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The Pyramid Texts of Ancient Egypt are the oldest large body of written
material in the world. They are incised on limestone in thousands of lines of
hieroglyphics, containing fragments of myths and legends, historical references
and astronomical lore, geography and cosmology, religion and rituals, systems
of theology, festivals, magic and morals, and with a literary technique capable
of expressing the finest religious and ethical thoughts.
The purpose of this work is to furnish in English a translation and
commentary of these texts--a translation and commentary which make use of all
the texts at present extant and known to the author, and which is designed to
be a standard but interim work in this subject until such time in the future as
all remaining pyramid texts will have been discovered, which will then, it is
hoped, make possible the writing of a complete and definitive work.
The contribution of this publication will be the first translation in
English of the ancient Pyramid Texts; the first complete translation and full
commentary of the Texts in any language; and an addition to the hieroglyphic
text of Sethe of over four hundred lines (in translation) from the pyramids of
Neit and Pepi II, in addition to the filling of many lacunae in the body of his
text from Neit, Pepi II, and other pyramids, tombs and sarcophagi, discovered
since the publication of Sethe's unfinished translation and commentary in
German after his death in 1934. Fuller details of these texts, their discovery,
nature, extent, and value are given in the introduction.
There still remains the pleasant duty of acknowledging here the immediate
help in the preparation of this publication given by the author's colleagues
and friends. And first I would mention the kind aid and assistance given me by
Dr. Ludlow Bull of the Metropolitan Museum of New York who with the consent of
Charles Breasted allowed me to read the late Professor J. H. Breasted's
penciled copy of translated portions of the Pyramid Texts, and who with his
colleague in the Museum, Dr. William C. Hayes, aided me in many ways. I would
also thank Dr. John D. Cooney and Mrs. Elizabeth Riefstahl of the Brooklyn Museum for their many kindnesses, as
as Dr. Drioton of Cairo, Dr. Grapow of Berlin and Professor Garnot of Paris. The memory of the help of others, such
as the late Professors Sethe, Gunn, and Breasted, will always remain with me.
And the published works of these three scholars, together with those especially
of Professor Kees, have been my daily companions. I have an especially deep
sense of gratitude to express to the writers of Excursuses, Professors Drioton,
Kees, Garnot, Schott, van de Walle, M. Lacau, and Mr. Robert Briggs, in whose
essays I have followed as closely as possible the form in which they were
submitted to me. The assistance of the Reverend Father Keller, a former pupil
of mine, not only in many details in the preparation of this work, but also and
especially in the full and complete indexes to the translation which he has
contributed, has been a great help and a priceless contribution. Also his map,
made especially for the Pyramid Texts, will be found to serve its purpose well.
In reading proof, Father Keller and Mr. Briggs have not only avoided many an
error in detail, but have also made valuable contributions to the
interpretation and illustration of many a difficult passage. Finally, Miss
Seville Marshall, who has typed these hundreds of pages, has accomplished, as
an expert in her art, a first-class task. But this work could not have been
published had it not had the good fortune of receiving a substantial grant from
the Zion Research Foundation, who have already on other occasions shown their
enlightened interest in the publication of works in the realm of Biblical and
religious research. To this Foundation, and especially to their secretary, Mr.
Wilfred B. Wells, and board, the author expresses his most cordial thanks. Nor
could the work of printing and publishing have been so efficiently and
satisfactorily done without the cordial cooperation of Messrs. Longmans, Green
and Company, who have done everything in their power to satisfy us.
SAMUEL A. B. MERCER
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