Cover image for Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl : the once and future lord of the Toltecs
Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl : the once and future lord of the Toltecs
Nicholson, H. B. (Henry B.)
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boulder : University Press of Colorado, [2001]

Physical Description:
lxi, 360 pages : illustrations (some color), 1 map ; 24 cm.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library F1219.76.R45 N53 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



In Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, H.B. Nicholson presents the most comprehensive survey and discussion of the primary sources and relevant archaeological evidence concerning this man/god, the most enigmatic figure of ancient Mesoamerica. Long available only on university microfilm, this classic text has been updated and now includes new illustrations and an index.

Nicholson sorts through the wealth of material, classifying, summarizing, and analyzing all known primary accounts in the Spanish, Nahuatl, and Mayan languages of the career of Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl. In a new Introduction, he updates the original source material presently available to scholars concerned with this figure.

Author Notes

H. B. Nicholson is professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of California-Los Angeles

Reviews 1

Choice Review

In this engrossing study, Nicholson analyzes evidence for the historical reality of Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, legendary leader of the Toltecs who dominated central Mexico from the 800s to the 1200s, after the fall of Teotihuacan and prior to the Aztecs. Primary information sources include Native pictorial manuscripts and documents written by Spanish chroniclers shortly after the Conquest, and many commentaries and interpretations from the following centuries. Nicholson systematically describes and evaluates each document, extracts the information relating to Topiltzin, and presents a reconstruction of the culture hero's legendary history. Topiltzin's priestly title Quetzalcoatl ("feathered serpent") refers to a major Mesoamerican deity related to creation, rain, and other functions. The tale's basic pattern and persistence for centuries strongly suggests that a powerful, innovative leader did in fact exist at a time of major change in the evolution of Mesoamerican civilization. Illustrations include a color portfolio of pages from Native-drawn pictorial manuscripts. Nicholson is a leading authority in the field; his book is a reliable bibliographic guide and reference for scholars, an outstanding example of research methodology, and an appealing intellectual adventure for anyone with a background in Mexico's prehistoric and colonial history. All levels/collections. K. A. Dixon emeritus, California State University, Long Beach

Table of Contents

Gordon WilleyAlfredo Lopez Austin
List of Illustrationsp. xiii
Forewordp. xv
Prologuep. xvii
Prefacep. xxi
1957 Introductionp. xxv
2001 Introductionp. xxix
Map: Postclassic Mesoamericap. lxii
Note on Organizationp. lxiv
I. Central Mexico: Nahuatlp. 1
A. Earliest Accounts of the Basic Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl of Tollan Talep. 3
1. The Historia de los Mexicanos por sus pinturasp. 4
2. The Juan Cano Relacionesp. 8
3. The Histoyre du Mechiquep. 12
4. The Leyenda de los solesp. 18
5. The Historia general (universal) de las cosas de (la) Nueva Espana of Fray Bernadrino de Sahagunp. 23
6. The Anales de Cuauhtitlanp. 39
B. Important Supplementary Accounts of the Basic Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl of Tollan Talep. 49
1. Motoliniap. 49
2. A Toltec Elegyp. 53
3. Fray Andres de Olmosp. 55
4. The Codices Telleriano-Remensis and Vaticanus Ap. 60
5. The Cronica Xp. 73
6. The Historia de Tlaxcala of Diego Munoz Camargop. 81
C. Sources Supplying Important Fragments of Informationp. 84
1. The Second Carta de Relacion of Fernando Cortesp. 84
2. The Relacion sobre la conquista de Mexico of Andres de Tapiap. 87
3. Letter of Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza to his Brother, Diego de Mendozap. 88
4. Viceroy Mendoza's Letter to Oviedop. 91
5. The Historia Tolteca-Chichimecap. 91
6. The Relacion de Cholula of Gabriel de Rojasp. 93
D. Sources Providing Only Scraps of Informationp. 96
1. The Anonymous Conquerorp. 96
2. The Relacion de Coatepec Chalco of Francisco de Villacastinp. 97
3. The Relacion de Ahuatlan y su partido of Salvador de Cardenasp. 98
4. The Relacion de Tetzcoco of Juan Bautista Pomarp. 98
5. The Cronica Mexicayotlp. 99
E. Late, Probably Distorted, Versions of the Basic Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl of Tollan Talep. 100
1. The Historia de los Indios de Nueva Espana e islas de tierra firme of Fray Diego Duranp. 100
2. The Relacion del origen de los Yndios (Codice Ramirez) of Juan de Tovarp. 108
3. The Munoz Camargo/Torquemada Account of Quetzalcoatlp. 109
4. The Writings of Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitlp. 113
5. The Memorial Breve acerca de la Fundacion de la Ciudad de Culhuacan of Domingo Francisco de San Anton Munon Chimalpahin Cuauhtlehuanitzinp. 129
II. Central Mexico: Non-Nahuatlp. 137
III. Oaxacap. 141
A. La Mixtecap. 145
B. Zapotecapanp. 149
IV. Chiapasp. 155
1. Fray Francisco Nunez de la Vegap. 159
2. Pablo Felix Cabrerap. 160
3. Ramon de Ordonez y Aguiarp. 161
V. Highland Guatemalap. 167
1. The Popol Vuhp. 171
2. Titulo de los senores de Totonicapanp. 177
3. Titulos de los antiguos nuestros antepasados, los que ganaron estas tierras de Otzoya antes de que viniera la fe de Jesucristo entre ellos, en el ano de mil y trescientosp. 181
4. Papel del origen de los senoresp. 183
5. The Fuentes y Guzman Genealogyp. 184
6. The Annals of the Cakchiquelsp. 184
7. The Historia de los Xpantzayp. 187
VI. The Pipilp. 197
VII. Nicaraguap. 201
VIII. Tabasco-Campechep. 207
IX. Yucatanp. 211
1. The "Catechism" of Francisco Hernandez in Fray Bartolome de Las Casas's Apologetica historia de las Indiasp. 215
2. Fray Diego de Landa's Historia de las cosas de Yucatanp. 216
3. The Historical Recollections of Gaspar Antonio Chip. 220
4. Historical References in the Books of Chilam Balamp. 223
X. Archaeological Evidence Possibly Relevant to the Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl of Tollan Talep. 231
XI. Some Interpretations of the Basic Data Presentedp. 245
A. The Basic Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl of Tollan Talep. 249
B. The Possible Historicity of the Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl of Tollan Talep. 255
C. Supplementary Aspects of the Talep. 268
1. Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl vis-a-vis the "Toltec Problem"p. 268
2. Chronological Aspectsp. 271
3. Geographical Aspectsp. 280
4. Nomenclatural and Etymological Aspectsp. 283
XII. Conclusionsp. 287
References Citedp. 293
Indexp. 343

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