Paris: Firmin Didot Fréres, 1836 [-1841]. First Edition. Wrappers. 1st edition, folio, in the original printed wrappers of Champollion’s monumental work, a foundation of Egyptology. Grammaire égyptienne contains the first printed list of hieroglyphs. It was compiled from Champollion’s manuscripts using a combination of standard typesetting and lithographic engravings (260 of them). Some wear to the extremities, toning to the spine and a closed tear to the rear wrapper, else very good, remarkable condition and rare, with only 3 copies in the original wrappers listed as sold at auction in the last 50 years. Half buffalo and Japanese silk case. Folio, pp. [VIII], XXIII and 555. Very good. Item #853
One of the 2 books by Champollion (the other being his, later, dictionary printed in 1841–) that laid the base for all future Egyptology and all study of the ancients before the Greeks. It gave to the world Champollion’s theory and classification of hieroglyphic signs, with their values and their equivalents in hieratic; and, in addition, it showed how the different parts of speech, including verb conjugations and noun declensions, were represented in hieroglyphic signs, with illustrative phrases taken from the monuments which he visited with a troop within Napoleon’s army, that included artists so as to transcribe the pictures with accuracy.
In 1799 that army uncovered an ancient stele in the Nile delta, now commonly known as the Rosetta Stone. Its inscription (recorded in three distinct scripts, ancient Greek, Coptic, and hieroglyphic) would provide scholars with their first clues to unlocking the secrets of Egyptian hieroglyphs, a language lost for nearly two millennia. Champollion became interested in hieroglyphs, and first learned about the Rosetta stone, on a childhood visit to Joseph Fourier, who was the scientific advisor to Napoleon during his Egyptian expedition. As a boy Champollion learned many languages, including Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac, Chaldean and Chinese, and later added Coptic, Ethiopic, Sanskrit, Persian and others. To crack the code of the hieroglyphic script, he started with Egyptian obelisks in Rome and papyri in European collections. In 1822 he gave a lecture, published as the Lettre à M. Dacier relative à l’alphabet des hiéroglyphes phonétiques, in which he identified hieroglyphic letters in royal names, but his grand epiphany was that most hieroglyphs were not literal pictures of some unexplainable mystic significance but rather syllables, that when connected made words. It took him 6 years to get funding for his sole visit to Egypt in 1828–1829, against opposition from religious fundamentalists who had dated Noah’s flood and did not want that dating contradicted by discoveries of any civilization that had existed before, or shortly after, that date. Once in Egypt, Champollion conducted the first systematic survey of the country’s monuments, history, and archaeology, and studied the tombs in the Valley of the Kings (a name he first coined). On his return, the first chair in Egyptian history and archaeology was created for him at the Collège de France, but he didn’t hold it long. As a direct consequence of the stresses and rigors of his expedition, Champollion had a stroke and died on 4 March 1832 while preparing the results of his findings for publication (manifested here).