Authenticating the oldest book in the Americas

On April 21, 1971, a little-known Maya manuscript — a calendar for calculating the cycles of Venus — went on view at the Grolier Club in Manhattan as part of an exhibition on Maya writing.

“Manuscript Could Change Views on Mayans’ Religion” announced a headline in The New York Times.

Michael Coe, a Yale professor of anthropology and an organizer of the exhibition, told the Times that the manuscript, which was owned by an anonymous private collector and had never before been on exhibit, was an “important find” that furnished new information on the importance of Venus to Maya religious beliefs and astrology.

“Only a half-dozen people know of the existence of this codex,” Coe told the Times.

The manuscript, if authentic, would be the oldest known book in the Americas and one of four surviving Maya codices.  (The other three are located in Europe and named after the cities where they are housed: Dresden, Madrid, and Paris.)