Description of Egypt: Notes and Views in Egypt and Nubia
Edward William Lane
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The launching of this hitherto unpublished book by the great nineteenth-century British traveler Edward William Lane (1801-76), a name known to almost everyone in all the many fields of Middle East studies, is a major publishing event. Lane was the author of a number of highly influential works: An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians (1836), his translation of The Thousand and One Nights (1839-41), Selections from the Kur-an (1843), and the Arabic-English Lexicon (1863-93). Yet one of his greatest works was never published: after years of labor and despite an enthusiastic reception by the publishing firm of John Murray in 1831, publication of his first book, Description of Egypt, was delayed and eventually dropped, mainly for financial reasons. The manuscript was sold to the British Library by Lane's widow in 1891, and has only now been salvaged for publication by Dr. Jason Thompson, nearly 170 years after its completion.
This enormously important book, which takes the form of a journey through Egypt from north to south, with descriptions of all the ancient monuments and contemporary life that Lane explored along the way, will be of immense interest to both ancient and modern historians of Egypt, and will become an essential companion to his Manners and Customs.
''Jason Thompson's exact and dedicated edition deserves much praise.''-Astene Newsletter, June 2002.
''Thompson, a historian at AUC, has done signal service in taking a manuscript dating from 1831 and preparing it for publication so many years later; AUC Press deserves praise for making so major a work available, and at so reasonable a price.''-Daniel Pipes, Middle East Quarterly, June 2001.
''In all, the appearance of this major work of scholarship at this late date is a major boon to the study of Egypt's history between the pharaohs and 18280.''-Daniel Pipes, Middle East Quarterly, June 2001.
The lateral lines were sculptured at a later period; for they bear the name of Rameses 2nd, or Sesostris. There is also, on the erect obelisk, a column of hieroglyphics, comparatively very small, next J This appears to be the sarcophagus which received the body of Amyrtasus the Saite, the first native king of Egypt after the revolt of his nation from the Persian yoke to which Cambyses had subjected it. The name of Amyrtasus occurs once or more in each of the hieroglyphic legends with which the
reflections. But history confers a deep interest on this desolate spot, once the chief seal of Egyptian learning, the theatre of many wars and bloody tragedies, the scene of the martyrdom of St. Mark, the birth-place and 18 Description of Egypt residence of many of the most eminent fathers of the church, and the hot-bed of schisms and heresies. Its importance as the key of Egypt, rendering it obnoxious to oft-repeated sieges and captures, may be regarded as the primary cause of the
cultivable land. The rate of this rise I calculate (from data furnished by the ancient nilometer of Elephantine3) to be about four inches and a half in a century.—No taxes are legally levied upon the land unless the Nile rise to a certain height, which is said to be sixteen cubits; but these cubits are not measured by the scale of the modern Mickya's (or Nilometer) of the Island of Er-Ro'dah. The modern nilometric column is divided into sixteen cubits, each equal to twenty-one inches and one
a few feet above the level of the plain, so as to be above the reach of the inundation. On either side, at the time of my arrival (in October), were marshes, and inundated fields. These, as soon as the waters have subsided, are sown with corn, &c. The plain is bounded on the east by extensive mounds of rubbish; behind which lies the capital, nearly concealed by them; little of it being visible but its numerous and lofty ma'd'nehs, and its Citadel, backed by the ridge of Mount Moockut'tum. The
know that the slave of the Moos'Tim fares even better than the free servant. Some of the more valuable of the female slaves (like the white female slaves, to whom another weka'leh is appropriated) are only shewn to those persons who express a desire to become purchasers. Having now described the streets and markets of Musr, I may mention some particular quarters, &c.—There are some parts which are inhabited exclusively by persons of the same religion or nation. Many quarters are inhabited only by