The Aztecs

Richard F. Townsend

Introduced by the author

The history of one of the world’s most fascinating civilisations, a people both dynamic and feared, is newly presented in a stunning two-volume Folio edition.

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‘A remarkably fresh and scholarly study … you will read it with pleasure’

  1. The Times Literary Supplement

A dynamic and powerful people, the Aztecs flourished in Central America between 1325 and 1521. Their magnificent capital, Tenochtitlan, was one of the world’s largest cities in the 16th century, and from here the Aztecs governed a vast empire that stretched from present-day Mexico to Guatemala, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans.

In his remarkable history, Richard F. Townsend traces the history of the Aztecs, from wandering tribespeople to empire builders, and their final demise at the hands of Cortes’s invading army. His classic text on the subject is newly presented in a stunning Folio edition that includes a companion volume of 90 beautifully reproduced colour photographs of incredible artefacts, awe-inspiring temples and beautiful mosaics.

Production Details

2 volumes

Bound in blocked cloth with a design by Yann Legendre

Set in Minion Pro

Text volume: 312 pages. Picture volume: 104 pages

84 black & white integrated images in volume 1; 89 colour images in volume 2

Title page in volume 1 and 2 printed in two colours

Gilded page tops

Blocked cloth slipcase

10˝ x 6¾˝

A sophisticated and fierce civilisation

The Aztecs were a people with two distinct sides to their culture: the architectural, scientific and creative prowess that stunned the Conquistadors, and the brutal human sacrifice at the heart of their beliefs. Townsend provides a complete and detailed overview of all aspects of their social structure and religion, offering an incredible insight into this rich and sophisticated civilisation. From their great temples and pyramids to their exceptional mosaic work and sculpture, the Aztecs’ incredible achievements are illustrated through 84 integrated photographs in the first volume, including diagrams, maps and photographs of ancient sites, images of engravings and intricate relief work, examples of sculptural monuments, and views of temple sites such as the Templo Mayor in Mexico City, the ruins of Xoxichalco and the great ceremonial centre at Malinalco.

Exceptional production values

A vast number of Aztec artefacts survive and their legacy is dramatically showcased in this edition’s pictorial companion volume. There are 90 colour plates, many sourced from the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico, and each painstakingly reproduced to ensure exceptional quality. There are jewelled skulls – including the Skull of the Smoking Mirror, which was famously used in rituals – basalt sculptures of gods and goddesses, details from the carved reliefs on the Sun Stone and pages from the Codex Mendoza, as well as the exquisite turquoise two-headed serpent that is perhaps the greatest example of the Aztecs’ artistic prowess.

Each volume includes a decorated title page with motifs inspired by the Sun Stone, and an intricate foil-blocked binding that replicates Aztec inscriptions. This unique collector’s set brings together a highly respected text on the subject and images of some of the most spectacular artefacts, architecture and archives from this remarkable civilisation.

About Richard F. Townsend

Richard F. Townsend is a noted expert on pre-Columbian culture and is the former curator of the Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas at the Art Institute of Chicago. He has conducted extensive field research at Aztec sites, and written several books on the subject of the Ancient Americas, including The Ancient Americas: Art from Sacred Landscapes (1992), Ancient West Mexico: Art and Architecture of the Unknown Past (1998), Indian Art of the Americas at the Art Institute of Chicago (2016), and Hero, Hawk and Open Hand: Indian Art of the Ancient Midwest and South (2004), about the art and archaeology of early Native American civilisations.


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