In Mexican ethnohistory good texts remain rare. Reliable published editions—products and signs of a mature discipline—are prerequisites for the kinds of comparison on which scholarly understanding of bibliographical interconnections depends. In this subject, where bibliographical interconnections are numerous, complex, and imperfectly understood, the need for trustworthy publications is still very seriously felt. We have passed the point where mere approximations of the original sources serve much purpose. What we struggle to ascertain now is how much one writer depended on another, to what extent a given manuscript is primary and to what extent it is secondary, and, in detail, the affiliations of particular documents. It is still sometimes the case that conclusions are “supported” by citations to sources whose independence is only assumed, so that one witness may appear to carry the authority of more than one. Gradually—for it can be only gradually—the establishment of accurate pedigrees for the primary and secondary materials will depend on our having texts as dependable as those of more developed studies.
These comments apply pointedly to the Juan de Tovar manuscript, a document that has been especially unfortunate in its earlier publication history. To the nineteenth century it was known only in partial copies and fragments embodied in other works. In 1852 Sir Thomas Phillipps, whose forte was collecting, not editing, offered a subscription for a publication of 50 copies, but the only result was the incomplete edition of 1860, now scarcely of even antiquarian interest. Among the chroniques voisines, which have fared somewhat better, all students recognize the qualities of Edmundo O’Gorman’s edition of José de Acosta and of Ángel María Garibay’s editon of Diego Durán. But even these, from the point of view of critical correlation, leave something to be desired, and it is still impossible, with existing publications, to plumb thoroughly the questions of their interdependence. It is noteworthy that a perceptive student of 1885, Eugène Beauvois, came to conclusions on the Tovar manuscript and its relatives that were still regarded as unconvincing two generatons later. In the intervening years, years that witnessed extraordinary advances on many scholarly fronts, relatively little progress was made on this one.
For our eventual understanding of this documentation the Jacques Lafaye edition of the Tovar manuscript represents a major step forward. The edition brings into scholarly circulation accurate texts of the Relación del origen and the Tratado de los ritos, indeed virtually of the entire John Carter Brown Library manuscript except the already published calendar. The edition includes a transcription of the 167 pages of the original, beautiful facsimile reproductions of its 32 illustrations, a French translation, and a full corpus of indices, bibliography, and commentary. I do not personally regret—nor, I think, does M. Lafaye—that the calendar was extracted and separately published in 1951, for it forms a kind of appendix to the main work and raises problems that can be confronted independently. The remainder has, as M. Lafaye states, an “undeniable unity,” and it is this that is now made available.
In the editorial commentary we have a comprehensive survey of the literature relating to the manuscript. Persons who have followed M. Lafaye’s earlier studies, on connections between this and the Códice Ramírez and others, will already have his basic contributions to the filiation question. He expresses a reasoned skepticism respecting Robert Barlow’s “Crónica X,” and he demonstrates the manuscript’s holographic character. His principal interest is in viewing the Tovar material as a product of its time in the Hispanic world, i.e. less for its substantive contribution to “Aztec” history than for its sociocultural meaning in its “moment historique.” M. Lafaye compares Tovar, Durán, and others with reference to their sympathies for Cortés, their attitudes toward conquest, and their understanding of Christianization and of Spanish-Indian relations. With much ingenuity he is then able to relate these subjects to the policies of the Council of the Indies in the 1570s and to the religious and political “orthodoxy” of José de Acosta. Incidentally he throws light on the old questions of colonial publication and censorship. It is an impressive bringing together of subjects that have ordinarily been separately understood, and it gives us an insight into the technique of M. Lafaye’s major forthcoming work on Quetzalcóatl and Guadalupe.
No publishing house has done more in our generation to improve the quality of facsimile publication than the Akademicsche Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt of Graz. For all practical purposes, and for most scholarly ones, working with the facsimiles of this publisher is tantamount to working with the original documents themselves. An immense technical progress has been made since the days of Lord Kingsborough and the Duc de Loubat. Applied to the Tovar manuscript the new techniques give us a thing of beauty as well as an object for continued study. The same may be said of the second of the two works under review, Codex Vaticanus 3773 (Vaticanus B) in its new Graz edition. The codex is published as a “complete” reproduction, meaning that the wooden covers and the screenfold pagination of the sized deerskin pages are all duplicated, and that what we have is a full physical copy of the original.
With Codex Vaticanus 3773 we deal with a better known source than the Tovar manuscript and one that has received a larger measure of scholarly attention. It is one of the codices of the Borgia group, most of which have now been published in the Graz series of Codices Selecti. Eduard Seler, and, more recently, Karl Nowotny have been the chief students and interpreters of the Borgia group, and the commentary that accompanies the present edition, by Ferdinand Anders, is essentially a summary of their findings. Here the comparisons and correlations are iconographic rather than literary, and they have been carried further than the comparisons and correlations relating to the Tovar manuscript. The difference is attributable to the earlier development of codical scholarship and particularly to the outstanding work of Seler (whose Gesammelte Abhandlungen have also been reproduced by the Akademiche Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt). The Anders commentary serves as an introduction to this scholarship, with bibliographical notices of the Borgia group and a page-by-page identification of the content of Codex Vaticanus 3773.