Belzoni, G. Narrative of the Operations and Recent Discoveries within the Pyramids, Temples,

 

Belzoni, G. Narrative of the Operations and Recent Discoveries within the Pyramids, Temples,
Tombs, and Excavations, in Egypt and Nubia; and of a Journey to the Coast of the Red Sea, in
Search of the Ancient Berenice, and another to The Oasis of Jupiter Ammon. Westmead: Gregg,
1971. (Originally, London: John Murray, 1820).

This is Giambattista Belzoni's dramatic account of his travels and researches in Egypt. It is a
book which derives from his experiences in Egypt and with the antiquarians with whom he
worked. It is a fairly candid description of what he did, where, when, and is written for those
interested in travel books, books about "far off places."In the era before radio, TV and the
movies, these adventure books were all the rage. However, having read other accounts of these
events, one can judge what gets left out of this report and what gets included. One can see the
craft behind the writing, the artisanship of writing a successful adventure book.

Consider, for example, that Belzoni reveals here nothing of his earlier life in the circus, his being
a strong man at a side show. There's nothing here about how he got interested in antiquities or
what he hoped to get out of his interests. He tells his stories of the rigors of hard work done in the
name of God and Country to being the artistic treasures of ancient Egypt to London where they
could be displayed. On the other hand, the opportunism he displayed, the bribes he had to pay,
the double-dealings he had to provide, his corner cutting in almost everything he did, does not get
mentioned.

This book appears just as Belzoni completes his initial research, returns to England, and opens
his theater of the antiques he has to display. So the book may be considered a come on, and
extensive advertisement or supplement to the shows. After all, the sales of this book and the
tickets purchased to his displays were his means of getting paid for his work.

Belzoni is no Alexander von Humbolt. His "travelogue" is not of that genre. He was an
opportunity and showman who used his skills and his wits in promoting himself and Egyptian art
for what was in it for him.