Codex Vaticanus A (3738)

Codex Vaticanus A (3738) – Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Codex Vatic. Lat. 3738 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)

Mexico — Ca. 1580

As important as the Rosetta Stone for our understanding of the culture of ancient Mexico: cosmology, mythology, and ethnography vividly documented in an Italian translation

  1. A rarity: this manuscript documenting indigenous Mexican culture was written in Italian

  2. The text on cosmology, mythology, and ethnography is from the hand of the Dominican Pedro de los Rios

  3. As a draft of the final work, the manuscript is full of notes and information that is invaluable for researchers

Codex Vaticanus A (3738)

Price Category: € (under 1,000€)
Edition available
Price: Log in here!
  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Codex Vaticanus A (3738)

The detailed illustrations of this codex provided comparable translation services for the understanding of the Chichimeken as the Rosetta Stone did for the decipherment of hieroglyphics. The Chichimecs refer to those indigenous inhabitants of Mexico who originated north of the high valley of present-day Mexico City. They were considered uncivilized for a long time, partly because of linguistic differences from the other cultures of Mesoamerica. The present Codex Vaticanus A 3738 was written after 1566 by the Dominican friar Pedro de los Ríos, who as a member of the Order capable of studying the original cultures of Mexico well. The buildings of the Dominican Order still bear witness to this type of study in many parts of Mexico. The work of Pedro de los Ríos, which is presented here in an Italian translation, thus became an important aid in understanding this culture, which is otherwise difficult to access.

Codex Vaticanus A (3738)

This manuscript was created between 1570 and 1589, either in the highlands of Mexico or it may have already existed in Italy, similar to the case of the Paris Codex Telleriano Remensis; a copy of a joint original draft which Robert H. Barlow named the “Codex Huitzilopochtli”. While the Codex Telleriano Remensis clearly is written by several writers, the Codex Vaticanus 3738 contains only one style, however divided into cosmological, mythological, and ethnographical sections. The hypothetically collected manuscript served as a draft for the final work and it is this fact without a doubt which accounts for the great value of this manuscript. The seemingly well-known author, the Dominican Pedro de los Rios (who the Codex Rios is named after) is responsible for the Italian text from the original 101 folio European papers of the comprehensive manuscript Vaticanus A.


Alternative Titles
Codice Vaticano A
Codex Ríos
Size / Format
206 pages / 48.5 × 37.0 cm
Ca. 1580
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Codex Vaticanus A (3738) – Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Codex Vatic. Lat. 3738 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Graz, 1979
Detail Picture

Codex Vaticanus A (3738)

Figure with 20 Day Signs

The image of the Zodiac Man has existed since classical antiquity and was popular throughout the Middle Ages and into the 17th century. It was referred to by physicians who looked to the movements of the heavens for guidance on when to perform procedures like bloodletting. Astrological signs were thus associated with different parts of the body and this diagram “translates” this system by attaching Aztec signs to parts of the body in place of the astrological signs assigned to them in Europe.

Codex Vaticanus A (3738) – Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Codex Vatic. Lat. 3738 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Single Page

Codex Vaticanus A (3738)

The Fourth Trecena

Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican calendars consist of 260 days divided into 20 “trecenas” or 13-day periods, with the word itself being derived from the Spanish for “a group of thirteen”. The red boxes at the top of the page contain 10 of the 13 day-signs associated with the fourth trecena of the Aztec calendar.

An image of Chalchiuhtlicue or "She of the Jade Skirt", an Aztec deity of water, rivers, seas, streams, storms, and baptism who was highly revered at the time of the Spanish conquest is featured in the center of the page. She is shown with tools for spinning and weaving. The figures swimming in the stream emanating from her dress could represent either offspring or those being carried away toward death – both are part of the same cycle.

Codex Vaticanus A (3738) – Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Codex Vatic. Lat. 3738 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Codex Vaticanus A (3738)

Binding: Half leather binding.
Commentary: 1 volume
Languages: English, French, German, Spanish
1 volume: This facsimile is not complete. Color facsimile, reproduced to 7/10s of the original size. Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding. In order to reduce costs the reproduced facsimile had to be reduced in size from that of the original manuscript format ( ca. 46.5 x 29.5 – folios are not all the same size) and therefore because the facsimile is not in accordance to the original down to the smallest detail, it cannot by definition, serve as a pre-Columbian document.
Price Category: € (under 1,000€)
Edition available
Price: Log in here!
You might also be interested in:
Codex Borbonicus – Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Y120 – Bibliothèque de l´Assemblée Nationale (Paris, France)
Codex Borbonicus
Mexico – 16th century

Created on the eve of the Spanish conquests: an Aztec divination calendar and invaluable testimony to the language, religion, and culture of Mexico before the Europeans arrived

Experience More
Codex Borgia – Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Cod. Vat. mess. 1 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Codex Borgia
Written possibly in the zone of Puebla-Tlaxcala-Cholula (Mexico) – 15th century

Painted and folded sheets with a total length of almost 11 meters: a richly illuminated testimony to the seemingly strange world of ancient Mexico before the arrival of the Conquistadores

Experience More
Codex Ixtlilxochitl – Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Ms. Mex. 65-71 – Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris, France)
Codex Ixtlilxochitl
Middle America – End of the 16th century or beginning of the 17th century

A god for each of the 18 months of the calendar: the detailed description of the legendary rituals of the Aztecs on their mighty pyramids

Experience More
Codex Magliabechiano – Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Ms. Magl. Cl. XIII.3 – Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze (Florence, Italy)
Codex Magliabechiano
Mexico – Mid 16th century

An invaluable testimony to a lost culture, provided with an early Spanish commentary: the ceremonial clothing and rituals of Mexico's indigenous people

Experience More
Codex Vaticanus B (3773) – Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Codex Vatic. Lat. 3773 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Codex Vaticanus B (3773)

A mysterious looking calendar on richly painted deer skin: a pre-Columbian masterpiece for use by the priests and soothsayers of ancient Mexico to calculate holidays and the phases of the moon

Experience More
Codex Vindobonensis Mexicanus 1 – Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Cod. Vindob. mex. 1 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Codex Vindobonensis Mexicanus 1
Mexico – 15th and early 16th century

One of the most beautifully decorated Mixtec manuscripts still preserved today: the mythological and historical events of a lost world recorded on a nearly 14-meter-long liporello

Experience More
Blog articles worth reading
Filter selection