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Rongorongo

John Sturrock: The Rosetta Stone, 19 September 2002

Keys of Egypt 
by Lesley Atkins and Roy Atkins.
HarperCollins, 335 pp., £7.99, September 2001, 0 00 653145 8
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The Rosetta Stone: The Story of the Decoding of Hieroglyphics 
by Robert Solé and Dominique Valbelle, translated by Steven Rendall.
Profile, 184 pp., £7.99, August 2002, 1 86197 344 6
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Lost Languages: The Enigma of the World’s Undeciphered Scripts 
by Andrew Robinson.
McGraw Hill, 352 pp., £25.99, June 2002, 0 07 135743 2
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The Man who Deciphered Linear B: The Story of Michael Ventris 
by Andrew Robinson.
Thames and Hudson, 168 pp., £12.95, April 2002, 0 500 51077 6
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... In the shopping precinct that now clings to the skirts of the old Reading Room, a table is laid with portable derivatives of the Rosetta Stone. The number of them hints at a BM merchandising frenzy: for sale, and I may have miscounted, are a mug, a mouse-mat, a ceramic tile, a tie, a teacloth, a scarf, a T-shirt and two sizes of replica, all of them stamped with a presumably random excerpt from the Stone’s inscriptions ...

Insider-Outsiders

Abigail Green: The Rothschilds, 18 February 2021

Rothschild: Glanz und Untergang des Wiener Welthauses 
by Roman Sandgruber.
Molden Verlag, 531 pp., £29, October 2018, 978 3 222 15024 1
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The Gunzburgs: A Family Biography 
by Lorraine de Meaux, translated by Steven Rendall.
Halban, 484 pp., £25, October 2019, 978 1 905559 99 2
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A Jewish Woman of Distinction: The Life and Diaries of Zinaida Poliakova 
by ChaeRan Y. Freeze, translated by Gregory L. Freeze.
Brandeis, 397 pp., £23, February 2020, 978 1 68458 001 9
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Kings of Shanghai: Two Rival Dynasties and the Creation of Modern China 
by Jonathan Kaufman.
Little Brown, 384 pp., £20, November 2020, 978 1 4087 1004 3
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... Everyone​ has heard of the Rothschilds, fewer perhaps of the Sassoons, the Kadoories, the Poliakovs and the Gunzburgs. Yet the Rothschilds were only one of a number of Jewish business dynasties that flourished across the world between the fall of Napoleon and the Second World War. The story of these remarkable family businesses is far from hidden, though poorly understood ...

Other Lives

M.F. Burnyeat: The Truth about Pythagoras, 22 February 2007

Pythagoras: His Life, Teaching and Influence 
by Christoph Riedweg, translated by Steven Rendall.
Cornell, 216 pp., £9.95, May 2005, 0 8014 4240 0
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Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans: A Brief History 
by Charles Kahn.
Hackett, 193 pp., £10.95, October 2001, 0 87220 575 4
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... It is hard to let go of Pythagoras. He has meant so much to so many for so long. I can with confidence say to readers of this essay: most of what you believe, or think you know, about Pythagoras is fiction, much of it deliberately contrived. Did he discover the geometrical theorem that bears his name? No. Did he ponder the harmony of the spheres? Certainly not: celestial spheres were first excogitated decades or more after Pythagoras’ death ...

Did he want the job?

Tobias Gregory: Montaigne’s Career, 8 March 2018

Montaigne: A Life 
by Philippe Desan, translated by Steven Rendall and Lisa Neal.
Princeton, 796 pp., £32.95, January 2017, 978 0 691 16787 9
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... Montaigne​ presents an unusual case for a biographer: since his essays are full of personal details, his readers feel that they know him well already. He tells us that he lacks the impulse to cuddle babies, that he can scarcely tell the cabbages from the lettuces in his garden, that he loses and regains his temper quickly, that he enjoys sex only before going to bed and never standing up, that he knows no greater pain than that of a kidney stone blocking the urinary tract, and no greater relief than when the stone passes ...

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