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Mixtec Genealogical-Historical Manuscripts


Zouche-Nuttall | Vindobonensis | Bodley | Selden | Egerton


Codex Zouche-Nuttall, p. 75 detail

Also known as the Codex Nuttall, this screenfold is a good representation of most pre-Conquest Mixtec manuscript styles, and is very close to Codex Vindobonensis.

Unfortunately, nothing is known about its history prior to its appearance in 1859 in the San Marco Dominican monastery in Florence. Thereafter it made its way as a gift to the English bibliophile Robert Curzon, Lord Zouche, after whose death his son and namesake inherited it. The younger Lord Zouche gave permission to the Peabody Museum to make facsimile editions of the manuscript in 1898. Zelia Nuttall organized the Peabody edition and attributed the original to be of Aztec origin. It was later the Mexican archaeologist Alfonso Caso, who in 1949 published his conclusions about the origins of Zouche-Nuttall being Mixtec. In 1959 Donald Robertson described the Mixtec painting style using this codex as an example.

The Zouche-Nuttall screenfold is a long strip of deerskin over 11 meters long, containing forty-five pages painted on each side of the skin. One page is 24.5 x 19.1 cm on average. The two sides have their own distinct characteristics, suggesting that at least two different individuals worked on it. Both obverse and reverse sides use light and dark red, blue, purple, black, and gray. However, green and light yellow appear only on the obverse side, while dark yellow is only used on the reverse.

The obverse of the screenfold describes a brief summary of events concerning Lord 8 Wind, and a longer history of Lady 3 Flint. The reverse relates the history of the Mixtec ruler 8 Deer "Jaguar-Claw." Portions of 8 Deer's life are also recounted in Vindobonensis (reverse), Bodley, Selden and Colombino-Becker 1. Emily Rabin has determined 8 Deer's lifespan to be from A.D. 1063 to 1115.

Zouche-Nuttall is the oldest of the existing Mixtec histories: the story ends with the birth of Prince 6 Water, who must have lived around 1320, according to codices Bodley and Selden. (See Alfonso Caso, Interpretación del Codice Selden (Mexico City, 1964), p. 62.)

In 1970, Alfonso Caso interpreted the whole codex. His interpretation served as one of the sources for the description of individual images below.

Other editions of Zouche-Nuttall

The University of Arizona Library holds the following relevant volumes, in addition to the Graz edition cited above:

The Codex Nuttall: A Picture Manuscript From Ancient Mexico intro. Arthur G. Miller
(New York: Dover Publications, 1975).
Note: Paperback, description in English.

F1219 C7 1975 Spec. Coll. & Main

Codex Nuttall: Facsimile of an Ancient Mexican Codex Belonging to Lord Zouche of Harynworth, England
(Cambridge, Mass.: Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, 1902).
Note: Description in English.

F1219 C71 Spec. Coll.

Códice Nuttall - Codex Nuttall
(Mexico City: La Estampa Mexicana, 1974).
Note: A Spanish-English edition; black-and-white copy.

F1219 C7 1974 Main

Selections from Codex Zouche-Nuttall

Click on the thumbnails to view the images and commentaries.


p. 75.Zouche-Nuttall, p. 75. p. 20.Zouche-Nuttall, p. 20. pp. 84-83. Zouche-Nuttall, p. 84. Zouche-Nuttall, p. 83.




Codex Vindobonensis

Codex Vindobonensis (or Vienna) is often paired with Zouche-Nuttall in terms of its style and content. The obverse side (pp. 52-1) records the history of the princes of the city of Tilantongo, as well as genealogical and mythological subjects, such as a story of the mythical prehistory of gods. The obverse side is carefully drawn, while the reverse (pp. numbered as I-XIII) seems to have been painted in greater haste, suggesting that the two sides were painted at different time periods by different masters. The reverse side contains dates ranging from 720 and 1350, and is unfinished for unknown reasons.

It is likely that one of the "two books after the Indian fashion," sent to Spain by Hernando Cortés in 1519, was Codex Vindobonensis Mexicanus I, however there is no evidence. The first known European owner of the manuscript was King Manuel I of Portugal, and the manuscript arrived in Vienna in 1677 into the possession of Emperor Leopold I.

The manuscript, deerskin folded in an accordion fashion, has been glued to two wooden boards, and the average size of each page is 22 x 26 cm.


Selections from Codex Vindobonensis Mexicanus I

The last six pages.

Click on the thumbnails to view the images.
Start from the far right (p. 6.) for the correct sequence.



Vindobonensis, p. 1. Vindobonensis, p. 2. Vindobonensis, p. 3. Vindobonensis, p. 4. Vindobonensis, p. 5. Vindobonensis, p. 6.
pp. 1-6.

Page 6 is the last page of the penultimate historical chapter of the manuscript (pp. 10-6), which contains the ninth fire drill, including rituals of the gods 7 Olin and 7 Wind (pp. 10-9). This page is the last in a long series of place names and buildings.

Pages 5-1 contain the last chapter of the manuscript, another historical chapter, including the tenth fire drill with the gods 4 Serpent and 7 Serpent (p. 5.) The remaining pages contain a series of place names with persons, references to ancient historical events and to the importance of the Temple of the land. Pages 4-1 in part parallel Zouche-Nuttall pp. 36-41.

Interpretation adapted from K. A. Nowotny, Mexikanische Kostbarkeiten aus Kunstkammern der Renaissance (Vienna, 1960), pp. 73-74.





Codex Bodley

Codex Bodley reached Oxford's Bodleian Library around the year 1604, and prior provenance of the manuscript is unknown. The codex is similar to Zouche-Nuttall and Vindobonensis, and is an important collection of Mixtec genealogy as it covers many regions. The obverse side covers 829 years, from 692 to 1521.

The manuscript is made out of a long strip of deerskin, with individual folds measuring 29 x 26 cm. The first part (pp. 1-20) is to be read in boustrophedon from left to right, while the second part from right to left (pp. 40-28).


Selections from Codex Bodley

Click on the thumbnails to view the images and commentaries.


p. 34.Bodley, p. 34. pp. 9-10.Bodley, p. 9-10. p. 10 detail.Bodley, p. 10 detail.




Codex Selden, 6 Monkey

Codex Selden 3135 (A.2) (or Selden II) was finished after the Conquest, as the last recorded date is 1556 (11 Flint). The manuscript reached the Bodleian Library in 1659, years after the death of John Selden, collector of numerous manuscripts.

The Codex Selden records genealogical history from the year 794 to 1556, altogether 762 years. Unlike Bodley, which records the genealogy of many regions, Selden is concerned with only one location: Belching Mountain, the location of which is unknown today.


Selections from Codex Selden

Click on the thumbnails to view the images and commentaries.
For the correct sequence, start with p. 7 at the bottom.


p. 8.Selden, p. 8.
p. 7.Selden, p. 7.




Codex Egerton, p. 28 detail

Egerton 2895, also known as Codex Sánchez Solís, Codice Zapoteco, or Codex Waecker Götter, is the history of a Mixtec noble family, covering twenty-six generations, starting from about A.D. 970 and ending around the 1540s. The manuscript was probably in possession of the Mixtec noble family that commissioned it, and the erasures within the genealogy may have served private interests in litigations that occurred over land-ownership in colonial Mexico. In 1883, the manuscript passed from Sánchez Solís to Waecker-Götter in Berlin. The British Museum acquired it in 1911. Apart from the erasures, the manuscript has endured a significant amount of water damage, the time and circumstances of which are uncertain.

Using Spanish script, the manuscript contains commentary on place-names written in a native Mexican language, part of which has been erased or damaged.

The deerskin is folded into 32 pages, with dimension approximately 27 x 22 cm.


Selection from Codex Egerton

Click on the thumbnail to view the image and page description.



p. 1.Egerton, p. 2.


For bibliographic references to the Becker and Columbinus codices, see the list for other Mesoamerican codices.


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