Brunhouse follows his previous book on early Maya archaeologists with the present one which deals with a group which overlapped the 19th and 20th centuries. It is a curious group and it is a curious book. Seven men are treated in eight chapters. The initial chapters are more anecdotally oriented with fairly small attention to intellectual history. These early chapters deal with Teobert Malery and Alfred Maudslay, who properly belong to the 19th century era of “Great Explorers.” Both men laid the substantive bases for modern Maya archaeology with their superb photographs and drawings. Morley is included here in a chapter, which is somewhat redundant because he has already been treated by Brunhouse in a full volume biography. Nothing new is added and a couple of errors of fact are perpetuated about the history of the development of the program of Maya research of the Carnegie Institution. Frederick Mitchell-Hedges appears as an egomaniacal adventurer, which is what Brunhouse finally concludes he was. One wonders, however, why he was included at all, and why some really significant contemporary figures such as Tozzer, Merwin, Kidder, and Gann were omitted. Still, Mitchell-Hedges is entertainingly described. The book changes tone at this point and becomes much more satisfying. Spinden is given a very perceptive review and a long separate section deals with his ideas and their relationships to the general intellectual currents of the time. That most peculiar and difficult man, Wm. Gates, comes through as a dedicated bibliophile who should have stopped at that rather than let himself get into the frustrations of attempting to compete in a scholarly field for which he was not trained. The final two chapters are dedicated to Frans Blom with few punches pulled. The story of his meteoric rise to the head of a prestigious research institute, his fall and his alcoholism, and his rehabilitation by his wife and his final satisfying years are all nicely done.
In short, this is a book which deals with both anecdotalism and intellectual history. It omits significant figures, does not deal equally with all of the men discussed, and ignores a great deal of the history of Maya archaeology available for the interviewing. Still and all, it is a worthwhile book for the last four chapters alone, and is generally well-written throughout.