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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The birth of Egyptology, September 25, 2005
This review is from: Description de l'Egypte: Publiee par les ordres de Napoleon Bonaparte (Klotz) (English, French and German Edition) (Hardcover)
This is almost entirely a book of illustrations, with a few in color. The brief introductory text section is given in French, English and German. Most of the illustrations are not captioned, those that do have captions are only in French. Napoleon's expedition to Egypt at the end of the 18th century was a military and political fiasco. However, it did give birth to Egyptology. 500 civilians accompanied Napoleon's army, among them a group of 167 scholars in various fields. Among the many incredible discoveries made by Napoleon's group was the Valley of the Kings and the Rosetta Stone. This volume presents thousands of drawings made by this group of scholars. About half the book is devoted to detailed drawings of archaeological finds; the other half to "Etat Moderne" -- the Egyptian people, contemporary (about 1799-1800) architecture and scenery, tools, dress, the fishes of the Nile, reptiles, insects, plant life, rocks and minerals, and more. The section on birds is in color. Detailed maps drawn by the expedition members are included as well. This was an incredible achievement, especially when you consider the conditions under which these young people were working -- traversing a country at war under the stifling heat of southern Egypt, always with the sense that time was short. The French troops had been abandoned by Napoleon (who had returned to France), deprived of munitions and decimated by dysentery and epidemics; they were easy prey for the English and Turks. The members of the Commission of Science and Art were told to hand over their work to the English; they stubbornly threatened to burn their work rather than do so. Finally the English allowed the writings through and confiscated the objects, including the Rosetta Stone. In 1802, Napoleon ordered the Imperial Press to begin publication of the cultural and scientific spoils of the Egyptian expedition. 400 copper engravers worked for some twenty years. The original publication comprised ten folio volumes and two anthologies, and contained 837 copper engravings and more than 3000 illustrations in total.
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