Lepsius, Karl Richard
LEPSIUS, KARL RICHARD (1810-1884), German Egyptologist, was born at Naumburg-am-Saale on the 23rd of December 1810, and in 1823 was sent to the " Schulpforta " school near Naumburg, where he came under the influence of Professor Lange. In 1829 he entered the university of Leipzig, and one year later that of Gottingen, where, under the influence of Otfried Miiller, he finally decided to devote himself to the archaeological side of philology. From Gottingen he proceeded to Berlin, where he graduated in 1833 as doctor with the thesis De lalulis Eugubinis. In the same year he proceeded to study in Paris, and was commissioned by the due de Luynes to collect material from the Greek and Latin writers for his work on the xvi. 16 weapons of the ancients. In 1834 he took the Volney prize with his Paliiographie als Mittel der Sprachforschung. Befriended by Bunsen and Humboldt, Lepsius threw himself with great ardour into Egyptological studies, which, since the death of Champollion in 1832, had attracted no scholar of eminence and weight. Here Lepsius found an ample field for his powers. After four years spent in visiting the Egyptian collections of Italy, Holland and England, he returned to Germany, where Humboldt and Bunsen united their influence to make his projected visit to Egypt a scientific expedition with royal support. For three years Lepsius and his party explored the whole of the region in which monuments of ancient Egyptian and Ethiopian occupation are found, from the Sudan above Khartum to the Syrian coast. At the end of 1845 they returned home, and the results of the expedition, consisting of casts, drawings and squeezes of inscriptions and scenes, maps and plans collected with the utmost thoroughness, as well as antiquities and papyri, far surpassed expectations. In 1846 he married Elisabeth Klein, and his appointment to a professorship in Berlin University in the following August afforded him the leisure necessary for the completion of his work. In 1859 the twelve volumes of his vast Denkmaler aus Agypten und Athiopien were finished, supplemented later by a text prepared from the note-books of the expedition; they comprise its entire archaeological, palaeographical and historical results. In 1866 Lepsius again went to Egypt, and discovered the famous Decree of Tanis or Table of Canopus, an inscription of the same character as the Rosetta Stone, in hieroglyphic, demotic and Greek. In 1873 he was appointed keeper of the Royal Library, Berlin, which, like the Berlin Museum, owes much to his care. About ten years later he was appointed Geheimer Oberregierungsrath. He died at Berlin on the loth of July 1884. Besides the colossal Denkmaler and other publications of texts such as the Todlenbuch der Agypter (Book of the Dead, 1842) his other works, amongst which may be specially named his Konigsbuch der Agypter (1858) and Chronologic der Agypter (1849), are characterized by a quality of permanence that is very remarkable in a subject of such rapid development as Egyptology. In spite of his scientific training in philology Lepsius left behind few translations of inscriptions or discussions of the meanings of words: by preference he attacked historical and archaeological problems connected with the ancient texts, the alphabet, the metrology, the names of metals and minerals, the chronology, the royal names. On the other hand one of his latest works, the Nubische Grammatik (1880), is an elaborate grammar of the then littleknown Nubian language, preceded by a linguistic sketch of the African continent. Throughout his life he profited by the gift of attaching to himself the right men, whether as patrons or, like Weidenbach and Stern, as assistants. Lepsius was a fine specimen of the best type of German scholar.
See Richard Lepsius, by Georg Ebers (New York, 1887), and art. Egypt, section Exploration and Research.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)