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  • Determining the Authorship of the Crónica Mexicayotl:Two Hypotheses
  • Sylvie Peperstraete (bio) and Gabriel Kenrick Kruell (bio)

Since the seventeenth century, the Crónica Mexicayotl, an invaluable account documenting the Mexica Tenochca history, has been attributed either to Domingo de San Antón Muñón Chimalpahin Quauhtlehuanitzin, to Hernando de Alvarado Tezozomoc, or sometimes to both. To examine these attributions, we focus here on the way the document as we know it today was written, pointing out the fact that it was made by assembling material from several heterogeneous sources, among which we find the famous and now lost Crónica X. Important passages allow us to emphasize the role played by Tezozomoc in the composition of the original Crónica Mexicayotl, and to propose with reference to the later version that has reached us, that a considerable number of insertions can be attributed to Chimalpahin. In that regard we present two different hypotheses regarding the relationship of the Crónica Mexicayotl to other works, as well as to the authors Tezozomoc and Chimalpahin.

The earliest known manuscript containing the text of the Crónica Mexicayotl is in the third volume of Manuscript 374, acquired in 1827 by the British and Foreign Bible Society.1 The library of this foundation, now called simply the Bible Society, was moved in 1985 from Swindon to Cambridge University, [End Page 315] where the manuscript was still found until last year.2 The three volumes of MS 374 belonged to the collection of New Spain’s famous intellectual and bibliophile Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora (1645-1700). The Crónica Mexicayotl is the second part of the third volume, which contains various historical works in Spanish and Nahuatl, all in the hand of Chimalpahin.3

Upon Sigüenza y Góngora’s death, his entire collection of ancient manuscripts and books was donated to the library of the Jesuit Colegio Máximo de San Pedro y San Pablo in Mexico City. During his stay in New Spain (1736-1743), the Italian Lorenzo Boturini Benaduci (1702–1755) reviewed the collection and was able to copy a part of it, in particular the volume written by Chimalpahin (MS 374, vol. III). In 1746, he published a catalogue of the collection, with the title Catálogo del museo histórico indiano, in which he designates the same volume of MS 374 as “Tome 4.”4

At the end of the eighteenth century, the copy of the Crónica Mexicayotl in Boturini’s Tome 4 was transcribed by two important scholars of Aztec antiquity: the father José Antonio Pichardo (1748–1812), and Antonio de León y Gama (1735–1802).5 This tertiary copy of the Crónica Mexicayotl was acquired by Joseph Marius Alexis Aubin (1802–1891), a French collector of documents of the indigenous history of Mexico.6 Five years later, he sold all of his manuscripts to another collector, the French bibliophile Eugène Goupil (1831–1896).7 After Goupil’s death, his wife donated his collection to the Paris Bibliothèque Nationale, which created a special Mexican fund to acquire and maintain more than 400 original manuscripts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and copies made in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. [End Page 316] The manuscripts received a new numeration and the tertiary copy of the Crónica Mexicayotl was recatalogued as Manuscript 311.8

There are thus three ‘Crónica Mexicayotl’ manuscripts: the oldest version was in the hand of Chimalpahin (MS 374, vol. III), and from it derives the secondary copy from Boturini (Tome 4) and then the tertiary copy transcribed by Pichardo and León y Gama (MS 311). In 1949, UNAM published, for the first time, the Crónica Mexicayotl with a translation into Spanish, by Adrián León. This edition was based on photocopies of MS 311, the tertiary copy, which presents errors and omissions. It was reprinted three times at UNAM, in 1975, 1992, and 1998.9 Fortunately, the American historians Susan Schroeder and Arthur J. O. Anderson made an effort to publish the original MS 374, vol. III, and in 1997 this critical edition with a translation into English was printed in...


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