In 1552 the Libellus de medicinalibus indorum herbis, an Aztec herbal manuscript with color paintings of plants describing the medicinal properties of 250 herbs used by the Aztecs, was translated into Latin by Juan Badiano from a Nahuatl original no longer extant. It is the only surviving detailed original account of the ethnobotany of the Aztecs written by Aztecs.
The Nahuatl original was composed in the Colegio de Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco, Tlatelolco, Mexico City, in 1552 by Martín de la Cruz. Both Badiano and de la Cruz were native Aztecs who were given European names at the Colegio de Santa Cruz. The Libellus is also known as the Badianus Manuscript, after the translator; the Codex de la Cruz-Badiano, after both the original author and translator; and the Codex Barberini, after Cardinal Francesco Barberini, who owned the manuscript in the early 17th century.
"In 1552 Jacobo de Grado, the friar in charge of the Convent of Tlatelolco and the College of Santa Cruz, had the herbal created and translated for Francisco de Mendoza, son of Antonio de Mendoza, the viceroy of New Spain. Mendoza sent the Latin manuscript to Spain, where it was deposited into the royal library. There it presumably remained until the early 17th century, when it somehow came into the possession of Diego de Cortavila y Sanabria, pharmacist to King Philip IV. From Cortavila it travelled to the Italian Cardinal Francesco Barberini, possibly via intermediate owners. The manuscript remained in the Barberini library until 1902, when the Barberini library became part of the Vatican Library, and the manuscript along with it. Finally, in 1990 — over four centuries after it was sent to Spain — Pope John Paul II returned the Libellus to Mexico, and it is now in the library of the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Mexico City.
"A copy was made in the 17th century by Cassiano dal Pozzo, the secretary of Cardinal Barberini. Dal Pozzo's collection, called his Museo Cartaceo ("Papers Museum"), was sold by his heirs to Pope Clement XI, who sold it to his nephew, Cardinal Alessandro Albani, who himself sold it to King George III in 1762. Dal Pozzo's copy is now part of the Royal Library, Windsor. Another copy may have been made by Francesco de' Stelluti, but is now lost. Dal Pozzo and de' Stelluti were both members of the Accademia dei Lincei" (Wikipedia article on Libellus de Medicinalibus Indorum Herbis, accessed 11-27-2010).
Two different English translations of work, by William Gates and Emily Walcott Emmart, respectively, were published in 1939 and 1940. The Gates translation was reissued with a new introduction by Bruce Byland in 2000. A translation into Spanish by Francisco Guerra was published in 1952, and a different Spanish edition was published in 1964 and 1991.
In 1995 Peter Furst published a study of the entheogens, or psychoactive drugs, included in the codex: "This Little Book of Herbs": Psychoactive Plants as Therapeutic Agents in the Badianus Manuscript of 1552," Schultes & von Reis (eds) Ethnobotany: Evolution of a Discipline (1995) 108-130.