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The Correspondence of Edward Hincks v. 1 1818-1849

Edward Hincks (author)
Kevin J. Cathcart (author)
Publication date:
27th September 2007

Author Biography

Kevin J. Cathcart is Emeritus Professor of Near Eastern Languages, University College Dublin, and the editor of The Letters of Peter le Page Renouf (4 vols, UCD Press, 2002-4)


Edward Hincks (1792-1866), the Irish Assyriologist and one of the decipherers of Mesopotamian cuneiform, was born in Cork and spent forty years of his life at Killyleagh, Co. Down, where he was the Church of Ireland Rector. He was educated at Middleton College, Co. Cork and Trinity College, Dublin, where he was an exceptionally gifted student. With the decipherment of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs by Jean Francois Champollion in 1822, Hincks became one of that first group of scholars to contribute to the elucidation of the language, chronology and religion of ancient Egypt. But his most notable achievement was the decipherment of Akkadian, the language of Babylonia and Assyria, and its complicated cuneiform writing system. Between 1846 and 1852, Hincks published a series of highly significant papers by which he established for himself a reputation of the first order as a decipherer. Most of the letters in these volumes have not been previously published. Much of the correspondence relates to nineteenth-century archaeological and linguistic discoveries, but there are also letters concerned with ecclesiastical affairs, the Famine and the Hincks family.The letters in volume 1 cover the period from the 1820s when Hincks was a young clergyman and scholar, applying himself assiduously to his family and parish duties, and vigorously pursuing his study of the ancient Egyptian language, to the years 1846-9 during which he announced his epoch-making discoveries in the decipherment of Akkadian and its cuneiform writing system. There are dozens of letters from friends and colleagues, which include exchanges on a variety of subjects and offer a fascinating picture of scholarly and intellectual activity, as well as of the political and ecclesiastical events of the time. Hincks' unique research never diverted him from his religious and civic responsibilities, especially during times of crisis like the Famine. Amongst Hincks' correspondents were Samuel Birch, Franz Bopp, Friedrich Georg Grotefend, William Rowan Hamilton, Christian Lassen, Austen Henry Layard, Edwin Norris, George Cecil Renouard, and Peter le Page Renouf. Volumes 2 and 3 will be published in 2008 and 2009 respectively.