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Cracking the Egyptian Code

The Revolutionary Life of Jean-François Champollion

Andrew Robinson


An updated edition of this acclaimed book, now with a new preface and published to tie in with the bicentenary of Champollion’s breakthrough in 1822.

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Cracking the Egyptian Code is the first biography in English of Jean-François Champollion, the impoverished, arrogant and brilliant child of the French Revolution who made the vital breakthrough in deciphering the Egyptian hieroglyphs. This account charts Champollion’s dramatic life and achievements: by turns a teenage professor, a supporter of Napoleon, an exile, a fanatical decipherer and a curator at the Louvre, he lived life to the full but drove himself into an early grave. Andrew Robinson’s full-blooded account brings the man, his setbacks and his ultimate triumphs vividly to life.


'[Champollion’s story] is brought out by Robinson with verve, elegance and perception'
The Financial Times

'An entertaining, highly readable and authoritative biography of the greatest decipherer of all time'
Michael D. Coe

'A convincing and warm-hearted portrait of Champollion … an important book'
The Independent

'Utterly compelling'
Current Archaeology

'Evocative and compelling … a story of discovery, ego, resentment and a cultural struggle for survival – an illuminating addition to any historian’s library'
History Today

'A life more revolutionary than previously appreciated … a great story'
Timeless Travels

'Robinson tells the story of Young and Champollion’s rivalry with a flair for the dramatic … [he] elucidates the complex subject of hieroglyphics with verve and scholarly enthusiasm'
Fortean Times

'Thoroughly researched'
Ancient Egypt Magazine

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Paperback

Size: 19.8 x 12.9 cm

Extent: 304 pp

Illustrations: 66

Publication date: 14 July 2022

ISBN: 9780500296929

Contents List

Prologue: Egyptomania
1. Hieroglyphic ‘Delirium’ before Champollion
2. A Revolutionary Childhood
3. Reluctant Schoolboy
4. Egypt Encountered
5. Paris and the Rosetta Stone
6. Teenage Professor
7. The Race Begins
8. Napoleon and Champollion
9. Exile and Revolt
10. Breakthrough
11. An Egyptian Renaissance
12. Curator at the Louvre
13. To Egypt, At Last
14. In Search of Ramesses
15. First Professor of Egyptology
16. The Hieroglyphs after Champollion

About the Author

Andrew Robinson is the author of twenty-five books in the arts and sciences, including India: A Short History, The Man Who Deciphered Linear B and The Story of Writing, all published by Thames & Hudson.