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Among the various avenues of approach to the investigation of Maya civilization, the study of 

the native literature of Yucatan is, next to the actual archæological exploration of the remains, 

one of the most promising, for it contains much of what the Indians remembered of their old 
culture after the Spanish Conquest. The Books of Chilam Balam form the most important part 

of this native Maya literature. Written in the Maya language, they reflect more closely the 

thought of these Indians than any other records that have come down to us. Not only do they 
contain a wealth of historical and ethnological information invaluable to the student of the 

pre-Columbian career of the Maya, but they also furnish a record of the reactions of the native 

mind to the European culture and of the manner in which the latter was adapted to suit its new 
environment. It is hardly necessary to dwell upon the value of these old texts to the linguistic 


The translation of the Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel depends primarily upon the 

reading given to the badly punctuated and often misspelled Maya text, and such a reading is 
based upon an extensive comparison with other similar texts. The difficulties of translation 

are not to be underestimated, but they can be greatly lessened by such a comparison. That I 

have been able to avail myself of the assistance afforded by the manuscripts of the Berendt 
Linguistic Collection, so often referred to in these pages, is due to the collaboration of the 

Museum of the University of Pennsylvania and to the kindness of Dr. Horace H. F. Jayne, 

Director, who has supplied me with the necessary photostats. Professor Alfred M. Tozzer, 
whose previous extensive survey of Maya literature was the indispensable preliminary to the 

present work, has given cordial assistance; both he and the Peabody Museum of American 

Archæology and Ethnology have cooperated generously with the loan of material necessary to 
the work. Mr. Frans Blom, Director, and the Department of Middle American Research of the 

Tulane University of Louisiana have kindly loaned photographs of Sixteenth Century Maya 
documents in their collection, which have proved most valuable in the study of the present 


Dr. Sylvanus G. Morley has spent much time and thought in going over my manuscript and 

has offered many valuable suggestions as well as searching out and obtaining related material 

in Mexico and Yucatan. Mr. Thomas R. Johnson has undertaken the tedious task of copying 
the drawings in the Chumayel manuscript. Mr. Juan Mart́nez Herńndez has again, as in the 

past, come to my aid in the elucidation of obscure phrases and badly written passages in the 

Maya text. Linguistic data furnished by Dr. Manuel J. Andrade and ethnological analogies 
suggested by Dr. Robert Redfield will be found acknowledged elsewhere in this book. The 

manner of editing the Maya text is that suggested by Professor Otis J. Todd, who has assisted 

me in adapting the methods of classical scholars to this newer field of endeavor. For a number 
of the text-figures, Alice P. Roys has made copies from photographs and other reproductions. 

To Librarian John Ridington and Assistant Librarian Dorothy Jefferd, I am indebted for the 
many facilities afforded by the Library of the University of British Columbia. Throughout the 

preparation of this work, Dr. Alfred V. Kidder has given generously of his time and attention 

to the practical problems involved in the task. To all these I wish to make grateful 
acknowledgment at this time.


March 30, 1932

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