Patricia Anawalt and Frances Berdan— 1994 James R. Wiseman Book Award

Award Citation:

The Archaeological Institute of America is proud to honor Frances F. Berdan and Patricia Rieff Anawalt for their monumental publication of The Codex Mendoza (University of California Press, Berkeley and London 1992).

These four volumes- containing interpretation, description, facsimile, and transcriptions and translations- combine codicological and iconographic study with informative and stimulating ethnohistorical and archaeological analysis. Mobilizing a truly interdisciplinary team of authors (H.B. Nicholson, Wayne Ruwet, Bruce Barker-Benfield, Kathleen Stewart Howe, Elizabeth Hill Boone and Edward Calnek) and contributing major chapters themselves, Berdan and Anawalt approach The Codex Mendoza, which records the domain of Metocuhzoma II for the instruction of King Charles V (for whom the pictorials were translated into Spanish) and  is now in the Bodleian Library, from a wealth of different vantage points, never losing sight of the central importance of the document for art history, history, and archaeology.

The Codex Mendoza contains precious information- ideologically shaped to be sure- about forms of life in the Aztec empire immediately before the incursion of Cortez. Although replicating, in part, information known from other sources the Codex has many intriguing, even unique features, and the editors have succeeded in establishing its art- and ethnohistorical importance. Throughout they have been very well served by their publishers, obviously committed to the highest standards in reproduction and book production.

Berdan and Anawalt have thought carefully about the needs and interests of many readers and they and their publishers have impressively realized their goal. In addition to an exemplary page by page description of  the manuscript itself (volume II), the authors consider its "hybrid” style- European conventions of naturalism were combined with indigenous iconic strategies of visual communication- and examine its status as a "victory chronicle"; assess its records of tribute and, more broadly of A ztec life; address and imaginatively resolve questions of authorship and craftsmanship; and consider glyphic and graphic forms and icons as well as costumes and other paraphernalia depicted.

Coupled with the facsimile (volume III) and transcription/translation (volume IV), this level of detail and interpretive contextualizing vastly enriches the reader-viewer’s experience' of the manuscript. For serious specialists, the edition will be a major source of data and suggestive insights for decades to come. 

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