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The Correspondence of Edward Hincks v. 3 1857-1866

Edward Hincks (author)
Kevin J. Cathcart (author)
Publication date:
11th August 2009

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 decipherer 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 Midleton 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.Volume III 1857-1866: Edward Hincks continued his scholarly activities throughout the final decade of his life. He contributed one of four translations of an inscription of Tiglath Pileser I independently made in a bid to convince sceptical scholars that the decipherment of Akkadian had been accomplished. There was a satisfactory end to the disgraceful treatment of his translations of Akkadian texts which had been prepared for the Trustees of the British Museum in 1854. In 1859 he began his friendly correspondence with the Egyptologist Peter le Page Renouf of the Catholic University in Dublin and in 1863 the Prussian King Wilhelm I conferred on him the Ordre pour merite. During the last two years of his life he wrote "Specimen Chapters of an Assyrian Grammar" which was published just after his death.