Florentine Codex: Book 10

Book 10: The People

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 Ten gives a broad overview of the different occupations, classes, and characteristics of Aztecs during this time period. Arguably the most fascinating part of this book is the detailed documentation of human anatomy and commonly used cures for physical ailments.

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.

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.

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:
Table of Contents:

1. Here are told the inherent qualities, the nature, of those related through lineage
2. Concerning the degrees of affinity
3. Age differences
4. In which are mentioned the works, the nature, and the honors of the nobles
5. Here are mentioned the honored nobles
6. Telleth of the men, the valiant men
7. Here is told the way of life of the goldcasters and the featherworkers
8. In which are mentioned other ways of gaining a livelihood, such as [the work of] carpenters and the stone cutter
9. Telleth of the enchanters, the sorcerers, the magicians
10. In which is mentioned gaining a living by tailoring and by weaving
11. Telleth of the vicious, the perverse, such as bawds or pimps
12. Telleth of some of the works, some of the ways of gaining a livelihood of those such as merchants or workers of the soil
13. Telleth of the noblewomen
14. Telleth of the nature, the condition of the common women
15. Telleth of the different kinds of evil women
16. Telleth of gainers of livelihoods such as the merchants
17. Telleth of the cape sellers, the people with the capes
18. Telleth of the cacao sellers and of those who sell grains of maize [and] dried beans
19. Telleth of the sellers of tortillas [and of] tamales, or of those who sell wheaton bread
20. Telleth of the sellers of coarse maguey fiber capes and of the sellers of sandals
21. Telleth of those who sell colors, rabbit hair [material], and gourd bowls
22. Telleth of the fruit sellers and the food sellers
23. Telleth of the olla makers, the clay workers, and the makers of large baskets [and] small baskets
24. Telleth of the turkey sellers, of those who sell eggs, and of those who sell various medicines
25. Telleth of the candle sellers, and the bag sellers, and those who sell sashes
26. Telleth of the atole sellers, and the sellers of prepared chocolate, and the sellers of saltpeter
27. Telleth of the intestines, and of all the internal organs, and of all the external organs, [and] of the joints pertaining to men and pertaining to women
28. Telleth of the ailments of the body and of medicines suitable to use for their care
29. Telleth of the various kinds of people, the people who dwelt everywhere here in the land
those who arrived, who came to settle, who came to cause the cities to be founded

Praise and Reviews:

“Highly recommended for all academic and large public libraries.”—Choice

“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.”—Natural History