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The Egyptian Book of the Dead is essential reading for those who wish to thoroughly explore and understand the roots of Hermeticism. For reasons we have neither the space nor time to go into, Budge is now sadly out of favour among Egyptologists, who consider his work hopelessly ‘outdated’, ‘inaccurate’ and ‘irrelevant’. We hold the same opinion about his detractors, who possess none of the humility, sincerity, erudition or wisdom of the eminent scholar they calumniate in their dire ignorance. The Egyptian title of the book is ‘Pert-em-Hru’, which has been variously translated as the ‘Coming Forth by Day’, ‘Emerging into the Light’, etc. These translations are considerably more apt than the accepted title of the book, which was never intended for the ‘dead’, but the ‘living’, if by living we mean those who are spiritually alive and awake, whether in a physical body, or out of it. Whereas the Papyrus of Ani is largely a composition of the 18th Dynasty, the Book of the Dead itself was ancient even in the first Dynasty, more than 6,000 years ago.
Generation after generation of pious Egyptians governed their lives according to its directions in the sure and certain knowledge that this would lead them into the higher realms of Light and Life after death and ensure a favourable re-birth in their next incarnation. Moreover, unlike the Bible or the Hindu Puranas, the Book of the Dead has not suffered at the hands of generations of meddling ‘editors’, ‘interpreters’ and other well-meaning scribblers intent on ‘improving’ it for our edification. As such, the book is unique among the sacred literature of the past, and we have Budge to thank for making this masterpiece of Sublime Wisdom available for all to read and study. History of the book and editions The Papyrus of Ani was purchased in 1888 by Sir E.
Wallis Budge for the British Museum where it remains today. Before shipping the manuscript to England Budge cut the seventy-eight foot scroll into thirty-seven sheets of nearly equal size. The second edition of the Papyrus of Ani is sometimes called the ‘first’ because it included a hieroglyphic transcript and English translation of the text for the first time. This edition was published in 1895, in two volumes. The colour facsimiles were placed at the end of volume I in 37 fold-out plates. The text included substantial improvements over the two earlier folio editions. Supplementary chapters and sections were added from funerary papyri acquired by the British Museum after 1888.
The translation and introduction were re-written by the author, making this a fully revised and new, third edition. English translation is identical with that of the Medici Society version. However, some of them omit the hieroglyphic transcript and notes, and the black and white illustrations are often inferior in size and quality. The best of these editions are listed below in order of publication, the first three of which are our personal recommendations.
All are readily available and should not be expensive. This edition is identical with the Medici Society version, except that it is bound in one volume and the plates are in black and white. It includes the hieroglyphic transcript and notes and incorporates material from a pamphlet on the Book of the Dead published by Budge in 1920. This is the edition which illustrates this review. A softcover edition is available new direct from the publishers. Also available in softcover, this edition is essentially identical to the foregoing editions. John Rohmer, published in 2008, but as we have not seen this we cannot comment on its faithfulness to the Medici Society edition.