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
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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.; 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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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.

Contraportada:

When Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798, his troops and scientists were astonished to find ancient temples, tombs and statues, all covered with hieroglyphs – the last remnants of a language lost in time. The discovery of the Rosetta Stone raised hopes that the mystery of hieroglyphs began in earnest: fame and fortune awaited the scholar who succeeded.

In rural France Jean-Francois Champollion, the brilliant son of an impoverished bookseller, was obsessed with unravelling the origins of mankind. At that time, the most reliable evidence for the creation of the world was believed to be on the Bible, and he began to learn languages in order to study the original Old Testament texts, but when he realised it might be possible to read equally old ancient Egyptian texts, he found the challenge to which he would dedicate his life: the decipherment of hieroglyphs.

Suffering from the hardships of poverty, but supported by his older brother, Champollion gradually made significant progress despite the opposition of jealous rivals and vicious political enemies. In the precarious situation in France after the Revolution, an unguarded word could mean ruin, exile or even death, and Champollion's strong political beliefs often led him into grave danger. Failure also threatened, as his closest competitor, the English physician Thomas Young, claimed success was imminent. Steadfast, Champollion made the decisive breakthrough in 1822. 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 ancient Egyptian in modern times.

'The Keys of Egypt' is the exciting true story of the scramble to decipher hieroglyphs, and the rediscovery of the Nile Valley after it had been closed to Europeans for nearly 1,500 years.

’A taut story of 19th-century scholarly research by husband-and-wife archaeologists, with lashes of intrigue and scandal thrown in for good measure' 'Kirkus Reviews'

'A ripping tale of obsession and rivalry'
Simon Singh, 'Sunday Telegraph'

'A first-rate blend of high scholarship and great narrative pace, this is one of those rare wondrous books which turns an intellectual adventure into
high drama. It deserves a huge audience'
Douglas Kennedy, 'The Times'

'Champollion's story has long deserved to be told, and the husband-and-wife authors of The Keys of Egypt have told it extremely well'
Giles Milton, 'Daily Mail'

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