The Keys of Egypt: The Race to Read the Hieroglyphs

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9780002570916: The Keys of Egypt: The Race to Read the Hieroglyphs

Fine cloth copy in a very good, slightly edge-nicked and dust-dulled dw, now mylar-sleeved. Slight yellowing to the page margins. Remains particularly and surprisingly well-preserved overall; tight, bright, clean and strong. Provenance: From the library of L. P. Coomer with his bookplate to front pastedown. Minor library marks remain.; 8vo 8" - 9" tall; 335 pages; Physical description: 335p. , [16]p. Of plates ; 22cm. Summary: When Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798, his troops were astonished to discover ancient temples, tombs and statues, all covered with hieroglyphs - the last remnants of an unreadable script and a language lost in time. On their return, Egyptomania spread rapidly and the quest to decipher hieroglyphs began in earnest: fame and fortune awaited the scholar who succeeded. Jean-Francois Champollion, the brilliant son of an impoverished bookseller, was obsessed with ancient languages from a very young age, and once he heard of the unreadable ancient Egyptian text he had found the challenge to which he would dedicate his life: the decipherment of hieroglyphs. Desite his poverty, Champollion made gradual progress, although he had to fight against jealous enemies, both professional and political, every step of the way - a dangerous task, when, in post-Revolutionary France, a slip of the tongue could mean ruin, exile or even death. Failure threatened, as he was only one of many attempting to read the hieroglyphs, and his main rival, the English Thomas Young, claimed that decipherment was imminent. But Champollion refused to be distracted, and finally in 1822, he made the decisive breakthrough. Even then he was forced to defend his reputation against attack from his critics, his success was complete: he was the first person able to read the ancient Egyptian language in well over a 1000 years. Subjects: Champollion, Jean-Francois, 1790-1832 - Egyptologists - France - Biography. Egyptian language - Writing, Hieroglyphic - Ancient Egypt - Antiquities.

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Product Description:

The exciting story of the scramble to decipher hieroglyphs, set against the background of Europe in the Napoleonic era and its aftermath, and the rediscovery of the Nile Valley after it had been closed to Europeans for nearly 2,000 years.

When Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798, his troops were astonished to discover ancient temples, tombs and statues, all covered with hieroglyphs – the last remnants of an unreadable script and a language lost in time. On their return Egyptomania spread rapidly and the quest to decipher hieroglyphs began in earnest: fame and fortune awaited the scholar who succeeded.

Jean-Francois Champollion, the brilliant son of an impoverished bookseller, was obsessed with ancient languages from a very young age, and once he heard of the unreadable ancient Egyptian text he had found the challenge to which he would dedicate his life: the decipherment of hieroglyphs.

Desite his poverty Champollion made gradual progress, although he had to fight against jealous enemies, both professional and political, every step of the way – a dangerous task when in post-Revolutionary France a slip of the tongue could mean ruin, exile or even death.

Failure threatened, as he was only one of many attempting to read the hieroglyphs, and his main rival, the English Thomas Young, claimed that decipherment was imminent, but Champollion refused to be distracted and finally, in 1822, he made the decisive breakthrough. Even then he was forced to defend his reputation against attack from his critics, but his success was complete: he was the first person able to read the ancient Egyptian language in well over a thousand years.

This is a passionate tale of intellectual discovery and outstanding individual achievement.

Review:

Jean-François Champollion's biography is neatly interwoven with Napoleonic history and the functions of Egyptian hieroglyphs in The Keys of Egypt. A gifted bookseller's son born in Revolutionary France, Champollion was to become "gripped by energetic enthusiasm" for Egypt. By the age of 12, he was studying several ancient languages and amid a "wave of Egyptomania", he would beat rivals to discover the key to deciphering hieroglyphs. If this was a race, it was a marathon. The breakthrough came after "20 years of obsessive hard work", not through the quick fix solution often thought to have been provided by the Rosetta Stone. The Keys of Egypt details Champollion's life and work, which was hampered by politics, poverty and an almost hypochondriacal series of health problems. Its sources include letters and journals, the authors having undertaken researches in major libraries and museums. Chapters on Champollion's travels in Italy and Egypt include a good smattering of excerpts from his writings. Although no bibliography is given, there is a helpful passage on various levels of further reading. Highly instructive and fast-paced, The Keys of Egypt is perhaps less dramatic than it might be in portraying troubled times and ground-breaking discovery. It is, however, a clearly expressed and wide-ranging book explaining the complexity of hieroglyphic interpretation and revealing the man whose achievements "meant the discovery of a whole new civilization". -- Karen Tiley

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Lesley and Roy Adkins
Published by HarperCollinsPublishers (2000)
ISBN 10: 0002570912 ISBN 13: 9780002570916
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Book Description HarperCollinsPublishers, 2000. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0002570912

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