Digital repatriation of a historic document
National Institute of Anthropology and History, Mexico
Codex Mendoza is one of just 500 Aztec codices that provide an insight into daily life, military history and socio-economic structures of the Aztec civilization. Composed in 1541, the 72-page document was intended for the King of Spain, but intercepted by French privateers instead. It found its way to England, and has been held at the Bodleian Library at Oxford University since 1659.
The problem is that few people have access to it in its original form. Although a publication on the Codex was produced in the 1990s, it is out of print, and was written in English, making it unreadable for Spanish readers.
When Ernesto Miranda Trigueros was studying Material Culture of the Book at King’s College London (KCL), he came up with a plan to digitise the Codex. Once he graduated, he took his proposal to Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History, the Bodleian Library in Oxford, University of California Press and KCL, who all came on board.
Completed in 2015, the Digital Codex Mendoza is a bilingual English–Spanish edition, and the world’s first attempt to create a digital resource that permits an in-depth study of a Mexican codex as well as a virtual repatriation of it.
It is freely available online and through the iTunes store, and has a number of advantages over a paper edition, including a zoom feature, and cross-linking to other digital content. A feature allows the user to automatically translate text into Spanish or English.
Miranda hopes that the project will set a precedent to virtually repatriate other essential Mexican documents. “We are in discussions with other European institutions that hold different Mexican codices,” he says. “This should be the first of a series.”
See the beautiful Codex Mendoza for yourself at http://codicemendoza.inah.gob.mx
Image courtesy of Codex Mendoza
Last updated: 31st of August, 2016