Sacred Texts  Egypt  Index  Previous  Next 

The Rosetta Stone, by E.A.W. Budge, [1893], at

Young and Champollion.Here naturally comes an account of the labours of Young and Champollion, two men who stand out pre-eminently as the true discoverers of the right method of decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphics. As much has been written on the works of these savants, and as some have tried to show that the whole merit of the discovery belongs to Young, and others that it belongs to Champollion, it will not be out of place here to make a plain statement of facts, drawn from the best sources, and to give the opinions of the most eminent Egyptologists on this point; a few details concerning the lives of these remarkable men must, however, be first given.

Dr. Thomas Young was born at Milverton, in Somersetshire, on the 13th of June, 1773. His parents were both members of the Society of Friends. He lived during the first seven years of his life with his maternal grandfather, Mr. Robert Davis, at Minehead, in Somersetshire. At the age of two he could read fluently, and before he was four he had read the Bible through twice. Early life and studies of Young.At the age of six, he learnt by heart in six weeks Goldsmith's Deserted Village. When not quite seven years of age he went to a school, kept by a man called King, at Stapleton near Bristol, where he stayed for a year and a half. In March 1782, when nearly nine years of age, he went to the school of Mr. T. Thompson, at Compton, in Dorsetshire, where he remained four years. Here he read Phaedrus's Fables, Cornelius Nepos, Virgil, Horace expurgated by Knox, the whole of Beza's Greek and Latin Testament, the First Seven Books of the Iliad, Martin's Natural Philosophy, etc., etc. Before leaving this school he had got through six chapters of the Hebrew Bible. About this time he learnt to use the lathe, and he made a telescope and a microscope, and the Italian, Persian, Syriac, and Chaldee languages all occupied his attention. Young's oriental studies.From 1787 to 1792 he was private tutor to Hudson Gurney, at Youngsbury, in Hertfordshire,

p. 128

where he seems to have devoted himself to the study of English, French, Italian, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Chaldee, Syriac, Samaritan, Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Ethiopic, as well as to that of natural Philosophy, Botany, and Entomology. 1 Young's medical studies.In 1792 Young began to study Medicine and Anatomy in London, and in 1793 he entered St. Bartholomew's Hospital as a pupil. In 1803 he read a paper before the Royal Society, and was elected a Fellow the following year (balloted for and elected, June 19). Shortly after he attended medical lectures in Edinburgh and Göttingen, and he subsequently went to Cambridge, where he took the degree of Bachelor of Medicine (1803), and afterwards that of Doctor of Physic (1808). In 1798 Young received a splendid bequest from his uncle Dr. Brocklesby, consisting of his house in Norfolk Street, Park Lane, his library, his prints, his pictures, and about £10,000 in money; hence he was free to form his own scheme of life. Discovers undulatory theory of light.In May, 1801, he discovered the undulatory theory of light, and his paper on this subject was read before the Royal Society in the November following; in the same year he accepted the office of Professor of Natural Philosophy at the Royal Institution. In 1802 he was appointed Foreign Secretary of the Royal Society, and on the 14th of June, 1804, he married Eliza, the daughter of J. P. Maxwell, Esq., of Cavendish Square, and of Trippendence, near Farnborough, Kent. The attention of Young was called to Egyptian inscriptions by Sir W. Rouse Boughton, who had found in a mummy case at Thebes a papyrus written in cursive Egyptian characters, and to a notice of this which Young prepared for his friend, he appended a translation of the demotic text of the Rosetta Stone. Young's study of hieroglyphs.As the details of his studies on the Rosetta Stone belong to the history of the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphics, they are given further on (p. 141 ff.), but the reader will understand Young's position better by reading Dean Peacock's chapter on "hieroglyphical researches" printed in his life of Young, pp. 258-344, and Mr. Leitch's notes in the third volume of the collected Works of Dr. Young. In 1816 Young was appointed

p. 129

[paragraph continues] Secretary to a Commission for ascertaining the length of the seconds pendulum, for comparing French and English standards, etc., and in 1818 he was appointed Secretary of the Board of Longitude and Superintendent of the Nautical Almanac. In 1825 he became Medical Referee and Inspector of Calculations to the Palladium Insurance Company. In 1826 he was elected one of the eight foreign Associates of the Academy of Sciences at Paris. In February, 1829, he began to suffer from repeated attacks of asthma, and by the April following he was in a state of great weakness; Young's death.he died on the 10th of May, not having completed his fifty-sixth year. An excellent steel engraving of Young, by R. Ward, from a picture by Sir Thomas Lawrence, PṚȦ., forms the frontispiece to his life by Dean Peacock, which, according to J. J. Champollion-Figeac, "exprime fidèlement la douceur, la grâce, les traits d’une figure toute rayonnante d’intelligence." 1

Jean François Champollion, surnamed le Jeune, the immortal discoverer of a correct system of decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphics, was born at Figeac on December 24, 1790. Champollion's physical and classical studies.His family came originally from Champoléon in the High Alps, where a branch of it still holds property. As a boy he made rapid progress in classical studies, and he devoted himself at the same time to botany and mineralogy; at a very early date however he showed a natural taste for oriental languages, and like Young was, at the age of thirteen, master of a fair knowledge of Hebrew, Syriac and Chaldee. 2 In 1805 his brother J. J. Champollion-Figeac brought him to Paris, and caused him to be admitted to the Cours de l’Ecole des Langues Orientales, and introduced him to Silvestre de Sacy. Soon after his arrival in Paris Champollion turned his attention to the study of the hieroglyphic inscription on the Rosetta Stone, but his powerful friend de Sacy advised the elder brother to warn the younger off a study which ne pouvait donner aucun résultat. In 1812 he was nominated Professor of Ancient History to the faculty of Letters at Grenoble,

p. 130

where he still carried on his oriental studies. Champollion's hieroglyphic and Coptic studies.When he arrived in Paris he found that the old Egyptologists maintained that hieroglyphics were a symbolic language, and seeking to verify this theory, he wasted a year. He made up his mind, however, to work out this question without having regard to the theories of others, and he sketched out a plan for a large work on Egypt in several volumes. The first part of this appeared at Grenoble in 1811, entitled Introduction; it was never sold, for only about thirty copies were printed, but it appeared, without the analytical table of Coptic geographical names, under the title L’Egypte sous les Pharaons, 8vo., 2 vols., 1814. About this time Young, in England, was studying the texts on the Rosetta Stone, and had actually begun to make a translation of the demotic section, making use of the results obtained by de Sacy and Akerblad, to the latter of whom great credit is due for his acuteness and insight. Whatever may be said as to Champollion's ignorance of Young's results, it is quite certain that he must have known of those of Akerblad, and we know (see p. 135) that a printed copy of Young's paper on the Rosetta Stone had been put into Champollion's hands by de Sacy. Champollion acquainted with Young's labours.In a very short time Champollion discovered where his predecessors had broken down, and having already written De l’écriture Hiératique des Anciens Egyptiens, Grenoble, 1821, on September 17, in the following year, he read his Mémoire on the hieroglyphics and exhibited his hieroglyphic Alphabet, with its Greek and Demotic equivalents, before the Académie des Inscriptions. Champollion's paper created a great sensation, and Louis XVIII. wished a statement concerning it laid before him, and M. le Duc de Doudeauville determined that an Egyptian Museum should be formed in the Palace of the Louvre. In the same year Champollion published his Lettre à M. Dacier, relative à l’Alphabet des Hiéroglyphes phonétiques, in which he showed beyond a doubt that his system was the correct one. In a series of Mémoires read at the Institut in April, May and June, 1823, he explained his system more fully, and these he afterwards published together entitled Précis du Système Hiéroglyphique des Anciens Egyptiens, Paris, 2 vols., 1824. A second edition, revised and corrected, appeared in 1828. In

p. 131

[paragraph continues] June, 1824, Champollion arrived in Turin, Champollion's travels. where he devoted himself to the study of papyri. Early in 1825 he arrived in Rome, and thence he went to Naples, where all the museums were opened for him. In 1826 he returned to Paris. In July, 1828, he set out on his long planned voyage to EgyptVisits Egypt., and returned in March, 1830, bringing with him a fine collection of antiquities, and a number of copies of inscriptions which filled about two thousand pages. As soon as he returned to France he set to work to publish the rich results of his travels, but while occupied with this undertaking, death overtook him on the 4th of March, 1832. Louis-Philippe ordered that busts of him, executed at the expense of the civil list, should be placed in the galleries of the palace at Versailles, and in the rooms of the Egyptian Museum of the Louvre; he also ordered that marble for another bust should be given to Champollion-Figeac, and that the carving thereof should be entrusted to the famous sculptor Etex. An etched portrait of Champollion le Jeune will be found in Les Deux Champollion, leur Vie et leurs Œuvres, par Aimé Champollion-Figeac: Grenoble, 1887, p. 52.

In addition to the works of Champollion mentioned above, the following are the most important:—

Champollion's works.Rapport à son Excellence M. le Duc de Doudeauville, sur la Collection Egyptienne à Livourne, Paris, 1826.

Lettres d M. le Duc de Blacas d’Aulps relatives au Musée royal Egyptien de Turin . . . . . (avec Notices chronologiques par Champollion-Figeac): Paris, 1824-26.

Notice sur les papyrus hiératiques et les peintures du cercueil de Pétaménoph (Extr. de Voyage à Meroë par Cailliaud de Nantes), Paris, 1827.

Notice descriptive des Monuments Egyptiens du Musée Charles X, Paris, 1827.

Catalogue de la Collection Egyptienne du Louvre, Paris, 1827.

Catalogue des Papyrus Egyptiens du Musée du Vatican, Rome, 1826.

p. 132

Monuments de l’Egypte et de la Nubie, iv vols., fol., 440 planches. Publié par ordre du Gouvernement, pour faire suite à l’ouvrage de l’Expédition d’Egypte, Paris, 1829-1847.

Lettres écrites pendant son voyage en Egypte, en 1828, 1829, Paris, 1829; 2me édition, Paris, 1833; collection complète. A German translation by E. F. von Gutschmid was published at Quedlinburg, in 1835.

Grammaire Egyptienne, aux Principes généraux de l’écriture sacrée Egyptienne appliqués à la représentation de la langue parlée; . . . Avec des prolégomènes et un portrait de l’éditeur, M. Champollion-Figeac, Paris, 1836-1841.

Dictionnaire Egyptien, en écriture hiéroglyphique, publié d’après les manuscrits autographes . . . par Champollion-Figeac, Paris, 1841.

The results of Dr. Young's studies of the Rosetta Stone were first communicated to the Royal Society of Antiquaries in a letter from Sir W. E. Rouse Boughton, Bart.; the letter was read on the 19th of May, 1814, and was published the following year in Archæologia, Vol. XVIII. pp. 59-72. 1Young's labours on the Rosetta Stone in 1814. The letter was accompanied by a translation of the demotic text on the Rosetta Stone, which was subsequently reprinted anonymously in the Museum Criticum of Cambridge, Pt. VI., 1815, together with the correspondence which took place between Dr. Young and MM. Silvestre de Sacy and Akerblad. In 1802 M. Akerblad, the Swedish President at Rome, published his Lettre sur l’inscription Egyptienne de Rosette, adressée au citoyen Silvestre de Sacy, in which he gave the results of his study of the demotic text of the Rosetta Stone; M. Silvestre de Sacy also had occupied himself in the same way (see his Lettre au citoyen Chaptal, au sujet de l’inscription Egyptienne du monument trouvé d Rosette: Paris, 1802), but neither scholar had made any progress in the decipherment of the hieroglyphic text. In August, 1814, Dr. Young wrote to Silvestre de Sacy, asking him what Mr. Akerblad had been doing, and sayingCorrespondence between Young and de Sacy., "I doubt whether the alphabet which Mr. Akerblad has given us can be of much further utility than in enabling us to decipher the proper names; and sometimes I have

p. 133

even suspected that the letters which he has identified resemble the syllabic sort of characters by which the Chinese express the sounds of foreign languages, and that in their usual acceptation they had different significations: but of this conjecture I cannot at present speak with any great confidence." . . . . .  1 To this M. de Sacy replied: "Je ne vous dissimule pas, Monsieur, que malgré l’espèceDe Sacy's opinions of Akerblad’s works. d’approbation que j’ai donnée au système de M. Akerblad, dans la réponse que je lui ai adressée, il m’est toujours resté des doutes très forts sur la validité de l’alphabet qu’il s’est fait. . . . . Je dois vous ajouter que M. Akerblad n’est pas le seul qui se flatte d’avoir lu le texte Egyptien de l’inscription de Rosette. M. Champollion, qui vient de publier deux volumes sur l’ancienne géographie de l’Egypte, 2 et qui s’est beaucoup occupé de la langue Copte, prétend avoir aussi lu cette inscription. Je mets assurément plus de confiance dans les lumières et la critique de M. Akerblad que dans celles deDe Sacy distrusts Champollion's results. M. Champollion, mais tant qu’ils n’auront publié quelque résultat de leur travail, il est juste de suspendre son jugement." (Leitch, Vol. III. p. 17.) Writing to M. de Sacy in October of the same year, Young says: "I had read Mr. Akerblad’s essay but hastily in the course of the last winter, and I was not disposed to place much confidence in the little that I recollected of it; so that I was able to enter anew upon the investigation, without being materially influenced by what he had published; and though I do not profess to lay claim to perfect originality, or to deny the importance of Mr. Akerblad’s labours, I think myself authorised to consider my own translation as completely independent of his ingenious researches: a circumstance which adds much to the probability of our conjectures where they happen to agree. It is only since I received your obliging letter, that I haveYoung on Akerblad’s labours. again read Mr. Akerblad’s work; and I have found that it agrees almost in every instance with the results of my own

p. 134

investigation respecting the sense attributed to the words which the author has examined. This conformity must be allowed to be more satisfactory than if I had followed, with perfect confidence, the path which Akerblad has traced: I must however, confess that it relates only to a few of the first steps of the investigation; and that the greatest and the most difficult part of the translation still remains unsupported by the authority of any external evidence of this kind." (Leitch, p. 18.) Nearly three weeks after writing the above, Young sent another letter to M. de Sacy, together with a Coptic and demotic alphabet derived partly from Akerblad, and partly from his own researches, and a list of eighty-six demotic words with the words corresponding to them in the Greek version. Of these words, he says: "Three were observed by de Sacy, sixteen by Akerblad, and the remainder by himself." In January, 1815, Akerblad addressed a long letter to Young, together with which he sent a translation of some lines of the Rosetta Stone inscription, and some notes upon it. Regarding his own work he says: "During the ten years which have Akerblad's doubts about his own labours.elapsed since my departure from Paris, I have devoted but a few moments, and those at long intervals, to the monument of Rosetta . . . . . For, in fact, I have always felt that the results of my researches on this monument are deficient in that sort of evidence which carries with it full conviction, and you, Sir, as well as M. de Sacy, appear to be of my opinion in this respect . . . . . I must however give you notice beforehand, that in most cases you will only receive a statement of my doubts and uncertainties, together with a few more plausible conjectures; and I shall be fully satisfied if these last shall appear to deserve your attention and approbation . . . . . If again the inscriptions were engraved in a clear and distinct character like the Greek and Latin inscriptions of a certain antiquity, it would be easy, by the assistance of the proper names of several Greek words which occur in it, some of which I have discovered since the publication of my letter to M. de Sacy, and of many Egyptian words, the sense of which is determined; it would be easy, I say, to form a perfectly correct alphabet of these letters; but here another difficulty occurs; the alphabetical characters which, without doubt, are

p. 135

of very high antiquity in Egypt, must have been in common use for many centuries before the date of the decree; in the course of this time, these letters, as has happened in all other countries, have acquired a very irregular and fanciful form, so as to constitute a kind of running hand." (Leitch, p. 33.) In August, 1815, Young replied to Akerblad’s letter, and discussed the passages where his own translation differed from that of Akerblad.

De Sacy warns Young against Champollion.In July, 1815, de Sacy sent a letter to Young, which contains the following remarkable passages: "Monsieur, outre la traduction Latine de l’inscription Egyptienne que vous m’avez communiquée, j’ai refit postérieurement une autre traduction Anglaise, imprimée, que je n’ai pas en ce moment sous les yeux, l’ayant prêtée d M. Champollion sur la demande que son frère m’en a faite d’après une lettre qu’il m’a dit avoir reçue de vous. . . . . Je pense, Monsieur, que vous êtes plus avancé aujourd’hui et que vous lisez une grande partie, du moins, du texte Egyptien. Si jai un conseil à vous donner, c’est de ne pas trop communiquer vos découvertes d M. Champollion. Il se pourrait faire qu’il prétendît ensuite d la priorité. Il cherche en plusieurs endroits de son ouvrage à faire croire qu’il a découvert beaucoup des mots de l’inscription Egyptienne de Rosette. J’ai bien peur que ce ne soit là que du charlatanisme; j’ajoute même que j’ai de fortes raisons de le penser. . . . . Au surplus, je ne saurais me persuader que si M. Akerblad, Et. Quatremère, ou Champollion avait fait des progrès réels dans la lecture du texte Egyptien, ils ne se fussent pas plus empressés de faire part au public de leur découverte. Ce serait une modestie bien rare, et dont aucun d’eux ne me paraît capable." (Leitch, p. 51.)

In a letter to de Sacy, dated 3rd August, 1815, Young says: "You may, perhaps, think me too sanguine in my expectations of obtaining a knowledge of the hieroglyphical language in general from the inscription of Rosetta only; and I will confess to you that the difficulties are greater than a superficial view of the subject would induce us to suppose. TheYoung on hieroglyphics. number of the radical characters is indeed limited, like that of the keys of the Chinese; but it appears that these characters are by no means universally independent of each

p. 136

other, a combination of two or three of them being often employed to form a single word, and perhaps even to represent a simple idea; and, indeed, this must necessarily happen where we have only about a thousand characters for the expression of a whole language. For the same reason it is impossible that all the characters can be pictures of the things which they represent: some, however, of the symbols on the stone of Rosetta have a manifest relation to the objects denoted by them. For instance, a Priest, a Shrine, a Statue, an Asp, a Mouth, and the Numerals, and a King is denoted by a sort of plant with an insect, which is said to have been a bee; while a much greater number of the characters have no perceptible connexion with the ideas attached to them; although it is probable that a resemblance, either real or metaphorical, may have existed or have been imagined when they were first employed; thus a Libation was originally denoted by a hand holding a jar, with two streams of a liquid issuing from it, but in this inscription the representation has degenerated into a bird's foot. With respect to the epistolographic or enchorial character, it does not seem quite certain that it could be explained even if the hieroglyphics were perfectly understood, for many of the characters neither resemble the corresponding hieroglyphics, nor are capable of being satisfactorily resolved into an alphabet of any kind: in short, the two characters might be supposed to belong to different languages; for they do not seem to agree even in their manner of forming compound from simple terms." (Leitch, pp. 55, 56.) Writing to de Sacy in the following year (5th May, 1816) touching the question of the alphabetic nature of the inscription on the Rosetta Stone, he says: "Si vous lisez la lettre de M. Akerblad, vous conviendrez, je crois, qu’au moins il n’a pas été plus heureux que moi dans ses leçons Coptes del’inscription. Mais le vrai est que la chose est impossible dans l’étendue que vous paraissez encore vouloir lui donner, car assurément l’inscription enchoriale n’est alphabétique que dans un sens très borné . . . . . Je me suis borné dernièrement à l’étude des hiéroglyphes, ou plutôt à la collection d’inscriptions hiéroglyphiques. . . . . . Les caractères que j’ai découverts jettent déjà quelques lumières sur les antiquités de l’Egypte. J’ai

p. 137

Young deciphers the name of Ptolemy.reconnu, par exemple, le nom de Ptolémée dans diverses inscriptions à Philæ, à Esné et à Ombos, ce qui fixe à peu près la date des édifices où ce nom se trouve, et c’est même quelque chose que de pouvoir distinguer dans une inscription quelconque les caractères qui expriment les noms des personnages auxquels elle a rapport." (Leitch, p. 60.)

On 10th November, 1814, Champollion sent to the President of the Royal Society a copy of his L’Egypte sous les Pharaons, and in the letter which accompanied it said, "La base de mon travail est la lecture de l’inscription en caractères Egyptiens, qui est l’un des plus beaux ornemens du riche Musée Britannique; je veux parler du monument trouvé à Rosette. Les efforts que j’ai faits pour y réussir n’ont point été, s’il m’est permis de le dire, sans quelques succès; et les résultats que je crois avoir obtenus après uneYoung and Champollion correspond. étude constante et suivie, m’en font espérer de plus grands encore." (Leitch, p. 63.) He asked also that a collation of the Rosetta Stone with the copy of it which he possessed might be made, and suggested that a cast of it should be presented to each of the principal libraries, and to the most celebrated Academies of Europe. As Foreign Secretary of the Royal Society, Young replied saying that the needful collation should be made, and adding, "Je ne sais si par hasard M. de Sacy, avec qui vous êtes sans doute en correspondance, vous aura parlé d’un exemplaire que je lui ai adressé de ma traduction conjecturale avec l’explication des dernières lignes des caractères hiéroglyphiques. Je lui avais déjà envoyé la traduction de l’inscription Egyptienne au commencement du mois d’Octobre passé; l’interprétation des hiéroglyphiques ne m’est réussie qu’à la fin du même mois." (Leitch, p. 64.) In reply to this Champollion wrote, "M. Silvestre de Sacy, mon ancien professeur, ne m’a point donné connaissance de votre mémoire sur la partie Egyptienne et le texte hiéroglyphique de l’inscription de Rosette: c’est vous dire, Monsieur, avec quel empressement je recevraiChampollion acquainted with Young's work in 1815. l’exemplaire que vous avez la bonté de m’offrir." We have seen above from the extract from a letter of de Sacy that a copy of Young's work was lent to Champollion between May 9 and July 20, 1815.

p. 138

On August 2, 1816, Young addressed a letter 1 to the Archduke John of Austria, in which he reported further progress in his hieroglyphic studies, thus: "I have already ascertained, as I have mentioned in one of my letters to M. de Sacy, that the enchorial inscription of Rosetta contained a number of individual characters resembling the corresponding hieroglyphics, and I was not disposed to place any great reliance on the alphabetical interpretation of any considerable part of the inscription. I have now fully demonstrated the hieroglyphical origin of the running hand, 2 in which the manuscripts on papyrus, found with the mummies . . . . . ." (Leitch, p. 74) The principal contents of Young's letters, however, incorporated with other matter, were made into a more extensive article, which was contributed to the Supplement of the Encyclopædia Britannica, Young's work published.Supplement, Vol. IV. He made drawings of the plates, which were engraved by Mr. Turrell, and having procured separate copies, he sent them to some of his friends in the summer of 1818, with a cover on which was printed the title, "Hieroglyphical Vocabulary." These plates, however, were precisely the same that were afterwards contained in the fourth volume of the Supplement, as belonging to the article EGYPT. The characters explained in this vocabulary amounted to about two hundred; the number which had been immediately obtained from the stone of Rosetta having been somewhat more than doubled by means of a careful examination of other monuments. . . . . . The higher numerals were readily obtained by a comparison of some inscriptions in which they stood combined with units and with tens. 3 Young's article in the Encyclopædia Britannica obtained great celebrity in Europe; and was reprinted by

p. 139

[paragraph continues] Leitch in the third volume of the Works of Dr. Young, pp. 86-197; it contains eight sections:—


Introductory view of the latest publications relating to Egypt.








Customs and Ceremonies.


Analysis of the Triple Inscription.


Rudiments of a Hieroglyphical Vocabulary.


Various Monuments of the Egyptians.

[paragraph continues] This article is of very great importance in the history ofValue of Young's article in Encyclopædia Britannica. the decipherment of the hieroglyphics, and had Young taken the trouble of having it printed as a separate publication, there would have been less doubt in the minds of scholars as to the good work which he did, and results borrowed from it by Champollion would have been more easily identified. 1

It has already been said (p. 130) that Champollion published at Paris in 1814 the two first parts of a work entitledChampollion on them geography of Egypt. L’Egypte sous les Pharaons, ou recherches sur la Géographie, la Religion, la Langue, les Ecritures et l’Histoire de l’Egypte avant l’Invasion de Cambyse; these parts treated simply of the geography of Egypt. In a note to the Preface he tells us that the general plan of the work, together with the introduction of the geographical section and the general map of Egypt under the Pharaohs, was laid before the Société des Sciences et des Arts de Grenoble, 1st September, 1807, and that the printing began on the 1st September, 1810. On p. 22 of his Introduction, referring to the Rosetta Stone, he says: "Ce monument intéressant est un décret des prêtres de l’Egypte, qui décerne de grands honneurs au jeune roi

p. 140

[paragraph continues] Ptolémée Epiphane. Ce décret est écrit en hiéroglyphes, en langue et en écriture alphabétique Egyptiennes, et en Grec." Now by the words "en langue et en écriture alphabétique Egyptiennes" we are clearly to understand that part of the Rosetta inscription which is written in demotic. Having referred to the studies of de Sacy and Akerblad, and spoken of the words in demotic which the latter scholar had rightly compared with their equivalents in Coptic, "que nous y avons lus ensuite," Champollion adds in a foot-note, "Ce n’est pas ici le lieu de rendre compte du résultat de l’étude suivie que nous avons faite du texte Egyptien de l’Inscription de Rosette, et de l’alphabet que nous avons adopté. Champollion's hieroglyphical studies in 1810.Nous nous occuperons de cet important sujet dans la suite de cet ouvrage. En attendant, nous prions le lecteur de regarder comme exacts les résultats que nous lui présentons ici." From this it is clear that as early as 1810 Champollion claimed to have made progress in the decipherment of the demotic text (texte Egyptien) of the Rosetta Stone, and it is now time to ask how much he was indebted to Akerblad’s letter for ideas and results. A comparison of Plate II. at the end of Akerblad’s Lettre sur l’Inscription Egyptienne de Rosette, with Plate IV. in Champollion's Lettre à M. Dacier relative à l’Alphabet des Hiéroglyphes Phonétiques, will show that sixteen of the characters of the alphabet printed by Akerblad in 1802 were retained by Champollion in 1822; also, if Akerblad’s alphabet be compared with the "Supposed Enchorial Alphabet" printed at the foot of Plate IV. Akerblad attributes correct values to fourteen Demotic characters.accompanying Young's article EGYPT, printed in 1818 and published in 1819, it will be found that fourteen of the characters are identical in both alphabets. Thus it seems that a greater degree of credit is due to Akerblad than has usually been awarded to him either by Young 1

p. 141

or Champollion, 1 or, indeed, by writers on Egyptology generally. 2

Having seen what foundations Young and Champollion had for their own works on the demotic text to rest on, we may return to the consideration of Young's hieroglyphical studies. On the four plates which appeared with his article EGYPT, he correctly identified the names of a few of the gods, Rd, Nut, Thoth, Osiris, Isis, and Nephthys, and he made out the meanings of several Egyptian ideographs. His identifications of kings' names were, however, most unfortunate. Thus of Amenḥetep, he made Tithons; of Thi (a queen), Eoa; of Usertsen, Heron; of Psammetichus, Sesostris; of Nectanebus, Proteus; of Seti, Psammis; of Rameses II., Amasis; of Autocrator, Arsinoe, etc., etc. He correctly identified the names of Ptolemy and Berenice, although in each case he attributed wrong values to some of the hieroglyphic characters which formed these names. The hieroglyphic alphabet given by Young was as follows 3:—

Young's hieroglyphic alphabet. Young's hieroglyphic alphabet

p. 142

Young's hieroglyphic alphabet (continued)

In 1822 Champollion published his famous Lettre à M. Dacier relative d l’alphabet des Hiéroglyphes Phonétiques, in which he stated his discovery of the Egyptian hieroglyphic alphabet in the following words: "Vous avez sans doute remarqué, Monsieur, dans mon Mémoire sur l’écriture démotique Egyptienne, que ces noms étrangers étaient exprimés phonétiquement au moyen de signes plutôt syllabiques qu’alphabétiques. La valeur de chaque caractère est reconnue et invariablement fixée par la comparaison de ces divers noms; et de tous ces rapprochements est résulté l’alphabet, ou plutôt Champollion's system.le syllabaire démotique figuré sur ma planche I., colonne deuxième. L’emploi de ces caractères phonétiques une fois constaté dans l’écriture démotique, je devais naturellement en conclure que puisque les signes de cette écriture populaire étaient, ainsi que je l’ai exposé, empruntés de l’écriture hiératique ou sacerdotale, et puisque encore les signes de cette écriture hiératique ne sont, comme on l’a reconnu par mes divers mémoires, qu’une représentation abrégée, une véritable tachygraphie des hiérographes, cette troisième espèce d’écriture, l’hiéroglyphique pure, devait avoir aussi un certain nombre de ses signes doués de la faculté d’exprimer les sons; en un mot, qu’il existait également une série d’hiéroglyphes phonétiques. Pour s’assurer de la vérité de cet aperçu, pour reconnaître l’existence et discerner même la valeur de quelques-uns des signes de cette espèce, il aurait suffi d’avoir sous les yeux, écrits en hiéroglyphes purs, deux noms de rois grecs préalablement connus, et contenant plusieurs lettres employées à la fois dans l’un et dans l’autre, tels que Ptolémée et Cléopâtre, Alexandre et Bérénice, etc." (p. 5). Throughout this work there

p. 143

appears to be no mention whatever of Young's identification of any letters of the hieroglyphic alphabet, although on p. 2 Champollion says: "A l’égard de l’écriture démotique en particulier, il a suffi de la précieuse inscription de Rosette pour en reconnaître l’ensemble; la critique est redevable d’abordChampollion admits value of Akerblad’s and Young's labours. aux lumières de votre illustre confrère, M. Silvestre de Sacy, et successivement à celles de feu Akerblad et de M. le docteur Young, des premières notions exactes qu’on a tirées de ce monument, et c’est de cette même inscription que j’ai déduit la série des signes démotiques qui, prenant une valeur syllabico-alphabétique, exprimaient dans les textes idéographiques les noms propres des personnages étrangers à l’Egypte." That Champollion should not have known of Young's article EGYPT is a thing not to be understood, especially as advance copies were sent to Paris and elsewhere as early as 1818.

From the facts given above we are enabled to draw up the following statement as to the amount of work done in the decipherment of the Egyptian language by the early workers in this field.

Statement of results of labours of Zoëga, Akerblad, Young and Champollion.Barthélemy 1 and Zoëga 2 had come to the conclusion long before the labours of Akerblad, Young, and Champollion, that the cartouches contained proper names. Akerblad drew up an alphabet of the demotic character, in which fourteen signs appear to have had correct values attributed to them. Young published a demotic alphabet in which the greater number of Akerblad’s results were absorbed; he fixed the correct values to six hieroglyphic characters, and to three others partly correct values; he identified the names of Ptolemy and Alexander, the numerals and several gods' names. Champollion published a demotic alphabet, the greater part of which he owed, without question, to Akerblad, and a hieroglyphic alphabet of which six characters had had correct values assigned to them by Young, and the

p. 144

values of three others had been correctly stated as far as the consonants were concerned. There is no doubt whatever that Champollion's plan of work was eminently scientific, and his great knowledge of Coptic enabled him to complete the admirable work of decipherment, which his natural talent had induced him to undertake. The value of his contributions to the science of Egyptology it would be difficult to overestimate, and the amount of work which he did in his comparatively short life is little less than marvellous. It is, however, to be regretted that Champollion did not state more clearly what Young had done, for a full acknowledgment of this would have in no way injured or lessened his own immortal fame. 1


128:1 For the list of books read by him at this time, see the Life of Thomas Young, by G. Peacock, London, 1855 pp. 14-17.

129:1 Lettre au Directeur de la Revue Britannique au sujet des Recherches du Docteur Young, Paris, 1857, p. II.

129:2 On the subject of Champollion's studies, at Grenoble, see Chroniques Dauphinoises, par A. Champollion-Figeac, t. III. pp. 553,156,157-238.

132:1 Letter to the Rev. S. Weston respecting some Egyptian Antiquities. With 4 copper plates. London, 1814.

133:1 For these letters I am indebted to the third volume of the Miscellaneous Works of the late Thomas Young, MḌ., FṚṢ., &c., ed. John Leitch, London, 1855.

133:2 L’Egypte sous les Pharaons, ou recherches sur la Géographie, la Religion, la Langue, les Ecritures, et l’Histoire de l’Egypte, Paris, 1814.

138:1 This letter was printed in 1816, and circulated in London, Paris, and elsewhere; it did not appear in the Museum Criticum until 1821.

138:2 "Que ce second système (l’Hiératique) n’est qu’une simple modification du système Hiéroglyphique, et n’en diffère uniquement que par la forme des signes." Champollion, De l’Ecriture Hiératique des Anciens Egyptiens: Grenoble, 1821. We should have expected some reference by Champollion to Young's discovery quoted above.

138:3 Young. An Account of some recent discoveries in Hieroglyphical Literature, p. 17.

139:1 Ich halte mich daher verpflichtet, alles auf unsern Gegenstand bezügliche dem Leser nachträglich genau mitzutheilen und zwar mit einer um so grössem Gewissenhaftigkeit, je höher durch dessen Kenntniss die Achtung gegen den trefflichen Forscher steigen wird, der besonders in der Erklärung der symbolischen Hieroglyphen so Manches zuerst aussprach, was man ohne den Artikel der Encyclopaedie gelesen zu haben, meistens als das Eigenthum Champollion's zu betrachten gewohnt ist. Schwartze, Das Alte Aegypten, p. 446.

140:1 Mr. Akerblad was far from having completed his examination of the whole enchorial inscription, apparently from the want of some collateral encouragement or co-operation to induce him to continue so laborious an inquiry; and he had made little or no effort to understand the first inscription of the pillar which is professedly engraved in the sacred character, except the detached observation respecting the numerals at the end; he was even disposed to acquiesce in the correctness of Mr. Palin's interpretation, which proceeds on the supposition that parts of the first lines of the hieroglyphics are still remaining on the stone, Young, An Account, p. 10.

141:1 "Feu Akerblad essaya d’étendre ses lectures hors des noms propres grecs, et il échoua complètement." Champollion, Précis, 1 éd., p. 14.

141:2 See Schwartze, Das Alte Aegypten, pp. 160, 162.

141:3 No. 205, which is omitted here, is really two demotic characters the values of which are BA and R: to these Young gave the value BERE, and so far he was right, but he failed to see that what he considered to be one sign was, in reality, two. In Nos. 253 and 214 his consonants were right but his vowels were wrong. We are thus able to see that out of a total of fourteen signs, he assigned correct values to six, partly correct values to three, and wholly wrong values to five. Champollion-Figeac in his Lettre au Directeur de la Revue Britannique au sujet des Recherches du Docteur Young sur les Hiéroglyphes Egyptiens, p. 5, gives Young no credit whatever for the three partly correct values assigned to hieroglyphic characters by him.

143:1 Caylus, Recueil d’Antiquités Egyptiennes, Etrusques, etc., Tom. V. p. 79.

143:2 In De Origine et Usu Obeliscorum, p. 465. Conspiciuntur autem passim in Aegyptiis monumentis schemata quaedam ovata sive elliptica planae basi insidentia, quae emphatica ratione includunt certa notarum syntagmata, sive ad propria personarum nomina exprimenda, sive ad sacratiores formulas designandas.

144:1 We have seen above that Champollion did know of Young's work, yet in his Précis du Système Hiéroglyphique, p. 18, he says that he had arrived at results similar to those obtained by Dr. Young, without having any knowledge of his opinion.

Next: How Champollion deciphered the Egyptian Alphabet