Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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BRASSEUR DE BOURBOURG, Charles Etienne, French explorer, born in Bourbourg, 8 September, 1814; died in Nice, in January, 1874. He studied for the priesthood at Ghent, was ordained at Rome in 1845, and became professor of ecclesiastical history in the seminary at Quebec. In 1846 he was appointed vicar-general at Boston. From 1848 till 1863 he was engaged in explorations in the United States, and in Mexico and Central America. A part of the time he acted as chaplain to the French Legation in Mexico, and for a time devoted himself to teaching the Indians in Guatemala. In 1864 he returned to Mexico as archaeologist to the French scientific expedition. During his self-sacrificing labors as a missionary among the Central American races he studied for years their various dialects, and applied his mind to the problem of the ancient Aztec hieroglyphics. In November, 1863, he wrote a letter from Spain to M. de Quatrefages, published in the "Bulletin" of the French geographical society for March, 1864, announcing his discovery, in the archives of Madrid, of the alphabets of the inscriptions on the Aztec monuments of Central America. These alphabets, which are phonetic, enabled him, with the aid of the "Codex Mexicanus" and documents contained in the Dresden library, to decipher several words. His discovery of a key to the picture writing is still a matter of doubt, although no one has acquired a sufficient acquaintance with the Indian languages to test it critically. In 1857-'9 he published an account of Aztec civilization under the title of "Histoire des nations civilisees du Mexique et de l'Amerique Centrale avant Christophe Colomb." His philological researches into Central American languages are contained in "Collection de documents dans les langues indigenes pour servir a l'etude de l'histoire et de la philologie de l'Amerique ancienne" (4 vols., 1861-'8). In the third volume, which relates to Yucatan, is an inquiry as to whether there are sources of the primitive history of Mexico in the Egyptian monuments, and of the primitive history of the Old World in the American monuments. His illustrated "Monuments anciens du Mexique" was published in 1864-'6 under the auspices of the French government. He has also published "Histoire du Canada, de son eglise," etc. (1852), and two novels, "La derniere vestale" (1839) and "Le khalife de Bagdad" (1853). His later works include "Voyage sur l'isthme de Tehuantepec" (1860): "Manuscrit Troano, etude sur le systeme graphique et la langue des Indiens Mayas" (2 vols., 1869-'70); and "Bibliotheque Mexico-Guatemalienne" (1871).
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