Florentine Codex: Book 12
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 Twelve contains a meticulous retelling of the Spanish conquest of Mexico, from the days leading up to the first arrival of Cortes to the eventual submission of the Tlatilulcans, the Tenochtitlans, and their rulers to the Spaniards.
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. In which it is told how there appeared, how there were seen the signs, the omens of evil, before they Spaniards had come here to this land....
2. In which it is told how the first boat which came arrived, which, as they say, was only one boat
3. In which it is told what Moctezuma commanded when he heard the account of those who saw the boat....
4. In which is told that which Moctezuma, commanded when he knew now the Spaniards had just returned....
5. In which it is told what came to pass when Moctezuma's messengers entered there into Don Hernando Cortés's boat
6. In which it is told how Moctezuma's messengers returned here to Mexico....
7. In which it is related the account by which the messengers who has gone to see the boats reported to Moctezuma....
8. In which it is told how Moctezuma sent magicians, wizards, sorcerers so that they might bring about [evil] to the Spaniards
9. In which it is told how Moctezuma wept, and [how] the Mexicans wept, when they knew that the Spaniards were very powerful
10. In which it is told how quite slowly the Spaniards came forth to dry land....
11. In which it is told how the Spaniards came to arrive there in Tlaxcalla....
12. In which it is told how Moctezuma sent a personage, a great nobleman, and many other noblemen besides, to go to meet the Spaniards....
13. In which it is told how Moctezuma sent still other sorcerers so that they might casts spells over the Spaniards, and what befell them on the way
14. In which it is told how Moctezuma commanded that the road be closed, so that the Spaniards might not come to arrive here in Mexico
15. In which it is told how the Spaniards departed there from Itztapalapan in order to arrive in Mexico
16. In which it is told how Moctezuma peacefully, quietly went to meet the Spaniards there at Xoloco....
17. In which it is told how the Spaniards took Moctezuma with them when they went to enter the great palace, and what happened there
18. In which it is told how the Spaniards went to enter Moctezuma's princely home, and what happened there
19. In which it is told how the Spaniards commended the Mexicans to observe Feast of Uitzilopochtli....
20. In which it told how the Spaniards slew the Mexicans, destroyed the, when they celebrated the Feast of Uitzilopochtli....
21. In which it is told how the war newly began when the Mexicans gave battle to the Spaniards here in Mexico
22. In which it is told how it came to be known that the Captain Don Hernando Cortés already came as he was returning to Mexico
23. In which it is told how Moctezuma and a great nobleman of Tlatilulco died and [the Spaniards] cast their bodies out before the gate....
24. In which it is told how the Spaniards and the Tlaxcallans set out, fled from Mexico by night
25. In which it is told how the people of Teocalhueyacan peacefully, quietly came to meet the Spaniards and gave them food when they fled from Mexico....
26. In which it is told how the Spaniards went to reach Teocalhueyacan, and how the people there joyfully received them
27. In which it is told how the Mexicans came to reach the Spaniards in order to follow them at the rear
28. In which it is told how they celebrated a great feast day when the Spaniards had gone forth from here in Mexico
29. In which it is told how there came a plague, of which the natives died. Its name was smallpox....
30. In which it is told how the Spaniards fashioned their boats there in Texcoco in order to come to conquer Mexico here
31. In which it is told how the Spaniards came with the brigantines....
32. In which it is told how the Mexicans in fear went forth from their city here when they dreaded the Spaniards
33. In which it is told how the people of the floating gardens, the Xochimilcans, the Cuitlauacans, those of Itztapalpan, and still others came so that they might help the Mexicans
34. In which it is told how the Mexicans took captives when they took fifteen Spaniards
35. In which it is related how once again the Mexicans took captives....
36. In which it is told how the Spaniards for the first time came to enter the market place here in Tlatilulco
37. In which it is told how the Mexicans worked with continual difficulty as by night they uncovered the [canal] waters where by day the Spaniards had filled them
38. In which it is told how the Spaniards set up a catapult with they would have treacherously slain the Tlatilulcans
39. In which it is told how, when indeed, [the Spaniards] had gone forcing them to the wall, there appeared to the Mexicans, there was seen, a bloodstone....
40. In which it is told how the Tlatilulcans and those of Tenochtitlan and their rulers submitted to the Spaniards....
41. In which are told the words with which Don Hernando Cortés admonished the rulers of the cities here in Mexico and Texcoco [and] Tlacopan....
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.”