Charles Etienne Brasseur De Bourbourg

Birth: 1814


Charles Etienne Brasseur De Bourbourg (1814?–?1874) was a Belgian ethnographer and famous historian of Mesoamerica. He was born at Bourbourg, near Dunkirk, on the 8th of September 1814. He entered the Roman Catholic priesthood, was professor of ecclesiastical history in the Quebec seminary in 1845, vicar-general at Boston in 1846, and from 1848 to 1863 travelled as a missionary, chiefly in Mexico and Central America.

He gave great attention to Mexican antiquities, published in 1857?–?1859 a history of Aztec civilization, and from 1861 to 1864 edited a collection of documents in the indigenous languages. In 1863 he announced the discovery of a key to Mexican hieroglyphic writing, but its value is very questionable. In 1864 he was archaeologist to the French military expedition in Mexico, and his Monuments anciens du Mexique was published by the French Government in 1866.

Perhaps his greatest service was the publication in 1861 of a French translation of the Popol Vuh, a sacred book of the Quiche Indians, together with a Quiche grammar, and an essay on Central American mythology. In 1871 he brought out his Bibliotheque Mexico-Guatemalienne, and in 1869?–?1870 gave the principles of his decipherment of Indian picture-writing in his Manuscrit Troano, etudes sur le systeme graphique et la langue des Mayas. He died at Nice on the 8th of January 1874. His chief merit is his diligent collection of materials; his interpretations are generally fanciful.


1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 4. pg 434-435.

Books & Publications

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