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THE earliest known Egyptian writing consists of a series of pictures of objects, animate and inanimate, and the series of pictures that are found on the Neolithic antiquities discovered at Naķâdah and other very early sites in Upper Egypt may be regarded as "inscriptions." As these cannot possibly be the earliest attempts to write made by the Egyptians, it may be assumed that the art of writing was known in Egypt from a very remote period. The origin of Egyptian writing has been much discussed,1 but there is no reason why the pictographs in use among the Neolithic Egyptians should not have been invented by the indigenous peoples of the Nile Valley themselves. It seems that writing in all ancient countries started with pictographs, and that each nation developed its own writing in its own way. The dynastic Egyptians had three kinds of writing-Hieroglyphic, Hieratic and Demotic.

Hieroglyphic writing (Gr. iepoyλupikós) is called on the

Rosetta Stone 4, "writing of the words of the god "”;

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the god alluded to is Tcheḥuti,, or Thoth, who was believed to have invented writing. Hieroglyphs were commonly employed for inscriptions upon temples, tombs, statues, coffins, and stelae, and the most important codices of the Theban and Saïte Recensions of the Book of the Dead are written throughout in them. The earliest hieroglyphic inscriptions known are those found upon the objects that were discovered at Abydos and Nakâdah by de Morgan, Petrie and Amélineau. Hieroglyphic writing was used for ceremonial and monumental purposes until the IVth century A.D., but it is very doubtful if anyone living at that time could read or understand the inscriptions on the temples and tombs of the Dynastic Period. The number of hieroglyphs for which types have been made is about 2,860, including variants. These have been arranged in groups by modern Egyptologists, thus: Figures of Men, Figures of Women, Figures of Gods, Members of the Body, Figures of Animals, Figures of Birds, Trees, Plants, Flowers, etc., Water and Liquids, etc., either according to numbers or letters of the alphabet. But in respect of many hieroglyphs the grouping is purely arbitrary, for no one knows what objects many of them were intended to represent. The first fount of hieroglyphic type cast in England was designed by Mr. Joseph Bonomi and cast by Mr. Branston. The first book printed in these solid, handsome types was Birch's Hieroglyphic Dictionary, London, 1867, but the types were in existence several years earlier. The fount of hieroglyphic type in which the objects are drawn in outline was designed by Lepsius, who used it in printing the October-November number of the Aegyptische

1 For a good summary of the views about it see Spiegelberg, Die Schrift und Sprache der alten Aegypter, Leipzig, 1907.

Zeitschrift in 1864. He says that he undertook the task of setting up a fount of hieroglyphic type soon after his return from his Mission in 1846, and that the fount was available for use in 1848.1

Hieratic (Gr. iepaтikós) is the name given to the cursive writing that was used by the priests in copying literary compositions on papyrus, and by merchants and others for the purposes of everyday life. The oldest examples of its use in papyri date from the Vth dynasty, and the latest specimens of it are found in the funerary compositions of the "Book of Breathings," and "May my Name Flourish," and the abridged versions of the Book of the Dead of the Roman Period. The coffins of the XIIth dynasty were often covered with texts written in hieratic, and under the Priest-kings of the XXIst dynasty the whole Book of the Dead was written in hieratic. Hieratic codices began at the right-hand end of the papyrus, instead of at the left, as in the case of hieroglyphic codices. The finest codex of the class is that of Nesitanebtashru (the Greenfield Papyrus, B.M. 10554), the largest known;2 the latest known complete codex is B.M. 10558, which is 59 feet long, and was written in the Roman Period. About this time all funerary works were written in hieratic or demotic, and the Vignettes and hieroglyphs were, seemingly, only used for purposes of ornament or to show respect for tradition. For those who wish to acquire a knowledge of the hieratic character the best method is to read over the hieroglyphic transcripts of hieratic texts published in such works as Erman's Die Märchen des Papyrus Westcar, 2 Vols., Berlin, 1890; Dévaud, Les Maximes de Ptahhotep, Fribourg, Texte, 1915; Vogelsang and Gardiner, Die Klagen des Bauern, Berlin, 1908; Grébaut, Hymne à Ammon-Rā, Paris, 1874, and those published by Budge in Facsimiles of Hieratic Papyri, First and Second Series, London, 1910, 1923. A very useful Sign-list for beginners was compiled by Levi, Raccolta dei segni ieratici egizi nelle diverse epoche con i correspondenti geroglifici ed i loro differenti valori fonetici, Turin, 1880. But for a comprehensive knowledge of the different forms of hieratic at different periods recourse must be had to that invaluable work of the lamented G. Möller, Hieratische Paläographie, Bände I-III, Leipzig, 1909-1912. The care displayed in this work and its accuracy are beyond all praise. The twenty-seven facsimiles reproduce specimen columns of texts during a period of about 3,000 years, namely, from the Vth dynasty to the Ist or IInd century A.D.


Demotic writing (Gr. Snμorkós) is a purely conventional modification of hieratic writing which was much used, especially for social and business purposes; it is said to have come into use about the time of the XXVIth dynasty, and it lasted until the

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so dass sie bereits im Jahre 1848 zu ausgedehnter Verwendung kommen konnten." Vorwort to Theinhardt's Liste, Berlin, 1875. It is 123 feet long, 18 inches wide, and contains 2,666 lines of text arranged in 172 columns.


Spiegelberg says B.C. 800; see Aeg. Zeit., Bd. XXXVII, p. 18 ff.

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IIIrd century A.D. The early Egyptologists called it Enchorial, from the Gr. eyxópios; on the Rosetta Stone it is called the "writing of books," In the Roman Period copies of the Saïte Recension of the Book of the Dead were written wholly in demotic. Demotic texts are very difficult to read and need a careful and special study, but the help available for the student is now very considerable, and he can obtain much assistance from works like Möller, Die Beiden Totenpapyrus, Leipzig, 1913 (in this work the hieratic and demotic texts are side by side); Hess, Roman von Stne Ha-m-us, Leipzig, 1888; Hess, Inschrift von Rosette, Freiburg, 1902; Griffith, Stories of the High Priests of Memphis, Oxford, 1900; Spiegelberg, Demotische Studien, Leipzig, 1901-10; Spiegelberg, Kanopus und Memphis (Rosettana), Heidelberg, 1922, and the transcripts of demotic texts published by Révillout and Griffith. The Egyptians who embraced Christianity, and are known as Copts (Arab or blui), did not, so far as we have any evidence, write copies of the Holy Scriptures in demotic, but made use of the letters of the Greek alphabet. But there were certain sounds in the Egyptian language for which the Greek alphabet did not contain letters, and in order to make Egyptian translations of the Old and New Testaments they invented six signs, based upon the demotic forms of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, and added them to the Greek alphabet. These six signs are:



Inn sha



(turned upright).

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The Egyptian language written in Greek letters with these additions is called Coptic, Kibtiy, or


Kubtiy. A good idea of the extent and scope of Coptic literature is best obtained from W. E. Crum, Catalogue of Coptic MSS. in the British Museum, London, 1905, and the list of published texts given by Mallon in his Grammaire Copte, Beyrouth, 1904. For descriptions and translations of Coptic letters, business documents and funerary texts see Hall, Coptic and Greek Texts of the Christian Period, London, 1905; Crum, Coptic Ostraka, London, 1909. The most useful Coptic grammars are those of Mallon and Stern. For beginners Parthey's Vocabularium, Berlin, 1844, is a most useful book; for advanced students Spiegelberg's Koptisches Handwörterbuch, Heidelberg, 1921, is invaluable. The New Testament in the dialects of Upper and Lower Egypt, edited and translated by the Rev. G. Horner, forms a most useful and instructive chrestomathy. (Published by the Oxford University Press, 1898 ff.)



THE writing materials chiefly used by the ancient Egyptians consisted of papyrus, leather, palette, reeds, slices of calcareous stone, pieces of earthenware pots, ink and coloured ochres.

Papyrus1 (in Egyptian =


thuf, or @ 11

thufi, or thef, Heb. 0, Copt. xoory) was made from the byblus hieraticus, or Cyperus papyrus, which at one time grew all over the Delta and in the marsh lands near the Nile. The height of the plant was from 20 to 25 feet, and the largest diameter of its almost triangular stalk was from 31 inches to 6 inches. All parts of the plant were used in much the same way as the date palm is used in Egypt and other countries in Africa. The large cabbage-like head was boiled and eaten, as it is in the Ṣadd region of the Sûdân to-day. The roots served as firewood, and the other parts were woven into mats and ropes and baskets and closely-fitting cases for mummies, and shallow floats or boats were made of the large stalks when tied together. The boat in which Isis set out to seek for Osiris was made of papyrus (Plutarch, De Iside, Squire's translation, p. 22), and the "ark of bulrushes" in which Moses was laid was probably made of the same material. When it was intended to make writing-paper from the plant the stalk was cut into sections and the layers were removed from them with a flat needle or spatula. These layers were cut into strips, which were laid side by side perpendicularly, and upon these another series of strips was laid horizontally. A thin solution of gum or some adhesive material was run in between the two layers of strips of papyrus, which were then pressed, or rolled, or beaten together and dried. By joining a number of such sheets of papyrus together a roll of almost any length could be made. The quality and texture of the papyrus or paper depended upon the size of the stalk and the age of the plant from which the strips were cut. The colour of the papyri that have come down to us varies from a rich brown to a silvery grey. The longest roll of papyrus in the world is the Great Harris Papyrus (B.M. 9900), which, including two blank sheets, one at each end, is 135 feet long by 16 inches in width. This is a masterpiece of the papyrus-maker's art, and was specially made to record the benefactions of Rameses III to the priesthoods of Egypt and the historical summary of his reign. The next longest papyrus is the Book of the Dead that was written for Princess Nesitanebtashru of the XXIst dynasty, B.C. 1100-1000; it measures 123 feet in length by 18 inches in width. It is made of three layers of papyrus and the sections are joined with great neatness; on it are written

1 From the Greek mámupos; the derivation is uncertain.

172 columns of writing, chiefly hieratic, and the text contains 2,666 lines. Next to this in length are the Papyrus of Ani, 78 feet by 15 inches in width, the Papyrus of Nebseni, 77 feet by 13 inches, the Papyrus of Nu, 65 feet by 13 inches, and the Papyrus of Nekht, 46 feet 7 inches by 13 inches. A good specimen of the papyri used for Government Reports is the Abbott Papyrus (B.M. 10221). The papyri used for ordinary literary compositions varied in length from 10 to 20 feet, and in width from 7 to 9 inches, and those inscribed with liturgical and magical compositions were a little wider. The papyri inscribed with bilingual contracts in demotic and Greek form a class by themselves and vary in width from 10 to 14 inches, and in length from 2 to 10 feet. The roll of papyrus, or book, was called tchama,sn, Copt. welle, and was tied round with a piece of papyrus string, as we see in the hieroglyph When it was necessary to seal it, a piece of mud was laid on the string and the impression on it was made by a ring, or a scarab which served as a seal, tchebät, 9. Specimens

of mud sealings are tolerably common, but of special interest are the sealings of king Shabaka found at Kuyûnjiķ (B.M. 5585), and the seals of Amasis II and Naifãarut (B.M. 5583, 5584). The Egyptian Christians wrote the Books of the Bible and their Patristic Literature upon papyrus, but instead of keeping to the use of the roll, like their non-Christian ancestors, they wrote their texts on small sheets of papyrus, which they bound up as books. Very fine examples of such books are Oriental 5000 and Oriental 5001. The former contains 156 folios measuring 11 inches by 8 inches, forming 20 quires, each of which is signed by a letter, and the latter contains 175 leaves measuring from 11 to 12 inches by 8 to 98 inches, forming 22 quires, each of which is signed by a letter. Both these books were probably written in the VIth century A.D.

Leather, or skin, was sometimes used as a writing material, but comparatively few examples of it have come down to us. Probably the best-known example is B.M. 10473, which is part of a vellum roll inscribed with Chapters from the Book of the Dead and the Vignette of the weighing of the heart of the deceased Nekht in the presence of Thoth. An ancient legal document connected with the temple of Heliopolis is said to have been written on leather, or skin.

As papyrus and leather must always have been costly articles in Egypt, scribes and their pupils were obliged to make use of other materials on which to write their drafts and school exercises, and "trial" copies of texts. For this purpose thin slabs of soft white limestone and pieces of broken earthenware pots were used; to these the name ostraka is commonly given. Good examples of the limestone slab are B.M. 5624, 5631 and 5632; the

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