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Comment: Copyright 1981, 3rd revised edition, 4th paperback printing 1994, softcover, 366+ pages. Messages to previous owner on the title page. All text pages are clean.
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History Begins at Sumer: Thirty-Nine Firsts in Recorded History Paperback – April 1, 1988

ISBN-13: 978-0812212761 ISBN-10: 0812212762 Edition: 3rd

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History Begins at Sumer: Thirty-Nine Firsts in Recorded History + The Sumerians: Their History, Culture, and Character (Phoenix Books) + Sumerian Mythology
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press; 3rd edition (April 1, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812212762
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812212761
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,125 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Kramer ranked among the world's foremost Sumerologists. . . . The book will interest both the scholar and the general educated reader."—Religious Studies Bulletin



"[Kramer] possesses the enviable ability to speak authoritatively in a lively and captivating style."—Choice

About the Author

Samuel Noah Kramer was Clark Research Professor Emeritus of Assyriology at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was also Curator Emeritus of the Tablet Collections.

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Customer Reviews

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It has a lot of the same information and is much easier to read.
SELDAB
Unfortunately, even though this is called the Third Revised Edition, it is not clear in what way this book has been updated.
Dave_42
If you're into ancient history, this book should be on your "Top 10" list.
Burak Eldem

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

169 of 182 people found the following review helpful By tepi on June 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
Although I've been known to grumble at Kramer's dullness, the present book, far from being dull, ought to be of real interest to many. Professor Samuel Noah Kramer was the world's leading Sumerologist, but in this book he seems to have risen above the dry academic persona we find in some of his other books and allowed his love and enthusiasm for things Sumerian to show.

Basically the book sets out to explain and describe, using extensive quotations from Sumerian Literature, what Kramer took to be thirty-nine civilizational firsts of the Sumerians. Many new archaeological discoveries have been made since the 3rd revised edition of 'History Begins at Sumer' was published in 1981, and current thinking seems to be leaning towards the view that, far from beginning in Sumer, civilization first arose further East in India.

But whether it first began in Sumer or in India, since the Indus script hasn't yet been deciphered, and the Indians didn't write on imperishable clay tablets anyway, we have as yet no thirty-nine Vedic Indian firsts, and perhaps should give Kramer the benefit of the doubt and enjoy his splendid book.

After a brief Introduction, the thirty-nine firsts follow. Mutterings have been heard about the 'pop' overtones of the term 'firsts,' but it seems to me an interesting way of treating Sumer's history, and the book, in my opinion, is far more successful at capturing and holding one's attention than Kramer's later and more conventional study, 'The Sumerians.'

Most of the chapters are centered on a Sumerian text, some quite brief and others fairly long, which Kramer envelopes with his full and interesting commentary.
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58 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Dave_42 on November 25, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When this book was first published in 1956, it undoubtedly was one of the best books on the subject. Unfortunately, even though this is called the Third Revised Edition, it is not clear in what way this book has been updated. It contains the preface to the first edition, but no new preface or introduction is added for the third edition.

It does include a "Corrigenda and Addenda to the Second Edition" after the main body of texts, but the question is: Why weren't these addenda included in the text instead of put outside of the main text, and where are the addenda for the third edition? To make matters worse, the second edition addenda information uses page numbers that do not align with the third edition publication.

There is still a lot of valuable information in this book, but it is important for the buyer to be aware of what they are actually getting when they purchase it.
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Burak Eldem on May 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
We owe much of our knowledge on Ancient Sumerian civilization to Mr Samuel Kramer. As one of the specialists on Sumerian cuneiform and written culture, he traced the clay tablets of Ancient Mesopotamia in various places and brought together the parts of puzzles that belonged to very early Sumerian myths. In this legendary work, Mr Kramer presents us the "39 firsts" of history, including "The First Farmers Almanac", "The First Law Codes", "The First Noah", "The First Resurrection" and so on. The book does not follow a chronological order but presents the achievements of the Ancient Sumerians in an "item-by-item" basis. You not only learn the historical basics on Ancient Mesopotamia in various chapters of this brilliant work, but have fun by reading the fascinating original Sumerian myths, including "Inanna's voyage to the land of the dead". If you're into ancient history, this book should be on your "Top 10" list. If you need further reading from Mr Kramer, "Sumerian Mythology" may well follow the suit.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By J A W on July 8, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is essentially a summary of various cultural achievements of the Sumerians, listed as "39 firsts" in human history. It is not a chronological history of Sumer, so this book is more of a supplement to one's studies in ancient near east. The book covers little known aspects of Sumerian culture, like education ("1st Apple polishing"), sex ("1st Sexual Symbolism") and possibly even pets ("1st Animal Fables", "1st Aquarium"), as well as the facets that are well known--Gilgamesh, Utnaptishtim, Sargon, ect. The key theme that arises from this book is how civilized the ancients were--these were not clueless barbarians roaming the Mesopotamian plains, they were not idiots, but thoughtful people who tried to make sense out of their (oftentimes chaotic) lot in life. A good companion to the library of any ancient-history-ophile.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Ray Farmer on September 15, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is a collection of essays written by Samuel Noah Kramer regarding various cultural "firsts" in Western history as discovered on Sumerian cuneiform tablets. Kramer's experience and prolific career as a Sumerologist lend credence to the observations and interpretations that he puts forth here. Essay topics range from anecdotal illustrations of the first recorded lullaby and the first written description of an aquarium to more profound subjects such as the first cosmology and the first heroic age.

I particularly enjoyed Kramer's comparative discussion of the three "Heroic Age" cultures (Greek, Indian, Germanic) and the suggestions that this raises regarding the origin of the first Heroic Age in Sumer. Also interesting are his interpretations of literary imagery in Sumerian poetry, as well as his treatment of the extensive parallels that exist between the Sumerian literary tradition and the Bible.

All in all, "History Begins at Sumer" provides a well-rounded perspective of Sumerian spirituality and culture. However, since this book is really a collection of independent, stand-alone essays, the reader may find it difficult at times to extract a unified impression of what the author was trying to express.
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