Florentine Codex: Introduction and Indices

Introductory Book

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 traditionsa 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.

This introduction to the Florentine Codex contains the original prologues to each volume written by Bernadino de Sahagun, which detail his intentions and personal experiences in compiling the Codex. Authors Dibble and Anderson dig into Sahagun’s past in “Sahagun’s Historia” and “Sahagun: Career and Character,” and discuss dating the Codex in “The Watermarks in the Florentine Codex.” This volume also includes indices of subject matter, persons and deities, and places for all twelve books.

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:
Table of Contents:

List of Illustrations
Prefacio by Miguel León-Portilla
Introductions by Arthur J. O. Anderson and Charles E. Dibble
Variations of a Sahaguntine Theme by Arthur J. O. Anderson
Sahagún's Historia by Charles E. Dibble
The Watermarks in the Florentine Codex by Charles E. Dibble
Sahagún: Career and Character by Arthur J. O. Anderson

Sahagun's Prologues and Interpolations
(translated from the Spanish by Charles E. Dibble):

Book I: The Gods
• Prologue
• To the Sincere Reader

Book II: The Ceremonies
• Prologue
• To the Sincere Reader
• Exclamation of the Author
• Comment on the Sacred Songs

Book III: The Origin of the Gods
• Prologue

Book IV: The Soothsayers
• Prologue
• To the Sincere Reader

Book V: The Omens
• Prologue
• Appendix Prologue

Book VI: Rhetoric and Moral Philosophy
• Prologue

Book VII: The Sun, Moon, and Stars, and the Binding of the Years
• Prologue
• To the Reader

Book VIII: Kings and Lords
• Prologue

Book IX: The Merchants
• Prologue

Book X: The People
• Prologue
• Author's Account Worthy of Being Noted

Book XI: Earthly Things
• Prologue
• To the Sincere Reader
• Note
• Note Also
• Eighth Paragraph
• Maize

Book XII: The Conquest
• To the Reader

Indices compiled by Arthur J. O. Anderson
Subject Matter
Persons and Deities

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