Newberry Library

60 W. Walton Street, Chicago, IL 60610

The Newberry Library has one of the world’s most extensive collections of books, documents, and maps related to European colonization of the Americas. A number of the items in the Newberry’s collection are directly related to the Aztec (Mexica), Nahua people, Tenochtitlan, the Fall of Tenochtitlan, and the Spanish colonial project in the Valley of Mexico. Below is a list of just a few of the items that the public can study, handle, and inspect by visiting the Newberry Library.

The Newberry's reading rooms are free and open to the public. Check Newberry’s website for current hours. Anyone age 14 and up is welcome to stop by the Newberry to view any of the materials listed below, as well as the rest of the 1.6 million books, 600,000 maps, and 5 million manuscript pages that are part of the Newberry collection. You can register online for a Readers Card here - click on "First Time Users," and follow the prompts. When you arrive at Newberry, stop by the Welcome Center to pick up your card and complete the registration process. For more information regarding research, please visit:

Nuremberg map of Mexico City (Cortes’ Map of Tenochtitlan)

From Analú María López, the Newberry's Ayer Indigenous Studies Librarian:

This hand-colored map of the Mexica capital, Tenochtitlan or Mexico City, was published with the first Latin edition of Hernán Cortés’ second letter, dated October 30, 1520, to Charles V, the King of Spain. The map is based on the eyewitness account of Cortés depicting the Mexica capital Temixlitan [Tenochtitlan] in Lake Texcoco. Features depicted include the temple of Teocalli in the center, the Palace of Montezuma, houses, canals, causeways, and Indigenous people paddling canoes. Like many European maps of the time, this map uses a conventional rendering of buildings—many of them appearing as turreted castles—to signify towns. However, other features of the map (including the details of the temple district at the center of Tenochtitlan) indicate that Indigenous people may have had a hand in its creation. To the left of the map of Tenochtitlan is a view of the Gulf of Mexico, including Florida, the Yucatán peninsula depicted as an island, and the Gulf coast of the present-day United States.

Any manuscript maps used to create this woodcut are lost, as is the woodcut block itself. Dozens of copies of the 1524 publication survive but only a few around the world were hand-colored around the date of publication. The original map is just one of many Spanish colonial cartographic examples within the American Indian and Indigenous Studies collection at the Newberry and was purchased for the collection from a bookdealer in 1955.

Documents pertaining to property in Teocaltitlán and San Pedro de Calimaya

Deeds, wills, and a map in Nahuatl and Spanish from 1678-1781, relating to the sale and inheritance of property in San Pedro de Calimaya in the Toluca Valley, and Teocaltitlán, a barrio of Mexico City. The Teocaltitlán documents, dated 1678-1748, pertain to a parcel of land owned by Juan de la Cruz and his wife María de los Angeles, both Indigenous. The pictorial plan of their house and property contains symbols and text in Nahuatl, and indicates the measurements of the lot. Their wills in both Nahuatl and Spanish, specify the disposition of the property; María's will is dated June 12, 1701, while Juan's is dated June 6, 1725. There are also three deeds from 1678 to property in Teocaltitlán; two bills of sale for land in the barrio; and finally, the will of Francisca de los Angeles, dated June 22, 1748. The remaining seven documents, dated 1738-1781, consist of deeds for parcels of land in San Pedro de Calimaya belonging to Juan de Dios, and Antonio de Santiago and his wife Andrea Antonía; and the wills of Felix de Santiago, Pascuala de la Cruz, and Martina María, each bearing reference to various properties in Calimaya. Five of these documents are in Nahuatl, with official translations into Spanish of two of them, dated Nov. 21, 1772.

Ordenanza de la division de la nobilisima ciudad de Mexico en quarteles, creacion de los alcaldes de ellos, y reglas de su govierno ...

Plan of Mexico City showing the eight judicial quarters into which it is divided. Each quarter is divided into 8 major barracks which are indicated in colors and 32 sections, indicated by numbers. The map was done by Manuel Villavicencio and is titled "La nobilisima Ciudad de México dividida en quarteles." The detailed explanation of each one is located within the "Ordinance of the Division of the Nobilísima Ciudad de México en Quarteles [...] on a separate sheet, explanations of the points indicated on the map are provided in an alphabetically coded key.Decorative cartouche includes a lion wearing a crown. Also includes an eagle wearing a crown with the royal coat of arms of Castile and the royal coat of arms of Spain.

The extensive size of Mexico City and its large number of inhabitants made administrative control of the population, its surveillance, and the administration of justice difficult. During the 18th century, various plans were carried out that administratively divided the city into neighborhoods or "barracks". The longest was the one carried out in 1782 under the government of Viceroy Martín de Mayorga, following the plan elaborated by Baltasar Ladrón de Guevara (Mexico, November 6, 1782), which was inserted in the Ordinance of the division of Mexico City in barracks and that was in force until 1858.

Codex Zempoala, 18th century 

Indigenous Mexican pictorial manuscript with captions in Nahuatl, created during the first half of the 18th century, probably between 1700-1743, documenting land claims in the village of Zempoala. A village land book, compiled by the Nahuas to describe their lands and to guarantee their rights of ownership before Spanish administrators, the Codex records the names, acreage, and boundaries of the districts belonging to the village of Zempoala. It also includes the names and portraits of nobles and functionaries of Zempoala whose families claimed private ownership of lands in the village. Christian settlements, such as Santa Cruz Tecocomulco and San Marcos, are depicted throughout the Codex with drawings of churches, as well as the "tecpan" or city hall; magueys and nopals indicate the principal crops cultivated in the area. Circles represent units of land measurement in "mecatls," and houses indicate the number of tribute-payers in each district.

Aqui comiença un vocabulario en la lengua Castellana y Mexicana, 16th century

Written by Alonso de Molina, a Franciscan priest and grammarian, who wrote a well-known dictionary of the Nahuatl language published in 1571 and still used by scholars. This is one of the earliest known books of this dictionary. Printed at Casa Juan Pablos (house of the first printing press in the Americas). 

Siguense veynte y seis addiciones desta postilla las quales hizo el auctor della despues de muchos años que la avía hecho, ante que se imprimiese, 16th century

Two copies of Sahagún's earlier "addiciones" to the Postilla, a textual fragment of a larger series of admonitions, and a concluding appendix added in 1579. 1486A and 1486B are both copies of the additions: 1486A, entitled "Nican vnpeoa yn nemachtiliz tlatolli," is the complete version, signed by Sahagún, with titles and text in Nahuatl, and "cut and paste" corrections; while 1486B is incomplete, with titles in Spanish. The additions explain the three theological virtues: Faith (ch. 1-3), Hope (ch. 4), and Charity (ch. 5-9). Chapters 11-24 concern specific examples of the virtues, such as charity towards one's neighbors; charity towards oneself; love of one's enemies; and neighborly love. The final three chapters describe the punishments of hell; the rewards of virtue in the glories of heaven; and death and the day of judgment. The fragment of text accompanying the appendix (1486C) contains moral and doctrinal admonitions or "tenonotzaliztli," condemning Indigenous rituals. The appendix (1486D), copied by one of Sahagún's scribes, Alonso Vegerano, also condemns Indigenous religious beliefs, with special emphasis on the “role of the devil” in Indigenous life.

Memoria sobre la naturaleza, cultivo, y beneficio de la grana…, 18th century

Copy dated 1777 of Alzate y Ramírez's extensive, illustrated essay on the nature, cultivation, and benefits of the cochineal insect. The essay, produced by order of the Viceroy Antonio Bucareli y Ursúa, is a study of the cochineal insect from which is extracted the cochineal dye, a very important product of New Spain and one of its chief exports. Alzate discusses the physical appearance of the male and female; the propagation, life cycle, and natural enemies of these insects; and the nopal cactus used as a feeding source. He describes the various methods for harvesting the cochineal dye, such as steaming and drying, and describes how the Spanish government regulated the cultivation and commerce of cochineal. He also includes a specialized vocabulary of terms used in the cochineal industry. There are two appendices: an extract of a newspaper article on the cochineal insect from the Gaceta literaria de la Europe of April 10, 1765; and a detailed description of the nopal from recent scientific works. The ten colored plates contain drawings of the insect, its cocoons, and the nopal cactus, and illustrate how the steam bath and certain utensils are used in the harvesting procedures.

The Badianus manuscript, Codex Barberini, Latin 241, Vatican Library; an Aztec herbal of 1552. (copy)

From Analú María López, the Newberry's Ayer Indigenous Studies Librarian:

In 1552, during the early years of Spanish rule in Mexico, two Indigenous students at the College of Santa Cruz in Tlatelolco created the book. Written by an Indigenous physician (Martinus de la Cruz) in Nahuatl then translated by another Indigenous person, Juannes Badianus, into Latin, it gives a genuine picture of Mexica medicine at the time of the conquest, or rather of certain aspects of it. The (Badianus) manuscript is an herbal, it therefore deals with the pharmacological treatment of diseases; it is not concerned with surgery and similar subjects. Martinus de la Cruz, who wrote the text of the herbal, was a teacher of Indigenous medicine, and Badianus, who translated it, was “Reader in Latin.” In some instances, there were no Latin equivalents to certain plant names, so they left the words in original Nahuatl. Today their work, Libellus de Medicinalibus Indorum Herbis which is Latin for “Little Book of the Medicinal Herbs of the Indians” is commonly called the Badianus Manuscript. Housed in the Vatican Library, The Badianus Manuscript is the oldest known American herbal book and earliest known plant pictures of “American” botany. The Newberry Library has a copy, not an original, but it's still cool!

Documents relating to land sales in Tlaxcala and Puebla, Mexico, primarily the San Juan Mixco hacienda, 1683-1823

Bound collection of documents regarding the sale of lands owned by Indigenous peoples in Tlaxcala and Puebla, Mexico. Many sales involve the transfer of communal lands of Indigenous towns to outsiders. In many instances, the collection documents the cultural practices that Indigenous Mexican people engaged in when buying and selling property. 

Report of a council meeting of bishops and priests in Mexico City to discuss their ministry to the Indians, April 1539

Report of a meeting of bishops and priests to discuss spiritual matters, pastoral duties, and issues of church government as they pertain to Indigenous people of Mexico. Having been instructed by the king, Charles V, to meet from time to time to discuss how best to govern their respective archdioceses, bishops Juan de Zumárraga of Mexico, Juan de Zárate of Oaxaca, and Vasco de Quiroga of Michoacán, as well as various officials and members of the Franciscan, Dominican, and Augustinian orders gather in Tenochtitlán (Mexico City) on April 27, 1539. 

Documents to support the claim of José María Lizaula to a pension granted to the heirs of the Emperor Moctezuma, 1531-1885

Documents dating from 1531 to 1885, assembled by José María Lizaula to support his claim to the pension granted in 1590 by Philip II to the direct descendants of the Emperor Moctezuma Xocoyotzin. Lizaula supports his petitions to the Supreme Court and the Treasury Department with copies of the original royal cédula granting the pension; copies of the will and codicil of Gertrudis Andrade Moctezuma, establishing Lizaula as her legitimate son and heir; and testimony from various witnesses stating that doña Gertrudis was the illegitimate child of Pedro Andrade Moctezuma and Margarita Belis.

[Manuscritos en mexicano], 1580-1856

Copies from 1855-56 of three miracle plays in Nahuatl and Spanish, translated by Faustino Chimalpopoca Galicia: Las almas y las albaceas; Del nacimiento de Isaac, del sacrificio que Abraham su Padre quiso por mandado de Dios hacer; Coloquio sobre el modo con que Santa Elena halló la Santa Cruz. Also includes deeds, bills of sale, wills, marriage and baptismal registers, and Indian petitions from the 16th-19th centuries from Texcoco, the Puebla area, and Mexico City. Documents from the Tlatelolco district in Mexico City include papers pertaining to the purchase of property by a Spaniard, Pascual Hernández, and two parochial marriage registers for 1631-1633. Documents from the Mexico City parish of Santa María Redonda include six wills in Nahuatl, two of which have been translated into Spanish; deeds and sale contracts for property transactions in the area; and doctrinal materials and sermons from 1739-1744 by the parish priest, Franciscan Father Francisco Antonio de la Rosa y Figueroa. A baptismal register from Cholula in the Puebla valley, records baptisms for 1624-25. Other Puebla documents include powers of attorney from Tehuacan, and a draft of a petition to the king by the Indians of Cuixtlaxcoapan on behalf of the local Franciscan friars. Miscellaneous documents, dated 1570-1689, contain extracts from a papal bull on indulgences for Jesuit missions; various wills; and several petitions by Indians from Texcoco and other villages, protesting conditions in Mexico and the authority of the Franciscan Order. Also included is a copy of Father José de la Mota's "Alabado en mexicano," printed in Mexico City in 1809.

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