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Chaldea. The Scripture account informs us, that from this country the various branches of Noah's family were scattered over the different parts of the earth at the time of the general dispersion. If, therefore, letters were known soon after the flood, we may fairly presume that in Chaldea would be found records of their use, or traditional references to an early literature.

These expectations are fully realized, and our information is extended even beyond the deluge. Josephus informs us, that Abraham carried a knowledge of arithmetic and astronomy into Egypt, of which the people of that country were before ignorant. (See Ant., lib. i, cap. 8.)

We have also very important information, bearing on this subject, in the fragments which have been preserved of the writings of Berosus, the most ancient Chaldean author of whom we have any remains.

In his account of the period before the flood, he says, that then "letters, and sciences, and arts of every kind, were taught."-Cory's Frag., p. 23. Plinyt confirms this statement, by declaring, “As for letters, I am of opinion they were in Assyria from the beginning.” To this

may be added the testimony of Jewish tradition. The Hebrew commentators on Genesis say: "Our rabbins assert, that Adam, our father of blessed memory, composed a book of precepts, which were delivered to him by God in Paradise."- Remains of Japheth, p. 85. And Josephus states, that “the births and deaths of illustrious men's (referring to the patriarchs from Adam to Noah) “were noted down at the time with great accuracy."-Ant., lib. i, cap. iii, sec. 3.

It is hence apparent that, so far as the inquiry has been carried, ancient records afford no satisfactory information as to the invention of letters; while we have clearly ascertained, that the oldest nations, and especially those most celebrated for early civilization and learning,—the Greeks, Egyptians, Phenicians, Chaldeans, and Jews,-unite in ascribing the use of letters to the very earliest period of their respective histories.

These conclusions are further confirmed by the fact, that the most learned men of different countries have ascribed this invaluable invention to the gods, or to some divine man.

Plato makes the god Theuth, or Mercury, the inventor. Diodorus

* Berosus was a Babylonian historian, a priest of Belus. He had, therefore, the advantage of access to the records of the temple, and appears to have composed his work with a strict regard to truth. He lived during the reign of Alexander the Great; and, having learned Greek from the Macedonians, removed to Greece, and taught astronomy and astrology. He was highly esteemed by the Athenians.

† Pliny the elder lived during the reigns of Vespasian and Titus. He distinguished himself in several public employments; but his great object appears to have been the study of nature and of literature. His only remaining work is a Natural History, in thirty-seven books. He lost his life in the eruption of Vesuvius, which destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneam, A. H. 79, when in his fifty-sixth year

Siculus tells us that Mercury invented the first characters for writing. Cicero concurs in the same opinion. The Cretans assert, that letters were given them by the Muses; while the Gentoos affirm that letters were communicated to their ancestors by the Supreme Being, whom they call Bramah.

Nothing more clearly proves the great antiquity of alphabetical characters than this circumstance; for, as Bishop Warburton, with his usual wit and learning, observes, “the ancients gave nothing to the gods of whose original they had any records; but, when the memory of the invention was lost, (as of seed-corn, wine, writing, civil society, &c.,) the gods seized the property, by that kind of right which gives strays to the lord of the manor.”—Astle on Writing, p. 15; Jackson's Antiquities, vol. iii, p. 134.

Having thus assigned some reasons for believing that letters were known in the earliest ages of the world, it may be proper to consider an objection which has been urged against this opinion, before further evidence is offered in its support.

It has been objected, that hieroglyphics certainly preceded letters, as the medium of communicating ideas; and that it was by improving and extending the use of these, that an alphabet was ultimately obtained. This view has been taken by Bishop Warburton, and other learned men who have written on the subject. Yet, notwithstanding much labor and learning have been employed in their support, these conclusions do not appear to be established. It may, indeed, at first sight, seem more reasonable to suppose, that mankind should have thus progressively obtained an alphabet, than that, first knowing letters, the cumbrous and inconvenient mode of hieroglyphic writing should have been resorted to. Yet it is contended, and in fact proved, that almost all the barbarous nations of the earth, before the introduction of letters among them, made use of hieroglyphics; for, “not only the Chinese of the east, the Mexicans of the west, and the Egyptians of the south, but the Scythians of the north, as well as those intermediate inhabitants of the earth, the Indians, Phenicians, Ethiopians, Etruscans, &c., all used the same way of writing by picture and hieroglyphics.”—Warburton's Divine Legation, b. iv, sec. v, p. 33.

Now, if this be the case, if hieroglyphics were so general, and the ingenuity of man carried on a gradual improvement until letters were discovered, is it not remarkable that the various alphabets of the world can certainly be traced to one or two? Does not such a circumstance invalidate the whole theory? If this scheme had any foundation in fact, should we not have just as many alphabets as there have been separate and distinct nations ? and would not all doubt have been removed from the subject long ago, by some people making this pro

gressive discovery of letters, within the range of existing history? Yet no people, of whom we have any knowledge, has effected this; history, in all her voluminous records of the past, gives us no information of such progress; and, surely, we are warranted in believing, that what has not been accomplished during so many ages, never was accomplished.

Admitting that letters were known to the first race of mankind, there is no real difficulty in accounting for the existence of hieroglyphics. Writing is an art which requires some attention, study, and practice; and there have always been, in the most cultivated nations, a great proportion of the people ignorant of it. In early times, when materials for its use were in all probability less convenient and more difficult to obtain, a much smaller proportion of mankind would be able to write. If, then, in the separation of families, a few persons thus ignorant were to occupy a new settlement, they would be driven to adopt some mode of recording and communicating numbers, facts, and ideas; and thus hieroglyphics might be extensively introduced, even although writing was known and practiced by other more enlightened communities.*

This is not mere speculation; it is what is actually taking place among ourselves, notwithstanding the immense educational influences at present in operation. Many persons, ignorant of writing, adopt artificial modes of recording facts or numbers very analogous in their character to the practice of the ancients. We are told, that, some time since, a bricklayer presented a bill to his employer in this expressive mode :

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which was explained to mean, “Two men and one boy, three quarters of a day, with two hods of mortar; ten shillings and tenpence. Settled." What is this but hieroglyphic writing? In Cornwall, and other parts of England, not many years ago, some of the small dealers, who were uneducated, kept very considerable accounts in a sort of artificial character, formed on a principle somewhat similar to that of the example just given.

* This opinion is supported by Dr. T. H. Horne, Bibliography, p. 73.

A circumstance of rather a humorous character was communicated to the writer a few years since, respecting one of these hieroglyphical accountants. A general dealer, doing considerable business in a country district, was called on by a customer.

The heiroglyphics of Egypt afforded Warburton and others the principal argument which they employed in support of their opinion. Yet there are circumstances, arising out of the present advanced state of knowledge respecting this difficult subject, which go far to prove that an alphabet must have been known prior to the occupation of Egypt by the family of Ham, and which also explain some very singular anomalies otherwise inexplicable. This will be shown by the following extract, which is taken from a recent work:

“The descendants of Shem were permitted, after the confusion of tongues, to retain not only the principle upon which an alphabet was .constructed, but its proper use as an alphabet. The Shemitic races have always written alphabetically. They were also permitted to take up their abode in countries not far removed from the scene of this terrible visitation. Gen. x, 21–24. These facts would seem to mark the commencement of the prophetic blessing which Noah, the second father of the human family, pronounced upon his son Shem; the continuance of which is also the subject of the Old Testament, and which was accomplished when our Lord Jesus Christ became incarnate in the form of a descendant of Shem. The Shemitic alphabets were the root whence all other alphabets were derived.

" The unhappy sons of Misraim, the son of Ham, appear to have wandered forth from their habitations, disabled from any longer articulating the sounds of that which from the first had been the language of the whole human race; and also had erased from their memories all recollections of the meaning of that language.

“ Diodorus Siculus (Hist., lib. i, cap. 16, 17) and Plutarch (De Iside et Osiride) were informed, by the Egyptian priests, that when the twicegreat Thoth first came among mankind, they were not able to speak, but only uttered cries like brute animals: and, however lightly we may be inclined to value such traditions, it is perhaps not assuming too much to say, that generally they are not without some foundation in fact. Now, let the very peculiar structure of the language of ancient Egypt be taken into consideration. It appears that the language and the writing have

who wished to pay his bill. The characters and symbols constituting the account were called over; and among them the shopkeeper read, “ A cheese, 78. 6d." The customer declared that this must be a mistake, as he had never bought a cheese in his life. The dealer contended that his bill was certainly correct; for there was the · account of the cheese, marked “ 78. 6d.” After much talk, and some uneasiness, leaving this in doubt, they passed through the other items, when the customer, who was a carpenter, said, “ You have, I think, made one omission; for I recollect I had a grindstone of you, which you have not mentioned.” “Ay,” replied the seller, .." a grindstone! so it is a grindstone: look for yourself: what I took to be a cheese is really a grindstone. My sight not being very good, I did not perceive the little hole in the middle; but you see it is a grindstone : it is all right."

These are

found and modified cach other; the writing as often assisting the language as the language the writing. It is a writing of pictures, expressing the ideas of a language of pictures. The roots of this language. prove to be, according to tradition, literally the cries of animals; everything, as far as possible, being named from the sound produced by it. The verbs and adjectives were, many of them, (probably all, for the subject is still under investigation, the names of objects, animate or inanimate, suggesting the peculiarities of their appearance and habits : as a cameleopard, to be long, to extend ; a wolf, to be cunning; a scarlet ibis, to be red. To this extent all was picture, in the language as well as in the writing. It also consists of comparatively a small number, of sounds, the same sound expressing many different ideas; probably because different qualities of the same animal were thus variously employed. So that it seems scarcely possible to arrive at any other conclu-, sion than that the language and writing arose together.

"But we have observed the same intimate union between the writing and the idolatrous system of this singular people, and shown the probability—we might perhaps say certainty—that it was invented together with the writing, and therefore with the language. Yet are all the three, as we have seen, systems of great intricacy and refinement. also facts resulting from the recent researches into the antiquities of Egypt. And how, we ask again, are these strange anomalies to be reconciled ? A generation of men highly cultivated, possessed of great mental powers, yet without religion, writing, or even language! It is contrary to all experience, that a civilized nation should exist without religion; it is equally opposed to all analogy, to assume that men may be civilized without writing; but without language civilization is plainly impossible. There are traces, nevertheless, of much thought and reflection in the construction of the language, writing, and religion of ancient Egypt; and the three appear to have arisen together. Its inventors, therefore, must have acquired the mental culture which enabled them to construct these sys-, tems by the help of some other language, at any rate. How came they, then, to lose this language? We leave to those who deny or lightly, esteem the revelation of God the suggestion of any theory they can devise, whereby to answer the question. Those who reason rightly upon it, who follow the process of close induction by which the mode of reading bieroglyphics was discovered, will scarcely fail to perceive the conclusive and satisfactory nature of the answer which is afforded by that revelation. The language of the first settlers in Egypt had been miraculously confounded; and in that melancholy condition they had to frame for themselves a new language and system of writing.”—Antiquities of Egypt, p. 174.

Having disposed of this objection, it may now be necessary to cite

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