Florentine Codex: Book 1
General History of the Things of New Spain
Bernardino de Sahagún
Translated from the Nahuatl with notes by Arthur J. O. Anderson and Charles E. Dibble
Two of the world’s leading scholars of the Aztec language and culture have translated Sahagún’s monumental and encyclopedic study of native life in Mexico at the time of the Spanish Conquest. This immense undertaking is the first complete translation into any language of Sahagún’s Nahuatl text, and represents one of the most distinguished contributions in the fields of anthropology, ethnography, and linguistics.
Written between 1540 and 1585, the Florentine Codex (so named because the manuscript has been part of the Laurentian Library’s collections since at least 1791) is the most authoritative statement we have of the Aztecs’ lifeways and traditions—a rich and intimate yet panoramic view of a doomed people.
The Florentine Codex is divided by subject area into twelve books and includes over 2,000 illustrations drawn by Nahua artists in the sixteenth century.
Book One describes in detail the gods of the Aztec people, including Uitzilopochtli, Tlatoc, and Quetzalcoatl. This colorful and clear translation brings to life characteristics of each god, describing such items as clothing or adornment worn by individual gods, as well as specific personality traits.
Arthur J. O. Anderson (1907–1996) was an anthropologist specializing in Aztec culture and language. He received his MA from Claremont College and his PhD in anthropology from the University of Southern California. He was a curator of history and director of publications at the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe and taught at a number of institutions, including San Diego State University, from which he retired.
Charles E. Dibble (1909–2002) was an anthropologist, linguist, and scholar specializing in Mesoamerican cultures. He received his master’s and doctorate degrees from the Universidad Nacional Autónomo de México and taught at the University of Utah from 1939–1978, where he became a Distinguished Professor of Anthropology.
For their work on the Florentine Codex, both Dibble and Anderson received the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle, the highest honor of the Mexican government; from the King of Spain the received the Order of Isabella the Catholic (Orden de Isabel la Católica) and the title of Commander (Comendador).
Table of Contents:
1. Telleth of the highest of the gods whom they worshipped and to whom they offered sacrifices in ancient times [Huitzilopochtli]
2. Telleth of the god named Paynal (He who hasteneth), whom they worshipped and to whom they offered sacrifices in ancient times
3. Telleth of the god named Tezcatlipoca (Smoking Mirror), whom they worshipped and to whom they offered sacrifices in ancient times
4. Telleth of the god named Tlaloc, the provider
5. Telleth of the god named Quetzalcoatl (Plumed Serpent)
6. Here are named the highest of the goddesses whom the natives worshipped, whom they falsely revered as divine [Ciuacoatl]
7. Here is named the goddess called Chicome coatl (Seven Snake)
8. Here is named the goddess called Teteo innan (Mother of the Gods), who is named Tlalli yiollo (Heart of the Earth) and Toci (Our Grandmother)
9. Here is named the goddess called Tzapotlan tenan (the Mother of Tzapotlan)
10. Telleth of the goddess [called] Ciuapipiltin
11. Telleth of the goddess named Chalchiuhtli ycue (the Jade-skirted), who was [goddess of] the waters
12. Telleth of Tlaçolteotl
13. Telleth of the lesser gods who follow the principal gods which have been mentioned [Xiuhtecutli]
14. Telleth of the god named Macuilxochitl (Five Flower) and Xochipilli (Flower Prince)
15. Telleth of the god Omacatl (Two Reed)
16. Telleth of the god named Ixlilton (Little Black Face), Tlaltetecuin (the Earth-stamper)
17. Telleth of the god whose name was Opochtli (Left), whom the natives worshipped in ancient times
18. Telleth of the god named Xipe totec (Our Lord the Played One)
19. Telleth of the god named Yiacatecutli (Lord of the Vanguard)
20. Telleth of the god whose names was Napa teculti (Lord of the Four Directions)
21. Telleth of those called the Tepictoton (Little Molded Ones), who belonged among the Tlalocs
22. Telleth of the god Tezcatzoncatl, who belonged among the Centzontotochti (the Four Hundred Rabbits)
Appendix to the First Book
The Declaration of God's Word [Book of Wisdom, Chapter XIII]
[Confutation of Idolatry]
Let him who readeth this understand it well
Behold the words of sorrow, the words of pity, which [the author] hath set on paper; how he crieth out greatly. He prayeth to God; he sayeth
Addenda (from Real Palacio MS)
I. Amimitl and Atlaua
II. Chapter 24. They also considered the sun to be a very important god
Praise and Reviews:
“Highly recommended for all academic and large public libraries.”
“A great scholarly enterprise.”
—New Mexico Historical Review
“Bringing the knowledge of modern scholarship to bear on their materials, the translators have been able to illuminate many obscurities in the text. The complete series of volumes is a landmark of scholarly achievement.”
—The New Mexican
“This publication of Sahagún makes available to scholars and their students alike the original Nahuatl text for comparison with the more easily accessible Spanish text, which is in many places merely an abridgment or précis of the original. A whole series of native sources for the study of Mexican pre-conquest history is now at hand for a field of historical study formerly restricted to a small number of investigators. A whole chapter of the cultural history of early Colonial Mexico is unfolding before us. [The Codex is] an impressive monument to Spanish humanism in the sixteenth-century New World.”
—The Hispanic American Historical Review
“Sahagún emerges as the indisputable founder of ethnographic science. The accomplishments of the joint translators, Dibble and Anderson, will surely rank among the greatest achievements of American ethnohistorical scholarship.”