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Finding Aid for the Byron McAfee Papers, ca. 1553-1964
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Organization and Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms
  • Items Removed from Collection

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Byron McAfee collection of papers relating to the Nahuatl language,
    Date (inclusive): ca. 1553-1964
    Collection number: 339
    Creator: McAfee, Byron
    Extent: 19 boxes (9.5 lin. ft.) 1 oversize box
    Abstract: Byron McAfee (1883-1966) was an American-born ethnohistorian and linguist who studied Nahua language and culture in Mexico. The collection consists of McAfee's research papers and original manuscripts from Mexico's colonial period.
    Language: English
    Repository: University of California, Los Angeles. Library. Department of Special Collections.
    Los Angeles, California 90095-1575
    Physical location: Stored off-site at SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact the UCLA Library, Department of Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.

    Administrative Information

    Restrictions on Access

    COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF: Open for research. Advance notice required for access. Contact the UCLA Library, Department of Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.
    COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE: Boxes 1-2, containing microfilmed material, are in nitrate storage. UNAVAILABLE FOR USE.

    Restrictions on Use and Reproduction

    Property rights to the physical object belong to the UCLA Library, Department of Special Collections. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC Regents do not hold the copyright.

    Processing Information:

    Wayne Ruwet and S.A. Colston created an index to the microfilm and a partial inventory of the research papers in 1978. Anne Caiger removed the colonial manuscripts from a scrapbook and rehoused them in separate files, and also re-boxed and consolidated the collection, in 1988. Barry Sells contributed descriptions of the manuscripts to the department in the early 1990s. The collection was fully rehoused, organized, and described to enhance access to the materials by Xóchitl M. Flores-Marcial in 2005.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Byron McAfee Papers (Collection 339). Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.

    UCLA Catalog Record ID

    UCLA Catalog Record ID: 4233386 


    McAfee was born in Houston, Texas, in 1883; emigrated to Mexico in 1906 as employee of the Compañía Mexicana de Peteo El Aguila, S.A.; began studying the Nahuatl language in 1907 under John H. Cornyn with whom he jointly authored several studies; after Cornyn's death in 1941, McAfee collaborated with Angel María Garibay K. and Robert H. Barlow; became an acknowledged expert in Nahuatl studies and published widely.

    Expanded Biographical Narrative

    Byron McAfee (1883-1966) was born in Houston, Texas, and emigrated to Mexico in 1906 as an employee of the Compañía de Petróleos El Aguila. Shortly thereafter, he joined a Nahuatl study group at the Benjamin Franklin Library in Mexico City where he made contacts with scholars such as Robert Barlow, Miguel Leon Portilla, John H. Cornyn and Doña Luz Jimenez (a noted native Nahuatl consultant, also known as Julia Jimenez Gonzalez). McAfee became known as a prolific ethnohistorian and Nahuatl linguist through his research collaborations with Cornyn, and publications of several studies. After Cornyn's death in 1941, McAfee collaborated with noted scholars such as Angel María Garibay K. and Robert H. Barlow, and maintained friendships with Mexican intellectuals such as Alfonso Caso and Manuel Gamio.
    McAfee's publications include: The Techialoyan Codex E (Codex Cempoala, Hidalgo, 1945), La Danza de la Gran Conquista (translation, 1952), Tlacahuapahualistli (with Cornyn, 1943), The Titles of Tezcotzingo (with Barlow, 1945), and The Techialoan Codices: Codex K (1946), in Tlalocan; Anales de la Conquista de Tlatelolco 1473 a 1521 (with Barlow, 1945), La Guerra Entre Tlatelolco y Tenochtitlan Según el Códice Cozcatzin (1946) and Unos Anales Coloniales de Tlatelolco, 1519-1633 (1948), in Tlatelolco a Través de los Tiempos; Diccionario de Elementos Fonéticos en Escritura Jeroglífica (Códice Mendocino) (1949) and El Códice de Mixtepec (with Garibay, 1949); The Techialoyan Codex of Tepotzotlan: Codex X (Reylands Mexican Manuscript l) in Bulletin of the John Ryland Library (with Donald Robertson, 1960).

    Scope and Content

    Boxes 1-2 containing microfilmed material, are in nitrate storage and therefore UNAVAILABLE FOR USE.
    The microfilm checklist is a revision of an earlier draft compiled in February, 1974, and replaces the earlier version since it reflects the organization of the Collection developed in January-February, 1978. This list, as the first, is a working draft and remains incomplete. Lacunae include several reels of microfilm and the collection of colonial period Nahuatl manuscripts.


    Sixteen of these manuscripts were published in Beyond the Codices: The Nahua View of Colonial Mexico, University of California Press, 1976, edited and translated by Arthur J.O. Anderson, Frances Berdan and James Lockhart.
    An inventory of the materials sent by Cornyn to the University of Toronto (see Box 9, item 1) is appended to the checklist. It is intended that the inventory of the Collection will soon be completed and then expanded into a more substantive study.
    Most of this collection is in Nahuatl and German with portions in Spanish and English.

    Expanded Scope and Content

    The collection consists of Byron McAfee's research papers (microfilm and typescripts) and original manuscripts from Mexico's colonial period. The research papers contain drafts of translations and essays by McAfee and his major collaborator, John Hubert Cornyn, on a variety of subjects including colonial codices, Spanish-Nahuatl dictionaries and vocabularies, and Nahua history and culture. The papers also include printed instructional and linguistic materials on Nahuatl, such as an 1887 Nahuatl grammar from Mexico; full transcriptions of important 16th century works by friars Bernardino de Sahagún, Alonso de Molina and Andres de Olmos; translations and linguistic studies of Nahuatl dramas; and material extracted from Mexican political and social movements related to Nahua studies. (Published works have been included in the finding aid; in addition, full catalog records for these books can be found in the UCLA Library online catalog by performing a keyword search on the phrase, "Byron McAfee papers" in the UCLA Library catalog.)
    The manuscripts series of the collection consists of testaments, deeds, petitions, complaints, and contracts for the sale of land from the areas of Metepec, Azcapotzalco, Tlaxcala and Coyoacan, dating from 1553 to 1864. These manuscripts, chiefly in Nahuatl, document the everyday activities and property holdings of men and women under Spanish colonial rule. Fourteen of the manuscripts in Series 3 were published in Beyond the Codices: the Nahua View of Colonial Mexico, which was edited and translated by Arthur J.O. Anderson, Frances Berdan and James Lockhart and published by the University of California Press, 1976.

    Organization and Arrangement

    Arranged in the following series:
    1. Microfilm, 1565-1941 (2 boxes). In nitrate storage and therefore UNAVAILABLE FOR USE.
    2. Research papers, 1768-1964 (16 boxes), subseries A-E as follows:
      1. Codex studies, 1857-1961 (4 boxes).
      2. Dictionaries and language, 1884-1956 (5 boxes).
      3. John Hubert Cornyn papers, 1926-1930 (2 boxes).
      4. Nahua history and culture, 1857-1964 (3 boxes).
      5. Miscellaneous, 1768-1953 (2 boxes).
    3. Manuscripts, 1553-1864 (1 box).

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    McAfee, Byron--Archives.
    Linguists--Mexico--Archival resources
    Linguists--United States--Archival resources.
    Historians--Mexico--Archival resources
    Historians--United States--Archival resources.
    Nahuatl language--Archival resources.
    Nahuas--Social life and customs--Archival resources.
    Nahuas--History--Archival resources.
    Mexico--History--Conquest, 1519-1540--Archival resources.
    Mexico--History--Spanish colony, 1540-1810--Archival resources.
    Manuscripts, Nahuatl--Specimens.

    Other Index Terms Related to this Collection

    Cornyn, John Hubert, 1875-1941.

    Items Removed from Collection


    Cornyn Manuscripts sent to the University of Toronto 1937-38
    • 1. Souls and Testamentary Executors (English translation from Aztec).
    • 2. The Judgment Day--Aztec Text--English Translation.
    • 3. Ixcit Cheel--Maya Text--English Translation.
    • 4. Catechismo Breve--Typescript.
    • 5. Cartilla o Silabario--Aztec--Typescript.
    • 6. Buried Cities of Mexico--Manuscript.
    • 21. Compendio de Gramatica Nahuatl--Luna Cardenas Manuscript.
    • 24. Sacrifice of Isaac (Aztec comedy)--Cornyn Manuscript.
    • 28. Relación Morcuriana--Typewritten.
    • 31. The four Suns (translated from Aztec)--Cornyn translation.
    • 32. The Rape of Fire (from Aztec)--Cornyn.
    • 33. The Merchant (Aztec comedy)--Cornyn translation.
    • 35. Coyotl Ixtlamatqui (The Wise Coyote)--Cornyn Manuscript.
    • 36. Obregon's Administration Manuscript.
    • 69. Bringing up Children--Aztec--English--Cornyn.
    • 81. Bringing up Children (2nd manuscript).
    • 92. In EzopoiZazanillatol (Aztec)--Hunt Cortes.
    • 93. Song of Quetzalcoatl--(original manuscript)--Cornyn.
    • 110. A Toltec Chronicle (Aztec)--Cornyn.
    • 123. Coyotl ihuan Tlacuatzin (Aztec Folk Tale)--Cornyn.
    • 124. El Perro Viejo y el Coyote (Aztec Folk Tale)--Cornyn.
    • 126. Tlacuatzin ihuan Coyotl (Aztec Folk Tale)--Cornyn.
    • 131. Aztec Proper names--Cornyn Manuscript.
    • 132. Cacaton ihuan Quimichi--Cornyn Manuscript.
    • 133. The four Winds--Cornyn Manuscript.
    • 134. The Funeral Oration, Archbishop Diaz--Cornyn Manuscript.
    • 173. Tlaloc (God of the Waters) and his Symbols--Manuscript.
    • 174. In Animatzin ihuan Albaceas and translation. J.H. Cornyn.
    • 198. Analysis of a Fable in Aztec--Cornyn Manuscript.
    • 199. Indian Names on the Laredo-Mexico Highway--Manuscript.
    • 200. Tlatlatlauhtilteacuicayotl (Aztec) Jesus Valencia Cuauhtla Manuscript.
    • 201. Grammatical Analysis of an Aztec Text--Manuscript.
    • 208. Funeral Oration. Spanish-Aztec--Escalada Manuscript.
    • 209. The Aztec Linguistic Field--Cornyn.