The Keys Of Egypt Paperback – Nov 15 2001
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"Lesley and Roy Adkins have written a classic." -- The Mail on Sunday (London)
"Of wide interest to students of ancient history and cryptology and to anyone who enjoys a bookish detective story." -- Kirkus Reviews
"The Keys of Egypt is a worthy tribute to the man who named--and unlocked--the Valley of the Kings." -- Daily Mail (London)
"The authors have done great service to Champollion. Their biography is graphic, gripping and a great read." -- Birmingham Post
...a dramatic scientific quest... -- Publishers Weekly
A ripping tale of obsession and rivalry. -- The Sunday Telegraph (London)
A riveting account of the race to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs. -- New Scientist
Champollion's achievement...is laid out lucidly in this thrilling account by husband-and-wife historians Lesley and Roy Adkins. -- Michael Browning, Palm Beach Post
Top Customer Reviews
The text is detailed and very well written. It dispells common mistakes and misunderstandings about the discovery, such as the too often repeated myth that the Rossetta Stone was the main text used by Champollion. It also deals with the necessary historical background, including Napoleon expedition to Egypt, in an appropriate way.
The reviewer before me takes ombrage at the fact that the book focuses on Champollion instead of Young. Paradoxically, such emphasis is precisely one of the central ideas of the book. Young and other scholars were nowhere close to figure that the Egyptian language could be at the same time phonetic and ideographic. Their systems of cracking the language were at best poor and at worst totally fictional. We owe the discovery of the meaning of hieroglyphs to the genious of Champollion. Moreover, such achievement took place despite his having to endure poverty and difficulties of all kinds, including the pettiness and jealousy of Young and others.
The book goes on to examine Napoleon's expedition to Egypt which both brought the Rosetta Stone to light and started a period of French and European fascination with ancient Egypt. These were the two catalysts for the riddle's eventual solution.
This is a well-written book that looks at the struggle and race for translation and the political and academic machinations (often both combined) that surrounded Champollion. It is essentially a biography of Champollion, who grew up and worked amid the turmoil of the Napoleonic era. The story is a compelling one and the authors have done well to make it at times fascinating, though it does lack some technical detail of exactly how Champollion attacked the problem.
As a genre I find that 'scientific biographies' tend to be a little overblown and flowery, the writing not quite precise -- and Keys suffers from these shortcomings. I also felt that while the book is subtitled "The Race to Crack the Hieroglyph Code" it really only focuses on Champollion, while he is the eventual winner a little more effort in examining the others involved in the effort would have improved the book.
There were some flaws in the book. The first chapter seemed largely irrelevant, and made the book hard to get into initially. Throughout, the authors kept adding little andecdotes and asides that, while colourful, were often a diversion from the point of the book. But my strongest criticism is that I did not feel the book actually told me how Champollion deciphered hieroglyphics and came to be able to translate the ancient Egyptian language. Exactly how did he go from being able to identify rulers' names to reading and understanding the language itself?
So read this book for insight into a really interesting period of history and for illumination of the appealing character of Champollion himself. Read the Adkins' book on learning hieroglyphs for more of an insight into the hieroglyphs themselves.
Very readable, academically sound (imho) and beautifully written.
What I found most appealing about the book, was the main character the authors focused on; Mr. Champillion. I found his persona absolutely amazing...not only was he a born genius in linguistics (having mastered numerous languages at a very young age), but he was "driven" to say the least, in conquering this elusive ancient langauge which he believed would unlock history's secrets and reveal mysteries that until then, were very unknown to men...
As one reads the book, you can't help but feel sorry for Mr. Champillion...at times, it seems he is never going to succeed due to the overwhelming odds he had to conquer in his lifetime. He faced down life-long poverty, numerous political regimes who were against him, not to mention the countless critics who tried to downplay his achievements. On top of that, he suffered from ill-health from day one and was often wracked with pain on an ongoing basis. However, whatever the difficulties, he was able to conquer them and succeed in bestowing one of the greatest gifts ever given to the world at that time and in the present.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the author's use of historic content, particulary that of which was associated with Napolean and his drive to conquer Egypt and it's secrets.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
The reviewer below has really summed up this book well, but it's worth reinforcing those views. This book is full of color, action, excitement, sadness, and lots of information... Read morePublished on Jan. 4 2004
I read this book in one long sitting which speaks to how fluid the writing and how absorbing the material is. Read morePublished on Dec 31 2002 by M. H. Bayliss
This is wonderfully informative and entertaining book. While being a very good biography of Mr. Champollion, it also brings vividly to life a whole era of French history from... Read morePublished on Jan. 14 2002 by Claus Hetting
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