10. The Codex Mendoza
The Codex Mendoza is an illustrated Aztec codex which was inscribed in approximately 1541 and contains an extremely in-depth history of the Aztec people, their kings, their lifestyles, the details of their culture, and more. It was written for the king of Spain by the newly subjugated Aztec people and was also inscribed with Spanish translations and explanations for much in the work so that it would be understood by the kingdom of Spain. It was annotated by a Spanish priest who was fluent in the language of Nahuatl, which was spoken by the Nahaus, the ethnic group which the Aztecs were a part of, and it was created, side from the annotations, entirely by indigenous people. While this is not only unusual because of its age, insight into a very remote culture from the West, and historical significance, its tale gets even weirder from there.
The work was written for Emperor Charles V and was put on a ship destined for Spain, but it never arrived. The ships at sea were stopped and plundered by French pirates, and the book changed hands, winding up in France. There, it was purchased by a man named Andre Thevet, who inscribed his name into the work a total of five times and who was a cosmographer for France’s King Henry II. Two of those inscriptions contain the date 1553.
Later, an Englishman named Richard Hakluyt bought the Codex and took it to England, though, due to the obvious language difficulties, nobody seemed to really know what they had. It passed hands in England a few times before being turned in to the Bodleian Library at University of Oxford in 1659, five years after the death of its last known owner, a man named John Selden. There, it remained for 172 years, collecting dust on shelves, until it was discovered, brought to the attention of scholars, and found to be a legitimate document in 1831.