REFLECTING ON THE 2015 CILIP CONFERENCE
Written by Martin Mullin, Head of UK Acquisitions. CILIP is the Chartered […]
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In rural France, Jean-Francois Champollion, the brilliant son of an impoverished bookseller, was obsessed with breaking the code of the ancient Egyptians texts. At sixteen years of age he decided that he would dedicate his life to the decipherment of hieroglyphs.
Suffering from hardships of poverty, but with devoted support from his older brother, Champollion made slow but significant progress in decipherment. After the Revolution, however, France was a dangerous place; an unguarded word could mean ruin, exile, or even death. Always possessed of strong political beliefs, Champollion often found himself in grave personnel danger. Yet he continued to strive for the key to the ancient texts, and he persevered despite ill health and the knowledge that he was at the mercy of vicious political enemies. Even more troubling to him was the threat of failure-his closest competitor, the English physician Thomas Young, also working to solve the puzzle of the hieroglyphs, and he was rapidly gaining ground. In 1812, Champollion made the decisive breakthrough, beating Young to the prize and becoming the first person to be able to read the ancient Egyptian language in well over athousand years.
"The Keys of Egypt is the fascinating true story of the race to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs and of the rediscovery of the world of ancient Egypt- a world that had been closed to the West for centuries.
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