Florentine Codex: Book 9

Book 9: The Merchants

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 Nine begins with how commerce grew in Mexico from the trade of only feathers to jewelry, precious stones, animal skins, embroidered clothing, and chocolate. It discusses how the merchants prepare for a journey and the celebrations that take place when they arrive home safely. This book also lists different types of merchants, such as lapidaries, who worked with precious stones, and ornamenters, who made feather articles.

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. Telleth of those who founded commerce in Mexico and Tlatilulco
2. Here is told how the merchants began their office, in which they were considered [and] honored as principal [merchants]
3. Telleth of the offerings which the merchants made when they were going to set out somewhere
4. Telleth what the merchants did when they reached where they were going
5. Telleth how the merchants were given the name of disguised merchants
6. Telleth how the merchants made offerings when they reached their homes, whence they had gone, called the washing of feet
7. Telleth how these merchants at that time held a banquet
8. Telleth how he who held the banquet performed the act of offering, to pay the debt [to the gods]
9. Telleth what they did when it was about to dawn, and what they did when the sun arose
10. Here is told of still another feast celebration (which was called "the bathing")
11. Here is told what was done when the holding of a feast was determined
12. Here is told what the one who determined the holding of a feast prepared in his city
13. Here is told how they began the feast and what was then done
14. Here is told how they slew the slaves at the time that they observed the feast day
15. Here are mentioned all the makers of fine ornaments called master craftsmen: the gold workers and lapidaries
16. Here is told how the craftsmen who cast precious metals fashioned their wares
17. Here are discussed the lapidaries who worked precious stones
18. Here are mentioned the inhabitants of Amantlan, ornamenters who worked precious feathers and many other kinds of feathers
19. Here is told how the inhabitants of Amantlan, ornamenters who made feathers articles, celebrated a feast day to their gods
20. Telleth the manner in which these inhabitants of Amantlan, the ornamenters, worked feathers for adornment
21. Here is told how those of Amantlan, the ornamenters, performed their task

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