Edward King, Viscount Kingsborough

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The title page of Antiquities of Mexico, volume 1.

Edward King, Viscount Kingsborough (16 November 1795 – 27 February 1837) was an Irish antiquarian who sought to prove that the indigenous peoples of the Americas were a Lost Tribe of Israel. His principal contribution was in making available facsimiles of ancient documents and some of the earliest explorers' reports on pre-Columbian ruins and Maya civilisation.

He was the eldest son of George King, 3rd Earl of Kingston, Lord Kingsborough, the latter a Tory, of Mitchelstown Castle, County Cork. He represented Cork County in parliament between 1818 and 1826 as a Whig.[1]

In 1831, Lord Kingsborough published the first volume of Antiquities of Mexico, a collection of copies of various Mesoamerican codices, including the first complete publication of the Dresden Codex. The exorbitant cost of the reproductions, which were often hand-painted, landed him in debtors' prison. These lavish publications represented some of the earliest published documentation of the ancient cultures of Mesoamerica, inspiring further exploration and research by John Lloyd Stephens and Charles Étienne Brasseur de Bourbourg in the early 19th century. They were the product of early theories about non-indigenous origins for Native American civilisations that are also represented in the Book of Mormon (1830) and myths about mound builders of Old World ancestry in North America.

In 1837, Lord Kingsborough was imprisoned at the Sheriff's Prison in Dublin because he was unable to pay a small debt owed to a printer. He contracted typhus while in prison following which he was released and died three weeks later on 27 February 1837,[1] aged 41, less that two years before he would have succeeded to his title and estates, his father having been declared insane in 1830. The last two volumes of Antiquities of Mexico were published posthumously.

The Codex Kingsborough is named after him.


  • Antiquities of Mexico: comprising fac-similes of ancient Mexican paintings and hieroglyphics, preserved in the royal libraries of Paris, Berlin and Dresden, in the Imperial library of Vienna, in the Vatican library; in the Borgian museum at Rome; in the library of the Institute at Bologna; and in the Bodleian library at Oxford. Together with the Monuments of New Spain, by M. Dupaix: with their respective scales of measurement and accompanying descriptions. The whole illustrated by many valuable inedited manuscripts, by Augustine Aglio (9 vols.)|format= requires |url= (help). London: A. Aglio (Vols. 1–5), R. Havell (Vols. 6–7), H.G. Bohn (Vols. 8–9). 1830–1848. OCLC 5852094.


  1. ^ a b The Complete Peerage, Volume VII. St Catherine's Press. 1929. p. 300.
Coe, Michael D. (1992). Breaking the Maya Code. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05061-9. OCLC 26605966.
Wason, Charles William (1831). "Art. VIII.— Antiquities of Mexico; comprising Fac-similes of Ancient Mexican Paintings and Hieroglyphics, preserved in the Royal Libraries of Paris, Berlin and Dresden; in the Imperial Library of Vienna; in the Vatican Library; in the Borgian Museum at Rome; in the Library of the Institute at Bologna; and in the Bodleian Library at Oxford: together with the Monuments of New Spain, by M. Dupaix, with their respective Scales of Measurement, and accompanying Descriptions. The whole illustrated by many valuable inedited Manuscripts. By Augustus Aglio". The Monthly Review. From January to April inclusive, vol. 1. New and improved series. London: G. Henderson. pp. 253–274. OCLC 64054239.
Wauchope, Robert (1975) [1962]. Lost Tribes and Sunken Continents: Myth and Method in the Study of the American Indians (Fifth impression ed.). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-87635-7. OCLC 50928664.
Whitmore, Sylvia D. (Spring 2009). "Lord Kingsborough and his Contribution to Ancient Mesoamerican Scholarship: The Antiquities of Mexico" (PDF online facsimile). The PARI Journal. San Francisco, CA: Pre-Columbian Art Research Institute. 9 (4): 8–16. ISSN 1531-5398. OCLC 44780248.

Power, Bill, 'White Knights, Dark Earls, the Rise and Fall of an Anglo-Irish Dynasty,' (The Collins Press, 2000).

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Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Viscount Bernard
Viscount Ennismore
Member of Parliament for County Cork
With: Viscount Ennismore
Succeeded by
Viscount Ennismore
Hon. Robert King