The five códices in the Borgia Group derive their name from the Borgia Codex, the largest and most elaborate of the five, which was saved from destruction by Cardinal Borgia and willed by him to the Vatican Library (with some dispute from his family). The other four are the Fejervary-Mayer (Free Public Museum, Liverpool, England), the Vaticanus B (Vatican Library), the Laud (Bodleian Library, Oxford, England), and the Cospi (Biblioteca Universitaria, Bologna, Italy). While it is difficult to assign specific geographic origins or dates to the Borgia Group, they are believed generally to be from central and southern Mexico, from the south of Puebla to the northeast of Oaxaca, and to date from the 12th or 13th centuries in the late Post-Classical period, just before the rise of the Aztec empire. The style that characterizes these códices is called Mixteca-Puebla, for the region from which they are believed to have originated. The style can be said to be an extension of the Mixtec style.

Priests read the códices to foretell the future, linking the spiritual and material planes of existence. The sacred calendar of 260 days, known as Tonalpohualli, structured the time-space continuum. Like religious calendars from other cultures, the sacred calendars in these códices codified knowledge of the cycles of nature into a system that gave order and meaning to existence, with beginnings and endings, direction and goals. The material world was also structured by the four directions (north, south, east, and west), as well as by concepts of inner-outer and above-below. There was an overall theme of tension or balance between opposite or competing forces.

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