While skimming through Alfred Maudslay’s memoir, A Glimpse at Guatemala (1899), I came across this interesting paragraph (p. 255) from his chapter devoted to “The Hieroglyphic Inscriptions,” where he briefly characterizes the nature of the script:
An attempt was . . . made by Landa to construct an alphabet and to give a short example of phonetic writing; but in this he was not successful, for whatever phonetic value the glyphs may possess was probably of a syllabic and not of an alphabetic character, and Landa’s alphabet has proved to be to students almost as great a puzzle as the hieroglyphics themselves (emphasis added).
Maudslay’s passing statement about the “syllabic . . .character” of Maya writing was never followed up directly, of course. His lost insight reminds me of Charles Bowditch’s reasoned statements about the historical nature of inscriptions at Piedras Negras, published just a few years after Maudslay’s book and which anticipated Proskouriakoff’s work by more than five decades. Oddly, neither idea took root in those very early days of Maya glyph research.