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Archive - Signed Manuscript Field Notes on Decrypting Cuneiform Script in Babylon - Personal Letters with Photographs
London, 1856. London, 1856. Manuscript draft notes penned by Sir Henry Rawlinson and signed in the original, describing the archaeological fieldwork for which he is most venerated, decrypting cuneiform script in Babylon. Folio. 2 pages, single leaf measuring approximately 20 x 32 cm, with text recto and verso. Together with 3 albumen portrait photographs of Rawlinson, circa 1860-1865, each measuring approximately 4 x 5 cm, mounted together on a single clipping. Together with five manuscript letters, each signed by Rawlinson and addressed to Mrs. Mary Ford (née Molesworth) widow of travel writer Richard Ford, one of which is dated in the year 1874, four not indicating the year. The lot in very good condition. Provenance: From the personal estate of Mrs. Mary Ford (1816-1910) of Penncarrow, Cornwall. Comprising rare original photographs of distinguished Assyriologist Sir Henry Rawlinson, five autograph letters signed by him, and a significant manuscript document on Assyrian archaeology, also written and signed by Rawlinson, this is a most pleasing primary source mini archive. Rawlinson's draft manuscript is docketed in his hand as follows, "Written in 1856 and given to Mrs. Ford July 19, 1861." In it he describes the inscriptions of two ancient temples, those of Babylon and Borsippa. He includes examples of cuneiform script, identifying their linguistic origins and meanings, connecting both great edifices to the Babylonian God Nebo [Nabu], and to the reign of Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser II. Excerpts from the manuscript: "There is very great difficulty in discriminating and identifying the various temples of Babylon and Borsippa owing to the desultry and confused manner in which they are described in the inscriptions of Nebuchadnezzar... " "... After a most patient examination and comparison however, of all the inscriptions, I have come to the conclusion that in the time of Nebuchadnezzar there were only two great buildings, one at Babylon and one at Borsippa, the former being represented by the ruins which are now called Babel... the latter being the stele now famous..." "... the famous temple of [cuneiform text]... I infer that it must have been in Babylon because the name is of Chaldean origin and ... the inscriptions of Sargon..." "The names by which these two famous temples are generally known from the middle of the 8'-Century B.C... are Bit-Shaggath and Bit-Tzida... temples bearing the [...] of Bit-Tzida were especially consecrated to Nebo... [Nebo was the Babylonian God of wisdom and writing.]" "The earliest mention I have found of Bit-Shaggath and Bit-Tzida is a fragment which appears to be of the time of Tiglath-Pileser II [King of Assyria from 967 BCE to 935 BCE]." End excerpts. "The Discoverer of the key to the Ancient Persian, Babylonian, and Assyrian Inscriptions in the Cuneiform character", aptly named so by the Royal Society of London, in 1854 Sir Henry Creswicke Rawlinson began his work at Borsippa. He personally uncovered the foundation prisms from Nebuchadnezzar II's restoration on the Nabu temple. An inscription of Nebuchadrezzar II, the "Borsippa inscription," tells how he restored the temple of Nabu, "the temple of the seven spheres" with "bricks of noble lapis lazuli." [Between 1879 and 1881 the site was further excavated by Hormuzd Rassam on behalf of the British Museum. He concentrated primarily on Ezida, the temple of Nabu. In 1902, Robert Koldewey worked at Borsippa during his main effort at Babylon also mainly on the Nabu temple. Some tablets have been recovered, but archaeologists hope to uncover a temple archive of cuneiform tablets, of which there were some copies in ancient Assyrian libraries.] The five letters to Mrs. Ford are private in nature, although Rawlinson mentions the following individuals: • Reverend Edward Hincks (1792-1866), an Anglo-Irish clergyman best remembered as an Assyriologist and one of the decipherers of Mesopotamian cuneiform • British military historian and army officer Sir John William Kaye KCSI (1814-1876) • A spiritualist with the surname Foster Sir Henry Creswicke Rawlinson, Reverend Edward Hincks, and Jules Oppert were popularly known as the "holy trinity of cuneiform". Sir Henry Creswicke Rawlinson (1810-1895), was an English Orientalist and administrator, political agent in the Ottoman Arabia, and consul at Baghdad. He started his career out with the British East India company and was sent to Persia in 1833, where he took up transcribing and deciphering Old Persian, Elamite, and Babylonia scripts. His archaeological career included excavations at Nineveh and other Assyrian and Babylonian sites. Rawlinson deciphered the Old Persian portion of the trilingual cuneiform inscription of Darius I the Great at Bisitun (Behistun). His success with the latter provided the key to deciphering Mesopotamian cuneiform script. Before the trilingual Behistun Iscription could be deciphered, Rawlinson faced the daunting challenge of transcribing the three scripts which were carved on a sheer cliff face hundreds of feet above the roadbed. Over a period of twelve years, Rawlinson scaled the cliffs, finally managing to copy the lower inscriptions written in Old Persian and Elamite. The Babylonian inscription, however, remained out of reach, until Rawlinson enlisted the aid of a Kurdish boy who hoisted himself to the top of the inscription and made papier-mâché casts of the text. Rawlinson deciphered this inscription by recognizing the names of various kings in the Old Persian inscription and then observing consistent relationships between words in Old Persian and Babylonian. Fortunately, the first section of this text contained a list of the same Persian kings found in Herodotus in their original Persian forms as opposed to Herodotus's Greek transliterations; for example Darius is given as the original Dâryavu instead of in the Hellenized chracters. By matching the names and the characters, Rawlinson was able to decipher the type of cuneiform used for Old Persian by 1838 and presented his results to the Royal Asiatic Society in London and the Société Asiatique in Paris. Approximately one third of the syllabary had been also made available to him by the work of Georg Friedrich Grotefend. In 1851 Rawlinson published his memoir on the Behistun inscription. The translation of the Old Persian sections of the Behistun Inscription paved the way to the subsequent ability to decipher the Elamite and Babylonian parts of the text, which greatly promoted the development of modern Assyriology. On the subject of ancient inscriptions, Rawlinson wrote "The Persian Cuneiform Inscription at Behistun," "Outline of the History of Assyria", "A Commentary on the Cuneiform Inscriptions of Babylon and Assyria", "Notes on the Early History of Babylonia", and "England and Russia in the East" . Rawlinson was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in February 1850 on account of being "The Discoverer of the key to the Ancient Persian, Babylonian, and Assyrian Inscriptions in the Cuneiform character. The Author of various papers on the philology, antiquities, and Geography of Mesopotamia and Central Asia. Eminent as a Scholar". He disposed of his valuable collection of Babylonian, Sabaean, and Sassanian antiquities to the trustees of the British Museum, who also made him a considerable grant to enable him to carry on the Assyrian and Babylonian excavations initiated by Layard. In 1851 Rawlinson returned to Baghdad to direct valuable excavations which resulted in the discovery of material that contributed greatly to the final decipherment and interpretation of the cuneiform character, and ascertaining that individual signs of cuneiform scripts had multiple readings depending on their context. Cuneiform script is the earliest known writing system in the world. Cuneiform writing emerged in the Sumerian civilization of southern Iraq around the 34th century BC during the middle Uruk period, beginning as a pictographic system of writing. Cuneiform was the most widespread and historically significant writing system in the Ancient Near East. The development of cuneiform writing was an evolution of an earlier Mesopotamian accounting system that had been used for five thousand years before. Clay tokens had been used for some form of record-keeping in Mesopotamia since as early as 8,000 BC. Cuneiform documents were written on clay tablets, by means of a reed stylus. The impressions left by the stylus were wedge shaped, thus giving rise to the name cuneiform ("wedge shaped," from the Latin cuneus, meaning "wedge"). Cuneiform script underwent considerable changes over a period spanning three millennia. In the course of the 3rd millennium BC the script became successively more cursive, and the pictographs developed into conventionalized linear drawings, the number of characters in use also refined from around 1,000 unique characters in the Early Bronze Age to around 400 characters in Late Bronze Age (Hittite cuneiform). The original Sumerian script was adapted for the writing of the Akkadian, Eblaite, Elamite, Hittite, Luwian, Hattic, Hurrian, and Urartian languages, and it inspired the Ugaritic and Old Persian alphabets. Cuneiform writing was gradually replaced by the Aramaic alphabet during the Neo-Assyrian Empire, and by the second century of the Common Era, the script had become extinct. Borsippa (also known as Birs Nimrud, having been identified with Nimrod) is an archaeological site in today's Babylon Province, Iraq. Borsippa is mentioned, usually in connection with Babylon, in texts from the Ur III period through the Seleucid period and even in early Islamic texts. Borsippa was dependent upon Babylon and was never the seat of a regional power. From the 9th century BCE, Borsippa was on the borderland south of which lay the tribal "houses" of Chaldea. The temple to Nabu at Borsippa was destroyed in 484 BCE during the suppression of a revolt against the Achaemenid king Xerxes. . Very Good.
      [Bookseller: Voyager Press Rare Books & Manuscripts, ]
Last Found On: 2016-02-06           Check availability:      Biblio    

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