Aztec codices

Detail of first page from the Boturini Codex, depicting the departure from Aztlán.
Codex Fejérváry-Mayer (Lacambalam 2014)

Aztec codices ( Nahuatl languages: Mēxihcatl āmoxtli Nahuatl pronunciation:  [meːˈʃiʔkatɬ aːˈmoʃtɬi]) 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 mostly do not in fact use the codex form (that of a modern paperback) and are, or originally were, long folded sheets. These sheets were typically made from stretched deerskin or from the fibers of the agave plant. [1] They also differ from European books in that they mostly consist of images and pictograms; they were not meant to symbolize spoken or written narratives. [2] The colonial era codices not only contain Aztec pictograms, but also Classical Nahuatl (in the Latin alphabet), Spanish, and occasionally Latin. Some are entirely in Nahuatl without pictorial content.

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. Colonial-era Nahuatl language documentation is the foundational texts of the New Philology, which utilizes these texts to create scholarly works from the indigenous viewpoint.

Codex Borbonicus

Page 13 of the Codex Borbonicus.

The Codex Borbonicus is a codex written by Aztec priests around the time of the Spanish conquest of Mexico. Like all pre-Columbian Aztec codices, it was originally 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.

Codex Bornobicus is held at the Library of the National Assembly of France.

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