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Ani, led by the god Horus.
I needed my copy of The Egyptian Book of the Dead for research purposes recently and couldn’t find it - which is what happens sometimes when you have too many books for your bookshelves!  I went through a few books in the attic and a few more in other spots, got frustrated and decided it would be easier to order another copy.

I picked a Faulkner translation out on  Amazon and then, on impulse, decided to pay a few more dollars for an illustrated edition.

When the book arrived a few days later I was disappointed to see that it was very over-sized.  “Great,” I thought.  “It won’t even fit on the shelf.”  My disappointment evaporated however the minute I opened the book.  This edition, created by James Wasserman, is breathtaking.  My review of this amazing edition with some general background on The Book of the Dead follows.

The title The Book of the Dead refers to several distinct but similar ancient texts which were traditionally included in the tombs of wealthy Egyptians. These texts are not so much about death however as they are the afterlife and were originally, and more poetically, called "The Book of Going Forth by Day."

One of the best examples of these amazing texts, the Papyrus of Ani, chronicles the journey of the deceased Ani, a royal scribe of Thebes, through the underworld and into the world beyond in a series of painted vignettes accompanied by hieroglyphic text.  It may be viewed in a wonderful fully illustrated edition produced by James Wasserman with translation by the noted scholar Dr. Raymond Faulkner and additional translation by Dr. Ogden Goelet, Jr.  The book is in itself a story, having been the realization of a life long dream on the part of Wasserman who first became acquainted with The Papyrus of Ani when working at Samuel Weiser’s bookstore in New York City in the early 1970s. 

At that time The Papyrus of Ani could be read in translation in one book while viewing the reproduction of the actual scroll in a second book (the British Museum’s 1890 facsimile edition).  Fascinated by the images of the scroll, Wasserman purchased the facsimile from Donald Weiser in 1979.  “Soon after,” he tells us in the forward to his edition of The Egyptian Book of the Dead, “I found myself literally “watching” a vision of the book you are now holding in your hands taking shape – that is the exquisite papyrus in full color running along the top of the page, with a readable uncluttered English translation below.” 

Wasserman’s book is indeed a work of art, reproducing the 3300 year old, 78 foot long scroll in full with complete translation directly beneath the images it describes.  This beautiful edition allows us to not only read the incredible story but to view and understand the artwork in the context in which it was created.   A display volume worth displaying, this edition is perfect for anyone with an interest in ancient Egypt, ancient religion, mythology or any sort of art.

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