7 DECEMBER 1901, Page 54


Books on Egypt and Chaldaea :—Vol. V., Assyrian Language: Easy Lessons in the Cuneiform Inscriptions, by L. W. King. Vols. VI.-VIII., The Book of the Dead, by E. A. Wallis Budge. (Kegan Paul, Trench, and Co. 3s. 6d. net each.)—How Grote- fend or Hincks would have stared if they had seen a neat little volume of a couple of hundred pages containing "cuneiform made easy" for the rudimentary student ! The complicated inscriptions in a character which the world had completely for- gotten for nearly two thousand years are now within the reach of any interpreter who will take the trouble to master a brief primer. Of course Mr. King's admirable little book will not make an Assyrian scholar of the student, but it will put him on the right road in the simplest and easiest manner, and he will have nothing to unlearn when he goes on to more elaborate details. Mr. King has had much experience in writing guides to the cuneiform character, and his selection of signs with their syllabic and ideographic values, as well as his treatment of the outlines of Assyrian grammar, seem to us excellent. The practice of always giving the transliteration in Roman letters is much to be commended, and everything is done to render the Student's progress as easy and sure as possible. In a couple of brief but clear chapters the nature and material of the "wedge- writing" are explained and the history of early cuneiform de. cipherment outlined. It might perhaps have been well if a short account of the excavations which have added so vastly to the Assy- rian library in recent years had been added. At the end are some well-chosen texts from historical documents for the student to try his hand on, with transliterations, translations, grammatical notes, and a full glossary. The little book is a model of concise and clear arrangement. The three succeeding volumes in the useful series of "Books on Egypt and Chaldaea," by which Messrs. Kogan Paul are earning the gratitude of many beginners in ancient literature, comprise Dr. Bud,ge's translation of The Book of the Dead. The version originally appeared a few years ago as the third volume of his elaborate edition of what is known as the Theban recension of the famous Egyptian classic, and it was a singularly happy idea to reprint it in the present con- venient and accessible form. As no one papyrus contained all the chapters, the translation is taken from several different manuscripts, each, of course, duly specified, but the famous Ani papyrus in the British Museum, previously edited and repro- duced in facsimile by Dr. Budge, supplies the greater part of the work, and a few chapters of the later Salts recension are included. The book is more than a mere reprint, however, for the translation has been carefully revised, and a large number of brief explanatory notes are added which will make this. obscure and complicated collection of ma;.i ill formulas and prayers a little less incomprehensible to the student. In the introduction the influence of Professor Petrie's recent discoveries of the "New Race " or races of prehistoric Egypt is seen in the 'speculations upon the origin of the Book of • the Dead. Dr. Budge, without Committing himself to a Libyan name, is convinced that these recent discoveries show an aboriginal North-East African race invaded by a bronze-working race which he believes came from Asia. In the Book of the Dead he finds references to the pre- historic methods of burial, as discovered in the graves of the New Race," and he countenances the view that the later religious systems and methods of embalming were brought by a Semitic race who mingled with the original people, abolished the mutilation and burning of the dead, and introduced brick and stone tombs, in which they deposited the chapters of the Book of the Dead in their earliest form. There is no trace of any such work, or of the religious views it implies, in any of the pre- historic graves, but the Book of the Dead was certainly in existence before the First Dynasty of the historic lists ; and before the date of the Theban recension certain portions of it had become as obscure to the scribes of 1600 B.C. as they are to us now. "There are numerous passages which seem to contain allusions to pre-dynastic [i.e., before Dienes] funeral customs, and many of the chapters refer to natural conditions of the country which can only have obtained during the period that preceded the advent of the immigrants from the East. It is clear that those who introduced the Book of the Dead into Egypt claimed to be able to protect the dead body from calamities of every kind, either by means of magical names, or words, or ceremonies, and that the indigenous peoples of the country accepted their professions and adopted many of their funeral customs, together with the beliefs which had produced them. They never succeeded wholly in inducing them to give up many of their crude notions and fantastic beliefs and imageries, and more and more we see in all ages the ideas and notions of the semi-barbarous North-African element in the Book of the Dead contending for recognition with the superior and highly moral and spiritual beliefs which it owed to the presence of the Asiatic element in Egypt. The chapters of the Book of the Dead are a mirror in which are reflected most of the beliefs of the various races which went to build up the Egyptian of history, and to this fact is due the difficulty of framing a connected and logical account of what the Egyptians believed at any given period of their history." This very quality, however, greatly increases the interest of this most curious, ancient, and perplexing collection; and every one will be grateful to the untiring industry of Dr. Budge and his assistants for thus bringing the oldest religious literature in existence within the reach, if not the comprehension, of all readers. Some hundreds of vignettes from the papyri, well reproduced in black and white, add considerably to the interest of these handy and well-edited volumes, which are also furnished with a full and most necessary index.