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Cracking the Egyptian Code: The Revolutionary Life of Jean-Fran�ois Champollion

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  110 ratings  ·  24 reviews
In 1799 Napoleon's army uncovered an ancient stele in the Nile delta. Its inscription, recorded in three distinct scripts--ancient Greek, Coptic, and hieroglyphic--would provide scholars with the first clues to unlocking the secrets of Egyptian hieroglyphs, a language lost for nearly two millennia. More than twenty years later a remarkably gifted Frenchman named Jean-Franc ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published July 15th 2012 by American University in Cairo Press (first published April 1st 2012)
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Katelis Viglas
Very good, almost excellent biography of Jean-Francois Champollion. The author focuses not only on Champollion's life, but on the process of decipherment as well. It is very detailed and well written, the best book on the subject at the time. The author is very talented and experienced since he has written books on the history of writting, of decipherment of ancient languages, general historical surveys, other biographies, etc. ...more
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Andrew Robinson brings to life Champollion in this well-written biography. The coloured plates and interspersed black and white pictures enhanced my understanding of Champollion and the people around him. Robinson's dry sarcastic wit made this book thoroughly enjoyable.

My only complaint, as a native English speaker, is the French names were hard to keep track - it would have been nice to have a cast of characters at the front with their birth and death dates, professions, and relationships to C
Jul 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: july-2016
Kā biogrāfija izcila, autors ir izsijājis iepriekšējos darbus, pacēlis vecas sarakstes un tā tālāk. No padomjlaiku grāmatām man kaut kā bija radies priekšstats par Šamoplionu kā par nūģi bēniņos, kurš zinot daudzas valodas ne no kurienes uzrodas ar visu hieroglifu atšifrējumu. Iespējams, ka es jaucu ar puisi, kurš atkoda ķīļrakstus. Labi uzrakstīts, autors arī centies īpaši nepadarīt grāmatu par mācību grāmatu hieroglifu apguvējiem, tā ka praktiskā te būs maz, jo kurš gan mūsdienās zina koptu va ...more
Nathan Albright
May 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: challenge-2019
The study of the deciphering of various ancient languages has led me to understand all the more clearly that to decipher a past language is an act that requires a great deal of intense creativity, in that it requires us to put ourselves in the perspective of the past and seek out the internal logic of the language that we are working with, which is likely to be very different than the logic of our own age.  Linear B, after all, was a script that used a particularly infelicitous syllabary to writ ...more
Bob Offer-Westort
I haven't read any of Robinson's other books, which is perhaps unfortunate: It seems that Cracking the Egyptian Code: The Revolutionary Life of Jean-François Champollion might best be understood through the context of Robinson's longer term project of understanding the particular nature of the kind of "genius" that has allowed apparently unusual individuals to decipher the scripts of forgotten languages. In addition to two books on "genius", a general history of ancient script decipherment, and ...more
Aug 13, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: egypt
Excellent biography. Just enough historical background to sketch a context, without belaboring the point. The first 1/3 was a skim for me, as it covered more of Champollion's early life, education, employment, etc. My interest was in his work on the Rosetta Stone and in founding Egyptology at the university. Recommended for those interested in the French Revolution, Egyptology, or the process of decipherment (which, to me, looks like a totally made-up word).

Honestly, most of the process for brea
Jul 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Robinson provides an excellent biography of Champollion le Jeune as he was known, detailing his early life growing up in Figeac and the profound effect his brother, Jacques-Joseph, had on his education and upbringing throughout his childhood years, and even into later life.
Little time is spent talking about how Champollion deciphered the Egyptian hieroglyphs, although Robinson does take you through some of the major breakthroughs, not only those belonging to Champollion, but also those of Thoma
A.J. McMahon
As a scholarly, thoroughly researched, completely informative account of the life of Champollion and how he deciphered hieroglyphs, Robinson's book is first class all the way. Where it fell short for me, however, was what I regard as the most important part of the whole story. It's all very well to dot all the scholarly i's and cross the scholarly t's, but the excitement of what Champollion was about is lacking. Champollion was clearly obsessed with his mission, but the magic that hieroglyphs he ...more
شريف لطفي
May 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating book despite the lack of proper notes, footnotes and decent referencing where everything is just dumped at the end of the book without any reference to which chapters or pages they correspond too.
The author also spent too many pages finger pointing at Champollion as a potential plagiarist or at best as an ungrateful scientist who didn’t care to recognize the effort Thomas Young had done and the results he reached that inspired him... the whole point is not who preceded who but rat
Tom Walsh
Dec 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Rosetta Stone was the clue to the decode of Ancient Egypt. Easy to say, easy to type. But the struggle to discover whether the hieroglyphs are words, letters, sounds, or iconic mythic symbols is the part of the struggle we don't regard. It was a battle of culture: the French vs the English: who would uncover it first? Champollion, without me revealing who "won" was a genius. He actually learned Coptic to bring him closer to the environs of Ancient Egypt. If you want a historical account of a ...more
Iñaki Tofiño
Oct 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robinson manages to picture a balanced portrait of Champollion, not too laudatory, not too critical, which is something somehow difficult taking into account the ghost of Thomas Young, always luring over the decoding of the Egyptian alphabet.
I missed a more nuanced and in depth account of Champollion's visit to Egypt, but since this is an informative text I suppose that I must look elsewhere for this.
John Bohnert
Mar 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been fascinated by ancient Egypt for many decades.
I've made several visits to the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose, California.
I've seen many TV programs about ancient Egypt over the years.
I found this biography of Champollion very interesting.
Alec Rill
Wanted a little more linguistics
Jim Bishay
Apr 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting reading!!
Aug 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite being a very good biography of Champollion, this book is not really about “cracking“. Will be a bit of a disappointment for linguistics lovers.
Eric Hollister
Feb 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very interesting bio about the man who (mostly) decoded Egyptian Hieroglyphics. Champollion lived a fascinating, albeit short, life. Engaging and well-written.
Debbie Nijssen
Jul 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful book about the deciphering of the hieroglyphs. This book really revived my love for ancient Egypt!
Jun 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Egyptophiles casual and professional need look no further than Andrew Robinson's 2012 work for a critical biography of Jean-Francois Champollion. Indeed, if "Cracking the Egyptian Code" is to be believed, there *is* no other biography of Champollion available in English. Fortunately, Robinson's latest book is well written, intelligent, and scholarly without ponderous pages of academic footnotes. The title is a bit of a misnomer, since Robinson examines Champollion's entire life, from his upbring ...more
Nov 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A bit of a slog, but interesting history of not only the deciphering of hieroglyphics, but The French government at the time. Ironically Champollion never saw the Rosetta Stone, only a copy.
Victor Sonkin
An excellent account of Champollion's turbulent life, his contemporaries, colleagues, rivals, detractors and admirers, and the story of deciphering the hieroglyphs. Robinson tells a compelling story in a very sure hand. A huge bonus that one actually gets a general idea of the whole business of decipherment. Probably the book to read about Champollion, his life and work. Also a very lively picture of early 19th-century frenzied life, political, academic and otherwise.

A very interesting point is
Mar 26, 2016 marked it as started-will-finish  ·  review of another edition
DNF at p. 206
Hope to get back to this one day, but have renewed it the maximum number of times so it has to go back. However, it says before about my life right now than it does about the book that I didn't get through it.
Dec 13, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really over my head, but I learned a lot.
Jul 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very well written. An excellent biography.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author by this name in the Goodreads data base.

W. Andrew Robinson is a British author and former newspaper editor.

Andrew Robinson was educated at the Dragon School, Eton College where he was a King's Scholar, University College, Oxford where he read Chemistry and finally the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. He is the son of Neville Robinson,

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