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Adventures in Egypt and Nubia

The Travels of William John Bankes (1786-1855)

ISBN: 9780714118031

William John Bankes (1786-1855) was a brilliant and remarkable man: rich, charming, witty and good-looking, he studied Classics at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he became a close and lifelong friend of Byron. In 1812 he went to Spain and Portugal to pursue a Bohemian lifestyle among the gypsies. This was followed by travels in the Near East, where he sought out danger and excitement, from clandestine trips to the forbidden mosque in Jerusalem to the very real perils attending early travellers in Egypt and Nubia. Bankes amassed a vast portfolio of notes, manuscripts and drawings by the artists who accompanied him on his Egyptian travels. Their extremely high degree of accuracy makes them a very valuable record of the ancient monuments, many of which have since been damaged or lost. His intuitive detective work and the many copies of hieroglyphic inscriptions he accumulated were instrumental in the struggle to decipher hieroglyphs. Bankes spent his later years in self-imposed exile in Italy to avoid the repercussions of a charge brought against him for a homosexual offence involving a guardsman in Green Park. His art collection and an obelisk he removed from Philae remained at Kingston Lacy, the family seat in Dorset, where the drawings and manuscripts from his Egyptian travels also languished in a cabinet, unpublished and forgotten. This book tells Bankes' story, describing his travels in detail and assessing his contribution to Egyptology.



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