Budge, Sir Ernest Alfred Wallis

1904 ALS from the British Museum's chief Egyptologist identifying and translating a rubbing from a sepulchral stele from Thebes

Price: $225.00

Description:
(1857-1934) English Egyptologist, Orientalist,and philologist, worked for the British Museum and published numerous works on the ancient Near East. He went to Egypt and the Sudan on behalf of the British Museum to buy antiquities, and helped build its collection of cuneiform tablets, manuscripts, and papyri. He published many books on Egyptology, and in 1920 was knighted for his service to Egyptology and the British Museum. He left school at 12 to work as a clerk at the retail firm of W. H. Smith, became interested in learning the ancient Assyrian language in 1872, and began to spend time in the British Museum. His tutor introduced him to Keeper of Oriental Antiquities, pioneer Egyptologist Samuel Birch, and Birch's assistant, Assyriologist George Smith. Smith helped Budge with his Assyrian; Birch allowed Budge to study cuneiform tablets in his office and obtained books for him from the British Library of Middle Eastern travel and adventure. Budge spent his free time studying Assyrian 1869-78, and often spent his lunch break studying at St. Paul's Cathedral. St. Paul's organist, John Stainer, contacted Conservative MP W. H. Smith and former Liberal PM Wm. E. Gladstone, and they helped raise money for Budge to attend Cambridge 1878-83. His subjects included Semitic languages: Hebrew, Syriac, Ethiopic and Arabic; he studied Assyrian independently. Budge entered the British Museum in 1883 in the Dept. of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities, first in the Assyrian section, then in the Egyptian section. He studied ancient Egyptian with Birch until Birch's 1885 death. Budge continued his studies with the new Keeper, Peter le Page Renouf, until the latter's 1891 retirement. Budge was deputed by the British Museum 1886-91 to investigate why cuneiform tablets from British Museum sites in Iraq, supposedly guarded by local agents of the Museum, were showing up in London antiquities dealers' collections; the Museum was buying their "own" tablets at inflated London market rates. Edward Bond, Principal Librarian of the Museum, wanted Budge to find and seal the source of the leaks and establish ties to Iraqi antiquities dealers to buy available materials at reduced local prices, compared to those in London. Budge travelled to Istanbul to obtain an Ottoman Empire permit to reopen Museum excavations at Iraqi sites where Museum archeologists believed excavations would reveal more tablets. Budge sought to establish ties with Egyptian and Iraqi antiquities dealers so that the Museum could buy antiquities from them and avoid the uncertainty and cost of excavating. Budge returned from Egypt and Iraq with large collections of cuneiform tablets; Syriac, Coptic and Greek manuscripts, and significant collections of hieroglyphic papyri. Perhaps his most famous acquisitions were the Papyrus of Ani, a Book of the Dead; a copy of Aristotle's 's lost Constitution of Athens, and the Tell al-Amarna tablets. His acquisitions gave the British Museum arguably the world's best Ancient Near East collections. Budge became Asst. Keeper after Renouf retired in 1891, and Keeper 1894-1924, specializing in Egyptology. Budge regarded having the best collection of Egyptian and Assyrian antiquities in the world as a matter of national pride, and there was great competition for such antiquities. Museum officials and local agents smuggled antiquities in diplomatic pouches, bribed customs officials, or simply went to friends or countrymen in the Egyptian Service of Antiquities to ask them to pass cases of antiquities unopened. Budge was a prolific author, widely read by the educated public, famed today for his works on ancient Egyptian religion and his hieroglyphic primers. He argued that the religion of Osiris emerged from an indigenous African people, regarded as impossible by his colleagues. Budge was also interested in the paranormal, and believed in spirits and hauntings. Many in his day were involved with the occult and spiritualism after losing faith in Christianity and were dedicated to Budge's works, particularly his translation of "The Egyptian Book of the Dead"; his works on Egyptian religion have remained consistently in print. He was a member of the literary London Savile Club, proposed by his friend, author H. Rider Haggard, who dedicated his 1910 novel "Morning Star" to Budge. He was knighted in 1920 for distinguished contributions to Egyptology and the British Museum and that year published his sprawling autobiography, "By Nile and Tigris". He retired from the British Museum in 1924 and continued to write; his last work was "From Fetish to God in Ancient Egypt" (1934). ALS on his 7 x 4 1/2 Chesters, Humshaugh, Northumberland letterhead, October 22 1904, to an unnamed gentlemen, in full: "Dear Sir:/Your rubbing is from a fragment of a sepulchral stele of a scribe who was overseer of a portion of the Amon. temple at Thebes (?). the first part of his name began with Nem [underscored and adding a hieroglyph]. He is made to pray for incense, libations, & the usual things./Yrs faithfully/ EAWallis Budge".

Condition: Very good, center mail fold
Type:Letter






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