Johann Joachim Eschenburg.

Manual of classical literature : from the German of J.J. Eschenburg, with additions online

. (page 65 of 153)
Online LibraryJohann Joachim EschenburgManual of classical literature : from the German of J.J. Eschenburg, with additions → online text (page 65 of 153)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


poses some idea of the art of drawing, or a rude sort of painting. Such imita-
tion, however, could express only separate individual thoughts without their
connections and relations, and must be limited to visible objects. It is chiefly
mere actions and events, that can in this way be made known, and even of
these only what transpires at a particular instant can be represented by each
single picture.

\u. There are vestiges of this mode of writing in the Egyptian hieroglyphics,
which, we remark, however, received various successive changes in form and significa-
tion {% 16) . It was in use among the Mexicans, who apprised their king Montezuma
of the landing of the Spaniards by means of a linen cloth, on which this event was
represented by pictures of visible objects.

See fVarburlmi, Uiv, Leg. (as cited § 12. 3.) Bk. IV. Sect. 4. where he gives a cnrions specimen of Mexican pictun-writvig.-'
For a notice of other specimens, see Aiilt cited § 32.—Edmb. Eiicydop. under JlphaUt.

2. This mode is said to ha%'e been practiced by some of the North American In-
dians. " In Sc/ioolcraft's Journal of Travels through the North-western regions of the
United States, we are told that the party, in passing from the river St. Louis to Sandy
Lake, had, whh their Indian attendants, gotten out of the way, and could not tell
where they were. The Indians, not knowing what might be the result, determined
to leave, at a certain place, a memorial of their journey for the benefit of such of the'-
tribe as might come in that direction afterwards. In the party there was a military
oflicer, a person whom the Indians understood to be an attorney, and a mineralogist :
eight were armed ; when they halted they made three encampments. The savages
went to work and traced with their knives upon a piece of birch bark a man with £
Bword for the ofHcer, another with a book for the lawyer, and a third with a haminci
40 2D



314 ARCHAEOLOGY OF LITERATURE AND ART.

for the mineralogist ; three ascending columns of smoke denoted the three encamp-
ments, and eight muskets the number of armed men."

Uphain^s EI. Int. Phil. 1st ed.— For specimens of the picture writing of North American Indians, ste Archzologia, vol. 6th, p.
159, as ciled § 32. 5.

§ 16. These imitations or pictures afterwards became symbolical, and repre-
sented not so much the objects pictured, as others having some resemblance to
Ihem, and incapable of imitation by painting. In this way many spiritual and
invisible things might be indicated by bodily and visible signs. The necessity
of something of the kind must soon appear among a people, not wholly occupied
vi'ith impressions on the senses, but engaging in reflections upon God and
nature. Accordingly the Egyptians, especially their priests, at a very early
period employed the hieroglyphics in a symbolical and allegorical manner.
The eye, for instance, became a symbol of providence, the bird an emblem of
swiftness, the scaling-ladder a representative of a siege.

1. The late discoveries of Champollion respecting the Egyptian hieroglyphics have
awakened much interest. The following short account is Irom the Am. Quart. Reg.
vol. iv. p. 52.

" According to Champollion, the hieroglyphics are divisible into three distinct
classes: 1. Figurative signs; 2. Symbolic; 3. Phonetic, or expressive of sound. The
FIGURATIVE occur ofteu, either in an entire or an abridged form. Thus the sun is
represented by an exact image ; the firmament, by the section of a ceiling with or
without stars. The first is termed figurative proper, the second figurative conventional.
I'he plan of a house is given instead of the house itself. This is termed figurative
abridged. The second form of hieroglyphics is the symbolical. These "are the
characters generally alluded to by the ancients, when they speak of hieroglyphics.
Two arms stretched up towards heaven expressed the word offtring ; the four quarters
of a lion, strength ; an asp, power ofi life a?id death. As the Egyptians were a very
civilized nation, it is clear that hieroglyphics like those described were not by any
means sufficient to designate their various wants, occupations, and ideas ; and this
want may have led to the invention of what Champollion calls the third class of hiero-
glyphics, PHONETIC, or designating a sound. He has also discovered the principle, on
which these signs were chosen to express one certain sound ; it is this, that the hiero-
glyphic of any object might be iised to represent the initial sound, or as we should say,
the initial letter, of the\ame of that object.'" [E. g. the picture of an eagle stood for
the sound or letter A, the first letter or sound in the word Ahom, the Egyptian name
for eagle ; and the picture of a mouth for E, the first sound in Eo, the Egyptian name
for m'outh.] "As the great number of hieroglyphics, which this principle would
assign to each of the 29 elementary sounds (the number in the Egyptian alphabet) ,
woidd have been a continual source of error, the characters were soon reduced to a
few. As far as ascertained, 18 or 19 is the largest number assigned to any one letter,
while few have more than five or six representatives, and several only one or two."

For farther information see /. G. H. Greppo, Essay on the Hieroglj'phic System of M. Chimpollion, &c. Translated by / StuarU
Bost. 1830. 12. Noticed in Spirit of the Pilgrims, iv. 9S, 197.— A/. Champollion, Precis du Sysleme Hieroglyphique. 2d ed. Far.
1S2S. S.—Champolhmi, Gramniaire Egyptienne, kc—R. Leipsius, Letter on the Hleroglyphical Alphaoet. Rom. 1836. in French.
—The wort? entitled The Antiquities of Egyjit, Lond. 1841. 8. publ. by Relig. Tract Society.— G. R. Gliddon, Ancient Egypt, in
T'^e New IVorld, Apr. 1843 —See also § 91. 7.

The following notice of the views of Seijff art h respectin? the hieroglyphics is from the Christ.
Spfct. vol. viii. p. 433. " These venerable characters have lately found another erudite expositor
in Professor Seyffarth, of Leipsic. From the celebrated inscription on the Rosetta rtiotie. and from
examining many rolls of papyrus, this laborious inquirer is of opinion that the hieroglyphics in
general are simply hieratic letters, ornamented aert-eahly to a calliiiraphic principle. He also
infers, that both the hieratic and demotic letters had their origin in the most ancient Phoenician
alphabet. The Leipsic Literary Journal, which contains a notice of this theory, mentions farther
that the learned professor reckons the hieroglyphic signs or characters to amount to about 6000."

G. Saiffarlh, De lingua et Uteris vet. iEj>ptioruni, &c Lips. 1625-31. 2 vols. 4.

An Italian scholar, by the name of .Tannelli. has attempted a new method of interpreting the
F-'vpiian hieroglyphics alroseiher different from thai of Champollion. Not much expectation
of his success seems to have been awakened in others.

See/. Cu;/'?7!ore, on the system of Hieroglyphic Interpretation proposed by Signor JiinnfJ/i ; in the Transactions of the Royal
Society of Literature, vol. 3d. Lond. 1S37.

2. A hieroglyphic system of writing, it is said, was possessed by the Tultecans, a
nation formerly existing in the southern part of North America.

See Bibl. Repos. No. xxvii. July, l?17. p. 229.— Rafinesqiie, on the glyphs of Palenque, &c. in the Atlantic Journal for 1S32.—
L. Stephens, Incidents of Travel in Central America, &c N. Y. 1841. 2 vols. 8. with engraving?.

§ 17. Tn proportion as these pictural signs became more common and fami-
liar, curtailments or abbreviations of them were introduced, for the sake of con-



P, IV. INTRODUCTION. IDEOGRAPHIC WRITING. SYLLABIC. 315

venience. The figure was made in a more simple form. Often particular
parts were substituted for the whole, especialh^ such parts as were most essen-
tial to the significancy of the picture, and most important for its present use.
For example two hands and a bow micrht take the place of the full image of an
archer. The picture of an effect might be employed to represent its obvious
cause, or tliat of an instrument to represent the person customarily using it;
thus, in an abridged image, rising smoke might denote a conflagration, and an
eye and sceptre might signify a monarch. To these were added doubtless
many other signs, wholly arbitrary in their nature, and obtaining a definite
meaning by agreement and frequent use.

§ 18. But all these means served only to represent ikings, not the words and
soimds, by which we express them in speech. At length, men began to apply
the simple figures, which by a course of abbreviation had taken the place of
the original pictures, to spoken language and its separate organic elements.
Probably it was first done with whole words, to each of which was appro-
priated a certain sign, as in the written language of the Chinese; and after-
wards with syllables, as the frequent recurrence of the same syllables in
different words was observed, and so certain common signs were applied to
represent them. These signs expressed at the same time both vowels and con-
sonants. Among the Ethiopians and several people of the East there wag
some such system of syllable-writmg; and it is found at the present day among
the Siamese [as was erroneously supposed when the author wrote].

1. The first information received by Europeans respecting the written language of
the Chinese was from the Catholic missionaries. They represented it as comprising
80,000 arbitrary characters. Later researches have shown that the elementary charac-
ters are much fewer. In an account of this language published in 1825, Dr. Morrison
gives first a collection of 373 ancient symbols, with explanations of their meaning and
origin. These ancient symbols are said to constitute the first principles of the language.
From them were derived 214 characters, which are the leading ones, or heads of
classes, in modern usage, and are called radicals. He next gives a table of 411 sylla-
bles, of which, ex.»lusive of tones and accents, the spoken language consists. The 214
radicals and 411 syllables are considered as forming the materials of the whole written
language. It is obvious, therefore, that the idea of hs having a distinct character for
every word cannot be correct, and yet it is wholly unlike to an alphabetic or syllabic
system. " Its characters are not intended to be the signs of simple articulate sounds.
They are sometimes denominated hieroglyphic and symbolical. It originated in a sort
of picture-writing, from which it has, afier the lapse of many years, become what it
now is. In its present state, the best idea of its character would be derived from com-
paring it with the Arabic figures. These figures, characters, or symbols, are now
almost universally understood throughout the world, however differently named by the
people of different nations, and the primitive signs are now to most nations quite arbi-
trary, whatever the reasons of their first formation may have been. But supposing 2
and 3 to be entirely arbitrary the union of these two, 23 or 32, presents to the eye a
definite idea, which is the result of combination, and which remains the same whethev
pronounced by an Englishman, a Hindoo, or a Chinese, in the spoken language
peculiar to each nation." It has been asserted, that in consequence of this peculiarity
of the Chinese written language, it is understood and read in all the regions of eastern
Asia, by people whose spoken languages are very different, and who cannot maintain
the least oral intercourse whh each other. Du Ponceau, however, denies tliis assertion,
in his work below cited.

See Chinese MifctUany, kc. By Morriscm. Lond. IS25. A.—Chtnete Repotitory, (published it Canton,) vol. 3d. No. 10
Cf. Miss. Herald, vol. rxxi. 197, 387.— Be Guignes, Dictionnaire Chinois, Francais et Latin, kc Par. 1813. fol. Cf. Lond. Quart,
Rev. vol. xiii. p. 56.— A S. Du Pcnceau, Dissertation on the Nature of the Chinese system of writing, &c Phil. 183S. 8. Cf.
Far. Quart. Rev No. ilii. p. 3!6.— In a recen' Gernnn work, by C. F. yeumann, entitled .hiatic Sludiet, (1837,) is a Dissert. OD
the Chinese language, and on the historj' of writing among the Tartar Tribes.— N. Jim. Rev. April, 1841.

2. The written language of the Siamese has been supposed by Europeans to be an
instance of syllable-writing. But according to the most recent account which has
been noticed, and which is from Mr. Robinson, an American missionary in Siam. the
system of writing is not properly speaking syllabic. The characters do not individually
represent the sounds of syllables. The alphabet is said to consist of thirty-five charac-
ters which represent consonant sounds, and a small number of points or marks which
represent vowel sounds; and different syllables are formed according as the latter are
placed before or alter, above or below, the former.

See MiuioTUiry Earald, vol. xiiii. p. 17",— ^eu" Cyclopxdia, under Siam — Asiatic Resiarches, vol. x.— An uuperlect copy c/



316 ARCHAEOLOGY OF LITERATURE AND ART.

the Siamese alphabet is given in Greg, fiharpe's Syntasma Dissertalionum— Founts of type in this alpliabet have recently been eul
for the use of the American mission in Siam. AIS. letter of Rev. Dr. Anderson.

3. A most remarkable instance of the syllabic alphabet is found in that of the Chero-
kee Indians. This was invented, about the year 1S24, by a Cherokee named Guess
or Guyst, who was not able to speak English, or read a word in any language.

Having learned the principle of alphabetic writing, viz. that certain characters are signs of
sound, he conceived the idea of expressing all the syllable-sounds of his native language by
separate marks. On collecting the ditferent sounds which he could recollect, he found the
number to be eighty-two. Four others were afterwards discovered by himself or some one else;
n)aking all the known syllables of the language only eighty-six ; a very curious fact ; especially
\\ hen it is considered that the language is very copious, a single verb undergoing, it is said,
some thousands of inflections. The syllables all terminate, as in the Pf)lynesian languages,
with a vowel sound. To represent these sounds Guyst took the English capital letters from
a spelling-book in his possession, and combining them with oth'-r marks of his own invention,
formed his alphabet consisting of eighty-six characters. With this alphabet he commenced
writing letters, and a great interest was soon awakened thereby aniong the Cherokees. The
youth of the land traveled a great distance to learn the new art of writing and reading, which,
from the peculiarity of the alphabet and language, they could acquire in three days sufficiently
to practice themselves and to teach others. Types t^or printing in this character have been
cast. A newspaper, partly in the Cherokee language with the same character, was sustained
among that unfortunate people for a short time. The appearance of the language thus printed
is singularly uncouth and barbarous.

See Missionary Herald, vol. xxii. p. 47, xxxii. p. 269; also Encyclopedia Americana, under Indian io?iguajes.— Especially,
S. L. Knapp, Lectures on American Literature. N. Y. 1829. 8. p. 25-29.

4. There are extant some remains of an ancient system of writing in which all the
characters are formed by different combinations of one simple element. The character
has been very commonly termed arrow-headed, from the form of this elementary sign,
which in most specimens is shaped almost exactly like the head of an arrow or spear.
It is also called Pemepolitan, because rt is found chiefly in inscriptions on the ruins of
Persepolis. The inscriptions upon the bricks brought from the site of ancient Babylon
are evidently in the same general character, although marked by considerable varia-
tions. Different conjectures respecting the principles of this method of writing had
been thrown out, but no attempt at an interpretation of it had been made, it is beheved.
before Champollion's discoveries in reference to the Egyptian hieroglyphics. Some
had thought it to be an alphabet of syllables ; and some had supposed it must consist
of signs of words or of ideas.

The first hint towards deciphering the character seems to have been obtained by ChampoUion
from a twofold inscription upon an Egyptian alabaster vase, presenting the name of Xerxes
one part having it in the Egyptian hieroglyphics, and the other in the Persepolitan arrow heads.

Since that discovery several scliolars, especially Lichtenstein, Grolefend, and Dr. Lassen of
Bonn have turned their attention to the subject ; and although De Sacy asserted in 1833, that no
BHtisfactory method of interpretation had then been suggested, yet it is said, that many oriental-
ists both of Germany and France have received the method of Grotefend. This decipherer
makes three varieties of the arrow-headed or wedge-shaped alphabet ; all of whicli are found in
the insoriptions at Persepolis. The oldest character is supposed to be in the Zend language,
the sacred idiom of the Magians ; the characters of the second '•jnd are supposed to belong to
the Pelilvi language ; and those of the third, to the Babylonian or Assyrian.

Our Pi. XXXVIII. gives in fig. d, an inscription taken from a Babylonian brick ; and, in fig. G,
the inscription on the vase above mentioned, and several other specimens of the arroio-headed
character from Median or Persian monuments, with Grotefend's interpretation. See description
of Plates.

Cf. Calmefs Diet, of the Bible, with Fragments, &c vol. 4th. p. 198, as published, Charlestown, 1814. 4 vols. i.~Dr. Jen\s, in
the Cartiprehensive Commentary, vol. ii. p. 533. — Lieber, Encyclopaedia Americana, under Persepolis. — American Bibl. Rep03.
No. xxvii. July, 1837. p. 248.— G. F. Grotefend, Neue Beitrige zur Erklarungder Persepolitanischen Keil-Schrift. Hanr.ov. 1837.
i.—Ch. Lassen, Die Alt-Persischen KeiMnschriften von Persepolis, &c. Boon, 1837. 8.— By Same, Institutiones linguae Pracriticae,
&c. Bonn, 1837. 8.

§ 19. The last step in bringing this art to its maturity was alphabetic or letter
writing. This method combines the use of the eye and the ear, in as much
35 it represents not the objects of thought themselves, but the sounds by which
these objects are indicated to the ear in our spoken language. The exact time
of this most useful invention cannot be ascertained ; but passages in the Bible,
In the writings of Moses (Ex. xvii. 14), and the book of Job (xix. 23, 24),
where it is spoken of as well known, prove its existence at a very early period.
It is impossible to decide who was its author, or even to what people the honor
of its origin belongs. Probably it may be claimed by the Assyrians or the
Egyptians, their social organization having been the most ancient. The
Greeks and Romans generally ascribed the invention of letters to the Phoe-
nicians.

"Some think letters were perfectly known before the confusion of Babel, and
imagine them to have been in common use in the antediluvian world (cf. § 6), and that



p. IV. INTRODUCTIOX. ALPHABETIC WRITING. 317

Noah and his family brought them into the new world, in which they have been con-
tinued through a vast variety of changes until now. Some attribute the invention to
3Ioses, others to Ahralmm, others to Abtl, and some of course to Adam. The Jew-
ish Rabbins say, God created them on the evening of the first Sabbath.'"

Adam Clarke, Succession of Sacred Literature. Load. 18.30. 2 vols. 8.— This writer maintains, that alphabetic writing was of
divine origin ; being taught to Moses by God when he wrote with his own finger the Decalogue on the tables of stone.— iJo«in
also considers the art of writing as of divine origin. " Only God could teach mankind to establish certain figures to signify all sounds
or words." See vol. 2J, p. 459, of his Ancient Hist, as oiled § 32. I.— Cf. Muipfy's Tacitus, vol. 2d, p. 416 of ed. Bost l»32.—
Also Aflle and Hu^. as cited § 3^. 2.

§ 20. While the art of writing was known to but few nations, and only to
particular individuals in these, its use was rare, except upon public monu-
ments, where the letters were generally engraved on stone, metal, or wood.
Such substances Vv'ere the first employed for the purpose of writing; afterwards
were used skins, bark, leaves (especially of the palm-tree), tablets covered
with wax, ivory, linen, parchments, and the Eo-yptian papyrus, prepared
from the fibres of the plant of that name. The chisel, style, pencil, and reed
were anciently the most common instruments for writing; the place of the last
was first yielded to the quill in more recent times. It was common to proceed
from right to left, rather than from left to right as in modern practice.

§ 21. The contents of the first writings, both on monuments and in books,
were historical. Letters, on their invention, were naturally applied to com-
memorate remarkable events upon pillars, altars, pyramids, obelisks, and the
like, and to record the sayings and tales which had hitherto been transmitted
orally from one generation to another. As this historical matter generally re-
ceived something of the form of poetry in oral communication, it resulted of
course that poetical tales were written earlier than narratives in prose. Even
moral and political maxims were framed into song, and accompanied with
music. Of all books now in existence, the writings of Moses and the book of
Job are the most ancient, although many probably were written before these.
Whatever claims have been urged for the antiquity of any other books, they
are all certainly of later origin.

Much has been said by some respecting the high antiquity of the records among
oriental nations. But more full investigation proves, that there is nothing authentic in
their histories belonging to a very early date. A distinguished scholar, Klaproth, has
given as the result of a thorough examination of the subject, that there is no hope of
finding, among the Asiatics, materials for the early history of man, beyond what is
found in the books of Moses. He remarks, that the history of ancient nations is
naturally divided into three parts ; (1) mythological, which may contain some portion
of truth enveloped in an impenetrable veil of allegories and fables ; (2) uncertain, in
which the main facts are true and the personages real, but the chronology unde-
termined ; and (3) true, in which the facts and the time are clearly and satisfactorily
recorded. The true ox certain history of the Hindoos does not reach back so far as
the time of Christ, and that of China extends not qmte 800 years before Christ, and
even the uncertain history of these, which are the most ancient of the Asiatic nations,
does not go much beyond the time of the Mosaic deluge, or between 2000 and 3000
years before Christ. See Christian Spectator, vol. vii. p. 544.

§ 22. By the aid of these and other helps, scientific knowledge among
ancient nations gradually became more various and general. But not until a
comparatively late period could it receive a systematic form, in which general
principles were separated from particular facts and perceptions, and arranged
according to some regular method or properly scientific classification. Here
necessity was the first teacher, and conducted human intelligence to those truths
and sciences, which were most indispensable to the supply of human wants,
and most useful in advancing the improvement of social life. Such were
especially medicine, arithmetic, astronomy, geometry, and geography.

§ 23. The natural instinct for self-preservation, and for guarding against every
thing which threatens danger to health and life, occasioned the first observa-
tions and rules of medicine. Various accidental opportunities for such observa-
tions and experience as constituted its original foundation were presented while
men used only vegetable food. It was long, however, before the art of medi-
cine was reduced to definite principles, and became an object of special atten-
tion by a particular class or profession. The Assyrians, Egyptians, and
Phosnicians were the first to cultivate it; although the time of its being biought

2d2



318 ARCHEOLOGY OF LITERATURE AND ART.

into any regular or scientific form cannot be accurately determined. The art
was at first directed more especially to external maladies, and anatomy proba-
bly owes its origin to the care and healing of wounds.

Th. Sprengel, Versuch einer pragmatischen Geschichte der Arzneykunde. Halle, 1821-28. 5 vols. 8. 3d ed. There is a French
translation (from the 2d ed.) entitled Histoire de la Medecinc, kc. Far. 1815. 9 vols. S.~W. Royston, Rise and Progress of tbe



Online LibraryJohann Joachim EschenburgManual of classical literature : from the German of J.J. Eschenburg, with additions → online text (page 65 of 153)