Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Thursday 17 June |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Rainier of Pisa
home iconArt & Culture
line break icon

The Library of Congress acquired a rare Mesoamerican Codex


Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division | PD

J-P Mauro - published on 11/28/17

A glimpse into the cartography practices of indigenous Central Americans

The Library of Congress announced that they have acquired the Codex Quetzalecatzin, also known as the Mapa de Ecatepec-Huitziltepec, the Codex Ehecatepec and Huitziltepec, or the Charles Ratton Codex. This rare, colored manuscript was in a private collection for nearly 100 years and has now been digitized so that it might be studied by scholars all over the world.

Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division | PD

The Library of Congress explains that the manuscript relates the extent of land ownership and properties of a family line, which was one of the most common topics for codices made in this era, between 1570 and 1595.

Like many Nahuatl codices and manuscript maps of the period it depicts a local community at an important point in their history. On the one hand, the map is a traditional Aztec cartographic history with its composition and design showing Nahuatl hieroglyphics, and typical illustrations. On the other hand, it also shows churches, some Spanish place names, and other images suggesting a community adapting to Spanish rule. Maps and manuscripts of this kind would typically chart the community’s territory using hieroglyphic toponyms, with the community’s own place-name lying at or near the center.

The figures and colors of the codex reflect the artistic styles found in indigenous books from Mesoamerica and uses pigments which were naturally extracted, such as Maya Blue and cochineal.

The Codex Quetzalecatzinis an important addition to the Library of Congress, because it gives us insight into the early history of European contact with early indigenous Americans. It is one of only about 450 surviving Mesoamerican pictorial manuscripts, and fewer than 100 of those predate 1600.

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Cerith Gardiner
Nightbirde’s deep faith shines in her viral performance on ...
Magnús Sannleikur
5-year-old boy interrupts homily and asks for prayers for his int...
Lords' Prayer
Philip Kosloski
What does “hallowed be thy name” mean in the Our Fath...
4 Phrases about Jesus that you should never say to your child
Philip Kosloski
Padre Pio’s favorite prayer of petition
Revista Misión
Interview: The husband of Chiara Corbella on his wife’s sac...
Philip Kosloski
Miracle prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.