The Itinerant Lives of Painted Books: Mexican Codices and Transatlantic Knowledge in the Early Modern World


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars


Art History and History


For residence at the Huntington Library during academic year 2018-2019


This project examines the production of codices (indigenous pictorial manuscripts) in early colonial Mexico, and the documents’ circulation, reproduction, and changing interpretations in America and Europe from the seventeenth to the early nineteenth centuries. The study is centered on the “Codex Mendoza,” the most important and best known of these documents during that period. It begins with the manuscript’s creation in Mexico City around 1542 and follows its journeys across cultural traditions, geography, media, and interpretations over the course of three centuries, concluding with the publication of the first modern facsimile in England in 1831. By following the manuscript’s itineraries and relating it to other Mexican and non-Western materials, the project investigates how artistic and cultural exchanges in the early modern period produced new types of transcultural objects and new knowledge about non-Western cultures. This allowed a diverse range of makers and viewers on both sides of the Atlantic to use images, words, and things to investigate cultures and to construct narratives about history, religion, and civilization.