The authors are chiefly concerned with Young’s and Champollion’s approaches to the hieroglyphic riddle. Rarely have I seen the false starts and blind alleys, firm beliefs and 180-degree recalibrations, exhilaration and loneliness of pioneering thought captured so well. On the other hand, not every reader will match Champollion’s stamina or persevere through the book’s densest thickets ... its achievement is no less admirable. For nearly 500 pages we are invited to inhabit the minds of two of history’s finest linguists.
Combining exhaustive excavation of British and French archives with eclectic biographical elements, this valuable new book explains, so far as the surviving evidence allows, the twists and turns behind the perpetually fascinating decipherment. Although aimed primarily at scholars of this subject, the book will surely intrigue any reader attracted to the ethos of the Enlightenment.
[A] comprehensive account ... Readers will find some grounding in linguistics to be helpful, as the authors discuss phonetics, phonemics, morphemics, and other technical matters ... Knowledgeable fans of Egyptology, cryptography, and languages will enjoy this exploration of the ancient past.