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TENSION ENVELOPE CORP.
SOME OLD/ EGYPTIAN
ERNEST GUSHING RICHARDSON
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S Sows
_ kt t rgn, by
Ernest Gushing Richardson
SOME Qi,B> EGYP^TAN; -LIBRARIANS
G. D. E. R,
The first of thes2 papers was read at
the meeting of the New York Library
Association, held at Columbia University,
September 28, 1911; the second contains
matter necessarily omitted from the first
paper from limitations of time. The
papers are wholly from original sources in
the sense that no statements are made on
the authority of secondary sources and
effort has been made to use only transla-
tions by acknowledged experts; it is,
however, founded on translations, not on
the original texts. A very brief ac-
count of the best or most accessible of
the sources used is given in the appendix.
ERNEST GUSHING RICHARDSON.
Princeton, N. J.
September twenty-ninth, 1911.
Some Old Egyptian Librarians i
Supplementary Paper 57
There are two apologies for introduc-
ing this topic at a session set apart for col-
leg"e librarians : first because the moral of
the paper is pointed at the University and
second because there is some reason to
suppose that the Old Egyptian colleges
were conducted in libraries and by librar-
ians were in short library-universities if
not university libraries.
That the schools of ancient Egypt were
library-universities in the sense that they
were held in libraries by librarians, two
examples will suggest. In the famous
first Anastasi Papyrus (as quoted in Er-
man, p. 380), the eloquent son of Nen-
nofre describes himself as "proficient in
the sacred writings . . . powerful in
the work of Seshait ; a servant of the God
Thoth in the House of Books . . .
teacher in the Hall of Books". It is prob-
ably not necessary to explain that the
House of Books and Hall of Books and
Case of Books were common technical
terms for the library according as a chest
or room or whole building was applied to
the purpose. It may be necessary how-
ever, to explain that any priest of the
book-gods Seshait or Thoth was by that
very token likely to be a library employee
of some sort even when it is not, as in this
case, more explicitly described. The ser-
vant of Thoth might, of course, be a
writer rather than a keeper of books, but,
in the earliest dates, the servant of Thoth
or Seshait, whether found acting as
author, copyist, or architect, was also a
keeper of books. We have, at any event,
in this case, clearly a teacher in the Hall
of Books and this Hall, with equal clear-
ness, was not a scriptorium but the place
of books for use. It is worth noting in-
cidentally, as a side light on the librarians
of the time, that this librarian-professor
says "I had mounted the horse that be-
longed to me", which may indicate that
he was a man of athletic tastes or the con-
trary, but which does suggest that the of-
fice of university librarian was well
enough thought of (thousands of years
ago) to pay more than enough for the
bare necessaries of life.
The second example shows that the pal-
ace school was also held in the library,
for it appears that when King Chufu's
grandson went to school he, like the
children of plainer parents who were
brought up in the palace with the royal
children, became a "writer in the House
of Books". It is to be remembered that
the idea of an education in the earliest
days seems to have been chiefly, or wholly,
bound up with this idea of writing. The
other two R's were merely incidental.
Every educated man, every graduate of a
sacred college, a palace school or a Treas-
ury school, was a scribe, or writer, just
as everyone in the Middle Ages was a
cleric, or clerk, and every college grad-
uate used to be a Bachelor of Arts. He
might be a military or treasury or stable,
temple, palace or library scribe but if he
was an educated man, in whatever field,
he was a "scribe", and it may be added,
if a scribe, then an official also.
It is worth while adding too that these
old library-universities were also library
schools in something of the modern sense,
for it is said of one such school that it
was for the training of "every sort of
scribes" and this must have included
among others the scribes of the library.
It will be noticed that since this was for
education in all the professions, it was a
As for the other excuse, it may be said
that to any one who has watched the pro-
gress of excavation work in the eastern
Mediterranean region during the past
twenty years, in view of the College cur-
riculum and of graduate studies, it be-
comes increasingly clear that Egypt and
Babylonia at least must soon take a much
larger place in University thought than
they now do. Granted that nothing can
take the place of Greek in the matter of
finish or in the making of a polished
mind, yet in one prime element of human
cultivation something has arisen which
quite supersedes it. This is the element
which used to be described as "antiquity"
or "antiquities". Polish is the perfection
of education in two dimensions but "an-
tiquity" is what adds the third dimension
and makes a surface a solid body. The
history of human civilization having now
moved back, cultivated men must have a
perspective of three thousand years at
least more than Greece or Judea can give.
Greek has become a modern language and
the hey-day of Greek history was far
back of the middle point between oldest
Egypt and to-day. Library histories used
to begin with the Alexandrian library but
some of the librarians to be mentioned to-
day lived longer before the founder of the
Alexandrian library than the latter did be-
fore our day. Without pretending that
the Egyptian language can compare in
culture value with the most perfect lan-
guage ever invented for the expression of
occidental ideas, as Greek most certainly
is, it may be fairly said that the archae-
ology, at least, of Egypt is quite com-
parable with that of Greece in power, if
not in exquisiteness, and that too in archi-
tecture, social or civil institutions or even
moral ideas, if indeed the best of the philo-
sophical ideas of Greece were not also bor-
rowed from Egypt without improvement.
Add to this the sheer antiquity of it and
you have an element of undergraduate
culture which cannot long be neglected
in the college curriculum.
And when it comes to post graduate
work the matter is more obvious still.
Here is the chance now to quarry out
great blocks of fresh material where the
classical scholars are, even with their own
great finds by excavation, hardly more
than working over the chips of former
colossal work into statuette theses. If
universities are backward in this fascinat-
ing as well as fundamental field, uni-
versity librarians must share the blame
with the rest. While they cannot go very
far ahead of the general opinion of the
university in getting books, they can at
least do something by way of providing
readable books for undergraduates, and
they can at least do research work as to
their own lines in these fields.
A chief point of this paper is therefore
to suggest how much unworked material
there is about library matters in ancient
Egypt. The very excellent article on li-
braries in the new Britannica has good,
though still scanty, gleanings from this
field, but in general it is very little worked.
As lately as 1905 a very excellent writer
in a very admirable encyclopaedia says
that the most ancient library of which we
have precise knowledge is that of A33iir-
banipal (668-626 B.C.) and that while in
Egypt there must have been collections
of papyrus rolls and, while EJip..dorus
speaks of the library of Ramses II, and
two officials of Ramses' time are described
as librarians, no details are known of the
early Egyptian libraries. As a matter of
fact we know almost as much about the
palace library of Ikhnaton in say 1370
B.C. as we do about that of Assurbanipal
we know its location in the palace and
something of its ground plan and a couple
of hundred of the tablet-books contained
are still extant. What is more, we have its
official name and the still existing stamped
bricks on which it is called "the place of
the records of the palace of the king".
We know again that a certain temple li-
brary, a hundred years before that, con-
tained a certain historical work on a
leather roll and that the palace library of
king Nefirikere, 1300 years earlier still or
say 2750 JB.C, had medical papyri in
portable cases which shows that both
palace and temple libraries were more
than mere archives and there are scores
of other details like these.
To go into .all these details is, however,
too big a task for a short paper and this
one therefore proposes to limit its field,
first, by cutting out details of libraries
which are not at least half a millennium
older than that "oldest library of which
we have details" (i. e. before Assurbani-
pal), second, by excluding details con-
cerning building, books and methods of
administration except as they appear in-
cidentally; third, by excluding the more
doubtful and obscure references, and
finally it is to be feared that lack of time
may make it necessary to cut out the less
interesting and informing references.
The very title of this paper has amused
some, quite as if they thought the subject
would be exhausted by the sentence "there
were none", but nevertheless the paper is
in sober historical earnest. It, in fact,
proposes, among other things, to intro-
duce to you by name and date and with
some details of their lives, not always
wholly without piquancy, twenty-one li-
brarians who lived long before Assur-
banipal, and by the same token, much
longer before the Alexandrian library was
founded. Moreover this paper makes no
pretence of exhaustiveness it is only a
desultory beginning in a rich field. It is
a mere sample so to speak of the wealth
of material which has not yet gotten much
into the encyclopaedias or the universi-
ties. So much for the moral.
If this account of Egyptian librarians
begins with the librarians of the gods,
Thoth and Seshait please do not think that
the paper is to be legendary or mytho-
logical in character; on the contrary, it
will deal with real human librarians and
the genuine historical monuments of these
librarians in papyri or inscriptions. The
mythological librarians, however, have
two great virtues: first they embody the
philosophy of books and libraries current
among the Egyptians and second these
gods were in fact the gods of the librar-
ians themselves, seriously worshipped by
them. The significance of this latter fact
for the biographical interpretation of his-
torical human librarians is very great, for
as a man's god is, so is he. Tell me a
man's god and I will tell you the char-
acter of the man. There is a sound psy-
chological reason for this, since a man's
god is that on which his thoughts most
dwell (or conversely that on which one's
thoughts most dwell is one's god) and
what our thoughts dwell upon as ideal
that we become. And if, farther, a man's
ideal of his profession is made personal,
whether that person be human or divine,
this hero worship, or god worship, works
all the more powerfully. Not to know
Thoth is thus to miss the key to the
Egyptian librarian, for Thoth was the
ideal of the Egyptian librarian, constantly
in his mind for imitation.
And it must be confessed that in char-
acter Thoth is not a bad ideal for any
one nor in activities either, for that mat-
ter, though one must pass some strictures
on that feature of his library economy
which consisted in converting so far as
possible all his library into kept books or
secret writings caviar to the general.
Yet, as we shall see, he was not so much
the god of the private library and confi-
dential archives as he was public librarian
trying to issue only fit books to fit persons
for proper use. You may be spared the
other book gods since when they act as
book gods they may be regarded as differ-
ent manifestations of these two, but of
Seshait and of Thoth it is needful to
know something in order to understand
the mind of the Egyptian librarian.
The oldest and greatest of Egyptian li-
brarians was then the god Thoth, the
Moon god, Hermes to the Greeks, Mer-
cury to the Romans, Nabu to the Baby-
lonians, scribe of the gods. It is true that
Seshait, the wife of Thoth is hardly less
old and is expressly called the "Lady of
libraries", but if Seshait is "Mistress of
the Hall of books' 7 on the base of one door
of the library of the Ramesseum, Thoth,
is called "Lord of the Hall of Books" on
the other. Those therefore who take
alarm at the rapid f eminisation of libraries
and might feel badly to think that the
patron divinity of libraries was a goddess,
may take comfort in the fact that the
great god of libraries was in truth mascu-
line and Seshait only his better half and
that too in the days when it took many
individuals to make one better half.
Seshait is called upon the monuments
"She who draws in her horns, mistress of
writings, mistress of building, the lady of
libraries". She is thus patron of archi-
tects as well as of librarians and she is
farther the goddess of history. The title
"She who draws in her horns" has been
variously explained but, remembering
that she is the moon goddess, is seems to
point clearly to the waxing or the waning
moon. It would be interesting to show
how in her character of Hathor she car-
ries to Ra the books of Thoth as a sort
of library page, and also to trace her in
Tefnut, the lion goddess, Nephthys and
all her other forms, but time forbids.
As for Thoth, a book could be written
on his librarian aspects. He is the god of
learning, numbering, and measuring, giver
of written words "lord of the sacred writ-
ings". He is founder of all the sciences,
creator of heaven and earth by his words,
the god who raises from the dead also by
his words, and who weighs and records
a man's deeds at the final judgment He
personifies expressions of all sorts as Ho~
rus does thought, and he is the historical
prototype of the Logos of Plato, Philo,
and St. John.
Two chapters of the Book of the Dead
(182-3) are hymns to Osiris, supposed to
be spoken by Thoth himself, and in these
we are supposed to have his own idea of
his own ideals. "I am Thoth the perfect
scribe", he says, "whose hands are pure,
who opposes every evil deed, who writes
down justice and who hates every wrong,
he who is the writing reed of the inviolate
god, the lord of laws, whose words are
written and whose words have dominion
over the two earths".
Note that Thoth is the god of righteous-
ness, lord of laws ; and note that the writ-
ten tyvords have dominion. Later this
came to relate to the magic which played
so great a part in Egyptian life. Books
were kept from the common people be-
cause the written words gave superhuman
power. Later you will hear of a librarian
who possibly lost his life because he in-
cautiously and contrary to the rules loaned
out a book of magic to the wrong per-
Again Thoth says "I am Thoth the
favorite of Ra . . . the lord of laws,
who pacifies the two earths by the power
of his wisdom . . . who drives away
enmity and dispels quarrels" . . .
Mr. Carnegie, you see, was not the first
to unite the patronage of libraries with a
propaganda of arbitration in both hemi-
Once more Thoth says : "I am the lord
of justice, the witness of right before the
gods ; I direct the words so as to make the
wronged victorious ; I am Thoth the lord
of justice, who giveth victory to him who
is injured and who taketh the defense of
A noble practical ideal for any librarian
is it not? And after all is not this the
very key note of real education? It is,
always has been, and, by the nature of
things, everlastingly must be true that
learning is the irresistible weapon of the
weak against the strong and the strong
against the stronger not learning for it-
self but learning dominated by a burning
zeal for justice and righteousness, the
"two truths" of Thoth. In the present
social unrest, economics is not the key-
word of salvation but learning bent on
justice and on righteousness.
Again Thoth says: "I have come to
thee; my hands bring (Truth) Maat; my
heart does not contain any falsehood; I
offer the Maat before thy face; I know
her; I swear by her."
This interesting passion for truth is a
constant note in the Egyptian inscriptions
and corresponds with the finest spirit of
modern science while it points also to the
foundation sore of modern social condi-
tions the decay, not of regard for public
law, but regard for that law which a man
makes for himself by giving his word.
Finally Thoth says : "I have dispelled
darkness and driven away the storm; I
have given the sweet breaths of the North
. f . I give Ra to set as Osiris and
Osiris to be setting as Ra. I give him to
enter the mysterious cave in order to re-
vive the heart of him whose heart is mo-
tionless." "I am Thoth, who giveth Osi-
ris victory over his enemies ; I am Thoth
who prepares tomorrow and also foresees
what will come afterwards; his action is
not in vain when he settles what is in the
sky, the earth, and the Tuat, and when he
gives life to the future ones."
It is too long a story to tell how Ra,
the Sun-god, setting as Osiris becomes
Thoth, the moon god, who in turn sets in
the rising sun of the new day, and how
this is applied to death and the resurrec-
tion. It is still less possible to set forth
in detail how the spirit which revives the
heart of the dead is knowledge, or how,
when Thoth gives life to the future ones,
it is by means of Truth and through the
agency of writings, but the whole story
up to the final judgment in the hall of the
Two Truths and the everlasting life where
Truth is food and drink for the immortals
is one of profound and noble symbolism,
fascinating in interest to book lovers.
The symbols of Thoth are the ibis or
ibis-headed man and, what is a bit pain-
ful at first sight to librarians, the ape.
There is not time to expound the many
and subtle ideas which turn in and around
the various aspects or incarnations of
Thoth even to dwell a little, as was in-
tended, on his seven assistants, who may
be supposed to be the patron gods of sub-
librarians. As a sample, however, a few
words about the ape-symbol may be par-
These "cynocephalous apes" were, you
remember to begin with, real apes, really
worshipped. They are the lords of writ-
ing, of music, of the sciences, and the to-
tem so to speak of the library tribe. They
stand for Thoth, for the full moon, and
for the sun at the equinox. At first sight,
as has been said, it is a bit shocking to
find one's trade symbolized by the monkey
tribe, but when one looks at the facts and
considers how the Egyptians looked at
them, there is balm in Gilead, for it will
be remembered that most of the Egyp-
tian gods had their symbols and we may,
to begin with, comfort ourselves with the
fact that Seshait, in one of her forms, is
the lion goddess. Moreover, if the cow,
the cat, the dog, the jackal, were honor-
able symbols, much more so the ape, high-
est of all animals in intelligence. And,
indeed, this is what the Egyptians meant,
for the apes were used as symbol because
the Egyptians said there was a certain race
of apes which knew how to write. When,
therefore, they chose their specimens to
serve them as gods, the priests would give
pen and ink to them to try them and see
if they belonged to the right race. There
is, Lanzone says, a legend among the
Arabs to-day that the apes formerly knew
how to write, but for their sins had had
the power withdrawn by the Creator. It
would be a little rash to say that the
Egyptians invented the Darwinian hypo-
thesis, but in these days when the com-
parative psychologists have taken away
speech and even reason as distinctive of
man and have left to him as distinctive
only the ability to permanently record his
thoughts in writing, it is of interest to
note that the Egyptians had singled out
writing as characteristic of that missing
link, the lost race of the writing ape. It
only remains for some wise person to
show that the pithecanthropes of Haeckel
and the lost cynocephalous ape are one and
we may offer farther this bibliographical
contribution to the research. In Egyptian
lore, the ape not only writes, but sits upon
the middle point of the balances, standing
thus for equilibrium, and, further, in his
astronomical aspect he is the equinox,
from which two things it is an easy step
to see in him the missing link between
man and animal, as in his character of
moon god he is the link between Turn, the
setting sun, and Shu, the rising sun.
These four apes, harbingers of the day,
who sit upon the prow of the barque of
Ra and live upon truth, are Thoth, the
moon god, Lord of Truth.
Passing thus, strictly according to the
manner of modern evolution, from the
gods upward to man, by way of the ape,
we come to the human librarians.
^ The earliest systematic history known
to literature is the book of annals of the
Egyptian kings found on the Palermo
stone. Although the work in its present
form dates only from 2721 B.C., the part
containing the history of the early dynas-
ties back to 3400 is known, from linguistic
and chronological evidence, to be contem-
porary with the events recorded. The
work is therefore a true chronicle or
journal, like the Hebrew book of days or
the annals of Thutmose III. In this
chronicle, about fifteen years before the
end of the first dynasty, or about 3200
B.C. it is officially recorded that the priest
of Seshait "stretched the cord" for the
house called Thrones-of-the-gods, the de-
sign for which had been prepared the pre-
vious year. This recalls the fact that a
dozen centuries later under Sesostris I, at
the beginning of a temple in Heliopolis,
it was "the scribe of the sacred book" who
stretched the cord. This ceremony of
stretching the cord or laying out the
ground plan of the temple, corresponded
to our ceremony of laying the corner-
stone, and in later times it seems always
to have been performed by the king him-
self. In these earlier times, however, the
process seems to have been conducted by
the architect. The priest of Seshait was,
as before noticed, always a librarian-ar-
chitect in those days and the two cere-
monies, one about 3200 B.C. and one
about 2000 (say 1980) B.C. were prac-
tically the same, although in the one case
it was the priest of Seshait and in the
other the scribe of the sacred book, that
is the librarian of the secret books of
Thoth, who performed the ceremony. The
designing of the previous year, like all
such designing, as will be seen, was doubt-
less preceded by a careful study in the
libraries of the necessary conditions and
was doubtless done in the House of Books
and under the direction of the anony-
mous priest who "stretched the cord".
Just before the time when these an-
nals of which we have been speaking
or about 2750 B. C, lived Henhathor
"scribe of the king's records", the son of
Nekonetkh "king's confident to Userkaf ",
first king of the fifth dynasty. He is men-
tioned in three documents and with him,
on a certain statute of his father, is men-
tioned also an "inferior scribe of the
king's records" the librarian thus and
the assistant librarian of the king's ar-
chives. Henhathor's father in these docu-
ments bequeathes his office and the land
which went with it to be divided between
his sons, each to have the office of priest
a month about, but, inasmuch as there
were thirteen sons, one month and its land
had to be divided between two, and quite
properly as we may think the librarian
son seems to have been the favored one
and made residuary heir of all the father's
estate or was it perhaps because he was the
most needy ?
The most powerful man at the court of
King Dedkere-Isesi (2683-2655 B. C.)
was the "chief judge, vizier, chief archi-
tect, chief scribe of the king's writings,
Senezemib", a not uncommon combination
of titles which the king himself uses of
him in a letter concerning his plans for a
lake (or garden) in the palace Isesi. In
the inscription put upon the tomb of Sene-
zemib by his son Mehi it tells how Sene-
zemib as "master of secret things of his
majesty 1 ' attended his majesty while he
was in the place of writings. The editor
remarks in a note that the king thus
"visited the public archives in company
with the vizier", but, while it was the
vizier who accompanied him, it was, of
course, in his capacity of chief librarian
that he did so.
It may be remarked at this point that
the king's court or council (of thirty?)
seems always, during a good part of
Egyptian history, to have included e.v-
officio the chief librarian of the palace ar-
chives and a librarian of the sacred writ-
ings. We have here the case where one
of them attained, as several later did, the
supreme honor of being the king's vizier.
It should be noted also that Senezemib
was chief judge, for this has its bearing
in the later biographies, where librarians
appear as judges in criminal cases.
Senezemib's son built for him a tomb,
which took a year and three months in
building, and he provided also a suitable
endowment for keeping up the proper
religious rites connected with it. This
endowment included the support of mbr-
tuary priests to make the usual offerings
and apparently included a perpetual grant
by the king for the offerings, confirmed
by royal decree sealed "with the seal of
writing". The son had this deed of en-
dowment "put into writing" and doubtless
properly recorded in the record office, but
it was also, as he says, "engraved by the
artists" on the walls of the tomb together
with the two letters which the "king him-
self" wrote with his own fingers in order
to praise Senezemib, and an account of his
searching with him in the library in the
preliminary investigations concerning
matter of the artificial lake.
Just about one hundred years later in
the reign of King Pepi I (2590-2570),
Khenu, the scribe of the king's records,
appears as member of an expedition to
Hammamat to secure stone for Pepi's
pyramid at Sakkara.
Under the second King Pepi (2566-
2476), who followed the first Pepi after
an interim of 4 years, an overseer of the
king's records again attains the viziership.
Zau, the son of Khui, and his wife, Nebet,
was overseer of the king's records, chief
justice, and vizier like Senezemib, but it
does not appear from the inscriptions that
he was architect or had any relationship
with the public works. He was doubly
a "prophet", chief ritual priest, sem
priest, wearer of the royal seal, and mas-
ter of all wardrobes.
It is to be noted that he is master of
all wardrobes. Some wardrobes were
certainly true wardrobes in that they con-
tained the ritual garments of the gods, and
it was one of the duties of the master of
the wardrobe to clothe the image of the
god at the public festivals, but the ward-
robes contained also the secret things in
general, including probably "the secret
writings" so often mentioned. Indeed,
the wardrobes were likely the treasure
chests such as in later times and other
lands contained clothing or books or any
other treasure. This, however, is to be
taken as probable rather than proved.
This Prince Zau had five brothers, all
named Zau, and two sisters, both named
Enekhnes-Merire, both of whom were
married to King Pepi I. One of these
sisters was the mother of King Mernere,
successor of Pepi, and the other of Pepi
II who was, therefore, nephew of Zau,
From this it is clear that this "overseer
of the king's records" did not lack for in-
fluence. It appears that he was already
living in the reign of Pepi I, but when he
died it is hard to say even approximately.
Evidently he died in the reign of Pepi
II, which began in 2566, but as Pepi's
reign is the longest in all history, covering
ninety years, it does not fix the date of his
death within very narrow limits.
During the next five hundred years
there were doubtless librarians but the
writer of this paper has not yet found
any sure reference to themj. Then comes
the anonymous Scribe of the Sacred Book
who stretched the cord for the temple in
Heliopolis, as before mentioned, and as
recorded on a leather roll, copied five hun-
dred years after from the lost inscription
of Sesostris I, recording how the king in
1977 B. C. called together his court to
consider building or rebuilding a temple
to the Sun God. As has been already
suggested and as will later appear spe-
cifically in regard to such undertakings,
there was undoubtedly one, if there were
not two, librarians among the "compa-
nions of the court" with whom the king
took counsel at this time, and Indeed it
appears that it was of the librarians that
he first took counsel.
Shortly after this and during the same
reign of Sesostris I, Mentuhotep, master
of secret things of the house of sacred
writings and also master of the king's
writings of the royal presence as well as
secret things of the "divine words" (or
hieroglyphics) and prophet of Maat,
(goddess of truth) became vizier and
chief judge. Mentuhotep conducted the
work in the temple and on the sacred
barque, dug the lake, and masoned the
well at Abydos. A tomb was built for
him by royal decree at Abydos, recording,
in the language of the decree, "all thy
offices and all pleasing things which thou
didst". These inscriptions are so filled
through and through with references to
his proceeding and his ideals, so obviously
colored by the examples of Thoth, that
it is worth reading in full this biographical
INSCRIPTIONS OF MENTUHOTEP:
Hereditary prince, vizier and chief
judge, attached to Nekhen, prophet of
Maat (goddess of Truth), giver of laws,
advancer of offices, confirming the bound-
ary records, separating a land-owner
from his neighbor, pilot of the people, sat-
isfying the whole land, a man of truth
before the Two Lands, hereditary prince
in judging the Two Lands, supreme head
in judgment, putting matters in order,
wearer of the royal seal, chief treasurer,
Hereditary prince, count, chief of all
works of the king, making the offerings
of the gods to flourish, setting this land
. . . according to the command of the
god . . . sending forth two brothers
satisfied with the utterances of his mouth,
upon whose tongue is the writing of
Thoth, more accurate than the weight,
likeness of the balances, fellow of the king
in counseling . . . , giving attention
to hear words, like a god in his hour,
excellent in heart, skilled in his fingers,
exercising an office like him who holds it,
favorite of the king before the Two
Lands, his beloved among the companions,
powerful am(ong the officials, having an
advanced seat to approach the throne of
the king, a man of confidences to whom
the heart opens.
Hereditary prince over the
(royal) castle, finding the speech of the
palace, knowing that which is in every
body (heart), putting a man into his real
place, finding matters in which there is
irregularity, giving the lie to him that
speaks it, and the truth to him that brings
it, giving attention, without an equal,
good at listening, profitable in speaking,
an official loosening the (difficult) knot,
whom the king (lit., god) exalts above
millions, as an excellent man, whose name
he knew, true likeness of love, free from
doing deceit, whose steps the court heeds,
overthrowing him that rebels against the
king, hearing the house of the council of
thirty, who puts his terror among the
barbarians when he has silenced the Sand-
dwellers, pacifying the rebels because of
their deeds, whose actions prevail in the
two regions, lord of the Black Land and
the Red Land, giving commands to the
South, counting the [number] of the .
. . of the Northland, in whose brilliance
all men move, pilot of the people, giver
of food, advancing offices, lord of designs,
great in love, associate of the king in the
great castle, hereditary prince, count, chief
treasurer, Mentuhotep, he says :
"I am a companion beloved of his lord,
doing that which pleases his god daily,
prince, count, sem priest, master of every
wardrobe of Horus, prophet of Anubis of
, . . the hry ydb, Mentuhotep, prince
in the seats of 'Splendor 3 , at whose voice
they (are permitted to) speak in the king's
house, in charge of the silencing of the
courtiers, unique one of the king, without
his like, who sends up the truth to the
palace, great herald of good things, alone
great, sustaining alive the people. One
to whom the great come in obeisance at
the double gate of the king's-house ; at-
tached to Nekhen, prophet of Maat, pillar
[before] the Red Land, overseer of the
western highlands, leader of the magnates
of South and North, advocate of the peo-
ple . . . , merinuter priest, prophet
of Horus, master of secret things of the
house of sacred writings, governor of the
(royal) castle, prophet of Harkefti, great
lord of the royal wardrobe, who ap-
proaches the limbs of the king, overseer
of the double granary, overseer of the
double silverhouse, overseer of the double
gold-house, master of the king's writings
of the (royal) presence, wearer of the
royal seal, sole companion, master of se-
cret things of the 'divine words' (hiero-
glyphics), chief treasurer, Mentuhotep."
In the reign of Sesostris III (1887-
1849) a certain Sehetepibre was obviously
a successor to Mentuhotep, for he copied
much of the latter's epitaph word for
word on his own tombstone. He was
"Master of secret things", but it is not
expressly said that these included the se-
In the second year of king Neferhotep
(probably not very long after 1788) his
rrfajesty "spake to the nobles and compa-
nions" who were in his suite "the real
scribes of the hieroglyphics, the masters
of all secrets" (saying) "my heart hath
desired to see the ancient writings of
Atum, open ye for me for a great investi-
gation". These writings of Atum were,
it seems, in the temple at Heliopolis. So
these companions said . . . "Let thy
majesty proceed to the libraries (house
of writings or rolls) and let thy majesty
see every hieroglyph." "His majesty pro-
ceeded to the library. His majesty open-
ed the rolls, together with these compa-
nions. Lo, his majesty found the rolls of
the house of Osiris . . . lord of
Abydos." Travelling thus from Thebes
to Heliopolis the king examined the books
in the library with his librarians, got the
information which he wished, as to how
rightly to prepare the temjple of Osiris
and gave orders to have things carried
out accordingly. [Note here what we
have before observed that the two librar-
ians appear in his court officially, among:
his nobles and companions.]
The next three hundred years, includ-
ing the troubled Hyksos period, is barren
of librarian references, if not of librarians.
It is in this Hyksos time that Joseph was
in Egypt, if indeed he ever was or was in
Egypt. Then in the reign of Thutmose
III came Senmut.
In this reign (say 1501-1447 B. C.)
there was a most interesting and famous
historical struggle between Queen Hatsh-
epsut, daughter of Thutmose I, and Thut-
mose III. The mother of Hatshepsut,
Ahmose, was daughter of the old royal
line and it was through her that the title
of Thutmose I came. After the death of
Thutmose I, it was a great struggle as to
whether Hatshepsut should be Queen or
some son of the king's other wives, hav-
ing no right of succession. As the his-
torian says, "Thutmpse III, who was
son of the king by an obscure wife, as
a young prince of no prospects had been
placed in the Karnak temple as a priest
with the rank of prophet." The matter
seems to have been compromised by marri-
age between the two which did not end,
however, but rather began the feud of
the Thutmosids. Thutmose kept trying to
limit the honors of Hatshepsut and she
on the other hand succeeded, now and
then, in putting him into the background.
Thutmose was compelled by the adherents
of Hatshepsut to make her co-regent.
This Queen Hatshepsut is called the "first
great woman in history", and "the most
powerful noble" among her followers was
Senmut. He was not vizier, but it is
said that he "all but held that office". It
is farther said that no doubt the success
of the Queen's career was largely due to
him. Senmut was a prophet and thought
it worthy of record that "he had access
to all the writings of the prophets". He
was "master of secret things in the tem-
ple" and he was royal tutor to the young
princess Nefrure. This combination of
prophet, tutor, master of secret things,
and more especially the fact of his access
to the secret writings which were in the
charge of the prophets of whom he was
himself one, point pretty clearly to a li-
brarianship. The editors of his inscrip-
tion remark it as interesting that he has
put an archaic text, evidently taken from
these secret writings, on his own tomb-
During this same reign of Thutmose
III, there appears on the tomb of the
famous vizier, Rekhmire, a new class of
alleged special librarians. In the extreme-
ly interesting description of the duties of
a vizier, mention is made of the viziers
and what is supposed to be the keepers of
the viziers' records but what, on the face,
seems clearly to refer, not to the keepers
of the viziers' records, but to the keepers
of other libraries. It appears from the
account that, in acting as chief judge in
the conducting of a trial, the vizier might
often have occasion to send to various
libraries or halls of records, and it pre-
scribes that any writing sent for by him
from any hall shall, if it does not prove
to be a confidential writing, be taken
to him with certificates of the keepers,
sealed by the officers and the scribes as
well. After use it is to be sealed with
the seal of the vizier and returned to its
place, but it is added : "If he furthermore
ask for a confidential writing, then let it
not be taken by the keepers thereof."
Whether this account relates to the vizier's
librarians or not, there is specific account
of such librarians later.
Rekhmire, himself a vizier, was master
of secret things in the temple of Amon,
as well as vizier, judge, superintendent
of the prophets and priests, and chief of
the six chief courts of justice. It may be
remarked at this point that the chief judge
was also, as chief judge, a sort of librarian
in that he had charge of the forty books
of the law the forty "skins" or leather
rolls of the law which the vizier must,
according to these rules, have open before
him when the court was in session. Rekh-
mire, himself, is, in fact, depicted in this
tomb with the forty rolls before him
the picture of a book collection from the
1 5th century B. C.
During this period and later there are
many references to recorders and to the
scribes of recorders and these references
perhaps imply local records, but it is ex-
pressly said in these inscriptions of Rekh-
mire that the records of the nome, or
county, are kept in the vizier's hall and
it will be safer for us to count the record-
ers and their scribes as clerks doing the
recording rather than librarians in charge
of the records.
One of the most famous names in
Egyptian literature is that of Amenhotep,
the son of Hapi, who lived in the reign
of Amenhotep III (1411-1375). It is as
author that he is chiefly famous and in
later times he was worshipped as a god.
It was for proverbs or wisdom literature
that he was famed and in an inscription
on his tomb at Thebes, it is said, "his name
shall abide forever, his sayings shall not
perish". It is the irony of fate that only
nine proverbs survive under his name, and
these are thought to be apocryphal. Amen-
hotep was a royal scribe, minister of pub-
lic works, and chief of the prophets of
Horus. The latter office possibly, as we
have seen, implied librarianship and his
office as chief king's scribe 'skilful in the
divine words" probably implied the same.
He records that he was "introduced into
the divine book, beheld the excellent
things of Thoth, was equipped with all
their secrets, and opened all the sacred
books" the same word being used that
was used when King Neferhotep went to
the library and opened the rolls with the
librarians. This, nevertheless, probably re-
fers to reading rather than to keeping the
books, and our claim on this famous au-
thor as librarian rests on his offices as
chief architect and chief prophet which
evidence is not quite up to the standard
which we have been setting for ourselves,
although its group of corroborations is
too strong to let the name be passed.
Something the same thing may be said
of the vizier Ramose in the following
reign of Ikhnaton or Amenhotep IV, al-
though the evidence is much stronger
since he is "master of all wardrobes",
"master of secret things of the palace",
"attached to Nekhen, prophet of Maat",
and chief justice. The combination, espe-
cially the "secret things of the palace"
forms a pretty explicit reference to the
archives, and if so we have the responsi-
ble head of the famous Tel-el- Amarna
archival library, from which a couple of
hundreds of letters from Syria, Palestine,
Babylonia, and the kings of the Mi tan-
mans and the Hittites still survive. If the
vizier was in charge, he like some modern
directors, probably gave no direct atten-
tion but doubtless had special scribes for
the keeping of the documents.
This brings things down to the time
when Moses lived, if he did live, whether
this was in the time of the Amenhoteps,
as some still say, or in the reigns from
Ramses II to Seti II, as most aver, for
we have no references between. Sup-
posing this latter date to be the case, the
next reference would be not far from
the time when Moses, like many other
foreigners, was being brought up with the
king's sons in the palace school and in the
palace library, while Aaron by the same
token, if he was, and if he was what he
was said to have been, was cultivating the
eloquence which his brother lacked, in the
schools for sacred scribes in the libraries
of the temple where eloquence as- well as
writing was taught.
In the first year of the reign of Ramses
II, the Great (1292), the king went to
Thebes to dedicate a' statute to his father.
Passing through Abydos he was shocked
at the unfinished and ruinous state of the
temple of Seti I, and so commanded the
"wearer of the royal seal" to "call the
court the king's grandees, all the com-
manders of the army, all the chiefs of
works, and the keepers of the house of
rolls (books)". They were brought be-
fore his Majesty and delivered themselves
of a panegyric. When this formality,
which included bowing their noses in
the dust, their knees upon the earth, smell-
ing the earth, had been completed, the
king told them that he had called them
on account of a plan that he had to repair
the temple. To this the court responded
with another panegyric, "and after these
utterances" his Majesty commissioned the
chiefs of work to carry out his plans.
Here again we have the librarians among
the members of the court summoned to
advise the king about temple building.
In the reign of King Siptah (1215-
1209) near the end of the same century,
Neferhor, the son of Neferhor, was the
"priest of the moon god, Thoth", and
"scribe of the archives of Pharoah". He
achieved the coveted honor, which he re-
cords in certain scribblings in Nubia, of
an embassy to the officials of Nubia carry-
ing rewards for the officials and conduct-
ing "the king's son of Kush, Seti" on the
first expedition. In the third year of the
same reign, Piyay, king's scribe of the
archives of Pharoah, went to Nubia to
receive the tribute. This same Seti, who
was conducted to Kush by Neferhor, now
appears as viceroy of Kush, and describes
himself as "king's scribe of the records of
Pharoah", the interesting thing about the
matter being that this Seti was afterwards
King Seti II.
These three "scribes of Pharoah's re-
cords'" may have had less to do with the
keeping, or library side of archival work,
than with the book keeping or recording
side, but there is a certain presumption
that these grandees were more likely to
have been at least nominal directors of
the archives, than to have had much to do
with the clerical side, although, doubt-
less, the office had much to do with the
preparing of records of tribute and the
like as well as keeping the documentary
It was about this very time, too, possi-
bly in the reign of this Seti II, that the
scribe Anna or Enna lived, a "master of
the rolls", who. had compiled or had copied
the "Tale of two brothers", and to whom
it is said we owe a very large part of what
has been preserved of old Egyptian litera-
ture. This "master of the books 73 at least
had in his collection much that was not
By the time of Ramses III (1198-
1167) a somewhat rapid degeneration
in public life in Egypt had set in.
Power was mjaintained by the use of a
great number of foreign mercenaries and
foreign officials in the king's service. The
reign was marked by tumultuous strikes
on the part of working men amounting
almost to a revolution, and very near the
end came the famous conspiracy known
as the Harem conspiracy. Queen Tiy was
at the head of this conspiracy and her son,
the royal chamberlain and the royal butler,
ringleaders with her. The idea was to
make way with the King, but the plot
miscarried, the conspirators were taken,
trial ordered, and the court appointed by
the King who, however, died before the
trial. One of the charges was that the
conspirators had unlawfully secured a
"magic roll" of Ramses III ... his
lord. Two of the judges appointed to
try the thirty or forty principals and ac-
cessories were librarians; Mai, scribe of
the archives and Peremhab, likewise scribe
of the archives, or according to the trans-
lation of Deveria plainly "librarians".
Some of the judges presided at one trial
and others at another, and the official re-
cords of four prosecutions are preserved.
Twenty-two were condemned at the first,
six at the second, four at the third. All
of those who were condemned, were con-
demned to death and in the case of the
second prosecution these included "the
great criminal Messui formerly scribe of
the house of sacred writings, and the
great criminal Shedmeszer, formerly
scribe of the house of sacred writings."
They were allowed to commit suicide and
the two librarians and their companions
did so on the spot in court. Among those
condemned on the third prosecution was
the Queen's son tried under an alias to
spare the royal feelings. Among the com-
panions of the two librarians condemned
on the second prosecution was the general
Peyes, and among those of the first prose-
cution six women, one of whom was pre-
sumably the sister of Binenwiese, the cap-
tain of archers in Nubia, who was in the
Harem and who drew her brother into
the plot although she may have been con-
demned in some other trial whose records
are not preserved. Four out of the four-
teen judges were foreigners, and two, as
has been said, librarians two librarians
thus among the judges and two among the
There is a supplementary fragment in
the Papyrus Rollin which includes the
charges, in two cases, of the practice of
magic and it is hard not to associate these
with the two scribes connected with the
house of sacred writings, especially as
it is said that they committed suicide like
the others, and because they were both
scribes and the latter obviously a librarian.
One of those who were condemned for
magic, miade magic rolls and gave them
into the hands of Pebekkamen, the cham-
berlain, one of the arch conspirators. The
other, however, is more interesting, for it
appears that when Penhuibin, overseer of
herds, applied to him to "give to me a
roll, for enduing me with strength and
might" he gave to him, it is said, "a magic
roll of Usemare-Meriamon (Ramses III)
(now deceased) his lord, and he began to
employ the magic powers of a god upon
people". Especially he bewitched the
guards so that messages could be sent in
and out without their notice. Since it was
one of the King's books which was given
or loaned by the criminal, it seemis obvious
that the latter was a king's librarian.
As librarians we would fain wish that
the story stopped here but it does not.
Sometime during the trial the chief of
police Oneny and the military officer Tey- "
nakhte, in charge of the prisoners, took
two of the women prisoners and the gen-
eral Peyes, who was tried with the two
librarians in the second prosecution, to the
home of the judges, Pebes and Mai.
There, in a literal translation of the word
used, they "made a beer hall" or had a
beer bout. Mai was, it will be remember-
ed, "Scribe of the archives". They were
tried for this and officers and judges were
all condemned to have their noses and
ears cut off because of their disobedience
to their instructions, or as it is expressed,
"because of their forsaking the good tes-
timony delivered to them". Pebes, having
been left alone, preferred suicide, but the
librarian was not such good stuff.
Ramses IV (1167-1171) furnishes an-
other case of the librarian members of
the court. He himself, in his second year,
having "entered into the annals and ex-
amined the records of the house of sacred
writings" commanded the king's compa-
nions including again "the scribes and
wise men of the house of sacred writings' 7
to prepare to make a certain monument.
The following year on the 27th day of
the tenth month his majesty himself, after
having looked over the ground in the
neighborhood of the Hammamat quarries,
first ordered Ramses-eshehab, the "Scribe
of the house of sacred writings'' to make
a sort of preliminary survey and then or-
ganized an expedition of nearly ten thous-
and persons to bring blocks from these
In the reign of Ramses IX (1142-
1123) the High Priest Amenhotep, chief
chief architect, appears in an inscription
on the temple of Karnak coming before
the King to receive laudatory addresses
and more tangible rewards of gold, sweet
beer, and sweet oil of gum, with royal
grants from the harvests. The King it is
said first "spake to cause the Pharoah's
"Scribe of rolls to come forth", but it is
not quite clear whether this scribe was
Amenhotep. Let us hope that it was a
librarian who received the six stands
filled with sacks of gold, etc., which
Amenhotep had at this time.
Under the same Ramses IX, in the fa-
mous trial of the royal tomb robbers,
there is another allusion to the vizier's
archives, and of the deposit in it of a
roll and a copy of the records of matters
which had been laid before the vizier.
This brings the story down to about the
middle of the I2th century B. C, a hun-
dred years, more or less, before the birth
of King David and some five hundred
years before Assurbanipal conquered
Egypt or finished with his library.
During the two thousand years or so
covered we have thus some twenty-one
librarians with names, dates and incidents
for our biographical dictionary of Egyp-
tian librarians, two more anonymous li-
brarians who made their mark and several
other references to plural librarians a
scant survival of the mjany thousands who
followed the profession in Egypt in this
time but far indeed from nothing. Some
of these men, it appears, were famous in
letters and most of them attained high
distinction in the state several were
viziers and one became a king. The of-
fice itself appears to have been so highly
esteemed, you remember, that the temple
and palace librarians were ex-officio mem-
bers of the privy council. There are not
many viziers among the librarians of our
day nor many king makers like Senmut,
yet some of us can remember when Cardi-
nal Rarnpolla as Secretary of State exer-
cised some such librarianship over the
Vatican library and archives as Ramose
may have exercised over the Amarna ar-
chives, and it is a matter of no little satis-
faction to librarians that Harnack has
found the post of library director reward-
ing. Truth to tell, it may be doubted if
these United States of America would not
gain something if they imitated this 4500
year old Egyptian example (which seems
to have worked well for 1500 years at
least) and made the chief librarian of
Congress miember of the cabinet and ex-
officio Secretary of Education! Indeed,,
why not now and then a library Presi-
dent? When they classify the Presidency
under the civil service, and make all candi-
dates for the office take the qualifying
examinations under the merit system, per-
haps who knows?
There are some things left out of the
first paper, for lack of time, which are
worth adding to emphasize either the
wealth of material or its significance.
These relate to what may be called the in-
terpretation of the library gods, Seshait
as Hathor, the assistant library gods, the
prophet as ex-officio librarian, the books
of Thoth, and the library of secret writ-
INTERPRETING THE LIBRARY GODS
To understand the meaning of Thoth
and Seshait and all the many other gods,
like Hathor, Neith, Nephthys, Tefnut,
etc., with whom they from time to time
identify themselves, several things need
to be understood.
In the first place, there is the Egyptian
habit of identifying one god with another
or with a human being, impersonating
one by the other. In the Book of the
Dead the departed soul is himself identi-
fied with Osiris and has become an Osiris,
and as he recites one or another of the
chapters of the book buried with him
for this purpose, he impersonates one god
or another according to the aspect of
thought with which he is dealing at the
time. "I am Thoth," he says, "I am
Shu," "I am the crocodile god/' "I am
the heron, the soul of Ra," "I am the
jackal of jackals/' and so on. Sometimes
the impersonation changes and, like one
of these performers who impersonates a
dozen characters in a single act, the
speaker becomes a half dozen persons or
professions in a single chapter: "I am
Thoth/' "I am Tattu the son of Tattu/'
"I am the priest in Tattu/ 7 "I am the
prophet in Abydos," "I am the sem
priest," "I am the arch craftsman."
When, therefore, Seshait, Hathor, and
Nephthys, are found having a like aspect,
it is said that Seshait is one of the forms
of Hathor or vice versa, although it
might often be better to say when Hathor
is found identifying herself with Seshait
that Hathor, acting in this capacity, is
One of the most familiar phenomena
of Egyptian inscriptions is that of the
king as god. He describes himself and
is described as "god" or "that god";
sometimes as Amon, sometimes as Ra
or whoever it may be. When acting in
certain capacities or performing certain
rites he "is" Thoth or the son of Ra, etc.
In the second place, it needs to be re-
membered that the names of the gods as
used by the Egyptions were a sort of
continuous allegory or sustained simile.
The botton meaning is commonly astro-
nomical and the character and actions of
the god represent astronomical objects or
events. The mythologies of all nations
have at their base a sort of science of na-
ture especially of astronomical objects.
Names are given to the objects and these
names treated as persons. The actions
of these persons describe first the nature
and acts of the objects which is a sort
of science and then these serve to express
the thinking in any analogous field of
philosophy or theology. The actions of
natural objects became thus a sort of
universal analogy and form a true, if
figurative, language. Thus if the sun
is Ra and the moon is Thoth the words
express very simple facts in plain enough
language. When however it is said that
the Lion-god issues from the Bow (Bk,
of Dead, Renouf., p. 132, p. 276) it may
be translated as Ra (Tefnut-Seshait?)
issuing from Thoth or as the Sun re-
flected from the Moon, itself a nice sci-
entific fact, but in reality the phrase con-
tains also what has been called (by Arago,
Renouf. Essays 2 : 290) "the very deli-
cate observation," "that a line drawn
from the center of the sun, bisects at
right angles the line which joins the two
horns of the crescent" an arrow shot
from the bow would be, or would reach,
the sun. These various observations of
nature become however so many terms
for expressing social, ethical or religious
ideas. Thoth is the moon in nature,
writing (or expression) in human af-
fairs, and creator and regeneator in the
religious world because expression is
One of the commonest themes in my-
thology is the conflict between light and
darkness: Horus and Set, in Egyptian.
These two are day and night in nature,
intelligence and ignorance in the realm
of mind, good and evil in morals, and
life and death in religion. When Thoth
is brought into this circle of ideas, at
the point of the dualism of intelligence
and ignorance or consciousness and the
lack of consciousness, Horus is the active
human mind or intelligence, Set is the
ignorance which Horus (who in his as-
tronomical aspect is the light of the sun)
tries to destroy, and it is Thoth, so this
language says, who gives Horus (light)
the victory over Set (darkness). Thoth
destroys Set and restores to Horus his
lost or wounded eye. Astronomically
this means that the moon by reflected light
destroys the darkness. On the book side
it perhaps implies that writing is not the
direct but the reflected light of the mind.
The healing of the eye of Horus may
mean, and probably does mean, the restor-
ation or refreshing of memory by the
recorded words, as it certainly means in
its application to the future life, the res-
toration of consciousness. Death was
symbolized by the going down of the sun
and the coming on of darkness or loss of
consciousness. The consciousness was re-
stored by Thoth through the impartation
of truth or knowledge which quickened
the new life.
The observation that all expression, and
especially written expression, is a reflected
light of intelligence, must be counted also
"a very nice observation". The fact that
books are the cure for ignorance (Thoth
slays Set) is simple enough, also that the
Moon gives light by night, but why it is
that the God of words should be the one
to give victory over death is more recon-
dite. It is easy to see the figurative rela-
tion, too, between the continued existence
of written words and immortality it is
the difference between the ephemeral
spoken word and the permanent record.
But Thoth is connected with resurrection
even more than with immortality. He
causes the sun, set in the blackness of
night, to rise again, the soul unconscious
in death to become consciotts again. He
does this by breathing in the spirit of
truth by giving the water and bread ;>f
life, which is knowledge or truth. He
sanctifies by words and prepares for the
last judgment when a man's mind and
truth are weighed against one another
in the balances. Just what the Egyptian
theologians were driving at in all this
has not yet been unravelled, but it was on
one side close to the idea that conscious
life is "thinking" and close to the idea of
the Christian idea of the place of the
Word and the Spirit of Truth in the
doctrines of sanctification, regeneration
and eternal life.
But, however, it may be about the more
hidden meanings, one meaning of Thoth
stands out clearly. As was said in the
first paper, Thoth was scribe of the gods
"the writing reed (or pen) of the invio-
late god", who "utters his words". He
"illuminateth thy path with his rays". He
has "dispelled darkness". He it is who
admits the priest king to the inmost shrine
where the god dwells and takes down the
written oracle. His thirty-six or forty-
two books are the fundamental revelation
of all the gods. He is, in short, the re-
vealer, the interpreter of the gods to men.
SESHAIT AND HATHOR
The axis of the various chambers
of the temple of Hathor at Denderah is
the chambers of the plan of Mariette.
This, he says, by position, as well as by
meaning, may be considered the innermost
shrine of the temple, and it is in fact a
resume of the temple itself. In it the
goddess "appears under all her chief
forms". It may or may not have con-
tained the portable shrine of the goddess,
but the inmost shrine of the temple usu-
ally had such a shrine and one may sup-
pose from Mariette's plate 64, from this
room, which shows the king opening the
door of such a shrine, in which Hathor
is with the inscription "the goddess mani-
fests herself to me in her secret shrine",
that this was in fact the case.
However that may be, in this holy of
holies, with this among the pictures on
the wall, Thoth figures largely and Hathor
herself appears "assimilated to Seshait the
goddess of writing". In one of the pic-
tures the king describes himself as son of
Thoth and while making an offering to
Hathor of the conventional figure of
Truth, calls Hathor Truth herself and
makes her identical thus with the goddess
Maat or Truth. The inscription reads
"never does Truth separate herself from
this goddess night or day: Truth is the
hidden form of Hathor". In correspond-
ing picture "the king presents himself be-
fore Hathor accompanied by the goddess
Truth herself. Hathor is in this picture
assimilated to Seshait the goddfess of
writing. The king has become initiated
into the divine science, has acquired the
knowledge of truth, and makes an offer-
ing of truth to the goddess, while it is the
goddess Truth herself who leads him". In
another picture, the king is again opening
the seal of the door which is elsewhere
described as the office of Thoth, Atten-
tion has already been called to Hathor as
carrying the books of Thoth to Ra and
as identical with Seshait in this capacity.
In another room of this same temple (E.)
Hathor is assimilated with Isis but with
Isis in a particular role as the inventor of
writing. As is well known Hathor, the
mother goddess, is one of the favorite
figures among the Egyptian gods. Her
worship is very ancient, and she is most
thoroughly identified with Isis. She, how-
ever, when looked upon as the mother of
the sciences perhaps is obviously assimi-
lated with the goddess of writing, but
the interesting and significant matter is
that this assimilation should be indicated
as the very central meaning of her nature
in the very heart of the temple.
An interesting corollary to the matter
is what must be counted for the present
pure hypothesis. It arises from the fact
that a golden image of Hathor Is describ-
ed in room z as being in a double chest
a chest within a chest such as is common
in the case of coffins. Since it is not ex-
cluded that there may have been statues
(and in later times it would be likely) and
since papyri have been found in the space
between the double coffins, it is possible
that the inner case contained a statue and
that writings were in the between space.
This in turn would account for the blind
expression regarding the Hebrew ark
where the tables were within but other ob-
jects or books were laid up beside the ark.
THE ASSISTANTS OF THOTH
The seven divine masters or sages who
assist Thoth are, according to Renouf , the
inventors and patrons of all the arts and
sciences. They are the offspring of the
cow, Mehurit, and were haw r k formed or
human headed hawks. They have been
identified with the seven stars of the Great
Bear (Thoth being here the north star)
and with the seven cows of the Book of
the Dead (Chap. 148) who "give bread
and drink to the glorified soul" this
bread and drink being knowledge. They
have been identified also with the seven
Rishis of the Sanskrit literature. Their
characterization in the Book of the Dead
is quite esoteric and on the face of it not
particularly winsome, but the somewhat
bloodthirsty language of these assistant li-
brarian gods will undoubtedly sometime
find its interpretation in terms of books
The account is as follows: "Oh ye
Seven Divine Masters who are the arms
of the Balance on the Night wherein
the Eye is fixed; ye who strike off the
heads and cleave the necks, who seize the
hearts and drag forth the whole hearts,
and accomplish the slaughter in the Tank
of Flame . . . live in me and let me
live in you. Convey to me the Symbol of
Life and the Sceptre.
PROPHETS AND MASTERS OF SECRET
A certain interesting light on the ques-
tion of whether the prophets were always
by virtue of their office sacred librarians,
and not without its relation to the title
"masters of secret things", is found in the
inscriptions on some of the crypts of the
temple at Denderah, where it is said,
speaking of the secret things, "the place
is secret and no one knows where it is.
If they shall search for its entrance no
one will find it, except the prophets of the
goddess". These crypts contained appa-
rently a library, for the crypt number four
contains a catalogue of five books which
are thought to have been contained in the
temple library. It must be said, however,
that Marietta considers that the library at
Denderah, which contained these five
works, may have been a sort of portable
cabinet placed in what is the least mysteri-
ous of all the rooms.
In Chapter XIV of the Book of the
Dead, Thoth is addressed as the god "who
presideth over all the secret things". This
may be put in connection with the inscrip-
tion given in Breasted, where the real
scribes of the hieroglyphs are the "masters
of all secrets". It would seem to follow
from these quotations at least that the
masters of secret things were always
prophets and that they always had under
their charge the secret writings as well
as other things. It does not follow so
clearly that all prophets had access to or
charge of the secret writings.
THE BOOKS OF THOTH
It is not always clear whether the books
of Thoth are the books which are written
by him or the books over which he has
charge. He, indeed, does not always seem
to have charge even of his own writings
for it speaks in the Book of the Dead of
"she who directs the morning light in her
time and observes the mid-day heat, the
lady of the books written by Thoth him-
self". Remembering, however, that among
the gods all written matters, whether they
are uttered by Amon or Ptah or what-
ever god, are supposed to be written down
by Thoth, and remembering farther that
the king, when he is represented as writ-
ing, identifies himself with Thoth, it is
readily seen how all sacred books whether
of Thoth's authorship or not may be called
the books of Thoth. The Book of the
Dead which contains books of Thoth is
perhaps to be regarded as a collection of
nearly 200 books of Thoth. What the
relation of this is to the books of the Nile
god and the known collections of the
books of Thoth would be an interesting
matter for special study. It is certain that
there was no fixed collection of books
meant by this for the three extant cata-
logues of such collection, that given in
the Stromata of Clemens Alexandrinus,
that on the walls of the little Library of
Edfu, and the five titles from the Library
of Denderah found in inscriptions there,
do not agree. It seems, therefore, rather
clear that, in general, by books of Thoth
is meant simply the temple library or per-
haps the library of sacred writings in the
temple the "collection of books put un-
der the guardianship of Thoth".
There is an interesting line of evidence
which seems to point to the most holy
object of the holy of holies of the Egyp-
tian temples, the focus of Egyptian wor-
ship, as being in the earliest period simply
a chest of writings. It is not questioned
that the portable shrine, kept in the holy
of holies, was a box or chest or cabinet.
This portable shrine was often, and in
later times generally, in a miniature boat,
which, however, was not placed in the
water but carried on the shoulders of the
priests in procession. This boat was meta-
phorical of the barque of Ra and the
shrine has often been supposed to contain
a secret statue of the god this being a
reasonable guess from the undoubted fact
that the god was supposed to reside in
this shrine, and the probability that in later
times at least it did contain such a statue.
It is agreed, however, that this is only
guess as to earlier times since the Egyp-
tians were so painstakingly secret about
the matter that no direct hint, it is said,
of the contents was ever given among the
myriads of inscriptions on the walls as to
what actually was within this inmost
shrine. In view, however, of what has
been said about the part that Thoth played
in the philosophy of life and death and
revelation, it is not so certain that the
inscriptions do not, in the first place, show
that the Naos did not contain the statue
at times, and in the second place, suggest
that it did contain secret writings and per-
haps writings only at some times.
To begin with, it sometimes appears
that when a god was consulted in the holy
of holies his statue was brought in and
placed in a certain niche in the wall. This
would not prove that there was not also a
secret statue in the chest in the middle of
the room if there was evidence for the lat-
ter, but in the absence of such evidence it
makes the hypothesis of a statue within
On the other hand, there is an extra-
ordinary series of related representations
which in their allegorical language seem
to point to writings as the contents of the
shrine, and putting these together with the
nature of the case and its circumstances
and with hints from the comparative his*
tory of oracles, there seems strong, if not
conclusive, evidence for the fact.
Considering first the nature of the case,
it is evident and well understood that the
meaning of the inmost or hindmost part
of the temple, the innermost sanctuary, or
holy of holies, not in Egypt only but
among Babylonians, Hittites, Jews, and
Greeks, is that it is the place where the
god meets man. In Egpyt it is generally
the King alone who has access and the
recent Hittite excavations show the same
thing, in that there is a figure of the god
welcoming the priest-king with open
arms. It is the place to which man re-
sorts in order to meet his god and to
inquire of him. It is, in short, the oracle.
This in Egyptian religion at least is so
often evidenced on monuments as to be a
The next step of circumstance is the
fact that these oracles were commonly,
if not always, written. Sometimes they
were written by the priest or king and
presented to the statue of the god, which
had been brought in and put in the niche
in the wall, and the god would make sign
of yes or no. Sometimes the oracles were
oral, but were in fact written down by
the inquirer, and, in short, it must not
be forgotten that, in many of these in-
terviews, the king or priest is repre-
sented as identifying himself with the
god, becoming assimilated to the god and
speaking in the first person: "I am Ra".
What he writes, therefore, the god writes.
(A good example of this is Hall E at
Denderah where the king "is constantly
assimilated to Thoth".) In any event,
the oracles were written down as the
words of the god residing in the shrine
and in the first person.
The second circumstance is thus that
the oracles, being written, must have been
kept somewhere, and where more natural-
ly than where they were given? And
since from time to time these old oracles,
the writings of Atum and Thoth, or what-
ever god, were consulted, it is natural that
the place of consultation should be the
same as the place of original utterance.
As the holy of holies was the place to
which the king priest resorted to obtain
an oracle so it would naturally be the
place to which he would go if instead of
fresh oracles he sought only knowledge of
a former utterance, and naturally, if not
necessarily, the place where all divine ut-
terances which might be sought would
be kept. A priori it is hard to see how
the priest could think of keeping the writ-
ten oracles in any other place than the
place of utterance, and if in the holy of
holies, where else than in the shrine ?
Another circumstance is the fact that
the form of the shrine, especially in the
old times, so often resembled the book-
chest of later times a fact which holds
true of the later Jewish synagogue ark,
with reference to the Hebrew shrine or
ark, as well as among the Egyptians.
It is, however, when these circum-
stances are put in connection with the
general doctrines of the Egyptians and
interpreted in the light of their allegorical
language that they become really signifi-
In the first place, one of the funda-
mental and common religious ideas among
the Egyptians was that the voice and still
more the written word was the god in-
carnate the word was the god. These
written words were, therefore, regarded
as the real incarnation of the divine voice
by which all things were created, which
was the only god. The spoken word was
ephemeral and passing. The abiding
word was the written record. The writ-
ings were the real god. They constituted
his person. When the god was carried
in procession, it was his words not his
statue which was carried.
From a bibliographical standpoint,
therefore, the conclusion seems irresistible
that the original simple chest was a li-
brary to which the priest resorted when
inquiry was made as to the will of the
gods and in which he placed the written
Once started on this track and the bibli-
ographical evidences from the nature of
Thoth and Seshait swarm to confirmation.
Take the case of Hathor at Denderah, as
given above, where we have Thoth unseal-
ing the door and Hathor in her shrine
assimilated to or transformed into Seshait,
the goddess of writing, the mistress of
libraries. As a mere matter of language
it could hardly be plainer if it were said
that Hathor in her shrine was Hathor's
oracles in writing.
The external evidence in the same di-
rection is almost equally striking, if not
in direct Egyptian evidence, at least in
comparative religions. And indeed if
Ebers' remark, that boxes of writings are
often found in Egypt under the feet of
the gods, can be substantiated, then it
seems likely that at some period the shrine
was made with the figure of the god on
top and his utterances were kept in the
book-chest on which he stood. Such cases
occur to the writer of this paper, as books
under images of Thoth and of Anubis and
other books discovered in the "secret
shrine" of a certain goddess.
The case among the Greeks and He-
brews is perhaps more specific, for a char-
acter of Aristophanes speaks of having a
chest full of oracles and the word for
chest is that used in the Septuagint of the
Hebrew Ark. And it is clear enough
that among the Hebrews (whether it was
500 or 1 200 B. C. is not very important
to the argument) the definite notion of
the oracles kept in a book-chest beneath
the place where they were uttered was
well understood, as appears from the ac-
count of this Ark of the Testimonies ( or
The chief sources used and the most
accessible and best sources for the aver-
age library are the Book of the Dead
and J. A. Breasted's Ancient Records
(Chicago University Press, 1905-7, 5 v.).
The latter is one of the best models ex-
isting, in any field or any language, of
sources made available for practical scho-
larly use. It is a gathering up of all the
important historical inscriptions, arranged
in chronological order, with sufficient ex-
position, admirable notes, reliable trans-
lation, and exhaustive indexes. It is
worth all the other scores of sources used,
on the side of the historical inscriptions.
The translation of the Book of the
Dead which has been most used is that of
Renouf, completed by Naville (Paris,
1907). Renouf's insistance on translat-
ing the pivotal word Maat, now as law
or righteousness, and now as truth, ac-
cording to circumstances, happens to be
confusing and misleading in this particu-
lar matter of the book aspects but the
translation is probably the best one for
the general student and in most matters.
As a matter of fact, the translation as
"right" or "law" or "righteousness" is
undoubtedly correct translation, but the
word "truth" really contains in English
all the various shades which the translator
intends to convey by his varied transla-
tion and the "two truths" give a much
more vivid English conception of what is
really meant than "truth and law" or
"truth and righteousness" even at least
when one is investigating from the point
of view of the relation of truth and word
and book and library.
In addition to these first sources the
publications of the Egypt Exploration
Fund, The Egyptian Research Account
and other current exploration accounts
such as those of Mr. Theodore M. Davis
form an accessible and rich source. The
books of Erman and Wilkinson contain
many verbatim quotations and are found
in every library. Then there are the col-
lected works such as those of Renouf and
the Bibliotheque egyptologique. After
these there is the great mass of splendid
records of the older excavations of which
Marietta's Denderah (Paris, 1875), has
proved one of the more fruitful among
the older sources. As introduction to the
mythological side, the Dizionario di Mitol-
ogia Egizia of Lanzone (Torino 1881-6)
is still the most helpful aid as introduction
to research, because of its quoted trans-
lations and superb list of references to
sources. It is unfortunate that this is now
veiy hard to get and costly. The best
first introduction to the historical side is
the admirable little history of Breasted.
The somewhat larger illustrated edition
is perhaps better for the general library
but hardly better for orientation. Petrie's
history of Egypt contains a vast amount
of considerable quotations from the in-
scriptions and references to the monu-
ments so that it is a real thesaurus of
translated sources and is, after Breasted,
the readiest source for what may be called
Abydos, 31, 45, 58.
Amarna archives, Sec :
Tel el Amarna.
Amenhotep III, 42.
Amenhotep, IV, 43.
Amenhotep, the High
Amenhotep, the son
of Hapi, 42.
Amon, 59, 72.
Apes, 19, 21.
Archives, 9, 26, 44, 54,
Ark (Hebrew), 68,
Ark (Jewish syna-
Assistants of Thoth,
Assistant librarian of
the king's archives,
gods, 57, 69.
Assurbanipal, 8, 9, 10,
Babylonia, 5, 44, 76.
Balances, 22, 33, 69.
Beer hall, 52.
Book-chest, 2, 73, 74,
78, 80, 81.
Book-gods, 2, 13.
Book of days, 23.
Book of the Dead, 15,
58, 71, 72, 82.
Books of the law, 41.
Books of Thoth, 14,
57, 67, 71, 72.
Boxes of writings, 80.
Breasted, J, A.,, 82,
Carnegie, Andrew, 16.
Case of Books. See
Catalogues, 70, 73.
Chest. See Book-
Chief judge, 41.
Chief librarian of the
palace archives, 26-
Chief scribe of the
king's writings, 26.
Council of thirty, 34.
Crocodile god, 58.
David, king, 54.
Davis, Theodore M.
Denderah, 65, 70, 73,
77, 80, 84.
Divine book, 43.
Divine words, 3, 43.
Double chest, 68.
Drink, 19, 69.
Equinox, 20, 22.
Forty rolls, 41.
Forty "skins," 41.
Future life, 62.
Hall of Books, 2, 13.
Hall of Records, 40.
Hall of the Two-
Harem conspiracy, 48.
Harnack, Ad., 56.
Hathor, 14, 57, 59 r
65, 66, 68, 80.
Hatshepsut, 37, 38.
Heliopolis, 23, 36, 37.
Hieroglyphics, 31, 36,
Hittites, 44, 76.
Holy of holies, 66, 73,
Horus, 34, 35, 42, 61,
House of Books, 2, 3,
House of sacred writ-
tings, 49, 50, 51, 53-
written by Thoth,
Lanzone, 21, 84.
Leather roll, 9, 30, 41.
Librarian of the sac-
red writings, 27.
Librarian of the sec-
ret books of Thoth,
Librarians, 8, 12, 31,
37, 43, 49, 50, 51,
Librarians of the
Library, 7, 36, 43, 70.
Library at Denderah,
Library at Edfu, 73.
Library gods, 57.
Library history, 6.
Library of Ramses, II,
Library of sacred
Library scribe, 4.
Lion goddess, 20.
House of writings, 36.
Ikhnaton, 8, 43.
Inferior scribe of the
king's records, 25.
Keeper of books, 2.
Keepers of the house
of rolls (books), 45.
Keepers of the viziers'
King as god, 59.
King-priest, 64, 76.
King's librarian, 52.
King's scribe of the
archives of Paha-
Kush, 46, 47.
Lady of libraries, 13.
Lady of the books
Lord of Truth, 22.
Maat, 17, 31, 32, 35,
44, 66, 82.
Magic, 16, 51.
Magic roll, 49, 51.
Mai, 49, 52.
Mariette, 65, 71, 84.
Master of the books,
Master of all ward-
robes, 29, 44.
Master of secret
things, 26, 36, 39,
Master of secret
things of the 'di-
vine words' (hiero-
Master of secret
things of the house
of sacred writings,
Master of secret
things of the palace,
Master of the king's
Master of the king's
writings of the
Master of the rolls, 48.
Master of all secrets,
Masters of all sec-
Masters of secret
Medical papyri, 9.
Mentuhotep, 31, 32, 34,,
Missing link, 21, 22.
Moon, 20, 60.
Moon god, 13, 22.
Moses, 44, 45.
Names of the godSj,
Neferhor, 46, 47.
Neferhotep, 36, 43.
N-ekhen, 32, 35, 44-
Nephthys, 14, 57, 59.
Oracles, 65, 76, 77, 7&
Osiris, 15, 18, 58.
Overseer of the king's
Palace library, 8, 9, 45,
Palace school, 3, 4, 45.
Palermo stone, 23.
Papyrus Rollin, 51.
Pepi I, 28, 30.
Pepi II, 18, 30.
Petrie, W. R, 85.
Peyes, 50, 52.
Pharoah's Scribe of
Philosophy of books,
and libraries, n.
Place of the records,
Place of writings, 26.
Portable cabinet, 71.
Portable cases, 9.
Portable shrine, 65, 73?
Privy council, 55.
Prophet, 38, 70.
Prophet librarian, 57.
Ra, 14, 18, 58, 59, 60,
Ramses, II, 8, 44, 45.
Ramses III, 48, 49.
Ramses IV, 53.
Ramses IX, 53, 54.
Record office, 27.
Records of the house
of sacred writings,
Records of tribute, 47.
Rekhmire, 40, 41.
Renouf, P. C. P., 82,
Research work, 7.
Righteousness, 17, 83.
Rolls, 36, 43, Si, 54.
Rolls of the house of
Sacred books, 43, 72.
Sacred college, 4.
Sacred writings, 14,
St. John, 15.
Schools for sacred
Scribe of the archives
of Pharoah, 46.
Scribe of the archives,
Scribe of the house of
sacred writings, 49,
Scribe of the king's
records, 25, 28.
Scribe of the gods, 64.
Scribe of the sacred
Book, 23, 24, 30.
Scribes of the hiero-
Scribe of Pharoah's
Scribes of recorders,
Secret shrine, 66
Seal of writing, 27,
Secret writings, 12,
29, 36, 39, 57, 71, 75-
Senezemib, 26, 27.
Senmut, 37, 39, 55.
Seshait, i, 2, n, 13,
14, 20, 23, 24, 57, 59.
65, 66, 67, So.
Sesostris, I, 23, 30, 31.
Set, 61, 62.
Seti, 46, 47-
Seti I, 45-
Seti II, 44, 47, 48.
Seven assistants, 19.
Seven divine masters,
Seven Rishis, 69.
Shrine, 65, 78.
Shu, 22, 58.
Spirit of Truth, 64.
Stretching the cord,
Sun-god, 18, 31.
Symbol of Life, 70.
Tale of two brothers,
Tank of Flame, 70.
Tefnut, 14, 57-
val library, 44.
Temple library, 9, 45,
55, 70, 73-
Thebes, 37, 42.
Thirty-six or forty-
two books, 65.
Tholh, 2, n, 12, 13,
14, 15, 16, 17, 18,
19, 22, 32, 43, 46, 57,
58, 59, 60, 62, 63,
64, 66, 69, 72, 74, 77,
Thutmose I } 38.
Thutmose III, 23, 37,
Treasury school, 4.
Truth, 17, 19, 67, 83.
Two truths, 17, 83.
University librarian, 3.
(Ramses III), 51.
Vatican library, 56.
Vizier, 26, 27, 28, 31,
Vizier's hall, 42.
Vizier's librarians, 41.
Vizier's records, 40.
Water and bread of
Writing ape, 21,
Writings of Atum, 36,
Writings of the pro-
Word, 64, 79.
Zau, 28, 30.