Collecting Masterpieces
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European Masterpieces
CHAMPOLLION : EGYPTIAN GRAMMAR

 

Object :
Nº 1427
Medium :
Multiple
Dimensions :
FORMAT: 23 cm (9’’) x 34.3 cm (13.3’’)
Bibliography :
Published in “Collecting Masterpieces” Part One, by Beryl Cavallini on pages 116 - 117

First original edition from 1836 accompanied by rare handwritten letter signed by J.-F. Champollion and sent to Mr Nestor Lhôte concerning his return to France on the ship L’ Astrolabe, by a fragment of an original letter (unsigned) from Nestor Lhôte who was Champollion's traveling companion during his journey in Egypt and by an original letter from Auguste Mariette dated 1877. Mariette was the founder of the Museum of Cairo. Plus a handwritten page by J.-F. Champollion titled "Sacred Sculptures of Horus translated from the Egyptian into Greek by Philippe / I – How do the Egyptians represent eternity." The complex printing of this fundamental work required five years of work. The printer Firmin Didot encountered many difficulties in printing hieroglyphics for the first time. Work consisting of a foreword, an introduction and thirteen chapters. ORIGIN: J.-F. Champollion began the writing of the Egyptian Grammar in 1830, after his two-year journey in Egypt. But because of his untimely death on March 4th, 1832 at the age of forty two, this monumental work, which he called "my business card for eternity", was the result of a posthumous publication by his brother, Jacques-Joseph Champollion Figeac.  

This splendid original edition from 1836/1841 is the “Egyptian grammar, or general principles of the Egyptian writing applied to the representation of the spoken language.” This book by Jean François Champollion is of the greatest importance as it was the first to allow Egyptian hieroglyphics to be deciphered systematically. J. F. Champollion started writing it in 1830, after a two-year long trip to Egypt. By studying a mediocre stamped copy of the famous Rosetta Stone, engraved in 196 BC, today found at the British Museum, Champollion was able to decipher the hieroglyphs. Indeed, since this black basalt stele bears a trilingual inscription in hieroglyphics, Demotic, and Greek, he was able to compare the three scripts. However, it was only once he’d understood from counting the words that the hieroglyphic system not only included ideograms, but also phonetic signs, that he was able to read this language. In fact it had been forgotten for fifteen centuries, since Christian Catholic emperor Theodosius ordered the closing of the temples in Egypt. Although he was passionate about ancient history from the age of 17, Champollion was first treated as a charlatan before being recognised by King Louis Philippe and the scholars as a genius. He had learned how to read his mother’s missal at only five years old, and it was a priest, to whom he had been entrusted on account of his difficult character, who introduced him to Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Chaldean. While a pupil of the Collège de France and the Ecole Spéciale des Langues Orientales, he learned Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic, the Syriac language, Ethiopian, Sanskrit, Persian, Chinese, and Coptic, developing a particular passion for the latter. After two years spent studying the Egyptian collection of the Museum of Turin, he was named Curator of the Egyptian Museum at the Louvre in 1826. This allowed him to acquire the Luxor Obelisk, and the excellent collection of the British Consul in Egypt, Henry Salt. After his great voyage in Egypt in 1828, he dedicated himself to reading and translating the texts that would compose his book “Monuments of Egypt and Nubia”. This voyage remains the first to have systematically indexed treasures of Ancient Egypt. The father of Egyptology was only 42 years old when he died of an apoplectic attack while reading the first drafts of the definitive publication which would be posthumous. This book obliged the printer to do a huge amount of preparatory work over several years, as each hieroglyph had to be sculpted and cast for the first time by an editor. The book is completed by various handwritten letters of great importance is an absolute rarity.