Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut
Preussischer Kulturbesitz

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Seler, Eduard (1849-1922)

Eduard Seler is viewed as the founder of Ancient American studies in Germany. He studied mathematics, mineralogy, botany and paleontology and obtained his doctorate in 1887 with a dissertation on Mayan languages at the University of Leipzig. In 1894 he was awarded a post-doctorate (habilitation) with a thesis on pictographic script in Mexico at Friedrich Wilhelm University, Berlin (today’s Humboldt University of Berlin). In 1884 Seler began working at Berlin Royal Museum of Ethnology (today’s Ethnological Museum – Berlin State Museums) as a scientific assistant and was appointed director of the America section in 1903. In 1899 Seler was awarded a chair in American languages, ethnology and antiquity at Friedrich Wilhelm University, Berlin. He travelled to Mexico six times between 1887 and 1910 and amassed several large archaeological collections (as well as a botanical collection of approx. 6,000 plants). From 1910 to 1911 Seler was also principal of the Escuela Internacional de Antropología y Etnología Americana in Mexico City.  Eduard Seler’s work focused on ancient Mexican codices and the religion and mythology of the Aztecs.

The papers and manuscripts have been assembled and categorized in a way that reflects Eduard Seler’s own classification methods. He compiled his images – photographs (prints of original photos and clippings of published photos), postcards, sketches and drawings – in a single image archive. In order to index these materials, the Ibero-American Institute (IAI) produced a catalog and a places index for this image archive.

  • 229 cases (Seler’s image archive)
  • approx. 235 boxes (each with approx. 800 to 1,000 cards with words from 38 indigenous languages, focusing on Mesoamerica, particularly Nahuatl), illustrations
  • drawings
  • sketches
  • copies of codices
  • numerous photographs
  • 1 copy of the personnel file and post-doctoral certificate (habilitation)

Provenance: The majority of Eduard Seler’s papers were in the possession of his widow and were lost in the Second World War. Eduard Seler’s manuscripts and papers stored at the IAI were previously in the possession of one of Walter Lehmann’s students, who bequeathed them to the IAI. As a result, Eduard Seler’s materials are indexed under both “Walter Lehmann’s papers” and “Eduard Seler’s papers”.

Keywords: Mexico, archaeology, ethnolinguistics, ethnology, ethnohistory

Miradas Alemanas

2021 || Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut Preussischer Kulturbesitz