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be darkened; and the doors shall be shut in the streets; when the sound of the grinding is low.... when the almond-tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, ..... then the spirit shall return unto God, who gave it.”
All this passage, which, however, I have much abridged, but which is a figurative description of old age, signifies, when old men lose their teeth, and their sight grows dim, when their hair becomes grey as the leaves of the almond-tree, when their feet swell like those of the grasshopper, and their hair falls like the leaves, &c. &c. we must prepare ourselves for the great and last journey.
The more we advance towards the east, the more we find this custom of using emblems and figures; and the more these emblems and these figures differ from those which our customs and our notions allow us to employ. It is principally among the Indians, the Egyptians, and the Syrians, that the most extraordinary emblems were consecrated by religion.
These, as we shall see hereafter, were but the symbols of the several attributes of the Deity, all originating from the same source, all conveying the same notions and the same ideas. From these considerations, and from more cogent and conclusive reasons, which shall be developed in the course of this, as well as of my next Lecture, I am inclined to believe, that the first mode
invented by mankind to communicate their knowledge to posterity, or to absent persons, was the plain and simple representation of the things themselves, by pictures.
There is still a curious specimen of this writing by painting, imported to Europe by a Mexican, who translated it into Spanish. I recollect having seen it in the library of the Escurial, many years ago, where I also saw another specimen of writing by quipos. This Spanish version has been turned into English by Purchas. The title of the book is, History of the Empire of Mexico, with Notes and Explanations,” and it is to be found in “ Purchas's Pilgrimes,” Part the third.
I also remember to have read somewhere in the works of Fréret, or in the Mercure de France, that the original MS. is, or at least was, in the library of the King of France; but I do not remember how it got there, nor whether it is the original MS. in the Mexican language, or of the English translation.
Although these specimens, properly speaking, belong to a more advanced and more polished period of picture writing, when mankind had already made some progress in this as well as other departments of social intercourse, yet, as far as they go, they will give you no mean idea of the subject under consideration.
The translation I have alluded to is divided into three parts.
The first is a history of the Mexican empire, containing the biography and conquests of not less than eleven kings. The second is a regular roll of the several taxes which each conquered province or town paid to the royal treasury: and the third a digest of their civil law, the largest branch of which was of their common law, or jure patrio.
In each of these pictures, every king is represented with different characteristics ; the length of his reign is marked by squares round the margin, which, when the reign happens to be extremely long, fill the four sides of the picture. In each square there is a small circle to signify the year, a mark which they repeat according to its number till they reach thirteen, after which they begin over again to count one; and under these small circles there is a kind of hieroglyphic figure, which is repeated in every fourth square. Thus, in Table 8. fig. 1. we have the representation of the length of the reign, and the warlike deeds performed by a king, whose reign lasted seventeen years, because the squares round the picture amount to that number. In each square we see a small circle, from one to thirteen, when the single circle again makes its appearance. In the first square there is a kind of lozenge, in the second a sort of building, in the third the head of an animal, in the fourth a bush of canes, which figures or characters are constantly repeated in the same order, over and over again in every one of the pictures. They no doubt had their meaning, of which I am en
tirely ignorant; they were most likely connected either with their religious rites, or with their astronomical knowledge. In all the pictures that exhibit the reign of each king, there is a figure which shews the nature of his government, and, therefore, vary according to the circumstances and the events that took place during his reign. In this picture it is a shield, or a target, (c) crossed by four lances, which means that this king subdued, by force of arms, four towns or people; they are expressed by four rough drawings of a house, to which a symbol, or hieroglyphic figure, denoting the name of each, has been attached. In the first, (d) we have a tree; in the second, (g) another tree of a different sort; in the third, (h) a kind of basket; in the fourth, (i) a sort of box, with two baskets. These exhibitions I am unable to explain, but they no doubt were perfectly intelligible to the people; and perhaps might have had a reference to the natural productions of the subdued provinces. To mark the beginning of the reign, and the different epochs in which a king performed any of the actions mentioned in the picture, or even his death, they painted the figure of the king, with his characteristic emblem, which denotes his name, opposite to the year in which the event had taken place. Thus, in our picture, the king's name is said to be Acamapichtli, and his figure is repeated twice; opposite the first square, which marks the beginning of his reign, and opposite the eighth
square, which shews, that in the eighth year of his reign he put to death the chiefs of the four towns he had conquered. This circumstance is expressed by the four heads placed before him, distinguished by the same hieroglyphical characters which mark the towns or provinces over which they reigned. Across the figure of the king there is a kind of sash, with a knot on his shoulder, which, by its length and breadth, means the number of wives and children he had. In the present instance it seems not to be deficient in either of these dimensions. I am told that there is another mark to express the quality and number of children, whether male or female ; but, to confess my ignorance, I could never discover it; although I have observed all the pictures of the several reigns recorded by this curious piece of history, with every possible attention.
To the picture of each reign, a second picture was invariably attached, which indicated the other actions of the sovereign as a politician, and the other events that had distinguished his government. The whole account given by Purchas is curious, and highly amusing.
In recording the tribute, or taxes, which each town had to pay, as it was paid in kind, it seems that the Mexicans had adopted the plan of drawing the figure of the object. Thus, to represent a basket of cacao-meal, or of any other sort of corn, they drew the figure of a basket containing the ears of corn, or the meal extracted from the fruit of that