Sunday, October 03, 2010

Book Review: Edward William Lane

Al Ahram Weekly (Jill Kamil)

Jason Thompson's Edward William Lane, "is no mere biography", he explains. "It is a collective biography, in the sense that it is about the clusters of people around Lane. He was a central figure, a planner. They tended to share sources and observations, giving in order to get. But Lane was not like that at all. He was a taker not a giver. Moreover, he was extremely authoritative".

Research can be endlessly seducing. It is certainly so for historian Jason Thompson. Even before his biography on Sir Alan Gardner Wilkinson and His Circle (published by AUC Press in 1992) had reached page-proof stage, the focus of his interest had already honed in on Edward William Lane, a member of the same circle whose fascinating and multi- faceted Description of Egypt had never been published. This massive work, which combines history, geography, city life, village communities, and antiquities between Alexandria and the Second Cataract, was rescued by Thompson from certain oblivion when he located files of unpublished material in the Griffiths Institute. Realising its value and aware that the material was known to only a handful of scholars, he decided to undertake to edit the material and provide an appropriate introduction.

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