Lot 52
  • 52

CHAMPOLLION, [Jean-François]

20,000 - 25,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Lettre à M. Dacier... Relative a l'Alphabet des Hiéroglyphes Phonétiques Employés par les Épyptiens pour Inscrire sur leurs Monuments les Titres, les Noms et les Surnoms des Souverains Grecs et Romains.  Paris: Chez Firmin Didot, Père et Fils, 1822.
8vo (239 x 157 mm). Complete with half-title and 4 folding lithographic plates after Champollion. Original printed wrappers; uncut. Wrappers a bit soiled, spine repaired with
Japanese tissue tape; interior foxed.


Blackmer 306; Brunet III, De Ricci "Essai de bibliographie de Champollion le jeune" 23; En français dans le texte 234; Richard Parkinson, Cracking Codes; The Rosetta Stone and Decipherment. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999; Muriel Mirak Weissbach, "Jean François Champollion and the True Story of Egypt". In: 21st Century Science & Technology Winter 1999-2000.

Catalogue Note

FIRST EDITION OF CHAMPOLLION'S DESCRIPTION OF HOW HE UNLOCKED THE SECRET OF THE EGYPTIAN HIEROGLYPHS. Based on a study of the Rosetta Stone, Champollion assigned phonetic values to twelve hieroglyphs, and tentatively associated the phonetic sounds of 17 Greek letters to 40 others. His work unlocked three and a half millennia of human history during one of its most glorious phases, and Champollion is now considered the founder of the scientific study of Egyptology. While others have theorized that the hieroglyphs may have phonetic values, Champollion was the first to be able to prove it. His first breakthrough came when he was able to decipher the names Thutmos and Ramses written in hieroglyphs in temple cartouches. Champollion, unlike others before him, took a decidedly scientific approach in his attempts. "He attacked the questions of whether the system were symbolical, ideogrammatic, or phonetical, with a crucial hypothesis, formulated in December 1821. Returning to the Rosetta Stone, Champollion posited this hypothesis: If the signs are ideographs, and each sign represents a thing, an action or an idea, then there must be as many signed in the hieroglyphic text, since that portion was incomplete, only a portion of the text being extant. Instead, he counted 1,419. This meant that there was no way that each hieroglyph could be an ideograph." (Weissbach)