The Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel

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Author: Roys, Ralph Loveland (1879-1965)

Year: 1967

Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press

Place: Norman


xvi+229 pages with figures, plates, fold out map, bibliography and index. Quarto (11 1/2" x 8 3/4") issued in beige cloth with black label and black and silver lettering to spine. Originally published as Carnegie Institution of Washington Publication number 438 (1933). Volume 87 in The Civilization of American Indian Series.

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.


Previous owner's book plate on front paste down. Jacket chipped at spine head edge wear with some closed tears and small chips else a very good copy in like jacket.

SOLD 2016

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