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Perhaps one of the most valuable fragments of antiquity that has survived the bigoted fury of the Spanish ecclesiastics is the Codex Ramirez, a history of the Mexicans as shown forth by their hieroglyphical and symbolical writings. It was prepared shortly after the Conquest by the orders and for the use of Señor Ramirez de Fuen Leal, Bishop of Cuenca, President of the Chancelleria, to be used in deciding upon questions of all nature that were likely to arise before that tribunal. He caused the Aztec sages and priests to come together before him, and to agree upon an explanation of the characters and signs in which the law, history and mythology of the Mexicans were written. As an authentic exposition of such, it is unique and of the greatest value to students.
Brinton (Am. Hero Myths, 78), calls it "the most valuable authority we possess;" Pinelo (Vol. II, 603), refers to its having been used by Herrera; Chavero (Anales del Museo Nacional, III, iv, 120), "se considera como la mejor fuente, acaso la unica verdaderamente autorizada, para conocer los hechos pasados en Tenochtitlan." When Bishop Ramirez returned to Spain, he took with him this MS., which now exists in Madrid in a volume of twelve leaves folio entitled Libro de oro y Thesoros Indicos, and bears upon it various memoranda attesting its authenticity.
The work is extremely difficult to understand, and full of obscurities arising partly from errors in transcription, partly from the use of antiquated expressions, and a most involved and puerile style, and partly from incorrect and vulgar orthographies.
In the following translation I have endeavored to reproduce the simplicity and meaning of the original, adding copious notes of explanation and conjecture wherever a passage seemed to demand it.
(NOTE.--Tz is pronounced like the Maya Ç; X like the sound of sh in English; t between two "l"s is dropped; o and u were pronounced almost identical (Molina). Anales de Museo Nacional, I, VI, 212.)