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León y Gama, Antonio de. Disertación física sobre la materia y formación de las auroras boreales, que con ocasión de la que apareció en México y otros lugares de la Nueva España el día 14 de noviembre de 1789. Mexico: Felipe de Zúñiga y Ontiveros, 1790. Small 4to (20 cm; 7.875").  f., 37, [1 (blank]) pp., engr. plt. $4,250.00
León y Gama (1735–1802) is probably most famous for his publication on the discovery of the Tizoc Stone and the Aztec Calendar Stone that were unearthed during a campaign of municipal "improvements" in Mexico City's zócalo, or main square, in the late 1780s and early 1790s. His was the first scholarly publication that described the stones' discovery and attempted to explain their meaning.
León, a native of Mexico City, trained as a lawyer, worked for the audiencia (high court) of Mexico, and was a self-trained mathematician and astronomer. He published works on astronomy beginning in 1770, notably a description of the solar eclipse of 24 June 1778 and this work on the aurora borealis that was seen in Mexico City in November of 1789 — immediately after which, on 1 and 22 December, he published articles in the Gazetas de Mexico allaying the fear of the populace and giving a simplified explanation of the "lights." This formal explanation is laid out under four headings: "Diferencias que se observan en las Auroras boreales: propriedades y circunstancias de la materia de que se componen," "Varias opiniones acerca de la materia de que se forma la Aurora boreal," "Varias noticias de algunos Lugares de este Reyno donde se vió la Aurora boreal la misma noche del dia 14 de Nov. de 1789," and "De la materia y formacion de la Aurora boreal." An => engraving of angles of observation related to auroras is found in a "Suplemento" after the main text that discusses criticisms of León's December, 1789, writing on the phenomenon and clearly states that the anonymous "Noticia" on it that appeared in the 19 November 1789 issue of the Gazeta de literatura, often attributed to him, is not his! Finally, the text is carefully footnoted with detailed bibliographical references.
=> Mexican colonial-era math and science publications as a genre are among the rarest both in holdings outside of Mexico and in the marketplace. Searches of NUC, WorldCat, and CCILA locate only five U.S. libraries reporting ownership of this publication (Sutro, Bancroft, Tulane, John Carter Brown, and University of Texas).
Medina, Mexico, 7997; Puttick & Simpson, Bibliotheca Mejicana, 1583; Catalogue Andrade, 4123; Sutro, p. 33. Recent brown cloth over light boards. Title-leaf closely cropped in upper margin costing the top halves or more of all letters of the two-word title, and a few page numbers touched; text and illustration very good. (38062) Please RESHELVE This.
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