• 19th Century English Assyriologist George Smith Offers Advice on Animals To English Naturalist

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    GEORGE SMITH (March 26, 1840 – August 19, 1876) was an English Assyriologist who advanced knowledge of the earliest (Sumerian) period of Mesopotamian civilization with his discovery of one of the most important literary works in Akkadian, the Epic of Gilgamesh.  Smith was apprenticed as a bank note engraver at age 14 and educated himself in the young science of Assyriology. While preparing inscriptions for publication, he was startled to find part of a description of a flood. His report prompted The Daily Telegraph of London to sponsor an expedition to find the missing fragment needed to complete the deluge account.  In May 1873, on the fifth day of digging at Nineveh, Smith found the fragment.  His Chaldean Account of Genesis (1876) became one of the best-selling books of its time.


    2 pp, 4 1/2 x 7 1/4, ALS to Rev. W. Houghton, Jan. 18th, 1875.  Very possibly William Houghton (1828 – 1895), English naturalist and clergyman, noted author of British Fresh-Water Fishes.


    “I have never been the cat figured in Assyria – Dietrich has written an excellent work and I can warmly praise him – I do not feel quite sure about the name for the cat but I think he is right.  I am of opinion that the Assyrian Alap is Bos and Rimu is Bubalus. These questions however as you know require much research and cannot be hastily decided. Whatever be the true nature of the animals named in Delitzsch’s book it is certain they were not introduced by Ashurbanipal but were known in Assyria centuries before with the commerce going on every year between Egypt and the Euphrates Valley. It is very unlikely that the domestic cat would be confined to one of these countries. I was very pleased with you articles on animals. Many thanks, George Smith


    A couple of small fold tears. Old cello tape stain on the verso with some soiling. The letter is very readable


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