Codex Mendoza

This manuscript takes its name from Antonio de Mendoza, who from 1535 to 1550 served as the first viceroy of Spanish Mexico. It was commissioned for the overlord of ‘New Spain’, the Emperor Charles V, and its presentation of secular aspects of Aztec life certainly suggests that it was intended to inform and delight the emperor with interesting details about a huge addition to his far-flung empire. The first part of the manuscript chronicles Aztec history from the mythical foundation of Tenochtitlan (modern-day Mexico City). The second part describes the complex system of annual tributes paid by four hundred towns to the last native emperor, Montezuma II. A third section is a unique account of the lives led by a certain class of Aztec, in which we see apprentices learn various trades, or waste their time in idleness.


Mexican pictograms annotated in Nahuatl and Spanish with facing commentary in Spanish, on Spanish paper; eighty-four leaves; 300-15 x 210-15 mm

Binding probably seventeenth-century English: parchment over plain boards