The Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel

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Author: Roys, Ralph Loveland (1879-1965) from the library of George M Foster

Year: 1933

Publisher: Carnegie Institution of Washington

Place: Washington, DC


vii+229 pages with figures, plates, fold out map, bibliography and index. Quarto (11 1/2" x 9") issued in wrappers with black lettering to spine and cover. From the library of George M Foster. Carnegie Institution of Washington Publication number 438. 1st edition.

The Mayan Chilam Balam books are the eponymous 'town books' of small Yucatec towns. Usually these consist of disparate texts in which Mayan and Spanish traditions have coalesced. The Yucatec Mayas ascribed these to a chilam 'oracular priest' called Balam 'Jaguar'. Some of the texts contain prophetic texts which Spanish translators have interpreted as referring to the arrival of the Spaniards in Yucatan. Many of the existing books contain references to the Chilam Balam. Both indigenous and foreign scholars occasionally refer to all the disparate texts found within a particular manuscript as 'books of Chilam Balam'.There are nine Books of Chilam Balam. Those of Chumayel, Tizimin, and Tusik (the last one being the only one remaining in Maya hands) are historical and prophetic works, covering both pre-Spanish and colonial events. The Books of Chilam Balam of Kaua, Chan Kan, Nah, Tekax, Mani and Ixil are largely concerned with astronomy, astrology, and herbal medicine.The books were transcribed in the Yucatec Maya language (in a modified Spanish alphabet), during the 18th and 19th centuries, although many of the texts date to the time of the Spanish invasion.The medical texts are quite practical, the historical and astrological texts belong to esoteric lore. At various places in these texts, important bits of information about early mythology crop up.The historical texts, called 'chronicles', are cast in the framework of the Maya calendar (although with confused insertions on the European calendar) and contain useful data on the ancient calendar, its caretakers, its uses and its cycles, including the k'in, tun and k'atun.The often allusive, metaphorical nature and the archaic Yucatec idiom of the Chilam Balam texts offers a formidable challenge to translators. The quality of existing translations varies greatly, and is sometimes heavily influenced by external assumptions about the texts' nature.

George McClelland Foster, Jr born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on October 9, 1913, died on May 18, 2006, at his home in the hills above the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, where he served as a professor from 1953 to his retirement in 1979, when he became professor emeritus. His contributions to anthropological theory and practice still challenge us; in more than 300 publications, his writings encompass a wide diversity of topics, including acculturation, long-term fieldwork, peasant economies, pottery making, public health, social structure, symbolic systems, technological change, theories of illness and wellness, humoral medicine in Latin America, and worldview. The quantity, quality, and long-term value of his scholarly work led to his election to the National Academy of Sciences in 1976. Virtually all of his major publications have been reprinted and/or translated. Provenance from the executor of Foster's library laid in.


Foster's stamp to title, light edge wear else a very good to fine copy.


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