NEW MEXICO POSTSCRIPT
The Florentine Codex was written in Nahuatl, translated into Spanish, and the two texts illustrated with images. Since the 16th century, there have been many projects to translate the texts into other languages. Cardinal Francesco de’ Medici had a section of the Spanish text translated into Italian almost as soon as he obtained the manuscript in the 1580s. While there were English translations from defective Spanish versions (i.e. not from a correct copy of the Florence manuscript) as early as that published by Lord Kingsborough in the 1830s, the modern history of Sahagún in English is linked to Santa Fe. In the introductory volume to Arthur J.O. Anderson and Charles E. Dibble’s monumental English translation of the Florentine Codex, published by the School of American Research and the University of Utah (1950-1982), Anderson relates that it had always been Edgar Lee Hewett’s hope to persuade Adolph Bandelier to undertake an English translation of the work. Hewett was the founding director of the School of American Archaeology (1907, later the School of American Research, and now the School for Advanced Research) and of the Museum of New Mexico (1909). And Bandelier was a pioneer of Southwestern research, whose last years of activity in our region (he died in 1914) overlapped with the first years of the School of American Archaeology. Bandelier’s wife, Fanny, took up the Sahagún project, and in 1932, Fisk University published her English version of the first four books of the Florentine Codex, A History of Ancient Mexico, 1547-1577. Although the work was a fine piece of scholarship and was well-received — including a positive review in the
American Anthropologist by one of Hewett’s great enemies, the Harvard professor Alfred M. Tozzer — for her translation, Fanny Bandelier used a faulty Spanish version published in Mexico in the 1820s by Carlos M. Bustamante. For New Mexico’s celebration of the Coronado Cuartocentenario (1940), Hewett convinced UNM history professor Lansing Bloom to devote part of his sabbatical leave in 1938-1939 to hunting manuscripts in European libraries. Among other documents, Bloom succeeded in obtaining the first microfilm of the Florentine Codex. Back in Santa Fe, Bertha Dutton and Hulda Hobbs made 8 x 10 photographic enlargements of each of the approximately 2,500 negatives. Arthur A.O. Anderson relates that he became aware of the translation project in 1940, after hearing the Santa Fe Mayanist Sylvanus G. Morley speak enthusiastically about the microfilm. When Hewett died in 1946, Morley succeeded him as director of the School of American Research and the Museum of New Mexico, and under Morley’s leadership, the translation began. Morley also negotiated the addition to the team of Charles E. Dibble, a professor at the University of Utah. The troika of Morley, Anderson, and Dibble estimated that the translation could be finished in five years. Instead the labor required almost 40 years, about the same period as Sahagún work on the original project, four centuries ago. The entire Florentine Codex can be viewed (and downloaded) at www.codices.inah.gob.mx. Look for “Códice Florentino” under the Interactives section. The World Digital Library also has a convenient link to the online version at the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence.