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Cracking the Egyptian Code: The Revolutionary Life of Jean-Francois Champollion

Cracking the Egyptian Code: The Revolutionary Life of Jean-Francois Champollion [Kindle Edition]

Andrew Robinson
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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This is a spirited account of a fascinating subject: the birth of Egyptology. --John Ray, author of The Rosetta Stone and the Rebirth of Ancient Egypt

At last, a definitive biography of Champollion in English! ... A memorable, enjoyable and beautifully written historical detective story. --Brian Fagan, author of The Rape of the Nile and Floods, Famines and Emperors

An entertaining, highly readable and authoritative biography of the greatest decipherer of all time, the man who almost single-handedly enabled us to read the hitherto mysterious Egyptian hieroglyphs. --Michael D. Coe, author of Breaking the Maya Code

Andrew Robinson ... here shines his lamp of Diogenes on the Frenchman who broke the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic code, illuminating anew Jean-Francois Champollion's fascinating life as well as his prodigiously fertile work. --Paul Cartledge, author of Alexander the Great and Ancient Greece: A History in Eleven Cities

Highly readable ... a thorough, comprehensive account of the father of Egyptology and a very enjoyable read ... handsome and well recommended. --Scottish Pharaonic

Robinson's biography is a most welcome and long-overdue study in English of an enigmatic and still controversial genius. His splendidly produced and absorbing book should be in every Egyptologist's library. --Peter Clayton, Egyptian Archaeology: The Bulletin of the Egypt Exploration Society

Robinson's trademark approach insightful presentation of the context of research, understanding of the individual through archival investigation, and clear explanation of the script that is being deciphered Is immediately apparent in Cracking the Egyptian code. --Antiquity

Fills a yawning gap in Britain, providing a definitive modern history. --History Today

An important book ... Robinson has drawn on a substantial literature but the real work in here is admirably his own --The Independent

Very readable ... especially good at placing the politically radical Champollion in the historical context of post-revolutionary France --Eastern Daily Press

A feast ... [Champollion's story] is brought out by Robinson with verve, elegance and perception. --The Financial Times

Product Description

In 1799 Napoleon's army uncovered an ancient stele in the Nile delta. Its inscription, recorded in three distinct scripts--ancient Greek, Coptic, and hieroglyphic--would provide scholars with the first clues to unlocking the secrets of Egyptian hieroglyphs, a language lost for nearly two millennia. More than twenty years later a remarkably gifted Frenchman named Jean-Francois Champollion successfully deciphered the hieroglyphs on the stele, now commonly known as the Rosetta Stone, sparking a revolution in our knowledge of ancient Egypt.

Cracking the Egyptian Code is the first biography in English of Champollion, widely regarded as the founder of Egyptology. Andrew Robinson meticulously reconstructs how Champollion cracked the code of the hieroglyphic script, describing how Champollion started with Egyptian obelisks in Rome and papyri in European collections, sailed the Nile for a year, studied the tombs in the Valley of the Kings (a name he first coined), and carefully compared the three scripts on the Rosetta Stone to penetrate the mystery of the hieroglyphic text. Robinson also brings to life the rivalry between Champollion and the English scientist Thomas Young, who claimed credit for launching the decipherment, which Champollion hotly denied. There is much more to Champollion's life than the Rosetta Stone and Robinson gives equal weight to the many roles he played in his tragically brief life, from a teenage professor in Revolutionary France to a supporter of Napoleon (whom he met), an exile, and a curator at the Louvre.
Extensively illustrated in color and black-and-white pictures, Cracking the Egyptian Code will appeal to a wide readership interested in Egypt, decipherment and code-breaking, and Napoleon and the French Revolution.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2418 KB
  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (1 May 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S. r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008L3SOLA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #452,954 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Andrew Robinson has written twenty-five books in a wide range of subjects: science and the history of science; ancient scripts, writing systems and archaeological decipherment; and Indian history and culture. They include six biographies: of the physicist Albert Einstein and the polymath Thomas Young; of the decipherers Jean-Francois Champollion (Egyptian hieroglyphs) and Michael Ventris (Minoan Linear B); and of the writer Rabindranath Tagore and the film director Satyajit Ray. His next book is India: A Short History. See

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars clearly written account 10 Nov 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A slight quibble is that some passages (in my opinion) would be better left in the Original French. The book is well researched.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.5 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An English biography of Champollion, for amateurs and professionals 7 July 2012
By Tiffany - Published on
Egyptophiles casual and professional need look no further than Andrew Robinson's 2012 work for a critical biography of Jean-Francois Champollion. Indeed, if "Cracking the Egyptian Code" is to be believed, there *is* no other biography of Champollion available in English. Fortunately, Robinson's latest book is well written, intelligent, and scholarly without ponderous pages of academic footnotes. The title is a bit of a misnomer, since Robinson examines Champollion's entire life, from his upbringing in post-Revolution provincial France, through his academic and personal struggles in Grenoble and Paris (Fourier! Napoleon! Various kings!) as well as his sojourn in Egypt, up until Champollion's untimely death at the age of 40. Robinson provides a historical perspective on the "race" between Champollion and the polymath Thomas Young, and he does an admirable job of separating historical fact from interpretation - critical, since Champollion failed to annotate the process by which he determined his hieroglyphic system. "Cracking the Egyptian Code" contains nearly 100 drawing and photographs of people, places, and objects; personally, I would have preferred to see more Egyptian artifacts and fewer paintings of dead French nobles. The book's final chapter, "The Hieroglyphs After Champollion," gives a quick peek into the complexity of the currently accepted hieroglyphic system without taxing the reader's remaining stamina. Overall, Robinson allows his genuine admiration of Champollion's "self-confidence, his fanaticism for a single cause, his courage, his sense of humor, and his joie de vivre" to buoy the reader without resorting to mindless hagiography. "Cracking the Egyptian Code" will doubtless become mandatory reading for English-oriented students of Egyptology, particularly for armchair archaeologists.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Say yes to hieroglyphics and Champollion 11 Aug 2012
By see above - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
What an engrossing story--and so interestingly told! The author follows the mystery of hieroglyphics from its beginning in Egypt through its relatively early descent into historical oblivion in Roman times and on into the brave but fruitless attempts of medieval, Renaissance, and Enlightenment scholars to unravel their meaning. Enter Champollion whose brilliant deductions and linking of the symbols to the ancient Coptic script and language finally opened the door through which other scholars rushed to complete the job after his untimely death. For lovers of biography, history and code breaking, this book will hold the reader's attention--no, won't allow him/her to even put it down. The superb illustrations also add to the enjoyment and comprehension of both the story and the puzzle's solution. Get it!
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History 28 Jan 2013
By Linda Hutchins - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Interesting subject told through the life of a lesser known person. Beautiful book. I you like history, you will love this.
1 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Doesnt work for me, very disapointed 7 Sep 2012
By gg4016 - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I study egyptology so the topic of this book interests me a lot.
It look like there is a problem with this book. Doesn't have table of contents, neither content. I am waiting for a replacement from amazon of the contents of the book.
Very disapointed.
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