Catherwood & Stephens Do Amaze and Inspire Me

Yes, it’s undeniably true: I am fascinated by Mssrs. Catherwood and Stephens – and now in colour!

So, here’s a quick reminder. These are the guys who, in 1840, set out and trekked around Mexico and Central America documenting all sorts of stuff. Stephens wrote a major tome entitled ‘Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatán’ published in 1841. The illustrations, miracles that they are, were by Dr. Catherwood.

But I’ve never seen them in colour, as my very prized 1st.-edition of the aforementioned tome has all the illustrations in black and white (as line drawings). So, twice in one day, today, I discover two places: one in a travel brochure (more on this shortly) and the other on a website, where Catherwood’s illustrations are presented in living color (see, I can spell it both ways). Yes, I know, it’s probably just me and everyone else knows!

So why is this so important to me? Well, just like the images from ‘Nights and Days on the Gypsy Trail’, (see a previous post) being able to visualise places and settings when you are writing a musical theatre piece for the stage is sort of important! For example, one of Stephen Schwartz’s favourite stories is about the time he sat at the top of Notre Dame Cathedral overlooking Paris whilst he was writing The Hunchback of Notre Dame for Disney with Alan Menken. OK, so I don’t get to go to the Yucatán to do my field research, so the next best thing is to read and find images.

Also, it also partly depends on what part of the show I am working on musically at any one time. So, referring back to the Mayan world that we are about to enter as the setting for the Musical, re-referencing these amazing illustrations is good for the musical inspiration. Keep in mind that these illustrations were done a mere 70 years before the time in which The Stranger from Seville is set: namely on the eve of the Mexican Revolution of 1910.

So where did I find these glorious images from the past?
They are from a brochure from an Australian (Woo hoo!) travel outfit with travel packages to Mexico, Central America, Cuba & Caribbean Islands. The company is CONTOURS TRAVEL (