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Document number: 5973
Date: 03 Apr 1872
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: OPPERT Julius
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Last updated: 12th April 2013

Paris, 19 rue Mazarine
the 3d of April 1872.

My dear Sir,

I have received your kind letter,<1> and I read it with great pleasure. I knew already that you write in french remarkably well: although I cannot pretend to the same perfection in english, you will just allow that I continue my correspondence in your language, as by exercise only I shall acquire more perfection myself.

As you are one of the glorious inventors of the great art of photography; you will permit that I have some confidence in heliographic facsimiles: and my copy has not at all the signs which Mr Smith<2> reads on the document. There cannot be Cuneiform sign  FTCuneiform05973a.jpg on the stone, and Cuneiform sign  FTCuneiform05973b.jpg on the photograph. The sign which you state to be read Cuneiform sign  FTCuneiform05973c.jpg , has on the copy the form Cuneiform sign  FTCuneiform05973d.jpg , and looks rather like Aak. The character which Mr. Smith ukases to be ma, is in reality Cuneiform sign  FTCuneiform05973e.jpg ba; ma on the same monument is made Cuneiform sign  FTCuneiform05973f.jpg , the usual babylonian form.

Now, I know perfectly well that Mr. Smith has some pretentions to papal infallibility, and that he would believe that he is right, when he knows he is not. You are, my dear Sir, as capable as Mr. Smith or as myself, to give your own opinion after having examined the inscription, and I am quite sure, that your optic nerves will have the same impression as had mine.

You are perfectly right in stating that the third person of the precatif has lu in very numerous cases, and you mention some instances where this commencement denotes the third, and not the first person. But the examples you give, are all derivate voices, lu tiln lu ballit. is a païl, lu-tiln is the ideographic form. Thus you write Cuneiform sign  FTCuneiform05973g.jpg mudi, and pronounce musallim. lusalim is of the same voice. You can find them in any grammar § 124,126, 131, 144, 154, 161, 179, 184, etc. But this is not the question. In the simple form, which is called Kal in Hebrew, you will not show me a single instance of the form [hebrew] for the third person, in regular radicals. There you will always have [hebrew]. Hincks<3> has the first pointed out this distinction. Therefore, may the third persons lustakir, lustenekir, lusakkir, lustakkar, lustanakkan, lusaskir, lustaskir, lustanaskir, but never lukal, luskun, lublut, luksud, lusba, lumhur, lubel, lugrun, corresponding as first persons to the third ones likul, liskun, liblut, liksud, lisba, limhur, libel, ligrun.

I have perhaps not been very clear in the latin translation of the end of the eclipse passages. There was an eclipse of in the end of Duz of the master of the day, king of light, he ceased to shine in the evening time. In reason of that I rested like him, during these days, before I undertook to cut off the days of [Teumman?] and to destroy Elam. There is an allusion to the double sens [sic] of חנא, word, you know, expressed by the same ideogram Cuneiform sign  FTCuneiform05973h.jpg , that also explains obscurity (see II pl.48. p.l49) I hope, you will soon agree with me on this translation, or in a similar one, as the sense I sense I propose, cannot shock common sense.

I do not know if you had notice that I am, since some years, professor of assyrian philology and archaeology, at the Collège de Frances I dare say, that I am satisfied with my auditory: This is an occasion for me to form pupils in a scientific way. I explain easy cuneiform texts, and also this year the persian text of the Behistun inscription.

In repeating my best thanks for your kind communication, I am

yours most respectfully
Dr. Julius Oppert

To H. Fox Talbot LLD. F.R.S.


1. WHFT's letter has not been located.

2. George Smith (1840-1876), bank-note engraver, Assyriologist.

3. Rev Edward Hincks (1792-1866), Irish Egyptologist & Orientalist.

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