A gift for Archbishop Tait – a translation of the Rosetta Stone

Part of the translation of the Rosetta Stone

Report of the Committee appointed by the Philomathean Society of the University of Pennsylvania to translate the inscription on the Rosetta Stone. Philadelphia : Rosenthal, 1858.

In 1858 Henry Morton, Charles R. Hale, and S. Huntington Jones, three undergraduate student members of The Philomathean Society at the University of Pennsylvania, published the first complete and direct translation of the Rosetta Stone from its trilingual inscription into English. They had spent the last two years deciphering the ancient Hieroglyphics, Greek, and Demotic text from a plaster cast of the Rosetta Stone, and in doing so they deciphered characters that had not previously been defined. They privately published their findings in this stunning and highly decorative chromolithographic publication, the first American book to be printed entirely by lithography. Their work was met with worldwide praise and recognition.

The Rosetta Stone
The Rosetta Stone

Of particular note in the Lambeth Palace Library copy of the Report is the inclusion of a handwritten letter from Charles Hale to Archibald Campbell Tait, Bishop of London, later to become Archbishop of Canterbury. The letter is dated Christmas, 1858, Philadelphia, and reads:

My Lord,

            May I beg you to accept from one of the authors the accompanying volume the work of young men began by them while undergraduates at College and finished soon after leaving it while engaged in professional studies. We have printed (privately) an edition of four hundred copies mostly for subscribers and the stones are now destroyed. I had the pleasure of calling upon you some eighteen months since at your residence with a note of introduction from my honoured friend Bishop A. Potter.The memories of the visit are very pleasant to me. You supposed that I was a clergyman and although you were unfortunately mistaken I am happy to inform you that I am a candidate for orders. As I expect my life to be a busy one this may be my last as well as first effort in this direction.Your course has been watched and admired by many on this side of the Atlantic who pray that God may continue to guide and bless you.

                        Believe me Sir with greatest respect, Your Lordships Obedient servant

                                                            Chas. R. Hale

May I be favoured to hear of the safe arrival of this packet. My address is in the care of (my father) Gen. R.C.Hale, Philadelphia. 

Examples of the lithographic illustrations found throughout the publication

Charles Ruben Hale ended his successful and busy ecclesiastical career as the Bishop of Cairo, Illinois.

A full-colour pdf. of the Report is freely available via the University of Pennsylvania Archives and Record Centre website: http://www.archives.upenn.edu/primdocs/ups/ups441_m998.pdf

Title page of the Report