Codex Mexicanus. Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris. Nos 23-24

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Author: Société des Américanistes

Year: 1952

Publisher: Société des Américanistes

Place: Paris


102 facsimile plates. Oblong small octavo (7" x 10 3/4") issued in stapled wrappers. Published for the Société des Américanistes. First edition.

The Codex Mexicanus is a late-sixteenth-century native manuscript with calendrical, genealogical, historical, and biblical contents presented in both pictures and prose. It is a small manuscript (measuring 10 × 20 centimeters), painted on native bark paper and bound as a Western book. The presence of two distinct hands (Mengin, 1952, p. 395), as well as multiple erasures and palimpsests, makes it clear that the manuscript was not written in a single period but instead was used, annotated, and altered over time.There are large gaps in our knowledge of the manuscript's history. Its authors were anonymous Nahuatl speakers; little is known about the circumstances of the manuscript's creation or use. In fact, we do not know anything of its history and provenience with certainty until its nineteenth-century ownership, first by Joseph Aubin and then by Eugène Goupil. It is now held at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.The manuscript is a composite one, consisting of several distinct sections. In order of their progression, these are an incomplete, European-derived Saint's day calendar (pp. 2–8); several pages with European calendrical and astrological information, including both a European and a native calendar wheel (pp. 9–12); charts with tonalpohualli day names and coefficients (pp. 13–14) and dates and numbers in both European and native systems (p. 15); genealogies of several Mexica rulers (pp. 16–17); year count annals that include the years 1168 through 1590 (pp. 18–87); biblical scenes (p. 88); and finally, a partial tonalamatl (pp. 89–101). The year count provides the history of the Mexica from their migration from Aztlán to Tenochtitlan and continues through the Conquest and Early Colonial period. Pages 24–34 of the year count annals contain Nahuatl texts in alphabetic script that treat the signs of the European Zodiac. The Codex Mexicanus can be likened to an almanac, in this case a personal reference work created and annotated by an educated Nahua.Traditionally, the Codex Mexicanus has been seen as an example of the fairly quick and complete process of acculturation (both artistic and intellectual) undergone by the Nahua during the course of the sixteenth century. This is the view taken by Donald Robertson (1994), for instance. A great deal of the manuscript's contents are clearly European-derived (such as the saint's day calendar and zodiacal information), and these demonstrate the influence of European thought on Nahua thought. It is in part this very hybridity, however, that makes the manuscript useful to scholars. The Codex Mexicanus provides us with an example of the intellectual reactions of the Nahua to the new ideas (in particular, calendrical and zodiacal ones) that entered Mexico during the Colonial period. It is a valuable source on Nahua culture of the early Colonial period because it provides a firsthand view of some of the ways in which the Nahua actively adapted their traditional modes of expression and their traditional knowledge to incorporate Spanish ideas.


Spine ends chipped, wrappers lightly soiled, corners bumped else a very good copy

SOLD 2011

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