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THE LONG AND WELL-SPENT DAYS OF Ximénez' life among the Indians of the interior of Guatemala proved to him how necessary it was for the clergy to have a thorough knowledge of the languages of those places. The Spanish government had ordered that the natives be taught in the Spanish language, but this would have required the establishment of hundreds of village and rural schools which were never founded in the Colonial Period. Therefore, the Indians had to be addressed in their own language and even in the dialect of each regional district. To further the priests' and friars' communications with the Indians for all their material and spiritual needs, Ximénez wrote an excellent grammar of the Quiché language and several religious treatises in the three principal dialects of Guatemala. He showed preference for the Quiché language, which he spoke for more than twenty years and for which he had a very high regard, as is evident in Chapter XXV of Book I of his Historia de la Provincia. Far from being a barbaric language, Quiché, says Ximénez, is so orderly, harmonious, and exact, and so consistent in character with the nature and properties of things, that he became convinced that" this language is the principal one of the world." Our linguistically-minded historian, casting aside all modesty, declares that through diligence and study he came to understand the Quiché language better than anyone else and that not wishing to hide the talent, which God gave to him, he wrote "three volumes in folio, entitled Tesoro de las Lenguas Cacchiquel, Quiché, y Tzutuhil, which are very similar."
In the Tesoro de las Lenguas, Ximénez made a profound study of the structure of the Quiché language, of which he gives an exposition according to the method followed in Latin grammars, accompanied by a vocabulary which contains the roots of the words of the three languages. Brasseur de Bourbourg made good use of this valuable material in writing his Grammaire de la Langue Quichée (Paris,
[paragraph continues] 1862),which contains the chapters written by Ximénez and some explanations in French that the Abbé included to aid the readers who were not versed in the Spanish language to understand the text better.
Bound in the same volume with the Arte de las tres lenguas is a Confesionario and a Catecismo de Indios, also in the three languages, works of short length; and finally, in a volume consisting of 112 pages, written in two parallel columns with remarkable neatness and care, is the copy of the Manuscript of Chichicastenango written by Ximénez following the original text, accompanied by his first translation of it into Spanish. This valuable document has the following title: Empiezan las historias del origen de los Indios de esta provincia de Guatemala, traduzido de la lengua quiché en la castellana para más comodidad de los Ministros del Sto. Evangelio, por el R. P. F. Franzisco Ximénez, Cura doctrinero por el Real Patronato del Pueblo de Sto. Thomas Chuilá. In the opinion of Brasseur de Bourbourg, this manuscript may be considered the original of the Popol Vuh.
This, in effect, is the only old copy, known to have survived, of the Quiché manuscript composed by an unknown author about the middle of the sixteenth century. This translation is the first one which Ximénez made, and it was also the first one to be published, when it was printed in Vienna, in 1857, under the auspices of the imperial Academy of Sciences.
This document is followed by the Escolios a las Historias de el Origen de los Indios, escoliadas por el R. P. F. Franzisco, Ximénez, Cura Doctrinero por el Real Patronato del Pueblo de Sto. Thomás Chichicastenango, del Sagrado Orden de Predicadores, etc. These scholia consist only of a foreword and a chapter, and it seems that the author did not write more in this place. The material which they contain was used, in part, in the first book of his Historia de la Provincia, where the author continues his commentaries and writes in detail of the origin of the Quiché kingdom and the customs and ancient beliefs of its inhabitants.
The Historia by Father Ximénez consisted of three volumes which were jealously guarded in the Convent of Santo Domingo in Guatemala, and which for more than one hundred years remained unknown. The anonymous author of the Isagoge Histórica, written in the eighteenth century, mentions Ximénez as the discoverer and
translator of the Manuscript of Chichicastenango, but the Isagoge itself was not published until 1892. The original manuscript of the Historia of Ximénez, which was lost for many years, still is preserved, although incomplete, in Guatemala. The first volume appeared in the library of Don José Cecilio del Valle, one of the fathers of the independence of Central America, and this first volume is today in the possession of his descendants in Guatemala City. This volume, as has been said, contains the first two books of the Chronicle of Ximénez and begins with the revised translation of the Historias del origen de los Indios. The third volume, containing Books VI and VII of the Historia, is preserved at the Government Archives of Guatemala.
At the end of the eighteenth century, Don Ramón de Ordóñez y Aguiar, canon of Chiapas, and author of the Historia de la Creación del Cielo y de la Tierra, which remained unpublished until 1907, was living in Guatemala. In the foreword to this work, Ordóñez y Aguiar says that he had found a valuable book written by Father Francisco Ximénez, who, as a result of his teachings, had discovered it among the Indians of the Quiché nation, and translated it literally, including its contents "in the first of the four volumes which, under the title of Historia de la Provincia de San Vicente de Chiapa y Guatemala he composed and in manuscript form are preserved in the library of his convent of Preaching Fathers of this capital." The text of the quotations from Ordóñez y Aguiar and the pages from which he says he has taken some sections which he included in his work show, however, that he did not consult the original of the Historia, but the copy which was kept in the Convent of Santo Domingo until 1830, when it was placed in the library of the University of Guatemala.
In his Historia de la Creación, Ordóñez y Aguiar reproduced the second version of the Historias del Quiché, taking it, as he himself says, from the first volume of the Historia de la Provincia de San Vicente de Chiapa y Guatemala. This transcription is sometimes literal, sometimes hardly more than an extract, and sometimes it seems to have been noticeably corrected and is different from the original. In the episode of Vucub-Caquix, Ordóñez y Aguiar departs from the simple language of Ximénez and writes a paraphrase in the style of Cervantes, which reveals his gifts of imagination and literary
position, but which is very far from the simplicity and ingenuity of the original Quiché, with which the Canon of Chiapas evidently was not familiar.
Brasseur de Bourbourg says that around the middle of the nineteenth century the curator of the National Museum of Mexico, Don Rafael Isidoro Gondra, gave him a draft of the first volume of the work of Ordóñez y Aguiar, which contains the larger part of the translation made by Father Ximénez of the Manuscript of Chichicastenango, published in 1851.
The Viennese doctor, Carl Scherzer, visited Central America In 1853 and 1854. He was in Guatemala for six months and had occasion to visit the library of the University, where he found the volumes of the works of Ximénez kept there after the expulsion of the friars and the closing of the convents in 1829.1n the Memoria which he sent to the Imperial Academy of Sciences at Vienna in 1856, Scherzer claims the honor of having been the first to have called the attention of the educated world to the writings of Ximénez and to have been, in part, responsible for their publication.
Scherzer found only the third volume of the Historia de la Provincia de San Vicente de Chiapa y Guatemala in the University library in 1854, and although he searched elsewhere for the remaining three volumes of that work, all his efforts were in vain. On the other hand, he found in the library a vocabulary of the Quiché and Cakchiquel languages and the volume which contains the Arte de las tres lenguas, a Confesionario, a Catecismo de Indios, and the Historias del origen de los Indios de esta provincia de Guatemala, traducidas de la lengua Quiché a la Castellana. This last treatise is the one which was first published by Scherzer in 1857. The text of the Vienna edition agrees, in general, with the Ximénez manuscript; but it contains many errors, due in part to the foreign printer and also In part to the inaccuracy of the copyist who made the transcription which Scherzer used, and who evidently was not familiar with the ancient writing. Only the first chapter of the Escolios, which formed the appendix of the book, appears in the manuscript of the Historias. Scherzer says that he completed them by means of a copy, "taken from the original," which was given to him by Don Juan Gavarrete.
The same Señor Gavarrete who had collaborated in the preparation of the Vienna edition had the opportunity years later to make known the opinion he had formed of it, and said that "it is very incorrect because of the little ability of those who copied it and the printers in the Spanish language." Gavarrete added this comment, which since has been repeated by other historians: "We shall note, in passing, that the publication of this book has changed the whole course of the historical studies which are now being made about Central America."
Scherzer's reports about the culture and traditions of the Quiché Indians gave rise to many discussions in European Journals, which at that period were first concerning themselves with these matters. The German weekly Das Ausland in its edition of July 6, 1855, published an interesting article on "the pre-Columbian history of Guatemala," in which it gave an analysis of the content of the Historias del origen de los Indios, which Scherzer had found and proposed to publish. The Americanist editor, Nicolaus Trübner, reproduced, in part, the German writer's analysis, and discussed the question of priority in bibliographical data relative to Father Ximénez in an extensive article entitled "Central American Archaeology" published in the London Athenaeum of May 31, 1856.
Charles Etienne Brasseur de Bourbourg, the well-known French Americanist, arrived in Guatemala in 1855. Following the footsteps of Scherzer, he traveled through the Central American countries, and, like Scherzer, he also became interested in the ancient history of the country. Previously in Mexico he had made important historical and linguistic studies and had copied many old manuscripts. In Guatemala he found a fertile field for his investigations. Dr. Mariano Padilla and Don Juan Gavarrete, who had assisted Scherzer, extended their generosity to Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg to the extent of giving him many documents from the collection of the former as well as from the public archives of which the latter was in charge. Others were given to him by Don Francisco García Peláez, the archbishop of Guatemala, who was likewise devoted to this kind of study. The Archbishop also entrusted him with the administration of the parish of Rabinal, where the French traveler learned the
[paragraph continues] Quiché language, and, as he confesses, spent the most agreeable year of his stay in Central America. In this important center of indigenous population, Brasseur de Bourbourg translated into French the Manuscript of Chichicastenango, which he had so easily obtained together with the Spanish translation of Ximénez. Speaking of his stay in Rabinal, Brasseur de Bourbourg says:
"This village contains around 7,000 Indians who speak the Quiché language, and with them I prepared myself not only to speak and write it, but even to translate the most difficult documents, among them the manuscript which Father Ximénez found at Santo Tomás Chichicastenango, and which is so important for [the study of] American origins and in particular for the history of Guatemala."
Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg also had charge, although for a short time only, of the parish of San Juan Sacatepéquez, where he perfected himself in the Cakchiquel language, in order to be able to translate the Memorial Cakchiquel de Sololá, which he called the Memorial de Tecpán-Atitlán, a valuable Indian document which had belonged to the convent of the Franciscans and which "a young and zealous Guatemalan archaeologist, Dr. Juan Gavarrete, one of the notaries of the ecclesiastical court" gave to him. On a second voyage to Guatemala, Brasseur de Bourbourg traveled through other parts of the country and added new and important acquisitions to his collection of historical documents, the richest and most valuable which had been assembled in the country by a single individual up to that time. These documents the French Abbé used in writing on the ancient history of Guatemala and Mexico, and on the Indian languages.
The best known of Brasseur de Bourbourg's works is that published in Paris in 1861 under the title of Popol Vuh, Le Livre Sacré et les mythes de l'antiquité américaine. This volume, which immediately attracted great attention in both Europe and America, contains the Quiché text of the Manuscript of Chichicastenango and the translation into French of this document, accompanied by philological notes and an extensive commentary. In the foreword, the author says that in 1855 he saw in the library of the University of Guatemala two copies of the Historia de la Provincia de Predicadores de San Vicente de Chiapa y Guatemala and that this work, which had remained
in manuscript, "consisted of four volumes in folio and of it there were two copies, which were transferred from the archives of this monastery to the library of the University at the time that the religious houses were suppressed under Morazán, in 1830. Both copies were incomplete when we saw them in 1855, and only three volumes existed which did not even agree among themselves. . . the first volume which we had occasion to consult began with the text and the translation of the Quiché manuscript, which is the subject of this book. From there, we copied it for the first time, adding the original."
Scherzer had not been able to see the first volume of Ximénez' Historia in 18 54, and for this reason he did not know the version of the Popol Vuh which appears at the beginning of that work. The text published by him was copied, as has already been explained, from the manuscript of the Historias del origen de los Indios, which is bound together in the same volume with the Arte de las tres lenguas. Scherzer examined this volume in the University library, and in the foreword to the Vienna edition gives a thorough description of the documents which it contains. The same manuscript appeared a. little later in the possession of the Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg, who says in the foreword to Le Livre Sacré that he obtained it in Rabinal, and in Bibliothèque Mexico-Guatémalienne he says that in former times it belonged to Ignacio Coloche, a noble Indian of Rabinal, from whom he got it. It is a little difficult to understand how, between 1854 and 1855, this manuscript could pass from the shelves of the University library of Guatemala City into the hands of the noble Indian of Rabinal, and subsequently to those of Brasseur de Bourbourg.
The wording of the paragraph quoted above from Brasseur de Bourbourg is very confusing; but it is certain that the volume which he says he had occasion to consult in the University library, which begins with the text and the translation of the Quiché manuscript and which he copied "adding the original," was not the first volume of the Historia de la Provincia de San Vicente de Chiapa y Guatemala, for that does not contain the Quiché text. Brasseur de Bourbourg copied the original text and the first translation by Ximénez from the treatise entitled Empiezan las historias del origen de los Indios
de esta provincia de Guatemala, inserted at the end of the Arte de las tres lenguas. The Quiché text and the Spanish version appear on alternate pages in Brasseur de Bourbourg's copy, made up of 124 folios, which is kept in the Bibliothèque Nationale of Paris and which is followed by a second copy of the Arte de las tres lenguas. This proves that the volumes of the Arte and of the Historias de los Indios were still in the library of the University in 1855. Probably the traveling investigator obtained them there with the same ease with which the other manuscripts of his celebrated collection of Americana came into his hands.
Brasseur de Bourbourg did not read the Historia de la Provincia de San Vicente de Chiapa y Guatemala, and he mentions only the few passages which Archbishop García Peláez gives in his work, Memorias para la historia del antiguo reino de Guatemala. The only part of the Historia that appears among the documents in the Bibliothèque Mexico-Guatémalienne (catalog of the Brasseur de Bourbourg collection) is the first thirty-six chapters of the first book copied by Don Juan Gavarrete "in Guatemala, October 23, 1847." This copy, containing fifty-four folios, includes the translation of the Quiché manuscript and the "history of the ancient Quiché Kingdom," which form Chapters 27 to 36 of Book I of the Ximénez Historia.
In regard to the other works of Father Ximénez, Brasseur de Bourbourg, as has already been noted, used the Tesoro of the three languages freely, not only to interpret the documents of the Quiché Indians, but also to compose his Grammaire Quichée, which was printed in Paris in 1862. He likewise used and commented extensively upon the Manuscript of Chichicastenango in his work entitled Histoire des Nations Civilisées du Mexique et de l'Amérique Centrale (1857) and in his Quatre Lettres sur le Mexique (1868).
The publication of the Popol Vuh (1861) and of the other works just mentioned aroused the interest of the scientific world and opened the way for additional works on the mythology and the pre-Columbian history of Guatemala, most important of which are those by Bancroft, Brinton, Charencey, Chavero, Müller, Raynaud, Seler, Spence, and Genêt.
After Brasseur de Bourbourg's death his collection of manuscripts
and printed books was scattered. The largest part was acquired by Alphonse Pinart. Daniel G. Brinton bought the original manuscript of the Memorial de Tecpán-Atitlán, which he published in 1885 under the title, The Annals of the Chakchiquels, and other documents relating to the languages of Guatemala, which after his death passed to the library of the museum of the University of Pennsylvania. Bancroft bought another part of the collection which is now in the library of manuscripts which bears his name at the University of California in Berkeley. When Pinart's collection was put on sale in 1884, the largest part of it remained in France at the Bibliothèque Nationale. Another part was acquired by Count H. de Charencey, and upon the death of this distinguished Americanist his widow presented his collection to the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.
The German translator of the Popol Vuh, Noah Elieser Pohorilles, says that Otto Stoll had told him that at various times Pinart had offered him "the original manuscript of the Popol Vuh" for the sum of ten thousand francs. This manuscript, as was said above, was acquired by Edward E. Ayer, together with other documents of Brasseur de Bourbourg's collection, and is now in the Newberry Library in Chicago. Finally, William Gates obtained some documents which had belonged to Brasseur de Bourbourg and included them in his valuable historical and philological collection, composed of original documents and photographic copies of almost all the known existing manuscripts in the libraries previously mentioned.
Don Juan Gavarrete, "the man most sincerely inspired by love for the ancient history of the country," according to the Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg, undertook the arduous task of transcribing the old volumes of the Historia de la Provincia de San Vicente de Chiapa y Guatemala which were in the Convent of Santo Domingo and which, in 1830, were placed in the library of the University. According to Gavarrete's statement in the introduction of the version of the Popol Vuh published in the Guatemalan magazine La Sociedad Económica (1872-73), the first copy of this document, which was taken from Book I of the Historia by Ximénez, was the one which that paleographist "wrote in his hand in the library of the University in 1845." Another transcription "faithfully copied by Don Juan Gavarrete'
in Guatemala, October 23, 1847, was, as has been noted, in the collection of Brasseur de Bourbourg, and in addition to the translation of the Popol Vuh also contained Chapters 27 to 36 of Book I of the Historia de la Provincia with the title Historia del antiguo Reino de Quiché, written by "Father Fray Francisco Ximénez." Brasseur de Bourbourg observes that "this document is a copy taken from the Historia General de Guatemala by Father Ximénez which was in manuscript in the library of the University of that City," and adds that this same copy is the original which Scherzer used for the Vienna edition. Nevertheless, this statement is correct only so far as it concerns Chapters 27 to 35 and the beginning of Chapter 36, which were included by Gavarrete in the Escolios a las Historias de el Origen de los Indios, printed at the end of the Historias in 1857. The text of the Historias, which forms the first part of the Vienna edition, was taken from the Arte de las tres lenguas.
The transcription of Father Ximénez' Historia which Gavarrete made contains six volumes totaling about 2,200 pages in folio, and is preserved in the National Library of Guatemala.
Brasseur de Bourbourg speaks of two and even three copies of the Historia by Ximénez. An article about Francisco Jiménez in the Diccionario Enciclopédico Hispano-Americano states that "in the Provincial Library of Cordoba in Spain, there must be another incomplete copy" of this work. Ramón A. Salazar, who for several years was director of the National Library of Guatemala, says in a work published in 1897 that there are in the library two copies of the Historia by Ximénez; the modern one copied under the direction of Don Juan Gavarrete, and another "old and faded, although legible, with difficulty, which was the one taken from the Convent of Santo Domingo and placed in the library of the University in 1830, at the time of the expulsion of the friars." This copy has now disappeared from the National Library, and it is likely that it is the same one that Walter Lehmann obtained in Guatemala and took to Germany in 1909, and which the Duke of Loubat gave to the Royal Library of Berlin. The Newberry Library has photographic copies of 183 pages of one part of the Berlin manuscript, which is entitled Historia de la Provincia de Predicadores de Chiapa y Guatemala.
Next: 5. The Translations of the Popol Vuh