Amátl is a type of bark paper that has been manufactured in Mexico since pre-contact times. It was used primarily to create codices, being extensively produced and used for both communication, record keeping, and ritual during the heyday of the Triple Alliance (the Aztec Confederacy). The Codex Borbonicus is a rare surviving Codex produced on this medium.
The Codex is made up of 32 sheets and is likely the oldest of the surviving Aztec manuscripts. It was produced early in the 16th century, perhaps 1507 as is often suggested, but the best evidence is that it was completed after the conquest, perhaps in 1521. Whichever its date of origin, the content itself is purely Mexica (Aztec) pre-contact.
The Codex Borbonicus is retained in an accordion like manner, with individual scrolls read as an unfolding accordion. Its content is suggestive of a divination calendar, a horoscope like document from which one could derive predictions about a birth from an illustration of the date and influencing Gods.
The Codex Borbonicus is also a guide of sorts to important feasts.
There are quite a few images from this manuscript on the internet but none are of high quality. The original is available in its entirety but at relatively low magnification. Some images are reproduced on this page, and the full document can be viewed through the following links:
- Foundation for the Advancement of MesoAmerican Studies
- La Bibliotéque de l’Assemblée Nationale in France
As to meaning and interpretation of the Codex, the following links are suggested:
As Fray Bernardino de Sahagún observed: the Mexicans “are held to be barbarians and of very little worth; in truth, however, in matters of culture and refinement, they are a step ahead of other nations." We explore the history and legacy of the Nahua and Maya civilizations, both of which challenge our preconceptions.