chapters which Ordóñez y Aguiar inserted at the end of the eighteenth century in his Historia de la Creación del Cielo y de la Tierra.

Luckily, the manuscript of the first version having been preserved together with the original copy of the Quiché, it is still possible to appreciate the translation in its primitive form, without the errors which mar the two printings of 1857 and 1929 respectively.

Despite its defects, this translation is a work of great merit and inestimable value. Our linguistically-minded friar knew the Quiché language of the sixteenth century better than any other of the modern translators and commentators, and at the same time he knew the mentality of the Indians of that race. For this reason the Spanish translator almost always kept his text at the same intellectual level as that of the Quiché narrator, without elevating himself to spheres foreign to pre-Columbian American culture, and without letting himself be carried away by fantasy, as has occurred in the case of the first French translator.

In 1855 the Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg found in Guatemala the manuscript of the Historias de los Indios which contained the original transcription of the Quiché text and the first Spanish translation of it made by Father Ximénez. Sent to the parish of Rabinal by Archbishop García Peláez, who, according to Brasseur de Bourbourg, wanted to further his archaeological investigations and his studies of the Indian languages, the famous French traveler moved to that Quiché center, learned how to read and write the language of the people, and prepared himself sufficiently to undertake the translation of the Quiché book, according to what he says in the foreword to his Histoire des Nations Civilisées du Mexique et de l'Amérique Centrale.

In this way Brasseur de Bourbourg had the opportunity to learn the dialect spoken at Rabinal and to consult the Indians of that town on the difficult passages of the Popol Vuh. Furthermore, during his trips to Central America, he acquired a valuable collection of grammars and old vocabularies of the Indian languages which were most useful to him in his interpretation of the Guatemalan documents. The Quiché Vocabulario of Fray Domingo Basseta which is in the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris is full of Brasseur de Bourbourg's annotations, which show the constant use which he made of it in his work of translation.

In 1861 the Popol Vuh, Le Livre Sacré, which contains the Quiché text of the Manuscript of Chichicastenango, was published in Paris, divided into chapters and phoneticized according to Brasseur de Bourbourg's ideas, in order to facilitate its reading by the people of his country. According to these ideas, the Abbé introduced the letter "k" which does not exist in the original, and substituted it for the "c" and the "q" which Ximénez used in transcribing the Quiché manuscript. On the other hand, he kept the "v" which was used in the Colonial Period to represent the sound of "u" as in the words varal, vinac, etc.

The Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg's version of the Popol Vuh is a notable work in which he tried to interpret, with the precision and elegance of the French language, the ancient and simple thought of the Quiché race. As he himself says, this translation is based on the Spanish of Ximénez and supplemented with the parts which the Dominican friar omitted. In general, the Abbé interpreted the Quiché manuscript correctly, although there are many errors which he committed in his translation, despite the evident care that he took. His version, however, shows one major defect. Despite having lived some time among the American Indians, the Abbé never succeeded in understanding their primitive mentality, and he attributed to them ideas and thoughts as elevated as those of the peoples of the Old World, the heirs of a classical culture of many centuries.

The German writer Noah Elieser Pohorilles published a version of the Popol Vuh in Leipzig in 1913 under the title of Das Popol Wuh. Die mytische Geschichte des Kicé-Volkes von Guatemala nach dem Original Texte übersetzt und bearbeitet. In general, the German translator follows Brasseur de Bourbourg in interpreting the Quiché document, despite the fact that in the title of his work he says that it is a translation from the original text. In a study on the "Significance of the Myths of the Popol Vuh," Eduard Seler indicates that he does not consider that the Pohorilles translation had improved that of Brasseur de Bourbourg, rather the contrary.

Page 16

Please email us if you are interested
in a PDF of any of the posted books.