Thursday, June 21, 2012

Book Review: Cracking the Egyptian Code

Wall Street Journal 

Cracking the Egyptian Code, By Andrew Robinson. Oxford.

On Sept. 14, 1822, as legend tells the tale, Jean-François Champollion burst into his brother's Paris office at the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres, flung a bundle of drawings upon the desk and cried, "Je tiens mon affaire!" ("I've done it!"). Champollion promptly fainted before he could utter news of the great intellectual feat for which he is still celebrated: the decipherment of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. The story of the young, frail, hotheaded scholar and his volatile time, full of upheavals political and scientific, is a remarkable tale, wonderfully told in Andrew Robinson's "Cracking the Egyptian Code: The Revolutionary Life of Jean-François Champollion."

The founding father of Egyptology started young and lived a relatively short life. Born in 1790 in southwest France, Champollion became fascinated by Oriental history and languages not long after he was sent to school in Grenoble at age 10, having exhausted local teachers.

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