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Inside Story by Nicola Hughes

The Aegyptisches Handwörterbuch by Adolf Erman and Hermann Grapow (1921) has been in the Egypt Exploration Society library for 63 years. During a recent stock review, Nicola Hughes, one of our EES Volunteers, discovered a brown envelope taped to the inside cover marked ‘NOTES and CORRECTIONS’. On exploring further, Nicola found a type written letter with handwritten notes and hieroglyphs dated 22nd November 1946 from University College London. This short piece by Nicola reports her recent research on the book and the intriguing contents of the brown envelope.

The book was donated to the EES library by G.D. Hornblower, a British civil servant, born in London in 1864; his signature appears on the inside cover (left). Hornblower (OBE, BA, FSA) already had an interest in Anthropology and developed an interest in Egyptology during his time as an official in the Egyptian Ministry of the Interior. He had several articles published in the JEA with subjects ranging from, ‘Reed-floats in modern Egypt’ to ‘The Story of the Eloquent Peasant: a suggestion’. He also sat on the board of the EES Committee from 1922 until his death in 1951. His death is recorded in The Egypt Exploration Society Reports 1946-1960 by Professor H.W. Fairman:

“Mr Hornblower’s main ambition was to publish a book on Egyptian Religion and his chief studies were directed to that end. Among his papers is an outline of a work provisionally entitled Ancient Egyptian Religion in its Human Aspect. This book was never written, but a preliminary study for it appears to have been incorporated in his five papers, The Foundation of Ancient Egyptian Religion, published in Islamic Culture, Vols. VI and VII.”

Above: Hornblower and Černý's Egypt Exploration Society membership cards

Hornblower not only wrote and spoke Arabic but his appreciation of Egyptology led to an obvious interest in the ancient Egyptian language and at some point he obtained the Aegyptisches Handwörterbuch which then became part of the EES library on his death as stated in the 1951 EES report on page 16: “A typescript list of the books given to the Library by Mr. Hornblower is available for consultation”.

On November 19th and 20th 1946, George Davis Hornblower wrote two letters to Jaroslav Černý, the Edwards Professor of Egyptology at University College London, requesting clarification on the hieroglyphic spelling and meaning of certain words. This was the eminent scholar’s first year in this post, a post previously held by Sir Flinders Petrie.

Černý’s specialism was Late Egyptian language. His knowledge was derived from the letters, business documents, agreements, instructions and wills mostly from the New Kingdom that he had studied around Deir el-Medina. It must have been Černý’s reputation with texts that inspired Hornblower to write his two letters asking for assistance.

The letter dated 22nd November 1946 is Černý’s reply to Hornblower. There is also a single sheet number -3- which I also believe could be attributed to him, as the small handwriting and meticulous hieroglyphs are notably by Černý. Two further un-numbered sheets and -2- are written in a different hand, possibly by Hornblower but have Černý’s hieroglyphs alongside.


The letter and numerous other notes, found in the brown envelope, can be downloaded as a pdf here. Not all of the scripts have been identified so far.


The Aegyptisches Handwörterbuch itself is full of notes (left) but not all in the same hand. Presumably some are by Hornblower himself, others may be from a previous owner of the book.

A number of other lose sheets of notes were also found in the book and can be downloaded as pdfs below:

Further notes 1

Further notes 2

Further notes 3




Nicola Hughes is currently researching the correspondence between G.D. Hornblower and the EES now kept in the EES Lucy Gura Archive. Details of this research will follow in the future.

Further Reading:

Bierbrier, M.J.,[ed.] (2012) [4th Revised Edition] Who Was Who in Egyptology. London: The Egypt Exploration Society.

Černý, J., (1976) Coptic Etymological Dictionary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Macková, A.J. & Onderka, P. [eds.] (2010) Crossroads of Egyptology, The Worlds of Jaroslav Černý. Prague: National Museum.

O’Connor, D., (1970) Jaroslav Černý 1898-1970, in Expedition. Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology, pp. 2-5.

Růzová, J., (2010) The Scribe of the Place of Truth, The Life of the Egyptologist Jaroslav Černý. Prague: Philosophical Faculty University Karlovy.

The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology (1968) Festchrift. London: The Egypt Exploration Society.



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