend his career for a round-the-world trip. This five year journey would lead to his best known six-volume book, Giro Intorno al Mondo (1699). Gemelli financed his round-the-world venture via various minor merchant ventures, purchasing valuable goods at each strange of the trip. Starting in Egypt he traveled through the Middle East eventually making his way across Armenia and Persia to India and thence to China, where he was introduced to the Emperor. From China he hopped aboard a trading vessel on its way to the Philippines and, crossing the Pacific on a Spanish galleon, landed in Mexico. In Mexico, the Italian traveler became a celebrity by the simple expedient of telling his anecdotes over and over to the local aristocrats. His insatiable curiosity would take him beyond the capital, visiting several mining towns and the ancient ruins of Teotihuacan. Gemelli became fascinated with pre-Columbian culture and dedicated a considerable time and energy to researching studying in Mexico. On his return to Europe in 1699 Gemelli published Giro Intorno al Mondo. Though instantly popular, by the late 18th century his travels were lumped with Mandeville's and presumed to be fictional. Following in Gemelli's footsteps a century later Alexander von Humboldt found that the Italian's lawyer's description of Mexico was so accurate and detailed it could only have been obtained by first hand experience - thus vindicating Gemelli's writings. Gemelli was famously among the first Europeans to tour the world using public transportation; his travels, undertaken for pleasure rather than profit, may have inspired Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days More by this mapmaker...


Gemelli Careri, G. F., Giro del Mondo de Dottor D. Gio: Francesco Gemelli Careri., (Naples) 1721    


Very good. Original platemark visible. Original fold lines visible. Blank on verso.