Egyptian London #Explain_message_glyphs 2012 Oct/Nov September August June/July May April March February January


Everyday, it's a gettin' closer...

To quote the late, great, Buddy Holly.  At the time of writing, advance copies of 'Egypt in England' are expected from the printers any day.  They should be available in the shops (bricks and clicks) by the middle of October, and the title will be formally launched at a private viewing of the linked exhibition on 6th November.  Say what you like about ebooks, and they are well and truly with us now, for me they don't quite the same presence as a printed title, especially when it is a full colour, heavily illustrated one.  But then maybe (maybe?) I'm biased.

Nananananananananananananananana...Bat Vase!

Apart from giving me what little excuse I need to throw in a reference to the classic 1960s Batman TV series, what does this have to do with the Egypt in England exhibition?  Well, I'm glad you asked me that.  Things have been...interesting of late, with a number of institutions unexpectedly declining to loan items, which was disappointing.  However, on the principle of making lemonade when life gives you lemons, necessity being the mother of invention, and [insert your own preferred cliché here], this has encouraged some creative thinking, and on the plus side, some really wonderful items for loan have been secured.  One of my favourites is an early Wedgwood vase, which was fondly supposed to be Egyptian in style.  Trouble was, it had been based on a very baroque design by the highly influential writer on architecture Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, which didn't quite get the winged solar disk right, with the result that it ended up looking like, well, a bat.  Which is why a Wedgwood Style 220 vase is known as a Bat Vase.  Just the thing for the hall of the Wayne mansion.

Also to be featured in the exhibition is the sort of souvenir that you could once upon a time bring back from Egypt if you were wealthy enough.  It takes at least two people to move it, dates from the Nineteenth Dynasty, which makes it at least 3,200 years old, and for a number of years was used in the headquarters of a household name in travel a door stop.

It's Egypt in England, all right, but it might not be what you expect.

Maybe it's because I'm an (Egyptian) Londoner...

Three more biographies this month.  A womanising horse breeder and diplomat, who caused a diplomatic row over fox hunting in Egypt, the son of a pyramid builder, and a banker who (almost literally) went up the beach with the troops into Egypt.  Enjoy.

Until next time,

Ankh Wedja Seneb,


May 2012

Another month, another newsletter only just makes it out in time.  It's been busy.

Photoshopping the Sphinx

In a shock revelation, I can exclusively disclose that the image on the front cover of one of the sphinxes from Cleopatra's Needle  will not be an original photo, but one which has undergone cosmetic enhancement.  It hasn't been slimmed down in Photoshop, but a couple of blemishes on the negative are being removed.  The original version can currently be seen on the Egyptian London web site if you click on the title link on the page about the book.  We're at second page proof stage now, which is where all the changes made to the first proofs are checked, final tweaks are made to the text, figures are cropped to make them just a little bit more striking, and everything is given a final polish.

The Patagonian Sampson

Another three biographies of Egyptian Londoners this month, but the undoubted star amongst them is the extraordinary man dubbed 'The Patagonian Sampson' in his earlier career, who went on to become the intimate of royalty and a social sensation.  Next month, his remarkable wife.

Obelid or Pyramisk?

One of the problems with Egyptianising architecture is deciding which buildings qualify, and I was reminded of this the other day when looking at that new icon of London, The Shard, which is approaching completion.  Is it Egyptianising?  If it is, does it qualify as an obelisk or a pyramid?  I'd say it was too battered (i.e. sloping) for an obelisk, and too steeply pitched for a pyramid.  Maybe it is a new form, but in that case is it an obelid or a pyramisk?  Personally, I'm just wondering who the tenant is, and watching for a big fiery eye at the top.  If that appears, we're all in trouble.

Until next time,

Ankh Wedja Seneb,


April 2012

Another busy month in Egyptian London, as another newsletter only just makes it out in time to qualify.

Egypt in England

The pace is quickening as publication moves closer, and I'm currently going through first page proofs in three batches.  It's an exciting time, as the title starts to look like a book, with everything laid out and figures and captions in.  I'm hoping to be able to have some samples, including the revised cover design, up on the web site soon.  Once the first page proofs have been checked and tweaked, and the layout is stable, the cross references can go in and the index be created, and then the second page proofs are produced.  It's a lot of work, but this process is the sort of quality control that all readers should be able to rely on.

The View From the Gallery

English Heritage's new exhibition space, the Quadriga Gallery, opens in the Wellington Arch on 9th May.  (As we all know, a quadriga is a four horse chariot, and the sculpture on top of the Arch represents Peace descending on the quadriga of War.)  It will house temporary exhibitions exploring various aspects of England's heritage, and the first will be on possibly our most iconic heritage site, Stonehenge.  (Stonehenge: Monumental Journey)  In July, another will explore Blackpool and its legendary Tower and Winter Gardens. (Blackpool: Wonderland of the World)  Some time in early November there is apparently another one on the influence of Ancient Egypt on art, interior design and architecture.  Entrance to the gallery is included in the ticket price for the Arch, currently £4 for adults.  For even better value, you can combine a visit to the Arch with one to nearby Apsley House at £8.20 for both, and see the amazing Ancient Egyptian Sèvres dinner service, with its centrepiece modelled on the temples of Philae, Dendera, Edfu, Karnak and Luxor.  And while you're at it, why not book up an Egyptian London walk or tour?

You can keep up to date with forthcoming exhibitions at the Quadriga Gallery by going to:

and information on the Stonehenge exhibition is here:

More Egyptian Londoners

Three more very varied personalities this month.  The first was described as "the maker of modern Egypt", but was also called "Overbaring" (sic).  The next was the reason for seven statues of Sekhmet appearing on Waterloo Bridge (covered in The Elderly Lady's Elephant walk), while the third connects the Houses of Parliament to Ancient Egypt.  Next time, we get to the Patagonian Sampson.

Until next time,

Ankh Wedja Seneb,


If you are wondering about the hieroglyphs at the top, they are read as (something like) Wepoot, and are the Middle Egyptian for...message or news. #newsletter_top #newsletter_top #newsletter_top #newsletter_top

March 2012

Phew!  It's been busy in Egyptian London since the last newsletter, and as a result this one has only just made it out in March.

Egypt in England

Part of the process of producing a book like Egypt in England is for it to go out to anonymous referees for their comments.  This had already happened, and the text had been revised to take account of their comments, so it was unexpected to find out recently that the text had gone out to a third, and very distinguished, referee.  How distinguished?  Let's just say that they are Emeritus Professor of Architectural History at a Russell Group university.  It was probably a good thing that I didn't know beforehand, but fortunately the response was very positive.  Naturally, there were some suggested changes and additions; after all, that's what referees are for.  They suggested adding some additional material on Egyptian style architecture in Classical times and some titles to the bibliography, making some amendments to the architectural glossary, and picked up some points where they disagreed with the sources that I had used.  All good stuff, and the book will undoubtedly be better for their comments.  The only trouble was, we still needed to keep to the same production schedule.

Cue some hasty last minute redrafting and copy editing.  The worst bit was that as soon as you added even one footnote, all the following ones had to be renumbered.  Manually.  And then checked to make sure that the number in the text still referred to the right footnote.  I'm pleased to be able to say that thanks to some great teamwork between myself and the copy editor, the changes were made and everything was still on track for a September publication date.  The copy edited text is now with the designers, and initial versions of the cover designs should be available in early April.  So why the additional referee?  Read on and find out...

Making an exhibition of yourself

During the year, English Heritage hold a number of exhibitions at the Wellington Arch, better known as Marble Arch, and Egypt in England was being considered for one of them.  Hence the final 'quality control' check with the additional referee.  I'm delighted to be able to say that the exhibition has now been confirmed, probably for some time in November.  If you aren't familiar with the Wellington Arch, copy and paste the link below into your browser for some atmospheric photos.

Walk the Walk, Talk the Talk

I'm also delighted to be able to say that I will be doing an Egyptian London walk for the award winning London Walks company later in the year, on Sunday 7th October at 10:45.  My association with them goes right back to 2004, and if you haven't been on one of their walks yet, do check out their web site at

Does Cleopatra's Needle have a post code?

During the process of copy editing Egypt in England, it was decided that the post codes for all the locations needed to be included.  For some locations, this was no problem, but it left me in the weird situation of trying to find out if Cleopatra's Needle had a post code, and if so what it was.  It wasn't just the Needle, either.  What about the Wellington Monument, or the Valve House at Widdop Reservoir?  It turns out that to have a post code, you have to have an address that the Post Office will deliver mail to, so the Needle doesn't qualify.  If it did, however, it would be WC2N 2PB, which is the post code of the very pleasant café immediately opposite.

More Egyptian Londoners

This month, fresh on the web site, the Bs, beginning with the younger brother of the founder of the Boy Scouts, the man who made the London Underground (and every other metro in the world) dip between stations, and the man I call 'The Oscar Wilde of Egyptology'.  Enjoy.

It's Egyptian, Jim, but not as we know it

If, like me, one of the highlights of your year is the arrival of the padded envelope that brings the latest copy of the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, keep an eye out for the next issue.  The editors have just accepted a paper of mine.  I toyed with the catchy title of 'Nineteenth Century Compositions in Egyptian Hieroglyphs', but decided instead to go for 'It's Egyptian Jim, but not as we know it'.  The paper is a fairly detailed and technical look at the hieroglyphic inscriptions on several of the buildings in Egypt in England, which were original compositions, rather than genuine Ancient Egyptian texts.  I'm glad to be able to report that academics, including the anonymous peer referee, do have a sense of humour, and that it looks like it is going in title and all.

Until next time,

Ankh Wedja Seneb,


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Summer Sales

The Egyptian London web site now has a PDF flier which will get you 20% off Egypt in England, including free postage and packing.  Yes, you can find it offered at a higher discount by a well-known on-line retailer, but it’s not a lot cheaper, and buying direct means more of your money goes to English Heritage.

Current publication date seems to be 10th October.

Egyptian Buenos Aires

August found me in Buenos Aires, the spiritual home of Tango.  (Argentina and Uruguay have agreed to stop arguing over who actually originated it, and share the credit for what UNESCO have declared part of the world’s cultural heritage.)  While there, I made the Tango Pilgrimage to La Chacarita Cemetary, in search of Carlos Gardel’s monument.  If you’ve never heard of him, imagine that Elvis had been on the same plane as Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper.  Gardel is to Tango what Elvis is to Rock ‘n Roll, and he (Gardel, that is) died in 1937 when his plane crashed in Colombia on a tour of South America.  His monument is the Graceland of Tango.  Every available inch of it seems to be covered with plaques dedicated by his fans from 1937 to at least 2010, and a steady stream of tangueros from all over the world as well as Argentina leave flowers and the traditional lit cigarette between the fingers of his statue.

What does that have to do with Ancient Egypt?  Well La Chacarita is also one of the world’s great cemeteries, reflecting the fact that in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Argentina was one of the richest countries in the world.  It boasts a stunning selection of monuments and statuary, and among them are a number in the Ancient Egyptian style.  Buenos Aires also has at least two major obelisks outside the cemetery, including the city centre landmark which is the biggest in South America.

It all started with London, then expanded to cover the whole of England, then took in gardens as well as architecture, and now it’s starting to go worldwide.  (I’d already gone European with a trip to Paris.)  And to think that when I began I wasn’t sure if there would be enough material for a book…

HPB and others

This month’s clutch of biographies include a Russian occultist; a poet, political radical, feminist and first biographer of George Eliot; and an ethnologist who divided the world into five races.

Until next time,

Ankh Wedja Seneb,




Memphis, the Sphinx has landed...

To paraphrase the words of the Apollo astronauts.  Welcome to a special edition of the Egyptian London Newsletter, to celebrate the launch of Egypt in England the book and exhibition on 6th November.  Thanks to my good friend and hieroglyphic typographer Mark Rudolph for the writing of 'Egypt in England'.

It was a good job that not everybody who had been invited to the launch event was able to make it, as the Wellington Arch was full to capacity.  As the old joke has it, the Queen Mother once told me never to name drop, but I have to say I was delighted to be able to show round the Egyptian ambassador and Minister of Tourism before the rest of the guests arrived.  Everyone seemed to have a good time, and feedback from the event has been very positive.  I was certainly kept busy, although rumours that I was on a 'one copy, one canapé' signing deal are without foundation, and I only managed a half glass of white wine during the evening.

The team at English Heritage and the external designers have done, in my opinion, a terrific job.  Looking at the Arch from outside, it is difficult to believe how much has been packed into it, without looking overcrowded.  The exhibition follows a roughly chronological order, from the roots of Egyptian architecture in England in 18th century garden pyramids, obelisks and sphinxes, through the style's most fashionable period in the Regency, and after in the later 19th century, and then on into the 20th century.  One of the nicest things about doing the exhibition was the chance that it gave to include things that weren't in the book, and there are objects from a private collection of Egyptian antiquities, with the sort of small portable pieces that well off travellers would bring back from their travels, but also the very substantial husband and wife statue of Setmosi and Esinefert thought to have been acquired in Egypt by John Mason Cook.  The Thomas Cook archives have also kindly loaned a selection of travel ephemera, including a passenger list for one of their Nile steamers which includes the Pre-Raphaelite painter William Holman Hunt and his wife.  There is also a case of Wedgwood Egyptian style items, showing how the company stuck to designs based on 18th century sources even after more accurate ones were available, including a factory model of the 'Bat' vase, where a winged scarab has been mistaken for a bat.  There are Liberty stools inspired by genuine Egyptian examples, and a lavish bronze mantelpiece set of sphinx topped Egyptian style clock and busts of Isis and Ramesses by the French craftsman Georges Servant.  Star of the show, however, must be the model of the obelisk barge 'Cleopatra', that brought the Needle to London, complete with a chunk trimmed off the obelisk, and photos and prints telling the epic story of its journey to London.

The exhibition has been extended, and is now on until 13th January 2013.  The Arch is only a stone's throw from Hyde Park Corner tube station, and the £4 price of admission includes the great view from the roof of the Arch.  Oh, and the video display on the fourth floor includes footage of the immortal Wilson, Keppel and Betty.  What more could you ask?

After some initial teething problems resulting from a change of distributors by English Heritage, things now seem to be running smoothly with the book, and there has been encouraging interest in it, including pieces in The Times and Telegraph and a slot on the Robert Elms programme on BBC London radio.

More Egyptian Londoners

The latest batch of biographies introduces an artist who wrote the historical text for David Roberts' iconic series of prints of Egypt and Nubia, but who also invented improved pens, pencils, and pill-making machinery.  There is also a pioneering woman Egyptologist who was unable to study in England, and had to go to the Sorbonne in Paris, and a surgeon and mummy unroller.

Until next time,

Ankh Wedja Seneb


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