Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

method is very obvious, both on account of it's tediousness, and it's inability of going, beyond external appearances, to the abstract ideas of the mind,

2. The next method would be somewhat more general, and would substitute two or three principal circumstances for the whole transaction. So two kings, for example, engaging each other with military weapons, might serve to convey the idea of a war between two nations. This abbreviated method would be more expeditious than the former: but what it gained in conciseness, it would lose in perspicuity. The great desideratum would still be unatchieved. This is only a description, more compendious indeed, but still a description, of outward objects alone, by draw, ing their resemblance. To this head, if I mistake not, the picture writing of the Mericans is to be referred.

3. The next advance would be, to the use of symbols: the incorporation, as it were, of abstract and complex ideas in figures more or less generalised, in proportion to the improve. ment of it. Thus, in the earlier stages of this device, a circle might serve to express the sun,

i See Cullen's translation of Clavigero's History of Mexico. I. 409. W.

a semicircle the moon: which is only a contraction of the foregoing method. This symbol writing in it's advanced state would grow more refined, but ænigmatical and mysterious in proportion to it's refinement. Hence it would become less fit for common use, and, therefore, more particularly appropriated to the mysteries of philosophy and religion. Thus two feet standing upon water, served to express an impossibility: a serpent denoted the oblique trajectories of the heavenly bodies; and the beetle, on account of some supposed properties of that insect, served to represent the sun. Of this nature were the Hieroglyphics of the Egyptians.*

* See Amm. Μarc. xvii. 4. Diod. Sic. iii. 4. Περι δε των Αιθιοπικων γραμμάτων, των παρ' Αιγυπτιοις καλεμενων ιερογλυφικων, ρητεον, ίνα μηδεν παραλειπωμεν των αρχαιολογεμενων, συμβεβηκε τοινυν τις μεν τυπες υπαρχειν αυτων όμοιες ζωοις παντοδαπους και ακρωτηριους ανθρωπων, ετι δ'

οργάνοις, και μαλιστα τεκτονικούς. ου γαρ εκ της των συλλαβων συνθεσεως η γραμματικη παρ' αυτοις τον υποκειμενον λογον. αποδιδωσιν, αλλ' εξ εμφασεως των μεταγραφομενων, και μεταφορας μνημη συνηθλημενης. γραφεσι γαρ ιερακα, και κροκοδειλον, ετι δ'οφιν, και τον εκ τα σωματος των ανθρωπων οφθαλμον, και χειρα, και προσωπον, και έτερα τοιαυτα. ο μεν ουν ιεραξ αυτοις, σημαινει παντα οξεως γινομενα, δια το ζωον τοτο των πτηνων σχεδον υπαρχειν οξυτατον. μεταφερεται τε ο λογος ταις οικείαις μεταφοραις εις παντα τα οξεα, και τα τατους οικεία, παραπλησιως τοις ειρημενοις. ο δε κροκοδειλος σημαντικές εστι πασης κακιας,

3. But, this method being too subtle and complicated for common use, the only plan to

ο δε οφθαλμος, δικης τηρητης, και παντος το σωματος φυλαξ.

os ακρωτηριων, η μεν δεξια τες δακτυλος εκτεταμενους εχεσα, σημαινει βια πορισμον, ή δ' ευωνυμος συνηγμενη, τηρησιν και φυλακης χρηματων. ο δ'αυτος λογος και επι των αλλων τυπων των εκ τ8 σώματος, και των οργανικων, και των αλλων απαντων. ταις γαρ εν έκαστοις ενεσαις εμφασεσι συνακολέθοντες, και μελετη. πολυχρονια και μνημη γυμναζοντες τας ψυχας, εκτικως έκαστα των γεγραμμένων αναγινωσκεσι. W.

The following is Lord Montboddo's translation of the most important passages of the preceding quotation:

“ The figures used in hieroglyphics, were those of animals of all kinds, the members of the human body, and likewise the organs or instruments of art, chiefly those belonging to carpentry. For this kind of written language does not express it's meaning by composition of syllables, but by metaphorical or allegorical representations of things, which by use and exercise, are fixed in the memory, and so become familiar. The symbols they use are a hawk, a crocodile, a serpent; and of the human body, the eye, the hand, the countenance, and such like. A hawk denotes every thing that is quickly done, because this animal is the swiftest of all birds, and therefore is used metaphorically, to denote every thing that is quick, or has any relation to quickness. The crocodile signifies all kind of wickedness or evil; the eye, being the guard or keeper of the whole body, is the symbol of justice; the right-hand, with the fingers spread, denotes the acquiring and collecting what is necessary for life; the left-hand clenched, denotes the custody and preservation of those things. The like may be said of all the other figures from the human body, from instruments of art, or other thiogs. Of these representations, hava

be pursued, was a reduction of the first stage of the preceding method. Thus a dot, instead of a circle, might stand for the sun: and a . similar abbreviation might be extended to all the symbols. Upon this scheme, every object and every idea would have it's appropriated mark: these marks, therefore, would have a multiplicity commensurate to the works of nature, and the operations of the mind. This method also was practised by the Ægyptians, but has received it's highest perfection from the Chinese. Their vocabulary is conéquently interminable, and almost infinite: so that the longest life is said to be incompetent to a complete acquaintance with it: and who does not see, that it may be extended to any assignable point whatever? Now, if we compare this amazingly tedious, and cumbersome, and prolix contrivance, with the astonishing brevity and perspicuity of alphabetical writing, we must be persuaded, that no two things can readily be conceived more dissimilar, and thai the transition from a scheme constantly enlarging itself and growing daily more intricate, to an expression of every possible idea by the modified arrangement of four and twenty marks, is

ing made the meaning familiar to them by constant use, they easily read what is written in that way." Diod. S. iii. 4.

not so very easy and perceptible, as some have imagined. Indeed, this seems to be still rather an expression of things by correlative characters, like the second stage of symbol writing, than the notification of ideas by arbitrary signs, But, perhaps, we are not so intimately acquainted with the Chinese method, as will justify any conclusions from it respecting this subject. We know, however, that it is widely different from the art of alphabetical writing; and infinitely inferior to it.

Till these objections to the human invention of alphabetical characters are refuted, there will be no reason, I apprehend, to treat a different supposition from that generally admitted, as chimerical, and destitute of philosophical propriety.

As for the claim of the Ægyptians to the invention of letters, that will not appear very plausible to those who have read Dr. Woodward's Essay in the Archæologia, on the learning of that people.

I will finish this imperfect dissertation by two or three remarks relating to the subject.

1. Pliny asserts the use of letters to have been eternal.* This shows the antiquity of the

☆ * Ex quo apparet æternus literarum usus." vii, 56. A little higher he says, Literas semper arbitror Assyrias fuisse,

« ForrigeFortsæt »