The Mayan Written Word: History, Controversy, and Library Connections

By Jessica Bower.

Published by The International Journal of Books, Publishing, and Libraries

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: June 23, 2016 $US5.00

The ancient Mayans were an extensively literate culture, yet there are few Mayan books, or codices, that have survived into the modern era. What has endured is the writing found on Mayan temples and tombs and in a handful of remaining Mayan codices. This article is a history of specific Mayan codices: the Paris Codex, the Madrid Codex, and the Dresden Codex, including a discussion of the controversial Grolier Codex and its rediscovery. Included in this article is an overview of the ancient Maya, describing their culture and history, a background on the Mayan language and writing system, and a short history of Mayan book and papermaking. The microhistory of the Mayan texts lends to a discussion of the significance and value of historical documents in libraries, and the usefulness of facsimile reproductions in libraries and research institute collections. This article also includes a discussion of how libraries have contributed to the history and preservation of the Mayan codices.

Keywords: The Book, Libraries, Special Collections

The International Journal of the Book, Volume 14, Issue 3, September 2016, pp.15-25. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: June 23, 2016 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 570.324KB)).

Jessica Bower

Assistant Librarian, Leatherby Libraries, Chapman University, Orange, California, USA