Charles Étienne Brasseur de Bourbourg

Charles Étienne Brasseur de Bourbourg (1814 – 1874) was born September 1814 in Bourbourg, France. After his ordination in 1845, Brasseur was recruited by Abbé Léon Gingras to serve in Québec. While his superiors insisted on additional studies in ecclesiastical history, Brasseur instead delved into the archdiocesan archives there at Québec and “published” his Esquisse biographique sur Mgr. de Laval, premier Evêque de Québec. Brasseur then left for Boston where he had previously formed a good relationship with Bishop John Bernard Fitzpatrick. Brasseur returned to France in late 1846 or early 1847. He joined an expedition to Mexico where he resided from 1848 to 1851.

In 1852 Brasseur published Histoire du Canada de son église et de ses missions depuis la découverte de l’Amérique jusqu’à nos jours. This work, however, was met with significant controversy and Brasseur was lambasted for an affected, careless style punctuated with a looseness and inattention to factual detail. The Canadian backlash eventually prompted Brasseur‘s bishop to withdraw his imprimatur, albeit somewhat ambiguously.

Brasseur next traveled to Guatemala in February 1855 where he resided in and around the capital city, in Rabinal, and in San Juan Sacatepéquez until his departure in January 1857. Several months later, Brasseur published the first volume of his Histoire des nations civilisées du Mexique et de l’Amérique-Centrale. In 1861, Brasseur published Popol vuh. Le livre sacré et les mythes de l’antiquité américaine. This was the first of his series loosely titled “Collection de documents dans les langues indigènes, pour servir à l’étude de l’histoire et de la philologie de l’Amérique ancienne.” The second volume came out in 1862 titled Grammaire de la langue Quichée Espagnole-Française mise en parallèle avec ses deux dialectes, Cakchiquel et Tzutuhil, tirée des manuscrits des meilleurs auteurs guatémaliens. Although these three works deal directly with Popol Vuh content, Brasseur is very evasive about his source material.

In 1872 Brasseur printed a Bibliothèque Mexico-Guatémalienne précédée d’un coup d’œil sur les études Américaines. In this work Brasseur contradicts his prior statements concerning his Popol Vuh source material. Brasseur died in Nice, France in 1874.