In a rare reversal, archaeologists have determined that a Maya book written almost 900 years ago is genuine—after decades of believing it was fake. The Grolier Codex was so named because it was first displayed in 1971 at the book lovers' Grolier Club in New York City. Archaeologist Michael Coe, who arranged the 1971 showing, later described its rather questionable history in a book.
It was acquired in a spectacularly scammy way in 1966 by a Mexican collector named Josué Sáenz. Coe says that Sáenz told him that a group of unknown men offered to sell the book to him, along with a few other items found "in a dry cave" near the foothills of the Sierra de Chiapas. They would only sell it if Sáenz agreed never to tell anyone or show the book. The collector, intrigued, took a plane to a remote airstrip with two experts, who declared the codex fake. But Sáenz went with his gut and bought the codex. After allowing Coe to display it in New York, he gave it to the Mexican government.
In the 1960s, what is said to be one of the rarest books in the world was discovered: an ancient Maya book called the Grolier Codex. While the physical book itself — meaning the actual pages — were quickly dated back to the 13th century, researchers have long speculated that the drawings contained in the book were forgeries, something sellers would have made to try and get more money for the product. That’s not true, it turns out. Researchers with Brown University have announced that the Grolier Codex is genuine in every way, making it the oldest known manuscript found in America.
Since it was reportedly unearthed in the 1960s, the 13th century Grolier Codex – one of the rarest books in the world – has been regarded with scepticism. Some people have questioned the authenticity of the book, suggesting that it was forged by modern writers. However, a new study has reviewed all known research on the manuscript, and suggests that the Grolier Codex is both genuine, and likely the oldest of all surviving manuscripts from ancient America.