THE art of writing was very early known to the Egyptians, and they had books before most other nations. This is proved by the writing implements found on monuments that are supposed to have existed before Moses was born. Clemens of Alexandria, who lived about seventeen centuries ago, states that in his day there were still extant forty-two sacred books of the Egyptians. They were all written in the old Egyptian characters that we call hieroglyphics, and most of them have been lost; while the manner of reading those strange characters had been entirely forgotten.

So it was, also, in regard to the inscriptions on the monuments and tombs and coffins, nobody could read them, or tell anything of their history; not even whether the hieroglyphics were mere symbols of religion and "mythology, or whether they were a real written language applied to the things of every-day life.

Scholars all over Europe had been puzzling over the problem for two or three hundred years, trying to find out some way of reading these wonderful hieroglyphics; but for a long time with very little success. 

If they had only had an authentic translation of just one ancient Egyptian inscription, into any language known to modern Scholars, they might, by analogy, have continued to work out the others. And this is precisely what the Rosetta Stone came forth from its grave to furnish.

In August, 1799, Mons. Bouchard, a French officer of artillery, in digging the foundation of a redoubt, at Rosetta, which stands at the mouth of the western branch of the Nile, found this stone. It is inscribed with various characters, which proved to be in three different languages, that is, the one legend is inscribed three times, once in the old hieroglyphics, again in demotic characters, and the third time in Greek.

This stone, which is now held as a priceless treasure in the British Museum, is of a kind known by the learned as black Semite basalt. It is four feet long by three feet broad, with one corner broken off, so that no one of the inscriptions is entire, although the larger part of all remain. 

Scholars saw at once its importance as a probable key to the reading of hieroglyphics; and the Antiquarian Society caused the inscriptions to be engraved, and copies generally circulated among the learned men of Europe. Their attention was, of course, first turned to the Greek, which was found to be a recognition of the royal honors conferred on Ptolemy Epiphanes by the Egyptian priesthood assembled at Memphis; and the concluding sentence directed that the decree should be engraven on a tablet of hard stone, in three ways, in hieroglyphics, in demotic, or ordinary characters of the country, and in Greek. So with this key, coupled with an untold amount of study, the inscriptions on those old tombs and monuments have become intelligible, and we may now learn the names, ages, condition, and frequently something of the history, of those' shriveled old mummies that are exhumed and placed before us, after their burial for thousands of years. 

St. Nicholas.