[Sir Richard Owen, palaeontologist.] Autograph Letter Signed to Lady Cullum, enclosing a long translation by Samuel Birch of inscriptions on an Egyptian statue in the British Museum, annotated by Owen and with transcription of letter to him by Birch.

Sir Richard Owen (1804-1892), palaeontologist, first Director of Natural History Museum, opponent of the theory of evolution [Samuel Birch (1813-1885), Egyptologist; Lady Ann Cullum of Hardwick House]
Publication details: 
Owen's letter to Lady Cullum dated from Sheen Lodge, Richmond Park, 5 May 1867. Transcription of Birch's letter to Owen dated from British Museum [London], 9 July 1860.
SKU: 22391

An interesting item in the field of Victorian Egyptology. The subject is what Owen describes here as 'one of the oldest Statues of an Egyptian Notable in the British Museum'. Its current Museum Number is EA103, and it has been in the Museum since 1835, but the details of its acquisition are unclear. In his translation Birch calls the sitter 'the Royal Scribe, Amenhelp', but the current BM description begins: 'Scribal statue of Amenhotep son of Hapu: of black grano-diorite. Hieroglyphic texts are inscribed on the papyrus unrolled on his lap and on the statue plinth. His right hand, now broken, held a pen, as if writing, while his left hand holds the papyrus roll. [...]' At the time of writing Owen and Birch were colleagues at the British Museum, Owen as Superintendent of the Natural History Department, and Birch as head the Egyptian and Assyrian branch (see the entries on both men in the Oxford DNB). The recipient of Owen's covering letter to Birch's translation is Lady Ann Cullum (1807-1875), widow of Sir Thomas Gery Cullum (1777-1855) of Hardwick House. As a palaeontologist, Owen opposed Darwin's theory of evolution with a biblical view of creation, and his interest in Ancient Egypt, bound up with his Christian beliefs, is apparent in the letter in an elegant assessment of the significance of the statue, and in his annotation of Birch's translation. The letter and translation are on four 4to pages of the same paper. In good condition, with light signs of age and wear. The letter is on the recto of the first leaf of a bifolium, and the first page of the translation on the recto of the second leaf, but they have now been inverted by folding, with the two leaves carrying the other two pages of the translation tipped-in at the front, resulting in the material being presented in reverse order. ONE: Covering Autograph Letter Signed from Owen to Lady Cullum, with good firm signature, addressed from 'Sheen Lodge, Richmond Park, | 5th May 1867.' 1p, 4to. The letter reads: 'Dear Lady Cullum, | I have the pleasure to send, agreeably with my promise, a copy of the Translation of the hyeroglyphic [sic] Inscription on one of the oldest Statues of an Egyptian Notable in the British Museum. It affords a suggestive insight into a social position, of one of the earliest historical civilized & organized Communities. The date is probably anterior to that which may be assigned to the visit of Abram to Egypt. Gen. XII. | Retaining a lively recollection of the pleasure of the day spent at Hardwick, I remain, | Your Ladyship's very truly, | Richard Owen.' TWO: Manuscript translation described in Owen's letter. 3pp, 4to. Written out in an unknown hand, with the first of the five sections titled: 'Translation of the Inscription on the Garment and Papyrus which he is unrolling.' The other four sections of the translation are: 'Inscription In Front of the base', 'Running to the left of the figure', 'right Side' and 'Left side'. At the head of the first page, in Owen's autograph: 'Hyeroglyphics [sic] on the Statue of the Seated Royal Scribe “Amenhelp,” in the British Museum.' On the third page, at the end of the translation and in the same unknown hand, is written out a 'Copy of letter from Samuel Birch, Esqre: F.S.A. &c. | Keeper of Antiquities in the British Museum, enclosing the above Translation to Professor Owen: -'. Birch's letter is dated from the British Museum, 9 July 1860. It reads: 'My dear Professor, | Enclosed is the Translation of the Inscriptions on the Granite Statue of the Seated Scribe. It Consists of the Dedication of the Statue to the Royal Scribe, Amenhelp, and of his prayers, to the God, Amen-Ra – the Theban Jupiter. | Believe me, | Yours very truly | (signed) Samuel Birch'. The translation carries tem marginal annotations in Owen's autograph, indicating an interest in and knowledge of the subject. The two of Owen's annotations read: 'His territorial Title: Baron Shamer, like all the Nobility of Egypt, was a priest: the condition is now parallel'd at the Court of Rome.' and 'the Upper & Lower Provinces of Egypt paralleling the Heavens & the Earth.'