The Codex Tudela is a richly illustrated manuscript recording religious ceremonies, customs, rituals, and festivals of the Aztec of the Valley of Mexico. It is also known as Tudela Codex, Códice de Tudela, Tudela-Codex, Códice Tudela del Museo de América, and Códice del Museo de América. Dating from 1530 to 1554, it was created as an ethnology of Aztec culture prior to Spanish arrival. Depictions of birds, deities, and animals represent ideas and objects of Aztec religious life and cycles of the calendar, the tōnalpōhualli. The text of Codex Tudela is written in Nahautl and Spanish languages, providing glosses and explanatory text for the iconography and events in the images.
This work is part of the Magliabechiano Group of postconquest manuscripts that are copies of the Lost Prototype Magliabechiano. It contains more images and text than other codices in this group. Codex Tudela is in the collection of the Museo de América, Madrid, Spain. Comprised of 129 folios on European laid paper, it contains 109 images.
Illustrations in Two Art Canons
Three anonymous artists contributed to the 109 illustrations of the Codex Tudela. Two are believed to be indigenous and painted in the established pictographic manner of Mesoamerica. Using the vibrant colors emblematic of the region, the artists depicted bloodletting, death, human sacrifice, architecture, and ritual attire.
The third artist, working in the European style, portrayed the human form wearing indigenous clothing, the loin cloth and mantle for men and the huipil, a tunic-like garment, for women. Four folios contain these images representing inhabitants of other Mesoamerican locations, not the Nahau of central Mexico, and were completed later than the work of the other artists.
Scribe as Copyist
The identity of the Codex Tudela scribe is unknown. It is possible that the scribe was trained by Franciscan friars. Based on the similarity of this codex’s text to those in the other Magliabechiano Group manuscripts, it is evident that the scribe had knowledge of the European method of copying manuscripts.
The text was created in this manner as opposed to other postconquest manuscripts where the text is constructed from oral histories. Text in some areas differs from other Magliabechiano Group manuscripts.
The scribe used several inks to create the cursive text, as the paper has aged these inks have become varying shades of brown and gray. These disparities in ink colors and textural content have enabled scholars to determine the chronology of the codex.
Made for the European Reader
The presence of glosses accompanied by Spanish text indicates the codex was created for the European audience. The order of the folios was changed and rearranged over time based on the differing folio numbering sequences and number writing styles. The codex appears to have been bound more than once.
On folio 9r there is a list of three names, possible owners of the codex. Two are private individuals. The third is a former eighteenth-century viceroy of New Spain, although scholars question whether the codex was owned by the viceroy. During the early 1940s the book surfaced in a private home in La Coruña, Spain. In 1943 it was presented to José Tudela de la Ordén, then deputy director of the Museo de América.
The Codex Tudela is bound in parchment. Filigreed threads fastening the gatherings and folios are not attached to the binding.