Review of "The Story of Decipherment" by Maurice Pope

So I was at Half Price Books with the mum and the aunt this last weekend. I picked up a book entitled The Story of Decipherment: From Egyptian Heiroglyphs to Maya Script by Maurice Pope (amazon - though I got it for only $8 at Half Price Books). I read most of it that Saturday, and finished it up the other day. Overall, great book if you’re into this sorta thing.

Subject Matter: How did the braniacs of the world figure out how to translate some of those old, seemingly very obscure, dead languages? How did someone figure out how Egyptian Hieroglyphs work? Or Cunieform? Or Linear B? This book tells the story of those languages, and several more (also including the Cypriot Syllabary, Luvian Hieroglyphic, Carian, and Mayan). The story is told very well and the level of detail is sufficient, though not overbearing. It is a fairly easy read in terms of content. Some knowledge of ancient near-eastern history is helpful, but not necessary.

Make sure you get the revised edition. It contains more languages that the one published a few decades ago.

As far as the materials go, it’s nice. It is softcover and has a nice picture on the front. The paper is very heavy and high quality, and there are a lot of good pictures. This book would not have been nearly as good without them. Great asset.

So, which languages did this make me want to learn? First, Linear B, which is mostly just an old Greek script. Then Egyptian Hieroglyphics. Not because I would find it particularly useful. I just think it would make me very cool. How many people do you know that can read glyphs, eh? Next, probably cuneiform.

But, those are going to have to battle it out with my desire to learn Khmer, rekindle Latin, rekindle German, Coptic, relearn Hebrew and Aramaic, and Syriac. Who’s going to win? Who knows...