The Boxer Codex

Transcription and Translation of an Illustrated Late Sixteenth-Century Spanish Manuscript Concerning the Geography, History and Ethnography of the Pacific, South-east and East Asia


In The Boxer Codex, the editors have transcribed, translated and annotated an illustrated late-16th century Spanish manuscript. It is a special source that provides evidence for understanding early-modern geography, ethnography and history of parts of the western Pacific, as well as major segments of maritime and continental South-east Asia and East Asia. Although portions of this gem of a manuscript have been known to specialists for nearly seven decades, this is the first complete transcription and English translation, with critical annotations and apparatus, and reproductions of all its illustrations, to appear in print.

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Pages: 681–692
Pages: 693–711
George Bryan Souza is affiliated with the University of Texas, San Antonio and, recently, a Mercator Guest Professor at Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen. He is the author of The Survival of Empire (CUP, 1986 and 2004), Portuguese, Dutch and Chinese in Maritime Asia, c. 1585-1800 (Ashgate/Variorum, 2014), an editor of Hinterlands and Commodities (Brill, 2014) and the general editor of Brill's EURO series.
Jeffrey S. Turley is an Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at Brigham Young University. He is the author of several articles on historical Romance linguistics.
"Silva y Figueroa’s insatiable curiosity together with his acuity as an observer have ensured that the Commentaries have long been recognized as a major source for early seventeenth-century Asia, particularly the Portuguese sphere of influence. Spanish editions were published in 1905 and 2011, but this is the first complete English translation. It is to be warmly welcomed [...]. The translation by Jeffrey S. Turley reads fluently, while the level of annotation accompanying the text only occasionally seems excessive. The edition is based on a careful comparison with the manuscript—in Silva y Figueroa’s own handwriting—in the Spanish National Library in Madrid, and this enhances its scholarly value."
Hamish Scott, Jesus College, University of Oxford, in: Renaissance Quarterly, 72:4 (2019), pp 1508-1509.

"Souza and Turley [...] have made a momentous contribution by making the [Boxer codex] manuscript available for the first time in a printed format. Their decision to include the original Spanish text along with an English translation ensures that the manuscript will have the wider audience it deserves. [...] The Boxer Codex is an absorbing collection of information. All research libraries deserve a copy, and specialists will find it a beautiful addition to their bookshelves.
Tatiana Seijas, Rutgers University, in: Itinerario, 43:3 (2019), pp. 551-553.

"Critically read, the compilation will serve as an almost inexhaustible source of information about partly ill-documented lands in the early days of European overseas expansion."
Hans Hägerdal, in: The Boxer Codex (Review) [, accessed 8 October 2018:]

"...there is little to fault in this transcription and translation of the Boxer Codex which is likely to become an important point of reference for scholarship on the early modern Iberian Pacific. It is a clear and accurate presentation of an invaluable source for the ethnohistory of Southeast Asia and the broader history of the region, in particular as it relates to late Ming China. For historians of colonial Latin America who wish to include a Pacific dimension in their research and teaching, this is essential reading."
Stuart M. McManus, University of Chicago, in: Colonial Latin American Review, 26:4 (2017), pp. 550-551 [DOI: 10.1080/10609164.2017.1402237]

"This first ever publication of the complete Boxer Codex in the original Spanish and in English translation represents a major contribution to multidisciplinary scholarship on sixteenth-century contacts between European and Asia Pacific native societies. [...] this magisterial edition does not only sharpen the discussion on these critical issues regarding the Boxer Codex. It opens up horizons for greater in-depth understanding of early contacts between European and Asia Pacific native societies as well as for more comprehensive and comparative analysis of these native societies. [...] For all this, Souza and Turley deserve no less than great recognition for their contribution."
Jose Mario C. Francisco, in: Journal of Jesuit Studies, 4 (2017), pp. 153-155 [Full review: here]

"Equally as meticulous and valuable as the manuscript is the colossal effort by Souza and Turley to bring together this prized piece of work and make it accessible to readers interested in 16th-century European representations of this geographical area. Souza’s and Turley’s work has filled a gap, as although this manuscript has been known and studied for several years, previous attempts to translate and transcribe it have all been partial. Therefore,we have in Souza and Turley’s edition the first complete transcription and English translation of this codex, with the associated corpus of annotations to enfold it. Souza and Turley’s edition of The Boxer Codex is clearly a joint effort of several years. The meticulously crafted transcription, translation and surrounding annotations, as well as additional content, are evidence of this. Scholarly and even lay interests in 16th-century European representations of the geographical area mentioned above will be nurtured, as topics ranging from geographical descriptions to government and the organisation of towns and cities, social classes and occupations, currencies and trade are described, as well as aspects of law and order, dress, fare and everyday customs."
Andrea Ballesteros Danel, Australian National University, in: The Journal of Pacific History, 3 November 2016, pp. 470 - 472, DOI: 10.1080/00223344.2016.1250329]

"Muy pocas veces en la vida se tiene la oportunidad de reseñar una edición príncipe y, para colmo, de una obra tan importante como es el Boxer Codex, una fundamental recopilación de los conocimientos que tenían los españoles a finales del siglo XVI acerca del Sureste asiático, Japón y China, así como una delicia visual por los dibujos, hechos por artistas chinos, que adornan la obra, comparables a los que ilustran el famoso manuscrito Casanatense. [...] La traducción al inglés es excelente —incluso salva, como hemos señalado oportunamente, algunos errores de transcripción—, y va acompañada de numerosas notas exegéticas. [...] La magnífica presentación editorial y la cuidada impresión de las láminas hacen honor a la merecida fama de Brill. El volumen, que, además de ser una lectura apasionante, constituye un regalo para la vista, ha de figurar necesariamente en la biblioteca de quien esté interesado por la historia de Filipinas y del Sureste asiático. Los profesores Souza y Turley merecen nuestro agradecimiento por haber dado a conocer en su integridad este espléndido e interesantísimo códice."
Juan Gil, Real Academia Española, in: Historiografía y Bibliografía Americanistas, Anu. estud. am., 73, 2, julio-diciembre, 2016, pp. 776-782

"Every book is conceived with a specific reader in mind; in this case the ideal reader was clearly the King of Spain. As Souza has correctly pointed out, the book seems to be a work intended not so much for the eyes of the Philippine government as for the eyes of the Imperial monarch. The artistic endeavour of the book traces a geographic image that undeniably produces ethnographic knowledge. At the same time, the book raises expectations and kindles desire: expansive ambition. Conceived as a gift for the Iberian monarch to reveal to him the prospect of an illustrated catalogue of various lands of Maritime East Asia (with an emphasis on the Philippines and the Chinese cultural sphere), this anthology of descriptions of peoples and types of humans in Asia, wildlife and Chinese historical and mythological beings reminds us of the 16th-century Mexican Codex, or even of the enigmatic and fascinating Codex Mendoza, and at the same time evokes associations with the typical structure of the Relaciones geográficas (geographical questionnaires). In this book, the effort of a geographical, cultural and ethnographic inquiry is combined with a persuasive and pragmatic function aimed at political, strategic and commercial decision making."
Manel Ollé, in: Journal of Asian History, 51:1 (2017), pp. 182-186 [DOI: 10.13173/jasiahist.51.1.0182]

"...une édition parfaitement fiable de la totalité de son texte original et une traduction qui reste remarquable, dans un livre de grande qualité typographique et graphique, qui est à l’honneur de la maison d’édition Brill..."
Pierre-Yves Manguin, in: Bulletin de l'École française d'Extrême-Orient, Tome 103 (2017), pp. 537-543
General Editor’s Foreword ... x
Acknowledgments ... xiii
List of Drawings, Illustrations and Maps ... xv
Glossary ... xix
Abbreviations ... xxxiii

Introduction ... 1


1 Ladrones ... 39
2 Cagayans ... 43
3 Sambal ... 49
4 Visayans ... 51
5 Moros ... 77
6 Tagalogs ... 88
7 Moro Customs ... 99
8 Brunei ... 106
9 Maluku Islands ... 130
10 Java ... 133
11 Rutter of Aceh, by Dom João Ribeiro Gaio ... 135
12 Ribeiro Gaio’s Rutter of Patani ... 180
13 Rutter of Siam, by Dom João Ribeiro Gaio ... 188
14 New Guinea, by Miguel Roxo de Brito ... 197
15 Japan ... 216
16 China’s Tributary Neighbors ... 220
17 Tai Ming, by Fr. Martín de Rada, O.E.S.A. ... 224
18 Chinese Imperial Ceremony ... 267
19 Chinese and Tatar Cavalries ... 269
20 Chinese Deities ... 272
21 Chinese Bestiary ... 280
22 Champa ... 290


1 Ladrones ... 303
2 Cagayans ... 315
3 Sambal ... 328
4 Visayans ... 334
5 Moros ... 357
6 Tagalogs ... 372
7 Moro Customs ... 384
8 Brunei ... 397
9 Maluku Islands ... 429
10 Java ... 433
11 Rutter of Aceh, by Dom João Ribeiro Gaio ... 439
12 Rutter of Patani, by Dom João Ribeiro Gaio, António Dias, Henrique Mendes, Francisco das Neves and João Serrano ... 485
13 Rutter of Siam, by Dom João Ribeiro Gaio ... 492
14 New Guinea, by Miguel Roxo de Brito ... 503
15 Japan ... 526
16 China’s Tributary Neighbors ... 529
17 Tai Ming, by Fr. Martín de Rada, O.E.S.A. ... 559
18 Chinese Imperial Ceremony ... 603
19 Chinese and Tatar Cavalries ... 605
20 Chinese Deities ... 606
21 Chinese Bestiary ... 646
22 Champa ... 677

Bibliography ... 681
Index ... 693
All general and specialist readers interested in the history of early modern geography, history and ethnography of Asia and contacts and encounters between Europe and Asia, in general, and the Spanish in the Philippines in particular with the indigenous and neighboring peoples of the western Pacific and maritime and continental South-east Asia and East Asia in the late 16th century.
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