During the years 1881 and 1883 I passed some seven months in and near the City of Mexico, and there secured, often from strange hiding places where they had rested since the secularization of the conventual establishments, about eighty paintings by known and unknown colonial artists. Aware that a vast — I might almost say a superabundant — literature treating of painters and paintings existed in our Northern capitals, and engrossed by the novel aspect of nature around me, I delayed examining my acquisitions historically until 1 should again be near the systematized accumulations of records of the several studious nations. This delay continued until, when invited by the trustees to place my collection where it might subserve a useful end, in Memorial Hall, Philadelphia, 1 turned to the great centres of eastern American thought, seeking knowledge relating to the fine arts in New Spain. Many thousands of volumes were rapidly sifted by means of catalogues, indexes, and the references of learned authors, and to my surprise the search secured but a limited number of isolated facts.
These were placed in some order of sequence and assembled with others drawn from memory or gathered and recorded in note-books during my Mexican sojourn.