In 1975, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University acquired an exceptional mid-16th-century map of Mexico City, which, until 1521, had been the capital of the Aztecs, the Nahua-speaking peoples who dominated the Valley of Mexico. This extraordinary six-by-three-foot document, showing landholdings and indigenous rulers, has yielded a wealth of information about the artistic, linguistic, and material culture of the Nahua after the Spanish invasion. This book marks the first publication of both the complete map and the multi-disciplinary research that it spurred.
A distinguished team of specialists in history, art history, linguistics, and conservation science has worked together for nearly a decade; the scientific analysis of the map's pigments and paper in 2007 marks the most thorough examination of a pictorial document from early colonial Mexico to date. The result of their work, the essays in Painting a Map of Sixteenth-Century Mexico, not only focuses on the map but also explores the situation of the indigenous people of Mexico City in the 16th century and their interactions with Europeans.