United Kingdom-Chris Fletcher-Bodleain Library

The Bodleian Library’s
Mesoamerican Manuscripts
Chris Fletcher, Head of Western
Manuscripts, Bodleian Library, Oxford
[email protected]
Bodleian Library
• 1327 – University Library being built
• 1488 – Duke Humfrey’s Library
• 1550 – Denuded of books by Henry VIII
• 1602 – Refounded by Sir Thomas Bodley
• 1610 – Deposit Agreement with Stationers’
• Over 400 years of concerted collecting,
cataloguing and reading
The Bodleian Today
Largest university library in Europe
Second largest in UK
9 million books
33 km Special Collections
Many buildings across the city
Major redevelopments occurring
Weston Library: dedicated to Special
The Bodleian’s Mexican Treasures
All acquired C17
Three screenfolds:
• Codex Laud. MS. Laud Misc. 678
• Codex Bodley. MS. Mex. d. 1
• Codex Selden. MS. Arch. Selden. A. 2
One roll of native amatl paper:
• The Selden Roll. MS. Arch. Selden. A. 72 (3)
One European-style book on imported European paper:
• Codex Mendoza. MS. Arch. Selden. A. 1
Codex Laud (MS Laud Misc. 678)
• Acquired 16 June 1636
• Donated along with many mss from William
Laud, archbishop of Canterbury
• Screenfold – the smallest, oldest, most
mysterious of the 3 we own
• Obscure geographic origin
• Divinatory and ritual aspects of the native
• Pre-Hispanic – no clear consensus on date?
FACSIMILE of Codex Laud
Codex Laud: The Rain God as Lord of Time
Codex Laud – The Red Sun God
Codex Bodley (MS Mex. D. 1)
• Acquired through Thomas Bodley who knew its Mexican origin
• Just Pre-Hispanic
• Mixtec screenfold – glued deerskin
• 23 pages, of which 20 painted both sides
• genealogies of the ruling dynasties of two Mixtec communities, Ñuu
Tnoo (Tilantongo) and Ndisi Nuu (Tlaxiaco).
• Maarten Jansen & Gabina Aurora Pérez Jiménez, ed., _Codex
Bodley: a painted chronicle from the Mixtec Highlands, Mexico_
(Treasures from the Bodleian Library, 1), Oxford 2005
Codex Bodley (MS Mex. d. 1)
Codex Selden
• Acquired 1659 as part of John Selden’s
• Second of our two Mixtec screenfolds
• Genealogy and life stories of the ruling
dynasty of the town of Añute
• Genealogies go to 1556 …
• Survival of native culture?
• But it is also a palimpsest
Codex Selden
The Selden Roll (MS. Arch. Selden. A. 72(3))
• Acquired from the Library of John
Selden, 1659
• Roll of native amatl paper (pulped bark)
• Mounted C19 on linen
• 38 x 350 cm
• Early colonial period, C16
• Southern Mexican highlands
• Migratory journeys of divine ancestors,
up to early settlement
The Selden Roll (MS. Arch. Selden. A. 72(3))
Codex Mendoza (MS. Arch. Selden. A. 1)
• First hand account of Mexica culture
• Made in Mexico at the command of Mendoza,
viceroy of Mexico, c.1541
• Sent to Emperor Charles v
• Captured by French Privateers
• Possessed by Andre Thevet, French
cosmographer to the King 1553
• Other owners include Samuel Purchas: ‘the
choisest of my Jewels’
• Acquired 1659, as part of John Selden’s library
Codex Mendoza: folio 2r
• 71 folios Spanish paper
• Aztec painter
• Native speakers
interpreted the pictures
for the Spanish scribe
• Three parts – history of
Aztec conquests, the
tribute paid by the
empire’s 38 provinces,
typical lives from birth to
• The founding of
Codex Mendoza, f. 40
Different provinces yield:
• Warrior costumes
• Bees’ honey
• Copper axes
• Turquoise stones and
• Tiles of gold
Codex Mendoza: Folio 51r – a wedding ceremony
Existing Bodleian
• Codex Bodley reproduction and study, pub 2005
by Bodley Publications
• Codex Mendoza – 4 vol 1992 Facsimile pub.
Berkeley in collaboration with Bodleian
• Images of varying quality from all 5 manuscripts
available on Bodleian Digital Image Library
• Existing high quality digital scans of Bodley,
• Existing 5x4 transparencies of Mendoza, Seden
• Little coverage of Laud
Digital Projects
• Opportunities to exploit and enhance existing
information/images – 25, 000 slides of medieval
& renaissance illumination on Luna
• Jane Austen – a new online edition with images
• John Johnson – mass digitization but with rich
catalogue records
• Shakespeare’s Quartos – powerful encoding
• Digital Image Library
Future ideas
• Further integration of digital resources
• Enhancing quality of images AND
• Integration with catalogues
• Exploiting existing scholarship
• External collaboration with international
and national partners where possible
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