For their next online event, on Friday 24 July at 1.30pm, the Maius Masterclass will welcome Dr Caroline Dodds Pennock (University of Sheffield). Caroline is the only Aztec historian in the UK, and her research focuses on indigenous and Spanish American history and the Atlantic world, with a particular interest in issues of gender, violence, and cultural exchange.
A guest post by Anna Espinola Lynnand Clare Hills-Nova
On 23 October, 2019, ARTES, together with the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, hosted a transdisciplinary session at the University’s Weston Library, focusing on Mesoamerican manuscripts. The event was designed to mark the 500th anniversary of the historic meeting between the Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés (1485–1547) and the Aztec ruler Moctezuma the Younger (1466–1520), just outside Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City), on 8 November 1519. Attendees included students, academics and representatives of other cultural institutions.
Attendance at this exclusive event was by invitation only. Would you like to take part in similar visits in the future? Join ARTES today!
The afternoon began in the Weston Library’s Visiting Scholars’ Centre. On view were the Selden Roll (MS. Arch. Selden. A. 72 (3)) alongside two modern books produced by Alfonso García Tellez,using the traditional, amate paper-based techniques evidenced by rare Pre-Hispanic codices and rolls.
The session began with Sir John
Elliott’s essay on the Cortez-Moctezuma encounter before moving on to
presentations by Giuseppe Marcocci (University of Oxford), Emily Floyd (UCL), and
the Bodleian Libraries’ Head of Conservation, Virginia Lladó-Buisán.
Giuseppe followed Sir John’s paper
with a consideration of the roles vision and visual culture took on in the
encounter between the Spanish visitors and the Mexica. Turning to contemporary
accounts of the encounter that emphasize vision, as well as representations of
the imagined or real Other, Giuseppe pointed to visual asymmetries active in
colonial contexts as they participated in relations of power.
Emily, meanwhile, provided a reading
of the pre-colonial Selden Roll as it expressed the formation of a new cycle of
rule in central Mexico. She discussed the multiplicity of ways the Roll can be
read, and invited further conversation as to possible representations of time,
succession, generation and regeneration. Regarding the name of the Selden Roll,
Emily noted that this was associated with its colonial history of collecting more
than with the Roll’s actual content, commenting that ‘The Roll of New Fire’ had
recently been adopted as a more appropriate title for it.
Virginia followed up with insights
into the processes and materials used in creating the Roll, drawing upon the
results of recent research. Participants in this session had the unique
pleasure of getting up close to the Selden Roll and asking those experts
present questions about anything from shifts in hue or line quality, to
contexts of production in pre-colonial and colonial environments, and on the
multivalent symbolisms in the Roll.
Following a compelling period of conversation around and about the objects, the afternoon concluded with a visit to the Weston Library’s Talking Mapsexhibition, where the Codex Mendoza (Bodleian Library MS. Arch. Selden. A. 1) was on display. Here, they were able to extend the conversation regarding the authorship, readership and linguistic referents of the pre-colonial Roll of New Fire versus the colonial era’s Mendoza Codex.
Images courtesy the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.