The Huitzilopochtli Facsimile Reading Room

1.) CODEX BORGIA, Akademische Druck—u. Verlagsanstalt Graz, 1976, Vol. XXXIV.

Photomechanically reproduced facsimile of the pre-Columbian Codex Borgia, Vatican Library, Rome. Leporello, page size: 27 x 27 cm, total length: 10.53 m. Animal skin coated in white gesso, painted on both sides. Edition of 500.

The Codex Borgia is a ritual and divinatory manuscript and includes 18 pages of an astronomical narrative that describes the annual sequence of the rainy and dry seasons. The style of the codex hints at an origin of the manuscript in the Cholula—Tlaxcala—Hueotzinco area, but precisely where it was made is still disputed (it has been variously described as Aztec, Mixtec, Cuicatec, Macatec, and Olmec). A precise date has also not been assigned but it is generally agreed that it was produced before the Spanish conquest in 1521. The codex is thought to have been brought to Europe during the early Spanish colonial period and is named after its first known owner, the Italian Cardinal Stefano Borgia (1731—1804), who kept it in his manuscript collection at his museum at Velletri, Italy. After his death the codex was rediscovered in 1805 by Alexander von Humboldt amongst the personal effects of the Cardinal. In 1902 the codex was acquired by the Vatican Library.

2.) CODEX ZOUCHE—NUTTALL, Akademische Druck—u. Verlagsanstalt Graz, 1987, Vol. LXXXIV.

Photomechanically reproduced facsimile of the pre-Columbian Codex Zouche—Nuttall, British Museum, London. Leporello, page size: 19 x 23.5 cm, total length: 11.35 m. Animal skin coated in white gesso, painted on both sides. Edition of 500.

The Codex Zouche—Nuttall is thought to have been made in the 14th century and records the genealogies, alliances and conquests of several 11th and 12th century rulers of a small Mixtec city-state in highland Oaxaca, the Tilantongo kingdom, especially under the leadership of the warrior Lord Eight Deer Jaguar Claw. The codex was rediscovered by the American anthropologist Celia Nuttall in the collection of Robert Curzon, Baron Zouche. Nuttall regarded the codex as the handiwork of the same artist who painted the Codex Vindobonenis (see item 3) and demonstrated that these two codices were probably the two native books given to Hernán Cortés by the messengers of the Aztec ruler Moctezuma II, and mentioned by Cortés as sent from Vera Cruz to Charles V in 1519. The British Museum acquired the codex in 1917.

3.) CODEX VINDOBONENSIS MEXICANUS I, Akademische Druck—u. Verlagsanstalt Graz, 1974, Vol. V.

Photomechanically reproduced facsimile of the pre-Columbian Codex Vindobonensis Mexicanus I, Austrian National Library, Vienna. Leporello, page size: 26.5 x 22 cm, total length: 13.5 m. Animal skin coated in white gesso, painted on both sides. Edition of 500.

This codex is a Mixtec chronicle of the history and genealogy of rulers from Tilantongo as well as the divine origins of their dynasties. It is thought to have originated in the Veracruz region and belonged to the last pre-Hispanic ruler of Tilantongo, Lord Four Deer, and was given to the Spanish shortly after their arrival in 1519. Together with the Codex Zouche—Nuttall it was sent to Seville as a present for Charles V. The details of the route by which it ended up in Vienna are unclear.

4.) CODEX LAUD, Akademische Druck—u. Verlagsanstalt Graz, 1966, Vol. XI.

Photomechanically reproduced facsimile of the pre-Columbian Codex Laud, Bodleian Library, Oxford. Leporello, page size 16.5 x 16.5 cm, total length: 3.96 m. Animal skin coated in white gesso, painted on both sides. Edition of 500.

The Codex Laud is a 16th century pre-Conquest manuscript once owned by the archbishop of Canterbury William Laud, who presented it to the Bodleian Library, Oxford, in 1636, beyond which there is no historical proof of its origins. Stylistically and iconographically the codex is similar to the Codex Fejérváry—Mayer (see item 5). Both feature protocols of ceremonies and devote entire pages to rituals which involve great quantities of carefully counted offerings.

5.) CODEX FEJÉRVÁRY—MAYER, Akademische Druck—u. Verlagsanstalt Graz, 1971, Vol. XXVI.

Photomechanically reproduced facsimile of the pre-Columbian Codex Fejérváry—Mayer, World Museum, Liverpool. Leporello, page size: 17.5 x 17.5 cm., total length: 3.74 m. Animal skin coated in white gesso, painted on both sides. Edition of 500.

The Codex Fejérváry—Mayer is one of the best preserved of the pre-Conquest Mexican codices. As a typical calendar codex, or tonalamatl (“book of days’’) it deals with the sacred Aztec calendar—the tonalpohualli. A precise date or place of production is not known. The codex first appeared in the collection of the Hungarian collector Gabriel Fejérváry (1780–1851). Joseph Mayer (1803–1886), an English collector and antiquarian, bought it from Fejérváry and donated it to the Liverpool Museum in 1851. It has strong stylistic similarities to Codex Laud (see item 4).

6.) THE FLORENTINE CODEX: A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE THINGS OF NEW SPAIN. Arthur J.O. Anderson and Charles E. Dibble (translators). Santa Fe: School of American Research and The University of Utah, 1950–1964.

4to, cloth, illustrated. Volumes: 2 (The Ceremonies), 3 (The Origin of the Goods), 4–5 (The Soothsayers; The Omens), 7 (The Sun, Moon, and Stars, and the Binding of the Years), 8 (Kings and Lords), 9 (The Merchants), 10 (The People), 11 (Earthly Things), 12 (The Conquest of Mexico).

The Florentine Codex is a vast 16th century ethnographic and linguistic research project that was undertaken in Mesoamerica by the Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún (1499—1590): it is the single most valuable source of information concerning the pre-Conquest culture of Mexico. Arriving just eight years after the Conquest, Sahagún, with the help of a group of Nahua men, spent the following 50 years collecting an immense stock of data with which he compiled an exhaustive study of virtually every aspect of indigenous life in Mexico. The work consists of 2,400 pages organised into twelve books, with more than 2,000 illustrations drawn by native artists. It documents the culture, religious cosmology, ritual practices, society, economics, and natural history of the Aztec world, and has been described as “one of the most remarkable accounts of a non-Western culture ever composed,”—with Sahagún now referred to as “the first anthropologist.” The best-preserved manuscript of Sahagún’s writings, known as the Florentine Codex, is now held in the Laurentian Library, Florence. A comprehensive translation into English was undertaken by Charles E Dibble and Arthur J O Anderson between 1920 and 1950 at the University of Utah.