The Oldest Book in the World.

By Bill Manley

Printed: 2023

Publisher: Thames & Hudson. London

Edition: First edition

Dimensions 16 × 24 × 3 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 16 x 24 x 3

Condition: As new  (See explanation of ratings)

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Item information


In the original dustsheet. Red cloth binding with black title on the spine.

  • F.B.A. provides an in-depth photographic presentation of this item to stimulate your feeling and touch. More traditional book descriptions are immediately available.

A brand-new translation of a philosophical classic of the ancient world, The Teaching of Ptahhatp, written in Egypt 4,000 years ago.

The Teaching of Ptahhatp, composed two millennia before the birth of Plato, is the oldest surviving statement of philosophy in the ancient world and the earliest witness to the power of the written word. It ought to begin the list of the world’s philosophy classics, yet it has been largely forgotten since it was rediscovered in the nineteenth century. Egyptologist Bill Manley’s new translation corrects this oversight, rendering into approachable modern English for the first time Ptahhatp’s profound yet practical account of ‘the meaning of life’, written many centuries before the supposed dawn of western philosophy.

Manley introduces Ptahhatp, who served as Vizier to the Old Kingdom pharaoh Izezi (c. 2410–2375 BC), and the world of dynamic ideas and new technologies – writing among them – within which he worked, illuminating the nuances of his language and philosophy. In addition, Manley’s new translation of Why Things Happen, the oldest surviving account of creation from anywhere in the world, reveals how Ptahhatp’s account of the human condition is founded in distinctive ancient Egyptian beliefs about the nature of truth and reality. Taken together, Manley’s new translations and expert commentary provide a new perspective on the Pyramid Age and overturn traditional prejudices about the origins of writing and philosophy. The ‘oldest book in the world’ is a testament to a common thread that connects humanity across time; Ptahhatp grapples with the pitfalls of greed, ambition, celebrity, success, confrontation, friendship, sex and even the office environment, and his teachings remain remarkably relevant in the modern day.

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