Page 13 - ChilamBalam
P. 13

None of the Books of Chilam Balam that have come down to us were compiled earlier 

than the last part of the Seventeenth Century, and most of them date from the Eighteenth 
Century. The older ones were probably worn out by constant use. Nevertheless we have 

Maya legal documents covering almost every decade from the year 1557 down to the 
present time, and a comparison of the language of these with that of the Books of 

Chilam Balam shows that many passages of the latter were copied verbatim from 

Sixteenth and early Seventeenth Century originals.

At the present time we have photographic reproductions of the Books of Chilam Balam 

of Chumayel, Tizimin, Kaua, Ixil, Tekax and Nah as well as copious extracts copied 
from the Mani and Oxkutzcab manuscripts. The latter were made by Dr. Hermann 

Berendt and are now in the Berendt Linguistic Collection of the Museum of the 

University of Pennsylvania. This scholar also made copies of the Chumayel and Tizimin 
manuscripts about sixty years ago, when they were in better condition than when the 

present photographs were made. Consequently a complete transcription and translation 
of the texts can only be made with the aid of these copies. Tozzer gives the names of 

four others known by reputation only: the Books of Chilam Balam of Nabula, Tihosuco, 

Tixcocob and Hocab́. Genet and Chelbatz give a brief description of a Book of Chilam 
Balam of Telchac.

Of these books the Chumayel, Tizimin and Mani manuscripts have the greatest value for 
the study of Maya civilization, although the others are not lacking in interest. The 

Chumayel was a small quarto volume which appears to have originally consisted of 

fifty-eight numbered leaves. There are only 107 written pages in the University of 
Pennsylvania reproduction. Three leaves, numbers 1, 50 and 55, are missing, and there 

are breaks in the text at these places. The other pages seem to have been blank. The 

writer has seen only the leather cover, in which a hole had been burned; the book itself 
had disappeared. A number of the leaves are either torn or have crumbled away along 

the edges, and some of the pages are badly water-stained in places. Nevertheless the 
manuscript is very legible on the whole. Although it dates only from the year 1782, the 

language suggests the Seventeenth Century much more than it does the Eighteenth. The 

book contains comparatively little of the intrusive European material which 
predominates in other Books of Chilam Balam written at so late a date. The drawings 

which illustrate the volume are quite European in character, although many of the ideas 

which they represent are purely Maya.

Brinton was the first to make a translation of any considerable portion of the Chumayel. 

Using the Berendt copy of the text, he translated the three chronicles found in Chapters 
XIX, XX and XXI of the present work. Martinez Hernandez has published his own 

Spanish translations of these chronicles, also the story of the Last Judgment in Chapter 

XXIII and the first part of the creation narrative in Chapter X. Tozzer has translated the 
prophecy of Chilam Balam in Chapter XXIV and the chronicle in Chapter XX. The 

writer has published translations of Chapters II, IX and XIII, and the entire manuscript 
has been freely rendered into Spanish poetical prose by Mediz Bolio.

We know from internal evidence that the Chilam Balam of Chumayel was compiled by 
Don Juan Josef Hoil of that town, as we find his name signed to a notation written in the 

same hand as the rest of the book and dated 1782. Only a few interpolations added at 

later dates are written in different hands. Subsequently the book passed into the 
possession either of a certain unnamed priest or of his secretary, Justo Balam, who


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