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Map Tenochtitlán, 1521.

About this Item


  • Tenochtitlán, 1521.


  • This topographical map of Mexico City and its surroundings dates from around 1550, some three decades after the conquest of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán by Hernán Cortés in 1521. Tenochtitlán was founded in the 14th century on an island in the salt lake of Texcoco. Upon occupying the city, the Spanish pulled down its central parts and replaced the Aztec temples with buildings constructed in the Spanish style, but they left the street layout virtually intact. The map shows the new buildings. The cathedral (Iglesia Major) is in the center of the map, next to the square that today is the Plaza de la Constitución. Part of the dedication to Emperor Charles V can be seen in the lower right-hand corner, along with parts of the name Santa Cruz, which is why the royal cosmographer in Seville, Alfonso de Santa Cruz (1505--67), long was thought to have been the cartographer. Later research indicates that the map was painted by a person from Tenochtitlán/Mexico City, probably an Aztec with European schooling. It is known that Santa Cruz never visited Mexico, and the construction and content of the map suggest that its maker was very familiar with the place and its inhabitants. The symbols on the map (heads, animals, rings, stars, and so forth) represent place-names in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. The map contains information about social and working life and animals and plants, thus providing both a geographical description and a rich picture of everyday life in 16th-century Mexico City. The frame consists of ornamental foliage painted in blue on a red background. Roads and canals are marked in brown and light blue. How the map came to Sweden is not known. One theory is that Swedish linguist and traveler Johan Gabriel Sparwenfeld purchased it during his stay in Spain in the late 17th century and that it later was donated to the Uppsala University Library.

Created / Published

  • [place of publication not identified] : [publisher not identified], 1550.


  • -  Mexico--Distrito Federal--Mexico City
  • -  1521
  • -  Animals
  • -  Art, Mexican
  • -  Aztec art
  • -  Aztecs
  • -  Indians of Mexico
  • -  Indigenous peoples
  • -  Manners and customs
  • -  Manuscript maps
  • -  Pictorial maps
  • -  Plants
  • -  Spain--Colonies
  • -  Topographic maps


  • -  Title devised, in English, by Library staff.
  • -  Original resource extent: 1 map, 75 x 144 centimeters, hand-painting on two joined pieces of parchment.
  • -  Original resource at: Uppsala University Library.
  • -  Content in Latin and Classical Nahuatl and Spanish.
  • -  Description based on data extracted from World Digital Library, which may be extracted from partner institutions.


  • 1 online resource.

Source Collection

  • World History

Digital Id

Library of Congress Control Number

  • 2021668313

Online Format

  • compressed data
  • image

Additional Metadata Formats

IIIF Presentation Manifest

Rights & Access

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Credit Line: [Original Source citation], World Digital Library

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Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Tenochtitlán. [Place of Publication Not Identified: Publisher Not Identified, 1550] Map.

APA citation style:

(1550) Tenochtitlán. [Place of Publication Not Identified: Publisher Not Identified] [Map] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Tenochtitlán. [Place of Publication Not Identified: Publisher Not Identified, 1550] Map. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.