The Craft of a Good Scribe: History, Narrative and Meaning in the First Tale of Setne Khaemwas
In The Craft of a Good Scribe, Steve Vinson offers a comprehensive study of the Demotic Egyptian First Tale of Setne Khaemwas (Third Century BCE), the first to appear since 1900. “First Setne” is the most important extant Demotic literary text, and among the most important fictional compositions from any period of ancient Egypt. The tale, which is by turns lurid, tragic, and ultimately comic, deals with Setne’s theft of a magic book written by the god Thoth himself, and subsequently Setne’s punishment through a hallucinatory encounter with the ghostly femme fatale Tabubue.
Vinson provides a new textual edition and commentary, and explores the tale’s cultural background, its modern reception by such authors as H. Rider Haggard, H.P. Lovecraft, and Thomas Mann, and approaches to its interpretation as a work of literature.
Stephen Vinson is Professor in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, where he specializes in Egyptology. He is the author of three books and many scholarly articles, and is currently convening international scholars to explore the application of digital tools to the study of Ancient Egypt.