The Florentine Codex is the name given to twelve 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. The original source materials were records of conversations and interviews with indigenous sources in Tlatelolco, Texcoco, and Tenochtitlan.
The Florentine Codex is primarily a Nahuatl language text, written by trilingual Nahuatl, Spanish and Latin Aztec students of Sahagún. This Nahuatl text is written on the right side of the codex. Sections of this text were translated into Spanish, and written in the left column. However, many sections were not translated and some only summarized in their translation. In their place, the Florentine Codex has roughly 1,800 illustrations done by Aztec tlacuilos (Nahuatl scribes) using European techniques. Some of the Spanish translation was censored or otherwise rewritten by Sahagún.
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 Florentine Codex, with all illustrations, was not published until 1979. Before then, only the censored and rewritten Spanish translation had been available.
There is also a Spanish-only version of Sahagún's document. This copy was taken to Europe in 1580 by Rodrigo de Sequera, and is also referred to as the Sequera manuscript.
The Spanish text was the basis for the Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva España (General History of the Things of New Spain) which is kept at the Laurentian Library in Florence.
The Codex Matritense is a copy and compilation from the same sources as the Florentine Codex, corresponding to the material recompiled in Tlatelolco and Texcoco in Nahuatl. It has five books, and includes 175 illustrations. It is a very heavily censored translation of the Florentine Codex by Sahagún himself, done to appeal to the Spanish authorities. The two codices are housed in the Library of the Royal Palace and the Royal History Museum, in Madrid. Other names include the Codices Matritense and the Madrid Codex (not to be confused with the Maya Madrid Codex).
A short version of this document, Breve compendio de los soles idolátricos que los indios desta Nueva España usaban en tiempos de su infidelidad ("Short Compendium of the Idolatry Used by the New Spain Indians during their Unfaithfulness"), was sent by Sahagún to Pope Pius V.
- "Sahagún y el nacimiento de la cronica mestiza" by Enrique Florescano. Relaciones 91, verano 2002, vol XXIII, CONACULTA.
- Leon-Portilla, Miguel; Aztec Thought and Culture; University of Oklahoma Press, 1990.
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