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Document number: 6044
Date: 04 Dec 1861
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: OPPERT Julius
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Collection 2: PRIVATE
Collection 2 number: envelope only
Last updated: 15th April 2013

Paris, 65 rue de Grennelle Ste. Germain
4 december 1861

My dear Sir,

Yesterday, at my return <1> from Livieux, I found on my tablet your kind letter with the papers, yours and mine, for the letter had been sent back to me from Lacock Abbey. you will find the direction envelope with the stamps, and I will now send them back to Scotland. It was an error of the English Post, to forward it to Paris, instead of sending it to Edinburgh.

In my work I have plainly done justice to Dr. Hincks great merits, he has the first discovered the syllabism of Assyrian writing. You style him the discoverer of Assyrian language; this point has not been made out in England, and since long, de Sauley was the first who fixed his point it. The grammatical elucubrations of Dr. Hincks are very weak, and I persist in believing that Sir Henry in this point is superior the the [sic] worthy Irish scholar. Notwithstanding its unavoidable errors, the [Bisontoun?] paper is a very remarkable work; and if since this time, I have could make out the real and very rigid grammar of Assyrian people, I do not forget, what I owe to Sir Rawlinson’s first essays. I shall have the honor to join my Grammaire to the other polemical writings, and you will agree with me, I hope, in all cardinal points. Only this my Grammar has made now more favourable French and German savants; and at the last sitting of the Philological Association of Germany, one of the most celebrated Oriental Scholars said to me: “Now, I consent.” You seem to believe, dear Sir, that incredulity is reigns only on the continent: I know from the most sincere source, that cuneiform decypherments occurs the greatest opposition in England, and in the very British Universities and Institutions. Only, as Englishmen like much less quarrels than continental people, the attacks are not so frequent and not so energetic. You will see that, by my answer to the attacks agression.

Now I beg your pardon, if I now explain myself on some points of your interesting papers. I have much worked on the Sargon Cylinder, I brought to Europe from Mossoul, and I gave a partial translation at the British Association of at Glasgow in 1855. The line 40 is so connected with the preceding where Sargon says, he had built a city bearing his name Sarkin, real king and he continues:

ki-ma. gi-kir. su mi-ga sa. d-na. na-sar. kitti. au.

[Ticut?] (est) nuncupatio nomines[?] mer, quod ob preservationem foedcris et

mis sa-ni. kissat, su-ti-sur, la li’ i. la. ha-bal.

legum populi, ob gubernationem sine injuria[?], sine laesione

in-si. im-bu-in-ni. ilui. rabi

dabilium, attribnerunt nihi dei magni.

As to the meaning of my name, that the great gods gave me, leans I to observe the right and the laws of the people, and to govern without wrong and violation of the weak.”

You read ziger, why?

You say Sennacherib calls himself nassarikti; you read na sir kitti; nasir is the participle of the infiniti fve nasar.

Mishare is the hebrew mishôr, justice; you know, my dear Sir, isarti, that you have yourself interpreted.

Nasar is the verb. [hebrew]; Sir Henry ten years ago, has assimilated it. The word [hebrew] eagle, has not the slightest acquaintance with it. In arabic, mansour, only is victorious, that is; protected (by God)

Sutisur, is the infinitive of the istaphal of is [hebrew] to direct. Nustisir and ustisir are the participle and the first person of the same voice. The imperative is masc. sutisu, fem. sutisiri.

You read kàbalat simbu; the text gives Cuneiform sign FTCuneiform06044e la ha-bal in-si im-bu. <2> and you cannot possibly read otherwise; you find a similar phrase line 4 of the same inscription. Ha din in suti sun, musallime hibiltisun. The word is לבח and can never be לבק

Inbu, is the third person of אבנ, the first is ambi.

The next line is much more difficult but by no means, I thin I fear, it cannot be as you would have explained it.

Ka-sap. kamaki ír. sasu. ki. pi

Reclationem[?] Oracula tabularum urbis huires, secundum.

dip-pa-tí. sa. <3> g ai-ma-nu. kissat. kas’ap

script praecepta quae (sunt) religio mundi, inargento

au. zabar. anna. bíli-su-nu.

et aere dominis corum obtuli.

“I have presented to the Lords of the men, the explanation of the tablets conceiving this town, according to the writings, that form the religion of the people, engraved in silver and brass.”

Your read, dear Sir, kaship, but you have not Cuneiform sign FTCuneiform06044g, but kasap, an infinitive tense; and you may only compare in Semitic languages [characters], [characters], or arabic [characters] and [characters]. You are not allowed to seek for other roots. The word [hebrew] would be written with a Cuneiform sign FTCuneiform06044F. But [characters]. means to give oracles, or to explain.

Cuneiform sign FTCuneiform06044h can not be usibut. Cuneiform sign FTCuneiform06044i A.LIB. is a monogram ideogramm, signifying tablet, as you have well recognized it in the Michaux stone and perhaps pronounced kanak, you find very often; for instance, in the Zaclik stone.

Cuneiform sign FTCuneiform06044c is a well known word, and Sir Henry has copied it truly; the two Paris copies have Cuneiform sign FTCuneiform06044d It is the word [characters], tablet, writing, precept.

Never, I think, you can have the hebrew זת expressed by Cuneiform sign FTCuneiform06044b. The ת is never neglected in assyrian writing.

Cuneiform sign FTCuneiform06044a is never we, always u or yu, as Dr. Hinks stated. Besides that, the form we gives no Semitic form.

The third line is most difficult:

As-su-ri- ig-ga-ti. la. sub-si:. sa.

non conte[mm?]anda, quae (est)

ka-sap. kanaki. la si-bu u. kanak

revelatio [illegible deletion] oracula tabularum sine non arbitrariarum, tabulam

mi-sar. kanak asar. panu-su-nu.

justitiae. tabulam directionis facici um eorum

ad-din. su-nu-ti.

dedi iis.

I cannot explain the first words, because I am not sure, whether I must divide assu. riggati or assuri iggati. But, at any rate, I think, it is not the hebrew עקר, because yo the assyrian word riggati comes from גגר. La rusíi may be better read La subsi; the word rusíi is always written with two S(ש), and the hebrew and assyrian [Hebrew] is a quite distinct word.

The sign Cuneiform sign FTCuneiform06044j is never har ( Cuneiform sign FTCuneiform06044k), cut or sar, or hir. The infinitive, for instance, is Cuneiform sign FTCuneiform06044l, the participle Cuneiform sign FTCuneiform06044m.

The word I gave is not at-tan, but addin, you find it written Cuneiform sign FTCuneiform06044n, the root is [hebrew] as in chaldae.

I have, with great interest, read your second paper, and there are much more points, I am happy to agree plainly with your sagacious interpretation. In the list of Gods, you only call the god Bita. I believe him to be Nivroch, you was also call adored under the name of Salman. The proove is given in the inscriptions. Why do you call Cuneiform sign FTCuneiform06044o, San? The name will be better rendered by Sir, as Sir Henry made out.

In the [Zaalh?] stone I see an inscription referring to the river Cuneiform sign FTCuneiform06044p, and I cannot agree, [ill. del.] I am afraid, with you on account of the colours.

But, I am most delighted to recognize with you the identity of the Person you call Khigaship-Marduk with the other you find in the Michaux stone. The name is either Tib-asap-Marduk, Bless the oracle Merodach or Tib-asab-Marduch, bless the dwelling, Marodach. The father is: In-haram? isib; but there end the name, the signs Cuneiform sign FTCuneiform06044q, is a qualification you will often remark in the little clay inscriptions.

This point is very important, to fix the chronology of the king Marduk-iddin-akhi, who cannot be posterior to Sargon; it may possibly the king we call Saosdouchin ΣΑΟΣΔΟΥΧΙΝ ; who may know from what name is corrupted the Greek expression?

But I remark now, what you will have done since long, that my letter has been to long. But the transgression bears in itself its excuse, I think, and you will pardon me, I hope, of the liberty I took to be in contradiction with you in some points. But you know, that the French say Des choix des opinions jaillit la lumière, and I should be delighted, to see some errors of mine refuted, and to correct my opinions I would have conserved if I had not frankly expressed them.

I have thus the honour to be Your most faithfully
Dr. J. Oppert
professor at the Imperial library of France

I shall send you five little writing with this post.

[a footnote to the text:]

I gave to the people the assuriggati (the respectable, who contain the revelation of the laws without not arbitrary laws the tablet of justice, the tablet that inform whom to direct the face.”


H. Fox Talbot Esq.
Millburn Tower<5>
With a packet


1. Letter damaged.

2. These values placed under the correct signs.

3. Or su, he’s given the alternative above the line.

4. Formerly in the Harold White Collection; now owned by Hans P. Kraus, Jr.

5. Millburn Tower, Gogar, just west of Edinburgh; the Talbot family made it their northern home from June 1861 to November 1863. It is particularly important because WHFT conducted many of his photoglyphic engraving experiments there. The house had a rich history. Built for Sir Robert Liston (1742-1836), an 1805 design by Benjamin Latrobe for a round building was contemplated but in 1806 a small house was built to the design of William Atkinson (1773-1839), best known for Sir Walter Scott’s Abbotsford. The distinctive Gothic exterior was raised in 1815 and an additional extension built in 1821. Liston had been ambassador to the United States and maintained a warm Anglo-American relationship in the years 1796-1800. His wife, the botanist Henrietta Liston, née Marchant (1751-1828) designed a lavish American garden, sadly largely gone by the time the Talbots rented the house .

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