I've found an online copy of William Gates' reproduction of the Dresden codex written in 1932. Some websites say that his reproduction is rather too stylistic to be a reliable facsimile of the codex. Some others also give account of Gates filling the missing parts guided just by his imagination. Can we trust his reproduction to be trustworthy? Does a better facsimile of this codex exist?

2 Answers 2


According to the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies (FAMSI), William Gates' facsimile is

very pleasing to the eye, colorful, and uses his own type-font for all the glyphs. I can't say that it is the most accurate rendition, but it is fun to look at.

The site mentions a number of other facsimiles, including

In 1975, the Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt, of Graz, Austria, printed a facsimile from color photos of the WWII-damaged original....It is remarkably good, and the worst of the damaged pages have been reproduced again from Förstemann in a separate accompanying booklet. The Graz Dresden, and its Chiapas copy (within the book of Thomas A. Lee, Jr., "Los Códices Mayas", 1985) have been used as important stand-bys by Mayanists since their publications.

Downloads are available from this site for the Kingsborough and Förstemann versions.

There is also a much more recent facsimile, Ancient Mayan Message: Dresden Codex Facsimile by Olga Judith Najarro Ibarra (2017) but I have not been able to trace any peer reviews for this book. According to the text on the back cover, the facsimile "is based on a comparison between several pre-WWII facsimiles of The Dresden Codex, when the codex was in better conditions."

Note: "In World War II the Dresden Codex sustained heavy water damage in the Dresden Fire Storms. Therefore, the facsimiles made before the war are used for study as opposed to the original."

  • That last paragraph was what I was looking for, so it's safe to say that Gates' version is usable?
    – Pablo Ivan
    Commented Apr 7, 2018 at 17:50
  • 1
    As you mentioned non-specialists, Gates' version would seem to be fine. Would be interesting to see Ibarra's though... Commented Apr 7, 2018 at 20:12

I do not know your version of the codex. No reliability assessment from me.

Looking for the Dresden Codex it is best to go to the source: Dresden.

The Saxon State and University Library Dresden (SLUB) has the codex and it has digitised it:
Der Dresdner Maya-Codex (direct link to codex / in English):

  • is the oldest and best preserved book of the Maya
  • consists of 39 leaves written on both sides and originally folded as a leporello made of fig tree bark, exhibited in 2 parts with a total length of 3.56 m between glass in the treasure room of the SLUB
  • contains various almanacs, divination calendars, astronomical tables, ritual regulations and numerous representations of gods
  • is a key document for the decipherment of Maya hieroglyphs and for the study of astronomy and chronology of the Maya
  • has been acquired in 1739 by the first librarian Johann Christian Goetze in Vienna and has been identified as a Maya manuscript only in the 19. century
  • has been reproduced in facsimile several times and is subject of numerous publications

This original was digitised in 2009 and represents the state of preservation – or decay – at that time. Facsimiles, reproductions or repaintings from an earlier date are partly reconstructions and partly draw from a better state of preservation, so most of these have both their caveats and their value.

  • Thanks for your answer. Going to the source is usually the best option, however as you mention how damaged this codex is makes early reproductions more valuable - when well reproduced, of course.
    – Pablo Ivan
    Commented Apr 7, 2018 at 17:53
  • @PabloIvan The hi-res files of the SLUB version are quite usable, but less pretty. It depends of course: what do want to use it for? Commented Apr 7, 2018 at 18:05
  • For giving a conference about it to non-specialists, I think it would be better to use the facsimile so they perfectly see what it is being explained.
    – Pablo Ivan
    Commented Apr 7, 2018 at 18:10
  • 1
    @PabloIvan Ah, I see & agree. I only ever used the SLUB version and applied some image processing to them. Commented Apr 7, 2018 at 18:13
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    @PabloIvan Oh wow, thx. As noted, I wasn't aware of its online existence. / Since this is where you started your question from, including this via an edit into your question would lift the quality of this whole nice Q&A thread even further. ;) Commented Apr 7, 2018 at 18:31

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