Egyptomania: Our Three Thousand Year Obsession with the Land of the Pharaohs by Bob Brier

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Egyptomania: Our Three Thousand Year Obsession with the Land of the Pharaohs by Bob Brier

Category: History
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Louise Jones
Reviewed by Louise Jones
Summary: Bob Brier looks at the history of Egyptomania from the ancient Greeks down to the present day and showcases some of the items from his personal collection of Egyptian ephemera.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: November 2013
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781137278609

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There have been so many books written on the subject of Egyptology, it would be hard to imagine that anything new could be said on the matter. However, TV presenter and researcher Bob Brier, a self-confessed Egyptophile, has managed to approach the topic from a unique perspective by allowing us a glimpse of his fascinating collection of all things Egyptian. The collection is an eclectic mix of objects, including jewellery, private letters from Howard Carter, tobacco packaging, books, posters and tea-sets. In Brier’s collection, his ornate Josiah Wedgwood Egyptian set sits proudly on the shelf next to Barbie of the Nile and a cheap King Tut cologne bottle. As he puts it: we all know that something can be so bad that it’s good. The true collector has no shame.

Brier then goes on to explain how Egyptomania originated with the ancient Greeks, who were fascinated with their mysterious neighbour. Shortly afterward, the Romans continued with this obsession, adopting Egyptian gods, mummifying their dead and even bringing obelisks to Rome. Centuries later, Napoleon brought Egyptomania to Europe, resulting in an interesting escalation of hostilities between Britain and France and a race to see who could get an obelisk first. Later, with the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen, Egytomania became a worldwide phenomenon, spawning no end of bizarre, Egyptian-themed ephemera.

Whilst I enjoyed reading about the history of Egyptomania, I did feel that an inordinately large proportion of the book (pages 69-150) was taken up with the subject of removal and transportation of obelisks. Brier writes in detail about the first obelisks brought to Rome, the French obelisk, the journey of Cleopatra’s needle from Egypt to London and the obelisk that was transported from Egypt to New York. As a result, the chapters that really interested me personally, such as The Mummy Goes to the Movies and The Mummies Sing Songs of the Nile, seemed to be squeezed in at the end of the book as something of an afterthought.

The book itself has some beautiful, full-colour spreads featuring items from Brier’s personal collection. The artwork is exquisite. Brier also includes some of the lyrics to popular songs, including Old King Tut Was a Wise Old Nut and Cleopatra Had a Jazz Band, which show how Egypt had a direct influence on popular culture.

Egyptomania is an entertaining and engaging read about our obsession with the land of the Pharaohs that is still as strong today as it was centuries ago.

The Rosetta Stone, which is briefly mentioned in Egytomania is discussed in more detail in The Rosetta Stone by John Ray.

Buy Egyptomania: Our Three Thousand Year Obsession with the Land of the Pharaohs by Bob Brier at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Egyptomania: Our Three Thousand Year Obsession with the Land of the Pharaohs by Bob Brier at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Egyptomania: Our Three Thousand Year Obsession with the Land of the Pharaohs by Bob Brier at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Egyptomania: Our Three Thousand Year Obsession with the Land of the Pharaohs by Bob Brier at Amazon.com.


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