History of the Mexicans as Told by Their Paintings
Translated and edited by Henry Phillips Jr.
Read before the American Philosophical Society, October 19, 1883
Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society XXI:616-651, 1883.
Edited by Alec Christensen
The following text is an important sixteenth-century account of the religion and history of the Colhua Mexica, or Aztecs. It is translated from a Spanish text, preserved in the library of the University of Texas at Austin, which was written down in the 1530s and apparently is based upon one or more indigenous hieroglyphic codices. It may have been composed by Fray Andrés de Olmos, one of the early Franciscan friars who was most interested in native culture. In Spanish it is usually referred to as the Historia de los Mexicanos por sus pinturas, and in English as the History of the Mexicans as Told by Their Paintings, although Phillips also refers to it as the Codex Ramírez, after Bishop Ramírez de Fuen Leal.
This edition is the only available complete English translation, published one year after Joaquín García Icazbalceta first published the Spanish text in the Anales del Museo Nacional de México. The language is more than a little convoluted; this is due in part to the translator, and in part to the original text, which is garbled and archaic in places. I include all of Phillips original introduction and notes, although these are primarily of historical value. Most of the sources that he cites, such as various of Daniel Brintons works, are secondary and are no longer considered particularly important. His notes concerning various spellings of the proper names have all been superseded by later work, and his understanding of the Nahuatl language was clearly deficient. Note 17 is set aside as its own page, because it includes a lengthy translation of a different creation account, from the Mixteca Alta of Oaxaca. Note 18 also stands on its own with a lengthy, although not always valid, account of the native calendar.
I also preserve Phllips typography, which is not always consistent in its use of italics. For the most part, he italicizes all non-English words and names, but some slipped through copy-editing in roman type, and I have left them as is. His orthography appears to preserve that of the original manuscript, with all of its errors and inconsistency. The most easily available Spanish edition (Teogonía e historia de los Mexicanos, edited by Angel Maria Garibay K., Mexico City: Porrua, 1965) standardizes all names to the correct Classical Nahuatl orthography.
In the original manuscript, only some of the chapters were numbered and named. The chapter numbers and headings used here are those of Phillips, unless they appear in brackets, in which case they are an editorial insertion by myself. Throughout the text, parentheses usually indicate an editorial aside by Phillips, and brackets by myself; for added clarity, all new editorial insertions are in orange. Page breaks in Phillips text are also indicated in brackets, with the number referring to the page on which the following text appears.
The chapters vary greatly in length, and in importance. Chapter 11 covers the Mexica migration from just after their departure from Aztlan until their arrival at Huitzilopochco. Chapter 20 is the longest, and spans the history of Tenochtitlan from its foundation in 1322 until 1529. Chapter 21 is almost as long. It contains various disconnected notes on the history and laws of Tenochtitlan.
Table of Contents
INTRODUCTION by Henry Phillips [p.616]
CHAPTER 1. Of the Creation and Beginning of the World and of the Original and Superior Deities. [p.616]
CHAPTER 2. Of how the World was created and by whom. [p.617]
CHAPTER 3. Of the Creation of the Sun, and how many Suns there have been, and how long each one lasted, and how the Maceguales ate in the time of each Sun, and of the Giants in those Days. [p.619]
CHAPTER 4. Of the manner which they have of reckoning. [p.619]
CHAPTER 5. Of the Deluge, and of the Fall from Heaven and of the Restoration. [p.621]
CHAPTER 6. What happened after the Raising of the Heaven and Stars. [p.621]
CHAPTER 7. How the Sun was made and what took place afterwards. [p.622]
CHAPTER 8. Of what happened after the Sun and Moon were made. [p.622]
CHAPTER 9. Of the beginning and coming of the Mexicans to this New Spain. [p.624]
CHAPTER 10. How they Departed, the People of Culuacan, and what Peoples went with them, and how they were named. [p.624]
CHAPTER 11. Of the Road they journeyed and of the Places they went, and of the Time they tarried in each Place where they were. [p.625]
CHAPTER [12. The Return to Chapultepec.] [p.629]
CHAPTER [13. The Sacrifice of Copil.] [p.629]
CHAPTER [14. The Death of Huitzilihuitl.] [p.630]
CHAPTER [15. The Burial of the Heart of Copil.] [p.630]
CHAPTER [16. Submission to Colhuacan.] [p.630]
CHAPTER [17. War with Xochimilco.] [p.630]
CHAPTER [18. Flight from Colhuacan.] [p.631]
CHAPTER [19. The Foundation of Tlatelolco and Tenochtitlan.] [p.631]
CHAPTER [20. The History of Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco.] [p.632]
[CHAPTER 21. Various Notes on Cosmology, History, and Laws.] [p.637]
[CHAPTER 22.] Whence originated the Lords of Tochimilco. [p.642]
[CHAPTER 23.] Of the Manner in which they Reckon their Months and Days. [p.643]
APPENDIX. Annotations and Corrections to the Codex Ramirez. [p.643]
NOTE 17. [A Mixtec Creation Account.] [p.645]
NOTE 18. Of the Mexican Year. [p.646]
NOTES 19-48. [p.647]
NOTES 49-62. [p.650]
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