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Maya Codices

Books were an important aspect of ancient Maya culture. Due to the ravages of time and the Spaniards’ deliberate acts of destruction—most notorious being Fray Diego de Landa’s auto-da-fé of 1562—only three pre-Hispanic Maya codices of undisputed authenticity are known to exist today: the Dresden, Paris, and Madrid codices.

The chance discoveries of these codices—named for the cities in which they now reside—are related in the three entries in this topic. A fourth book known as the Grolier Codex was discovered in Mexico in 1965 and publicly displayed for the first time in 1971 at the Grolier Club in New York City. Although its authenticity has been questioned, a majority of scholars now believe it to be authentic. Like the other Maya codices, the Grolier is dated before the Spanish invasion in the Post-Classic period (AD 909–1697).

The Maya books of ancient times had as their substrate amate, a paper made from fig-tree bark, which was coated with gesso, or plaster. Their construction was screenfold.