Codex of Little Hope






Reproduction und Druck des Facsimile teiles: Akademische Druck - u. Verlagsanstalt, Graz nadi Farbdiapositiven der Steiner College Press

Reproduktion und Druck des Textteiles: Akademische Druck - u. Verlagsanstalt, Graz Printed in Austria

CATALOGUS CODICUM MSS. QUOS BIBL. STEINERIUS. DONAVIT CAROLUS OSSAE JONESIUS O.S.B., CODEX PAULLUM SPES, A ... B. 65 nunc 679 (olim 547). Codex Mexicanus caractere Hieroglyphico perquam scriptus.

This is the catalogue reference to the document which is described in the following pages. Since it was presented to the Borgesian Library by Dr. Charles Jones, O.S.B., it has been preserved in excellent condition, as the reproductions herewith will testify.

In the short period of time that it has resided under the protective graces of Steiner College in Austin, Texas, it has been a fascinating subject of study for a succession of scholars. It has brought them little fortune , but in many ways its beauty has been a reward for those who have worked with it. It has a message which is largely to instruct in the meaning of the religion of the ancient Mexicans; but one that we believe can be applied to all who are in search of a religious center in this god-haunted world. In editing these plates we have at last an opportunity of presenting a beautiful gift to the scholars of the world. In so doing, we would like to dedicate it to the memory of the man who saved it from the abyss of lost treasures, Dr. Charles Jones, who by presenting his elegant library of rare and precious manuscripts to the Borgesian Library benefited the students of all succeeding generations.


The Codex of Little Hope is preserved in the Borgesian Library at the Steiner College of Osteological Ontology in Austin, Texas. Its rather curious name is derived from the small town in which its discover, Dr. Charles Jones, O.S.B. (b. 1945 d. 2005) lived for much of his youth. The reasons for this name were private to Jones. The outer original cover of the Codex is dated 1536, but the ink of the final 6 is a paler shade than a number which appears to have been 9. One is left in some doubt, whether 1536 was first written, and then the 6 changed to 9, or whether it was merely a minor error correct when the inscription was first made. It is just possible that it was part of a later date, and then altered to a later date to pass it off as a forgery. Below the date are faint impressions of the letters A. N. C. V. –perhaps indicating that the Codex may have belonged to Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (b. 1488 d. 1558), the famed Spanish explorer. There is no mention of the Codex in La Relación, however in two private letters to Alonso del Castillo Maldonado, there is mention of “el libro de la ausencia.”

It is worth noting that the famous occultist Dr. John Dee (b. 1527 d. 1608) had a similar Codex in his collection of ancient manuscripts. Jones was adamant in his conviction that Dee himself has some possible connection with Mexican antiquities through his travels in central Europe, particularly on his visit to the Emperor Maximilian II at Pressburg, where he presented the Emperor with his book MONAS HIEROGLYPHICA. Other possibilities for Dr. Dee to get in contact with things of this kind were his travels with the clairvoyant Edward Kelly who was with him from 1583 to 1589, when they visited several places, staying for six months at Siradz in Bohemia and three years at Tribau, also in Bohemia, where they were engaged in a search for what they called the “fugitive gods,” and so may have attracted a gift of a strange book from one of their patrons. For their work in tracking the “fugitive gods” they used a black scrying mirror, which may have been brought by Edward Kelly to Dee. However at the sale at Strawberry Hill in 1842 the mirror was sold as a highly polished disc of cannel coal. Since this material was used in ancient Mexican masks it is probably a hollow ground Mexican mirror. It is barely possible, and certainly not impossible, that the Codex, like the mirror, had come to England from some part of the central European region of the Habsburg dominions rather than from Spain. The Codex was subsequently damaged by Dee, who removed 20 plates he considered “damaging and dangerous to humanity.” What does remains is nearly identical to the Codex of Little Hope, the 20 aforementioned plates included (well documented and emphasized by Jones in his “modern” reading).

The Mexican history of the document is of course completely unrecorded. It is pre- Columbian without a doubt. The deities shown are all members of the Aztec-Toltec pantheon. The day names are all painted in the traditional Mexican style. The counts of days are normally arranged in series of dots representing suns; but when dealing with the numbers of things selected for offerings the count is made in a bar and dot system akin to that used by the Maya. Seler attributed the Codex to the region south of Mexico City, perhaps to the Cuicatec or Mazatec; but it has more recently been pointed out that the Codex may well have had a different origin, and have come from one of the tribes loosely described as Olmec in the 16th century, who lived along the Gulf Coast. Certainly the oldest page in the manuscript, dedicated to Tlaloc, shows affinities with the earlier art styles of Tajin in the Totonac country. This taken in conjunction with the southern tradition of bar and dot numeration would lend weight to the idea of an Olmec origin.

The conclusion to be drawn, however lightly, is that it is the more probable view that the Codex is one of a small group of works obtained on the Coast of Vera Cruz. It is not unlikely that these documents, possibly indicated on the recovered Y Manifest, were to be among the few Mexican treasures Cabeza de Vaca, (vide ante) attempted to take back to Spain but were somehow lost en route around 1537.

While conducting anthropological research among the Huasteca tribes in 1964, Dr. Charles Jones was informed of discovery of an inner chamber in the Pyramid of the Niches by Jose Garcia Payon. Jones assisted Garcia Payon in excavating the chamber for several months, saving Garcia Payon’s life after the chamber collapsed. Subsequently, Garcia Payon and the Mexican government presented Jones with the Codex as a reward for his efforts and as an expression of sincere gratitude.

The Borgesian Library at the Steiner College of Osteological Ontology is 

20 Plates from The Codex of Little Hope