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Aztec codices

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Detail of first page from the Boturini Codex, depicting the departure from Aztlán.

Aztec codices are books written by pre-Columbian and colonial-era Aztecs. These codices provide some of
the best primary sources for Aztec culture.

The pre-Columbian codices differ from European codices in that they are largely pictorial; they were not meant
to symbolize spoken or written narratives.[1]The colonial era codices not only contain Aztec pictograms, but
also Classical Nahuatl (in the Latin alphabet), Spanish, and occasionally Latin.

Although there are very few surviving pre-conquest codices, the tlacuilo (codex painter) tradition endured the
transition to colonial culture; scholars now have access to a body of around 500 colonial-era codices.

According to the Madrid Codex, the fourth tlatoani Itzcoatl (ruling from 1427 (or 1428) to 1440) ordered
the burning of all historical codices because it was "not wise that all the people should know the paintings".
Among other purposes, this allowed the Aztec state to develop a state-sanctioned history and mythos that
venerated Huitzilopochtli.


1 Codex Borbonicus

2 Boturini Codex

3 Codex Mendoza
4 Florentine Codex

5 Codex Osuna

6 Aubin Codex

7 Codex Magliabechiano

8 Codex Cozcatzin

9 Codex Ixtlilxochitl

10 Libellus de Medicinalibus Indorum


11 Other codices

12 See also

13 References

14 External links

Codex Borbonicus

Page 13 of the Codex Borbonicus.

Main article: Codex Borbonicus

The Codex Borbonicus is a codex written by Aztec priests shortly before or after the Spanish conquest of
Mexico. Like all pre-Columbian codices, it was originally entirely pictorial in nature, although some Spanish
descriptions were later added. It can be divided into three sections:
1. An intricate tonalamatl, or divinatory calendar;

2. A documentation of the Mesoamerican 52 year cycle, showing in order the dates of the first days of
each of these 52 solar years; and

3. A section of rituals and ceremonies, particularly those that end the 52 year cycle, when the "new fire"
must be lit.

Boturini Codex

The Boturini Codex was painted by an unknown Aztec author some time between 1530 and 1541, roughly a
decade after the Spanish conquest of Mexico. Pictorial in nature, it tells the story of the legendary Aztec journey
from Aztlán to the Valley of Mexico.

Rather than employing separate pages, the author used one long sheet of amatl, or fig bark, accordion-folded
into 21½ pages. There is a rip in the middle of the 22nd page, and it is unclear whether the author intended the
manuscript to end at that point or not. Unlike many other Aztec codices, the drawings are not colored, but
rather merely outlined with black ink.

Also known as “Tira de la Peregrinación” ("The Strip Showing the Travels"), it is named after one of its first
European owners, Lorenzo Boturini Bernaducci (1702 – 1751). It is now held in the Museo Nacional de
Antropología in Mexico City.

Codex Mendoza

Part of the first page of Codex Mendoza, depicting the founding of Tenochtitlan.

Main article: Codex Mendoza

The Codex Mendoza is a pictorial document, with Spanish annotations and commentary, composed circa 1541.
It is divided into three sections: a history of each Aztec ruler and their conquests; a list of the tribute paid by
each tributary province; and a general description of daily Aztec life.

Florentine Codex

Main article: Florentine Codex

The Florentine Codex is a set of 12 books created under the supervision of Bernardino de Sahagún between
approximately 1540 and 1585. It is a copy of original source materials which are now lost, perhaps destroyed
by the Spanish authorities who confiscated Sahagún's manuscripts. Perhaps more than any other source, the
Florentine Codex has been the major source of Aztec life in the years before the Spanish conquest even
though a complete copy of the codex, with all illustrations, was not published until 1979. Before then, only the
censored and rewritten Spanish translation had been available.

Codex Osuna

Section of page 34 of Codex Osuna showing the glyphs for Texcoco,Tenochtitlan, and Tlacopán.

The Codex Osuna is a set of seven separate documents created in early 1565 to present evidence against the
government of Viceroy Luis de Velascoduring the 1563-66 inquiry by Jerónimo de Valderrama. In this codex,
indigenous leaders claim non-payment for various goods and for various services performed by their people,
including building construction and domestic help.

The Codex was originally solely pictorial in nature. Nahuatl descriptions and details were then entered onto the
documents during its review by Spanish authorities, and a Spanish translation of the Nahuatl was added.

Aubin Codex

The Aubin Codex is a pictorial history of the Aztecs from their departure from Aztlán through the Spanish
conquest to the early Spanish colonial period, ending in 1607. Consisting of 81 leaves, it was most likely begun
in 1576, it is possible that Fray Diego Durán supervised its preparation, since it was published in 1867
as Historia de las Indias de Nueva-España y isles de Tierra Firme, listing Durán as the author.
Among other topics, the Aubin Codex has a native description of the massacre at the temple in Tenochtitlan in

Also called "Manuscrito de 1576" (“The Manuscript of 1576”), this codex is held by the British Museum and a
copy of its commentary at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. A copy of the original is held at the Princeton
University library in the Robert Garrett Collection there. The Aubin Codex is not to be confused with the
similarly named Aubin Tonalamatl.

Codex Magliabechiano

Reverse of folio 11 of the Codex Magliabechiano, showing the day signs Flint (knife), Rain, Flower, and Crocodile.

The Codex Magliabechiano was created during the mid-16th century, in the early Spanish colonial period.
Based on an earlier unknown codex, the Codex Magliabechiano is primarily a religious document, depicting the
20 day-names of the tonalpohualli, the 18 monthly feasts, the 52-year cycle, various deities, indigenous
religious rites, costumes, and cosmological beliefs.

The Codex Magliabechi has 92 pages made from European paper, with drawings and Spanish language text
on both sides of each page.

It is named after Antonio Magliabechi, a 17th century Italian manuscript collector, and is presently held in
the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Florence, Italy.

Codex Cozcatzin

The Codex Cozcatzin is a post-conquest, bound manuscript consisting of 18 sheets (36 pages) of European
paper, dated 1572 although was perhaps created later than this. Largely pictorial, it has short descriptions in
Spanish and Nahuatl.

The first section of the codex contains a list of land granted by Itzcóatl in 1439 and is part of a complaint
against Diego Mendoza. Other pages list historical and genealogical information, focused
on Tlatelolco and Tenochtitlan. The final page consists of astronomical descriptions in Spanish.
It named for Don Juan Luis Cozcatzin, who appears in the codex as "alcalde ordinario de esta ciudad de
México" ("ordinary mayor of this city of Mexico"). The codex is presently held by the Bibliothèque Nationale in

Codex Ixtlilxochitl

The Codex Ixtlilxochitl is an early 17th century codex fragment detailing, among other subjects, a calendar of
the annual festivals and rituals celebrated by the Aztec teocalli during the Mexican year. Each of the 18 months
is represented by a god or historical character.

Written in Spanish, the Codex Ixtlilxochitl has 50 pages comprising 27 separate sheets of European paper with
29 drawings. It was derived from the same source as the Codex Magliabechiano. It was named after Fernando
de Alva Cortés Ixtlilxochitl (between 1568 & 1578 - c. 1650), a member of the ruling family of Texcoco, and is
held in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.

Libellus de Medicinalibus Indorum Herbis

A page of the Libellus illustrating thetlahçolteoçacatl, tlayapaloni, axocotl andchicomacatl plants.

Main article: Libellus de Medicinalibus Indorum Herbis

The Libellus de Medicinalibus Indorum Herbis (Latin for "Little Book of the Medicinal Herbs of the Indians") is a
herbal manuscript, describing the medicinal properties of various plants used by the Aztecs. It was translated
into Latin by Juan Badiano, from a Nahuatl original composed in Tlatelolco in 1552 byMartín de la Cruz that is
no longer extant. The Libellus is also known as the Badianus Manuscript, after the translator; the Codex de la
Cruz-Badiano, after both the original author and translator; and the Codex Barberini, after Cardinal Francesco
Barberini, who had possession of the manuscript in the early 17th century.
Other codices

 Codex Borgia - pre-Hispanic ritual codex. The name is also given to a number of codices called the
Borgia Group:

 Codex Laud

 Codex Vaticanus B

 Codex Cospi

 Codex Fejérváry-Mayer - pre-Hispanic calendar codex.

 Codex Telleriano-Remensis - calendar, divinatory almanac and history of the Aztec people.

 Codex Ríos - an Italian translation and augmentation of a the Codex Telleriano-Remensis.

 Ramírez Codex - a history by Juan de Tovar.

 Anales de Tlatelolco a.k.a. "Unos Anales Históricos de la Nación Mexicana" - post-conquest.

 Durán Codex - a history by Diego Durán.

 Codex Xolotl - a pictorial codex recounting the history of the Valley of Mexico, and Texcoco in
particular, from Xolotl's arrival in the Valley to the defeat of Azcapotzalco in 1428.

 Codex Azcatitlan

 Mapa de Cuauhtinchan No. 2 - a post-conquest indigenous map, legitimazing the land rights of the

 History of Tlaxcala, aka Lienzo de Tlaxcala - written by and under the supervision of Diego Muñoz
Camargo in the years leading up to 1585.
Aztec civilization

Human sacrifice

Warfare · Aztec codices

Aztec Triple Alliance

Spanish conquest of Mexico

Fall of Tenochtitlan

La Noche Triste


See also

 Codex Zouche-Nuttall - one of the Mixtec codices. Codex Zouche-Nuttall is currently in the British

 Crónica X

 Maya codices


1. ^ Elizabeth Hill Boone, "Pictorial Documents and Visual Thinking in Postconquest Mexico". p. 158.

2. ^ Madrid Codex, VIII, 192v, as quoted in León-Portilla, p. 155. LEÓN-PORTILLA,

MIGUEL (1963). Aztec Thought and Culture: A Study of the Ancient Náhuatl Mind. Civilization of the

American Indian series, no. 67. Jack Emory Davis (trans.). Norman: University of Oklahoma

Press. OCLC 181727. Note that León-Portilla finds Tlacaelel to be the instigator of this burning, despite lack

of specific historical evidence.[verification needed]

External links

Wikimedia Commons has

media related to: Aztec codices
 Bibliography of Mesoamerican Codices

 Detailed interpretation, with annotated photos, of the last pages of the Boturini Codex

 Page-by-page views of Codex Ixtlilxochitl