Trilingual Manuscript Copy of Part Two of Antonio de Nebrija’s “Dictionarium ex Hispaniensi in Latinum Sermonem”


Fray Bernardino de Sahagún was a Franciscan missionary who arrived in Mexico from Spain in 1529 and stayed until his death in 1590. He worked with the indigenous peoples of the area to document their cultures and religions, in large part motivated by the conviction that better understanding of their beliefs and practices would improve the efforts to convert them to Christianity. His methods have led some scholars to consider him the first ethnohistorian, and he is remembered today as much for his ethnographic and linguistic documentation of the Nahua peoples and Aztec civilization as for his missionary work. This manuscript is a copy of part two (Spanish−Latin) of Antonio de Nebrija's Dictionarium, with Nahuatl equivalents added for each entry. It was possibly created by Sahagún around 1540, when his efforts to document the indigenous peoples of this area were beginning; however, authorship of the manuscript is disputed, and another theory posits that the dictionary has a native Nahua author. Spanish words and phrases, from "A" to "Zorzal," are followed by their equivalents in Latin and Nahuatl. The manuscript also includes notes on its first two leaves, in Spanish and Nahuatl, on the seven deadly sins; these notes were added later. Whatever its actual authorship, the document is an important primary source for studying the early efforts of the Spanish and Nahua peoples to communicate with and understand each other.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Dictionarium ex Hisniensi in Latinum sermonem

Type of Item

Physical Description

157 leaves, bound ; 20 centimeters


  • Description presented here is derived from Scott M. Stevens, entry 17 in The Newberry 125: Stories of Our Collection (Chicago: Newberry Library, 2012), 53; J.F. Schwaller, Guide to Nahuatl Language Manuscripts Held in United States Repositories (Berkeley: Academy of American Franciscan History, 2001), 3−19.
  • Shelfmark: Ayer MS 1478

Last updated: April 23, 2015