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Florentine Codex Project

Florentine Codex Project

The Florentine Codex Project is a collaboration between researchers from Bucknell University and the Poetic Media Lab at Stanford University to produce a digital edition of Historia general de las cosas de Nueva España (General History of the Things of New Spain), also known as the Florentine Codex, a monumental ethnographic work compiled by the Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún (1499-1590), often hailed as one of the most thorough accounts of a non-Western culture.

Arriving a mere eight years after the Conquest (Invasion) of Mexico, Sahagún sought to preserve the most important elements of the native culture with the aim of enhancing evangelization efforts. For Sahagún, a thorough knowledge of this non-Western culture was essential to root out pagan religion. “The physician cannot adequately administer medicines to the patient,” Sahagún states in his preface, “without first knowing of which humor or from which source the ailment derives.”

It took forty-five years for Sahagún to compile, organize, and write the text we have today. Elders and native informants would respond to surveys from Sahagún’s students using their semasiographic form of writing, which was then interpreted and written in Nahuatl (using the Latin alphabet) by Sahagún and his team. This same information would then be translated into Spanish. The work consists of 12 books, each dedicated to a particular subject matter, and the codex is written in Nahuatl and Spanish (in parallel columns) alongside 2468 illustrations, which combine indigenous glyphs and western representational images. Not only did Sahagún envision this work to serve as the encyclopedia of Aztec culture, but his careful considerations regarding the spatial disposition of the text suggest that the Florentine Codex could also function as a dictionary, and a foundational work for any systematic study of Nahuatl. 

Our digital edition of Sahagún’s Historia general de las cosas de Nueva España includes the original Spanish and Nahuatl texts, images, annotations, glosses, editorial apparatus, and a Nahuatl-Spanish dictionary anchored on the codex. We are also annotating the glyphic content of the images with IIF integration, which will lead to the creation of a glyphic dictionary anchored on the codex as well. Our encoding is also mining for taxonomies, emotions, places, etc., with the aim of making more visible information in the Nahuatl text that Sahagún suppresses or ignores.

The team consists of:

Obed Lira (Principal Investigator and Assistant Prof. of Spanish and Latin American Studies at Bucknell University)

Mauricio Valdes Baeza (Teaching and Research Assistant at Bucknell University)

Quinn Dombrowski (Academic Technology Specialist, Division of Languages, Cultures and Literatures at Stanford University)

Nelson Shuchmacher Endebo (Research Associate, Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis at Stanford University)

Diane Jakacki (Digital Scholarship Coordinator at Bucknell University)

Quinn Smith (Bucknell undergraduate student, double-major in Spanish and Computer Science)

Andrew K. Winget (Visualization Engineer at Stanford University’s Digital Library Systems and Services)

Research Assistants: