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The Penultimate CuriosityHow Science Swims in the Slipstream of Ultimate Questions$
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Roger Wagner and Andrew Briggs

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198747956

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198747956.001.0001

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Breaking the Seals

Breaking the Seals

(p.333) Chapter Thirty-Nine Breaking the Seals
The Penultimate Curiosity

Roger Wagner

Andrew Briggs

Oxford University Press

This chapter describes the opening of the sealed packets sent by William Henry Fox Talbot, Dr Julius Oppert, Dr Edward Hincks, and Sir Henry Creswicke Rawlinson, and the comparison of their respective translations of the same ancient text. When the seals were broken and the manuscripts compared, three of the translations were more or less identical, ‘while it appeared to be merely owing to Dr Oppert’s very imperfect acquaintance with the English language that a difficulty was found in bringing his version into unison with the others’. The committee concluded that there was a ‘sufficient variety of words to test … the extent of the knowledge claimed by the translators of the sound of the words, and of the language to which the words are supposed to belong’. They noted that ‘the two principle scholars in the field’, Rawlinson and Hincks, often agreed word for word.

Keywords:   William Henry Fox, Julius Oppert, Edward Hincks, Henry Creswicke Rawlinson, translation, cuneiform, ancient texts

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