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Imperial Calendar in the Third Year of Emperor Jia Jing’s Reign in the Ming Dynasty
The Da Ming Jiajing san nian datong li (Imperial calendar, or great universal system of calculating astronomy) is based upon the system of calendrical astronomy developed by the astronomer Guo Shoujin during the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368). It was officially adapted by the Ming Bureau of Astronomy in 1384. It specified the phases of the moon and contained predictions of when lunar and solar eclipses would occur. The great Chinese navigator Zheng He used Guo Shoujing's methods to determine latitude and longitude on his voyages to the Pacific and Indian ...
Huexotzinco Codex, 1531
The Huexotzinco Codex is an eight-sheet document on amatl, a pre-European paper made in Mesoamerica. It is part of the testimony in a legal case against representatives of the colonial government in Mexico, ten years after the Spanish conquest in 1521. Huexotzinco is a town southeast of Mexico City, in the state of Puebla. In 1521, the Nahua Indian people of the town were the allies of the Spanish conqueror Hernando Cortés, and together they confronted their enemies to overcome Moctezuma, leader of the Aztec Empire. After the conquest, the ...
Newspaper About the Country that the Spaniards Found in 1521, Called Yucatan
This small tract contains one of the first European descriptions of the Aztec civilization of Mexico and the earliest known European attempt to picture the city of Tenochtitlán (present-day Mexico City). Most likely published in Augsburg in 1522, the work is a translation into German of an earlier Spanish account of Hernando Cortes’s expedition to Tenochtitlán in 1519-20. The city is pictured rather fancifully as having five towers and five bridges. Another woodcut shows an Aztec religious ceremony involving human sacrifice. Cortés first reached Tenochtitlán in November 1519. He ...
This early-16th century manuscript, known as a Testerian catechism, is one of the more notable documents in the archives of the Center for the Study of the History of Mexico. In the early period of the Spanish conquest of Mexico, before religious instructors had learned the languages of the indigenous peoples, they used pictorial stories describing basic teachings to spread the Christian Gospel. These catechisms were called Testerians, after Father Jacobo de Testera, a Franciscan priest who pioneered this method of teaching.
Great Miracle of the Apparition of the Queen of Heaven, Saint Mary Our Beloved Mother of Guadalupe, Near the Great City of Mexico in the Place called Tepeyácac
Known also as Nican mopohua (Here it is said), this document is the report in Nahuatl of the history of the apparitions of the Virgin of Guadalupe, on the hilltop of Tepeyac, to the humble Indian Juan Diego, between December 9 and 12, 1531. It is considered the central document of the cult of the Virgin of Guadalupe, which is part of the fundamental identity of Mexicans. Luis Lasso de la Vega, its author, was the vicar of the shrine to the Virgin. The report may be based upon a ...
Letter to Guillaume Budé, March 4, 1521
François Rabelais (1494?-1553) was a French Renaissance writer remembered for his comic masterpiece, Gargantua and Pantagruel. This letter is the first known text by Rabelais. It was written in 1521, when Rabelais was a young monk at the Franciscan monastery of Fontenay-le-Comte, and deeply immersed in the study of Greek and the humanities. The letter is addressed to Guillaume Budé, a classical scholar whom Rabelais admired. Intended to attract Budé’s attention and elicit his encouragement, the letter employs the conventional motifs of classical humanism. Rabelais left the cloister ...
The Matrícula de tributos (Tribute roll) records in pictographic writing the tributes that subject towns paid to Mexico-Tenochtitlan, the center of the triple alliance of Mexico, Tetzcoco, and Tacuba in the period just before the conquest of Mexico by the Spanish. The roll was very likely copied or elaborated on from a pre-Hispanic original circa 1522-30 by order of the conqueror Hernán Cortés, who wanted to learn more about the economic organization of the alliance's empire. Each page of the Matrícula represents one of 16 tributary provinces. The main ...
Book of Hours
The Book of Hours was a prayer book for the laity that developed in late medieval Europe and that was used for private devotion. These works were often personalized for individual patrons and illuminated with miniature paintings depicting the life of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and individual saints. The text included a calendar of liturgical feast days and a series of prayers to be recited eight times a day, according to established practice. By the early Renaissance period the popularity of the Book of Hours demonstrated the growing interest of ...
Modern and Complete Map of the Entire World
Oronce Fine (1494–1555), also known by his Latinized name of Orontius Finaeus Delphinatus, was born in Briançon, France and trained as a medical doctor at the University of Paris. He was appointed to the chair of mathematics at the Collège Royal in Paris in 1531 and, like many mathematicians of his day, applied his knowledge to cartography. In addition to mapmaking, Fine published a multivolume work on mathematics, astronomy, and astronomical instruments, and he was an expert on military fortifications. Fine’s Nova, et integra universi orbis descriptio of ...
This topographical map of Mexico City and its surroundings dates from around 1550, some three decades after the conquest of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán by Hernán Cortés in 1521. Tenochtitlán was founded in the 14th century on an island in the salt lake of Texcoco. Upon occupying the city, the Spanish pulled down its central parts and replaced the Aztec temples with buildings constructed in the Spanish style, but they left the street layout virtually intact. The map shows the new buildings. The cathedral (Iglesia Major) is in the ...
Royal Coin, Francis I. Sample Teston
This gold sample teston (16th-century French silver coin) representing the King Francis I (1494–1547; reigned, 1515–47) of France is one of the most characteristic monetary expressions of the Renaissance. The realistic portrait, classical inspiration, significant relief, and weight of the piece are all features that represent a break from the money of medieval times. The 19th-century numismatist, Henri de La Tour, showed that this 1529 coin was the work of Matteo del Nassaro (circa 1490–1547), an Italian artist from Verona who first entered the service of Francis ...
The Shishan Medical Records
This work, in three juan with a supplement and in three volumes, was written by Wang Ji (1463–1539), famed physician and member of a Ming dynasty medical family, and originally published in 1520. The manuscript was put together by his disciple, Chen Jiao. This edition was printed by Chen Jiao in the tenth year of the Jiajing reign (1531). The preface was written by Cheng Zeng and is also dated 1531. Included are two portraits of the author, inscriptions by Li Fan, Cheng Wenjie, and Chen Jiao, and the ...
About the Natural History of the Indies
Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo (1478–1557) was one of the most important early chroniclers of the Spanish presence in the Americas. Born in Madrid of noble parents from Asturias, at age 12 he became a page to the Duke of Villahermosa. He witnessed the surrender of Granada and, in 1492, entered the service of Prince Don Juan I, whose death in 1497 changed the path of his life. After living several years in Italy, Oviedo returned to Spain around 1505 and, from then onward, began traveling between the Iberian Peninsula ...
Order for the Lord's Supper
This German text of the Ordnu[n]g des Herren Nachtmal (Order for the Lord's Supper) provides an inside view of the developing Christian Reformation in the 16th century. Martin Bucer (1491–1551) led the reforms in Strassburg (present-day Strasbourg, France), and this pamphlet of 24 pages documents the changes underway in the mass—the central liturgical service of the church—and in the rite of baptism and the blessing of marriage. The Ordnung includes printed music for the sung parts of the liturgy as well as woodcuts of ...
On Monastic Vows
De votis monasticis (On monastic vows) is Martin Luther’s attack on the monastic life. Coming just four years after he posted his 95 theses in Wittenberg, the work was an important component of his broader plans for reforming the Christian church in the West. In this booklet, which was written during his stay at Wartburg Castle in 1521—a time when Luther was moving beyond his attacks on indulgences to other issues—the great reformer argued that monks and nuns can violate their vows without committing a sin, since ...