The Digital Florentine Codex: A Rare 500-Year-Old Manuscript Gets a Second Life Online
From the Getty Research Institute:
After seven years and the efforts of dozens of specialists from around the world, the Florentine Codex, the most important manuscript surviving from early colonial Mexico and rich in pre-colonial Indigenous knowledge, is now available to explore online with new translations and features.
The Florentine Codex (so named because it resides at the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence, Italy) is a 16th-century manuscript that details, in both the Spanish and Nahuatl languages, the culture and history of the Mexica (Aztec) people, including the invasion of Mexico City by the Spaniards and their Indigenous allies. The Digital Florentine Codex reveals the manuscript’s contents by providing access to new and previously published Nahuatl and Spanish language transcriptions, English and Spanish translations, as well as easily searchable texts and images.
Although the Florentine Codex has been digitally available via the World Digital Library since 2012, for most users it remained impenetrable because reading it requires knowledge of 16th-century Nahuatl and Spanish and of pre-Hispanic and early modern European art traditions. The codex’s images have, moreover, received far less scholarly attention compared to the texts because they were relatively inaccessible until 2012. These images are critical because they provide vivid depictions of Mexica life, objects, rituals, and historic moments, as well as the acts of everyday people.
In 2016, Getty partnered with institutions and scholars in Italy, Mexico, and the U.S. to create a comprehensive and enhanced digital edition of the codex that could be explored by anyone who was interested in learning more about it. This has meant engaging with experts in the Nahuatl language, scholars of Mexican and Spanish colonial history, and software engineers to analyze the codex and assemble its elements online.
“The website makes it easy to search for any topic about Mexica culture and language,” says Alicia Maria Houtrouw, Digital Florentine Codex project manager at the GRI. “From the homepage, you can browse curated subjects or search the texts and images via keywords. For instance, searching for “woman” (or mujer in Spanish or cihuatl in Nahuatl) will display the relevant images tagged with these keywords. This ability to search the codex’s texts and images in various languages makes the content of the codex readily discoverable.”
Direct to The Digital Florentine Codex
About Gary Price
Gary Price (email@example.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.