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Thomas Young an Wilhelm von Humboldt, 22.09.1825

MY DEAR SIR, London, 22 Sept., 1825.

I HAVE to thank you for the favour of your letter sent me by Mr. Struve: I have delayed making this acknowledgment, until I could return you some answer on the subject of Mr. Spohn, whose posthumous work you mention as having engaged your attention. We might suppose it to be almost impossible that a man possessed of any talents should spend some years of his life in a field of literature not wholly barren, without obtaining some few fruits of his labour, which had escaped the researches of others; but I have looked in vain for any one addition to what even Mr. Akerblad had made out, more than thirty years ago, that can justify the pomp and ceremony with which Professor Seyffarth’s Prodromus is issued into the world.

The most satisfactory evidence on this subject is that of the papyrus of Casati, which I discovered to be the original of Mr. Grey’s Greek antigraph[a], a little after I had printed, and distributed among a few friends, my attempt to translate some parts of the original, which appeared in the Philosophical Journal for January, 1823[b]. You will find in it Nebonenchus[c] as a proper name, twice over; Apollonius, Antimachus, and Antigenes: the three last having been read nearly in the same manner by Champollion. There is also a phrase, et liberis ejus, hominibus ejus, frequently repeated.

Of these, Professor Spohn has made out the letters nebonen, and etplonies, without marking them as proper names; and he has put down Antimaus and Antigenes as a part of his translation: but he has not attempted any explanation of the phrase, which is repeatedly rendered in the antigraph, with his children and all his family, nor has he rightly translated a single word besides, after the preamble, which is not in the Greek.

With respect to his mode of reading the words, by an alphabet, which, the newspapers tell us, is like the Armenian, this manuscript affords an undeniable criterion of its accuracy, as it consists almost entirely of proper names, originally Egyptian, not one of which has been read by Professor Spohn in any way at all approaching to the truth. For example, instead of Maesis Mirsios, he gives us Eumolme Nnelleme; for Peteutemis Arsiesios, Ischre pepo eepô nenee; and for Petearpocrates Hori, Nearschneoe hne. If his Egyptian dedication to the King of Saxony is equally happy with these specimens, it may happen to pass current in the other world for an address to Sesostris or to Osiris himself, or for a confession of faith in all the gods and goddesses of Ombos and of Tentyra; and thus to have procured him admission into the blessed communion of those deified Egyptian kings, who are occasionally represented, according to Mr. Bankes’s drawings, as offering sacrifices to themselves.


    1. a |Editor| Siehe dazu Johann Gottfried Ludwig Kosegarten in seiner Rezension von Spohns De lingua et literis veterum Aegyptiorum in der Allgemeinen Literatur-Zeitung Nr. 160 vom Juli 1825, Sp. 441–447. [FZ]
    2. b |Editor| Gemeint ist damit das Quarterly Journal of Science, Literature, and the Arts (diese Zeitschrift wird häufig auch als "Brande’s Philosophical Journal" bezeichnet). [FZ]
    3. c |Editor| Siehe dort S. 260. [FZ]

    Thomas Young an Wilhelm von Humboldt, 22.09.1825. In: Wilhelm von Humboldt: Online-Edition der Sprachwissenschaftlichen Korrespondenz. Berlin. Version vom 31.08.2020. URL: https://wvh-briefe.bbaw.de/758


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