Dover Book

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In yet another head-scratching befuddlement as to "why on earth would they do that?" Dover has ceased publication of this exquisite and historically profound record of Pre-Columbian life. (There are times I wonder if founder Hayward Cirker isn't rolling over in his grave at some of the stupid decisions I am seeing Dover make these days.) In any case, I happily own it. It is still available elsewhere. Try Amazon first.

I initially became aware of this publication as I was studying Myths of Pre-Columbian America, which referenced it frequently along with The Codex Borgia (which is still available from Dover as of this writing). I was thrilled to find that they were published in facsimile by Dover, and bought them both. I had originally begun research to learn more about the artworks of these peoples in preparation for coloring Aztec Designs Coloring Book. But I ended up learning much more than I had planned, and have since become fascinated by the lives and art of these peoples.

Cirker himself, in 1973, requested that Arthur G. Miller write the introduction when Dover began publication of this facsimile in 1975. Miller provides an overview of the history of the original manuscript and interesting and useful facts about the Zelia Nuttall edition. It is part of a collection of eight manuscripts found in various museums around the world. Nuttall's edition is based on the facsimile at the Peabody Museum of Harvard University, published in 1902. The original manuscript was owned by the Brittish Lord Zouche. Nuttall's manuscript is now at the British Museum.

Miller points out that the original manuscript was a screenfold, that folded up like an accordion. The style of reading it is called "boustrophedon." The red line indicates the sequence of reading. And reading was done right to left. Therefore, the manuscript page numbers go backwards, ending with "1." He compares it to the "Borgia Group" of which there are six manuscripts, and pertain more to ritual. The Codex Nuttall, and others in that group, are more genealogical-historical. Miller also makes the point "that the Mixtec manuscripts are conceptual rather than perceptual modes of visual expression. Ideas and concepts rather than the natural world are given visual form." (In other words, the communication is symbolic.)

A couple other interesting facts: The original screenfold is 11.22 meters long, with 47 pages on each side.

Here are three pages, 76, 18, and 75, to give you an idea of the content of this book. You can see the dark red lines on the top page. They indicate the direction in which the page is read. On the middle one, notice off to the right, each person has a symbol with dots next to them. Those are calendar dates signifying the person's birthday—a way to identify that person. The bottom page is one whole picture—three warriors on a raft with creatures in the water, heading to attack a hill. Very cool stuff. . .

The Codex Nuttall, page 76

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The Codex Nuttall, page 18

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The Codex Nuttall, page 75

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