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Badiano Codex, Key to Study Indigenous Medicine
Historian Miguel Leon Portilla. Photo: Melitón Tapia/INAH.

MEXICO CITY.- Returned to Mexico in 1990 by the Vatican, the De la Cruz-Badiano Codex, considered the first medical book of the new World, was digitalized and edited in a compact disc by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), to be presented in June 17th 2009, with the comments of Miguel Leon Portilla, who was part of the committee in charge of negotiating the devolution if the ancient manuscript.

This new digitalized version of the codex is part of the Codices of Mexico Series, INAH project that presents these documents in a digital format to promote them and motivate research. The original is lodged at the National Library of Anthropology and History (BNAH) under strict conservation and safety measures.

“The De la Cruz- Badiano Codex is a treasure that awakes even more the interest towards indigenous medicine” declared Dr. Miguel Leon Portilla, who considers it one of the 5 existent historical sources that allows knowing uses and customs of ancient indigenous peoples regarding their medical treatments.

The other primary sources referred by Portilla are: the 9th book of the General History of the Things of New Spain, by Bernardino de Sahagun; the natural history of New Spain, by Francisco Hernandez; 2 untitled, one in Maya and other by Francisco Jimenez; all of them allow us to know natural remedies with a native gaze, recalled the author of “Viewpoint of the Defeated”.

The historian added that when he was part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Committee for the Restitution of Cultural Goods, the Holy See was asked to return the Badiano Codex guarded at the Vatican Library.

He recalled that his teacher Angel Maria Garibay translated the ancient botanic medicine document from Latin to Spanish “Libellus de Medicinalibus Indorum Herbus” created by Juan Badiano, indigenous who translated it from Nahuatl to Latin.

This ancient manuscript has a unique story: it was ordered by Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza, who died days later in Peru; later his son Francisco de Mendoza went to the Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco College to ask for its elaboration in less than 2 months to send it to Spain, mentioned Leon Portilla.

De la Cruz-Badiano Codex was written by physician (ticitl) Martin de la Cruz from the Santa Cruz College; years later, he was authorized to practice medicine all over New Spain.

Juan Badiano, scribe (tlacuilo) from Xochimilco, wrote in Latin the medical knowledge obtained and dictated by Martin de la Cruz, where the use of remedies was detailed.

Leon Portilla mentioned that the manuscript was a present from Viceroy Mendoza to Philip II, who guarded it in El Escorial Library. Years later it was sold to Diego de Cortavila, druggist of Philip IV. Afterward, it formed part of the Cardinal Barberini heap, who sent it to Vatican Library.

With the occasion of the first edition of the digitalized manuscript, the seventh of the Codices of Mexico Series, in June 17th 2009 the round table “Dialogues about De la Cruz-Badiano Codex” will take place, with the participation of Miguel Leon Portilla, Fernando Ortiz Monasterio, Laura Elena Sotelo Santos and Carlos Viesca Treviño.

National Institute of Anthropology and History | De la Cruz-Badiano Codex | United Nations Educational | Scientific and Cultural Organization | Vatican | National Library of Anthropology and History |

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