Dr. Lepsius’s Universal Linguistic Alphabet -- By: Joseph S. Ropes

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 013:52 (Oct 1856)
Article: Dr. Lepsius’s Universal Linguistic Alphabet
Author: Joseph S. Ropes


Dr. Lepsius’s Universal Linguistic Alphabet

Joseph S. Ropes

Carl Richard Lepsius is most widely known as an Egyptian scholar; the magnitude and interest of his contributions to that department of knowledge throwing comparatively into the shade his other labors. Yet these, also, have been by no means of small account: from the commencement of his career as a scholar, general archaeological and

philological investigations have claimed a considerable share of his activity. He completed his university studies at Berlin, in the year 1833, at the age of twenty-one; his graduating thesis was “De Tabulis Eugubinis.” The following year he published his “Palaeography as a Means of Linguistic Investigation” (Palæographie als Mittel der Sprachforschung), an essay of remarkable ingenuity, and went to Paris to continue his philological training. Thence he was soon drawn away to Italy, by the influence and aid of Chevalier Bunsen, at that time Prussian ambassador at Rome, and commenced with that celebrated man an intimacy, personal and scientific, which has powerfully affected his whole course since. He made his first public entry into the ranks of Egyptologists in 1837, by the publication of his “Lettre à M. Rosellini sur l’ Alphabet Hieroglyphique,” a little work whose views were, in many respects, decidedly in advance of anything previously made public, and which has not, even yet, been superseded. During the following years, his activity was unremitted and constantly productive: he made valuable contributions to archaeological Journals, in France and Italy; he took the grand prize of the French Academy for two linguistic treatises,” On the relations of the Semitic, Indian, Ethiopic, Zend, and Egyptian Alphabets,” and “On the origin and relations of the Numerals in the Indo-European, Semitic, and Coptic languages;” he investigated the ancient Italic languages, and published their existing relics (Inscriptiones Umbricæ et Oscæ: 1841); he edited a facsimile transcription of the most extensive remaining monument of the ancient Egyptian literature, the so-called Book of the Dead (Das Todtenbuch der Egypter: 1842), and a selection of a few of the most valuable Egyptian historical monuments then known (also 1842: plates only). In 1838, Bunsen had left Italy, and Lepsius followed him later to London, to bear a part in the preparation of the great work upon Egypt upon which he was then engaged. Their joint labors were interrupted in 1842, Lepsius being called away to take the leadership and direction of the Expedition to Egypt, sent out by the Prussian government in the year last mentioned.

It is with this expedition, most honorable and successf...

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