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Document number: 6022
Date: 18 Nov 1861
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: OPPERT Julius
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Last updated: 22nd April 2014

Paris, the 18th of November 1861
65 rue d. Grenelle St. Germain.

My dear Sir,

Some days ago I sent to Lacock s Abbey at your direction Some little publications concerning the cuneiform inscriptions; I joined the extract of a letter adressed to the editor of the Asiatic Journal; and containing Sir Henry Rawlinson’s of nine translations of the Borsippa inscription. I saw lastly your translations of the [Michaua?] stone & the Borsippa Cylinder, and I dare say that I regret you did not peruse my paper or to [illegible] it properly, my book on the Borsippa inscription. You would perhaps, I dare say have agreed with me in some points where now you only signalize serious errors committed by me. For [ill. del.] instances the 42 ar are not 42 ammat; we have a list of ten explications of [cuneiform], where ammat does not occur, but where you find amar; and the inscriptions of [Nabuchodorosor?] themselves inform us that if 480 ammatgagar is equal to 4000 U gagar, u can not possibly be ammat, otherwise you would have 4000 = 480 quod absurdum est.

I have published you know, a great work on the Cuneiform inscriptions, the first that exposes the principals of writing and reading, and the firs only one that has been submitted to a critism [sic] and had the honour to be attacked. This work of 360 pages in grand 4o, forms the second volume of the Expedition of Mesopotamia, and exposes the text, the transliteration in latin caracters, the latin interlineary version, and the hebrew transcription with a serious philological discussions of the forms.

Some people who will admit neither hieroglyphics not cuneiform, have attacked my labour, because it I expose all the system. I have [reposted?] and sent you two of the my answers. I shall have the honour to forward to you a fourth third, of a certain M. Schoebel<1> who is decided to tuer l’assyriologi actuelle. He has also prepared a fulminant factum against you, and will ask you in what semitic languages you found ribitu king, mida king, guza thrône, im ga glorious, alkakat praise, dadarri others, and he would attack me even with your opinions, as if all Assyriologists were solidar connected by an entire liability. And, indeed, I would in many points, that you had less followed Dr. Hincks often marvellous system, but rather Sir Henry’s more philological elucubration. You seem to believe, my dear Sir, and collobarator, that the people accepts our decypherments. Not at all, believe to a poor Babylonian, who himself had to convince himself, that even in the French Academy there are four or five tha scholors admitting our results and thirty-four who believe in M. Renon who says that all is nonsense. I read lastly (24 September) at the german philological congress at Grankfurt a/m, the translation of the Sennacherib cylinder and only there man, as Fleischer, [Pott?], and [Dufey?] said to me: “Now only we believe in your decypherments.” I commenced to explain the things [illegible deletion] to the greater publics, and M. Menant deserves our most sincere thanks for the clear and limpid manner he exposed to the public, that our s results are not humbug. And when though Hincks never wrote any line to prove deduce the value of the letters, which the public s [illegible], he preserves with a ridiculous anxiety the priority of dèscoverrès, whether this or that group signifies elephant or ass.

I do not know, if you saw my assyrian grammar, the book is known in England and will be translated by Dr. Cunningham. I must most frankly confess that the grammatical part of your explanation seems to our common s enemies to be the most attackable; one of them exhibited your paper in my absence (because he knew I would have defended you) and asked the assistance if this [illegible deletion] transcriptions resembled to any semitic language.

Now I take the liberty to defer to your judgement the following points.

You say (Michaux, page 20)

24 lineae “but there is: [cuneiform]. 20.40 and not [cuneiform]. zir line. Your followed here Hincks’ singular idea: the 63 lines don’t not prove this opinion more that the fact, that the cylinder is published page 63 of Layard. as, ad ? it is the sign preceding all evaluations bitash, but you have not [cuneiform] but [cuneiform]

[cuneiform] is kar, not abna.

hatizb mulizi is to be read [illegible] lib muligi. nam is explained by simtu [cuneiform] is explained by mimidu, versus. ([cuneiform], is never vas) l.15 bikkhira. You read there something that is not in the text which has [cuneiform]: this group is explained in a syllabary by [cuneiform] kallatu, hebrew [Hebrew] the bride.

A great objection is the non-observance of the [illegible] distinction. I would be preferable to adopt one a distinct determinations for ל, ס, צ, and מ you confound in the decypherments and in the assimilations with the hebrew for instance: (col II, l.9)

[cuneiform, with values for each and what looks like arabic or hebrew, also with values]

you read itzatzu as if the word were written [cuneiform] I-tza-zu, and you derive it from צצח; but where is the ח in the assyrian word? the same form in assyrian would by ihtassasu [cuneiform]; here you transliterate an assyrian ל by ס, and you explain the form by צ. And many similar etymologies are to be found in your paper. The man who showed me these things, forgot plainly your to pay his homage to your great perspacity and the plainly sagacious and satisfactory views which contains your paper. So I do, and I shall be delighted to enter in a nearer acquaintance with so distinguished a man as you are, Sir, and whose accomplishments are not limited by at one science, So I hope you will excuse my most sincere observations with my love for science, and my affection for all men who consecrate their force to work for it, and am

Yours most faithfully
Dr J. Oppert
Professor at the Imperial Library of France


1. Charles Schoebel (1813-1888), "Examen critique du dechiffrement des inscriptions cuneiformes assyriennes," Revue orientale et americaine, v. 5, 1861, pp. 174-220.

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