Aztec Manuscripts

Codex Mendoza

Native Paper Codices

Borbonicus | Boturini

European Paper Manuscripts

Mendoza | Florentino
Telleriano-Remensis | Vaticanus A
Magliabecchiano Group

Other Documents | Other Notes
Historia Tolteca-Chichimeca

Updated 9 September 1999

The variety of documents we encounter in the category of "Aztec Writing" includes just a couple of native paper screenfolds, and a great number of manuscripts written after the conquest by native scribes and informants. This page is a list of what I would consider to be key documents. (If you have any suggestions as to what else might be included, send me an email.)

The word Aztec was invented by a 19th century writer; perhaps the word was used to sanitize or distance the historical people from their progeny. The people encountered by Cortez were known as the Mexica, leaders of the Triple Alliance. They were the most powerful of many ethnic groups that made the valley of Mexico their home. We know a great deal about them from the early ethnographic works of Sahagun and other Spanish priests.

There are several documents that have spanish commentary and frequently nahuatl glosses accompanying picture writing used by the natives. There are many other documents to explore written purely in Nahuatl or other Uto-Aztecan languages using european characters, but those will have to wait to be explored on another page.

What follows herein is a loose aggregation of information about surviving examples of Aztec writing that follow a pre-conquest pictorial tradition, dating primarily from the 16th century.

Photo Credits
The above image has been scanned from the book Codex Mendoza : Aztec Manuscript, edited with commentaries by Kurt Ross, copyright 1978 / 1984
c Productions Liber,S.A., Fribourg, Switzerland.(Used without permission)
The images below from the Mendoza, Telleriano-Remensis & Ixtlilxochitl
come to us from a very useful site called Aztec Codices at Rice University.
Thanks to Rice University and SMC for putting these images on the web.
(Unfortunately, I've had considerably difficulty accessing this site lately.)
They were scanned from Painting the Conquest : the Mexican Indians
and the European Renaissance
by Serge Gruzinski, copyright 1992
c Flammarion, Paris, France.(Also used without permission)
Other images are taken from their corresponding hyperlinks,
with the exception of my original transparent GIFs.
All rights reserved; not to be used for commercial purposes.
Both of the books are highly recommended,
but especially Painting the Conquest !


Native Paper Codices

    • Borbonicus

      Current location - Biblioteque Nationale Paris

    Native paper screenfold painted on one side
    (with Spanish glosses).

    36 leaves.

The original publication of 1898/1899 by Francisco del Paso y Troncoso with (outdated) accompanying text by E.T.Hamy has been reprinted since 1979 by Siglo XXI Editores with the original facsimile drawing.

    There was a photographic facsimile edition with commentary by Karl Nowotny, published by Akademische Druck und Verlagsanstalt, Graz, Austria 1974 (your first choice if you read German).

A like facsimile accompanies the latest edition in the Codices Mexicanos series from Fondo Cultura Economica with a superb commentary, and continues to reflect their dedication to first class scholarship.

Early pictorial chronicle (1168-1355) portraying travels of the
Tenochca-Mexica from Aztlan to Chapultepec, in native or slightly acculturated style. (HMAI)

Published in Kingsborough Antiquities of Mexico Volume I.


European Paper Manuscripts

Codex Mendoza

    • Mendoza

      Current location - Bodleian Library
      Oxford, England

    European paper.
    71 numbered leaves plus title leaf.
    32.7 by 22.9 cm.

Published in Kingsborough Antiquities of Mexico Volume I; transcript of Spanish text published in Volume V.

Edited & translated by James Cooper Clark 1938 London, Waterlow & Sons. With listing, etymology, and identification of 612 place glyphs, index, and glossary. The original printing of the 1938 color facsimile reproduction and English translation was partially destroyed when the warehouse containing inventory copies was damaged by fire.

    • Florentino

      Current location - Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence

      European paper
      Three volumes: 345 / 372 / 493 leaves.

This was a version of the book that was edited and passed down as the "Historia General de las cosas de Nueva Espana" by Fray Bernardino de Sahagún.

Color Facsimile reproduction, 3 Vols. Mexico City, Archivo General de la Nacion, 1979.

Black and White Facsimile Edition and English translation of Nahuatl by Dibble & Anderson, 1950-69 (twelve volumes), published by University of Utah Press, available from Amazon.

A Nahuatl/English Florentine Codex Vocabulary compiled
by R. Joe Campbell of Indiana University is available online.

The above graphic comes to us from the Mexican Crayfish Page
which includes an article on Crayfish in the Codex Florentino

The following two have been called the Huitzilopotchtli Group.

T-R 1T-R 2

  • Telleriano-Remensis

    Current location - Biblioteque Nationale Paris

    European paper codex.
    50 leaves 32 by 22 cm.

Mexican manuscript of the office of the Ar. M. le Tellier, Archbishop of Rheims, now in the Biblioteque Nationale (MS Mex. 385) E.T. Hamy Paris 1899. Also published in Kingsborough Antiquities of Mexico Volume I; transcript of Spanish text published in Volume V.

The latest scholarship and a facsimile of the document can be found in the book Codex Telleriano-Remensis : Ritual, Divination, and History in a Pictorial Aztec Manuscript by Eloise Quinones Keber.

You are encouraged to visit your local bookseller and order a copy
of the Codex Telleriano-Remensis by Eloise Quinones Keber
You can also place an order online at Amazon.Com
where you can peruse the Table of Contents.

  • Vaticanus A (aka Codex Rios)

    Current location - Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana

European paper codex.
101 leaves. 46 by 29 cm.

Vatican mexican manuscript #3738. Facsimile published by Duc de Loubot with the permission of the Vatican Library, Rome, 1900. Also published in Kingsborough Antiquities of Mexico Volume II; transcript of Italian text published in Volume V.

Magliabecchiano Group

  • Magliabecchiano

    Current location - Biblioteca Nationale Centrale, Florence

European paper codex.
92 leaves. 15.5 by 21.5 cm.

Folio facsimile edition, 94 pages, published in 1903 by Zelia Nuttall. Reprinted with corrections and commentary in a slipcase edition accompanying The Book of the Life of the Ancient Mexicans : The Codex Magliabecchiano and the Lost Prototype of the Magliabecchiano Group by Elizabeth H. Boone, 1983, University of California, Berkeley (now out of print).

The Magliabecchiano is considered to be derivative of a hypothetical lost prototype called "Libro de Figuras". Other cited cognates include:

  • Codice del Museo de America (Codex Tudela)

  • Codex Ixtlilxochitl (Part 1)

    Ixtlilxochitl, Folio 
107R Ixtlilxochitl, Folio 
105R Left: Folio 107R
    Right: Folio 105R
    Below: Folio 106R

    Ixtlilxochitl, Folio 
    Nezahualcoyotl, Lord of Texcoco

Other documents

Not quite sure where to put these:

  • Aubin (Codex de 1576)

European paper codex (Spanish / Nahuatl).
81 leaves . 15 by 11 cm.

First edition hand-colored lithograph circa 1849-1851 by Joseph Marius Alexis Aubin. Facsimile reproduction, edited and translated by Charles E. Dibble Madrid 1963.

  • Badianus Manuscript

European paper codex (Nahuatl / Latin). 63 folios, painted on both sides.
Aztec herbal. Representations of 184 native plants and trees.

  • Historia Tolteca-Chichimeca

  • Matricula De Tributos

  • Plano en Papel de Maguey
    Amatl paper. 238 by 168 cm.

  • Codex Xicotepec
    (unknown material) 28 screenfold pages, 10" x 7"

"Discovered by anthropologists in 1992 in the Nahua and Totonac
region of Huauchinango-Xicotepec, the Xicotepec Codex is available
now for the first time in facimile form. Covering the period 1431
thru 1533, this post-Columbian codex is an enlightening pictorial
history of the people of Texcoco and the central and southern
valley of Mexico."


Other Notes

  • New A web site based on Carlos Fuente's Buried Mirror project is
    now back online with pages specific to Post-Conquest Nahua Codices
    and a fine presentation on the Historia Tolteca-Chichimeca. There are also chapters from Sahagún's Book 6 and Book 12 from "Historia General de las cosas de Nueva Espana", and a Mexica Perigrination page, all of which should be of great interest to readers of this page. I'm sure you'll enjoy this site at the University of Michigan.
    Thanks to this institution for making
    these resources available on the Web.

  • An exciting presentation of the University of Texas
    at Austin - Benson Library
    Relaciones Geográficas Collection showcases their manuscripts with dates ranging from 1578 to 1586. Kudos to this institution for making these resources available online - I hope more libraries follow their lead and bring important historical materials like these to light via the World Wide Web.

    (Special thanks to Kathy Hummel for
    pointing my browser in this direction.)

    For a lot more information on the Aztecs and Mexico in general,
    visit the Aztecs History Page for students, social studies
    teachers, and anyone interested in the Aztecs.

    For more Web resources related to Aztec Writing, visit
    the Nahuatl Home Page at the University of Montana.
    Also, check out my pages on the Borgia Codex Group.

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