Codex Telleriano-Remensis

Grade Range: K-12
Resource Type(s): Artifacts, Primary Sources
Date Posted: 9/17/2009

The civilizations of pre-Hispanic Mexico recorded their histories, religious beliefs, and scientific knowledge in books called codices. Codices are folded pieces of hide or bark that depict both mundane and spiritual scenes with images, symbols, and numbers. Scribes and painters busily recorded daily affairs, filling libraries and temples with books throughout Mexico and Central America. The majority of these illustrated books did not survive the Spanish conquest. But indigenous scribes trained by Spanish missionaries continued writing. While these colonial-era texts were still filled with pictures, over time they referenced the visual language of older Mexican and Maya books less and less. These new books about community histories (including land titles) and secret religious traditions were sometimes bilingual, combining Spanish with either Náhautl (the common language of central Mexico) or a Mayan language, both of which were now written with the Latin alphabet. This image is from an Italian reproduction of the Codex Telleriano-Remensis, a manuscript co-written by Spanish friar Pedro de los Ríos about 1550. It documents the religious beliefs, calendar system, traditions, and history of the Tolteca-Chichimeca culture of Central Mexico. Joseph Florimond, Duc de Loubat, (1837 1921) was an American philanthropist who published a series of reproductions of pre-Hispanic and colonial-era Mexican manuscripts, including the Codex Telleriano-Remensis. The Graphic Arts Collection of the National Museum of American History houses several reproductions of Mesoamerican codices published for study by French, German, and Italian scholars at the turn of the 20th century.

Use this Investigation Sheet to guide students through describing the object and analyzing its meaning.