The best known and most complete manuscript of the Popul Vuh is in the Quiché Maya language. After the Spanish conquest of Guatemala, the usage of Maya script was forbidden and Latin alphabet was taught instead. However, some Maya priests and clerks clandestinely made copies of older heiroglyphic books, but using Latin letters. One of these was discovered about 1702 by a priest named Francisco Ximénez in the Guatemalan town of Chichicastenango, and rather than burning it Father Ximénez made a copy of it, and added a translation into Spanish. This copy found its way the to a neglected corner of the University of San Carlos library in Guatemala City, where it was discovered by Etienne Brasseur de Bourbourg and Carl Scherzer in 1854. They published French and Spanish translations a few years later, the first of many translations that have kept the Popul Vuh in print ever since.
After the mythological sections, this manuscript continues with details of the foundation and history of the Quiché Kingdom in Guatemala; tying in the royal family with the legendary gods in order to assert rule by divine right.
The text of the Ximénez manuscript contains what some scholars believe are mistakes based on exact transliteration of an earlier hieroglyphic text, a proof that the Popol Vuh is based on a copy of a much earlier text. However,their were clearly additions and modifications to the text in Spanish Colonial times, most notably the Spanish governors of Guatemala are mentioned as the successors of earlier Maya rulers.
The manuscript is now in the Newberry Library in Chicago.
Pre-Columbian Maya funeral pottery often contains sections of text from the Popul Vuh in hieroglyphs, and illustrations of scenes from the legends. Some stories from the Popul Vuh continued to be told by modern Maya as folk legends; some stories recorded by anthropologists in the 20th century may preserve portions of the ancient tales in greater detail than the Ximénez manuscript.