The Keys of Egypt: The Obsession to Decipher Egyptian Hieroglyphs Hardcover – 1 Oct 2000
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
‘A fascinating and elegantly written biography of Champollion, doing justice to one of the great stories of academic heroism.’
Simon Singh, Sunday Telegraph
‘A fascinating account of the race to unlock the cryptic language of the pharaohs’
Giles Milton, Daily Mail
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Top Customer Reviews
and have always been able to turn what can be a dry and dusty subject(pun intended), into something which can fascinate and draw the reader in.
The tale of the race to read the ancient hieroglyphics is set in a time period of european-wide revolt. Knowing that the results of his own work could go against his very faith, and the beliefs and work of his friends and colleagues, he Battles against what to you or I would be insurmountable obstacles of the body as well as the mind. This amazing tale takes you through a hostile and primitive egpyt, to the underbelly of Napoleonic France and back again into the elite circles of France's Bourgoisie.
The book has a brilliant narrative style, and never dwells too long on any one subject, but gives you enough to allow you to follow their trains of thought. Simply one of the most gripping, and well-told stories I have ever read. You do not need to know anything about archaeology, or history. You don't even need to be massively interested in either to appreciate what is probably one of the most amazing tales of coincidence, treachery, rivalry,human madness and greed.
I'm now in my third year of studying Egyptology with Exeter University, although it's not one of my study books I still wanted to read it.
This is an in-depth biography of Jean-François Champollion is interwoven with Napoleons fascination of rediscovering the Egyptian history and culture which he wanted to obtain for France, and Champollion's race to crack the code of the hieroglyphs.
By the age of 12 Jean-François Champollion was studying several ancient languages, which in later years help him to decipher the hieroglyphs. Finally after his 20 years of obsessive hard work he became the first to crack the code.
Reading this book will give you a more in-depth look at both his life and work, (it's by far the best I've read on him), which was hampered by politics, poverty and a huge series of health problems.
I found this book interesting, compulsive and enjoyable to read. It's well worth the money and it's one book I will read again. :-)
Why do I say the book is unusual? Well, most books about scholarly discoveries focus on the work itself. While this one certainly contains information about how the hieroglyphs were translated, the main focus is on what it was like to be a French scholar in a high visibility area from the time after the French Revolution through the Restoration. The story is a fascinating one of constant intrigue, danger, poverty, and overwhelming odds overcome. This book would qualify as an exciting novel if written that way.
Jean-Francois Champollion was the key translator who finally succeeded in 1822, 23 years after the Rosetta Stone was discovered. He was the son of an impoverished book seller at 16 when the stone was found. His main competitor was an English physician, Thomas Young, who was to turn out to be an implacable foe who denigrated and challenged Champollion's work.
The work would have gone on much more rapidly, but there was a shortage of materials available to Champollion to work on. He also had the difficult task of getting an education and then earning his living as a teacher, and often had to put off working on the hieroglyphs for long periods of time. When the Restoration came, he and his brother were exiled to the small town they started in.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a deeply detailed look at the life of Champollion and the other scientists and rivals, particularly Young in England, who worked at deciphering the hieroglyphs. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Clare O'Beara
I first read this book when a friend loaned it to me. I enjoyed it so much I had to buy it. I am no expert in Egyptian history or indeed the history of hieroglyphics but this book... Read morePublished on 8 Dec. 2012 by _andy
I was always going to love this book about deciphering hieroglyphics. During my time at university I took a few modules on linguistics, I love Ancient Egypt and I have visited the... Read morePublished on 24 Jan. 2012 by Sam
I saw the book's review by Simon Singh and assumed I'd be getting an Egyptian version of Code Book - but actually there's a lots less about the actual science of decoding of the... Read morePublished on 20 April 2007 by T. R. Allen
This book conveys almost no excitement whatsoever over what should in principle be a most enthralling subject. Read morePublished on 1 Nov. 2005 by W. JAMES
...A must for all Egypt geeks, this book brings to life the frantic race to decipher the Hieroglyphics and all of the obstacles that Champillion had to overcome.Published on 30 July 2002 by The Main Dave