The Mexican codices on display at the library

This fall Special Collections has prepared an exhibit of our high-quality facsimile productions of several Mexican codices. The codices are early books from around the time of the Spanish conquest. They document the daily life, religious beliefs, year cycles, and, in some cases, the astronomical maps to the skies of the native peoples through pictograms and hieroglyphs. They are stunning and colorful and in some cases, gory (can you find the image of the guy being knifed in one of the codices?).

The page shown here and on the exhibit posters, from the Codex Mendoza, depicts the founding of the Aztec city, Tenochtitlan (the ruins of which lie at the center of present-day Mexico City).  The hieroglyph in the center – of a stone with a prickly pear cactus perched on top – represents the name of the city. The eagle signifies the prophecy that the Aztecs (a wandering tribe up to that point) would build a great city in the place where they found an eagle devouring a snake while perched atop a cactus. The eagle perched on a cactus later became a part of Mexico’s official seal.

 The exhibition is located on Level 2 of Case-Geyer, in the cases near the central stair. Please stop by and visit.

 

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