In that year, Lepsius travelled to Tuscany to meet with Ippolito Rosellini , who had led a joint expedition to Egypt with Champollion in In , Lepsius was commissioned at the recommendation of the minister of instruction, Johann Eichhorn, and the scientists Alexander von Humboldt and Christian Charles Josias Bunsen by King Frederich Wilhelm IV of Prussia to lead an expedition to Egypt and the Sudan to explore and record the remains of the ancient Egyptian civilization. The Prussian expedition was modelled after the earlier Napoleonic mission, with surveyors, draftsmen, and other specialists. They discovered 67 pyramids recorded in the pioneering Lepsius list of pyramids and more than tombs of noblemen in the area. After exploring various sites in Upper and Lower Nubia , the expedition worked back north, reaching Thebes on November 2, , where they spent four months studying the western bank of the Nile such as the Ramesseum , Medinet Habu , the Valley of the Kings , etc. Afterwards they stopped at Coptos , the Sinai , and sites in the Egyptian Delta , such as Tanis , before returning to Europe in
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For three years the expedition visited sites along the Nile, both known and previously unknown. Lepsius also visited Khartoum and ascended the Blue Nile past Sennar, not only to document antiquities but also to make a study of regional languages. On the way back, the expedition visited Thebes, Qurna, and Karnak. Fit for An Emperor The expedition brought back three types of material: first, more than 1, sketches and drawings, representing Nile Valley landscapes, architectural renderings of tombs and temples, and copies of hieroglyphs, inscriptions, murals, and bas-reliefs; then, mechanical reproductions consisting of tracings, plaster casts of various objects, and some 6, squeezes of inscriptions in several languages;  and finally, original artifacts.
Given that the expedition was under the imprimatur of the emperor, the publication had to be of the highest quality. It was imperative that the illustrations made during the expedition be published to further the goal of public education about these remarkable civilizations. From the more than 2, large original sheets, around , or around half, would be published. III, Band 7, Bl. The architect Georg Gustav Erbkam produced topographical drawings and the site plans for temples and tombs that set the standard for historical architecture.
The painter Ernst Weidenbach made painstakingly accurate drawings to scale of monuments and hieroglyphics, and his brother Max Weidenbach, an artist and lithographer whom Lepsius had trained specially for his assignment, reproduced the hieroglyphics on stone plates. Reubke printed most of the plates with great care at his lithographic institute; the landscapes in the first section were transferred by the talented H. Loeillot, and the difficult color printing of these scenes was entrusted to H.
Lithography was chosen over copper plates because lithography could give excellent results and was perfectly suitable for a work consisting mostly of simple outline drawings.
Moreover, it cost significantly less. Lepsius stressed accuracy in the representation of hieroglyphs, edifices and bas reliefs. The optical device known as the camera lucida, which was invented in , allowed drawings to be made with precision.
It consists of a mounted glass that let the artist see the subject to be drawn and the drawing surface simultaneously. Architect Erbkam and artists-brothers Weidenbach used this device. Some of the objects were drawn in lead or India ink; others, including landscapes and copies of friezes, were in color.
The Egyptian illustrations were all reprinted using a special tinted plate against a white background. This process not only offered the viewer a more complete and pleasing impression of the object, but also, by using color that is close to nature, indicated the type of rock the monument was made of. Limestone was shown by a yellowish color, sandstone with more of a gray color, and granite with a reddish tone.
If the original colors of a painted illustration were preserved well enough to be reproduced in the on-site drawing, they were reproduced as accurately as possible in the color printing. The question arose of how to arrange this mass of new material for publication - by geography, subject matter, or chronology?
Lepsius thought it more important to follow a historical sequence because that was, after all, the goal of the expedition. All epochs were to be represented, though some sites reflected more than one epoch.
The decision was made to divide material into six sections. Sections containing too many plates for one physical volume were divided among several. Section I, geography, topography, landscapes, from north to south, which coincided with historical chronology. Section II, Old Kingdom. Section IV, era of Greek and Roman dominance. The new printing capabilities overcame the limits which manual techniques placed on paper size and printing. Paper could be made in larger sheets. The use of the roller press invented in the mid-nineteenth century and the method of transfer printing made possible printing on larger sheets of paper, thus allowing for the creation of large-size or folio books.
It documented many sites that have since been destroyed or reburied, providing plans, topographical maps, and drawings of tomb and temple walls that are of a high degree of accuracy and reliability. Before his trip to Egypt, he studied hieroglyphs and examined the collections of Egyptian antiquities in Italy, England, and the Netherlands.
Naumburg, Germany: Stadtmuseum Naumburg, Lepsius-Projekt Sachsen-Anhalt. Care to remove air bubbles and to capture each area of incision results in a highly accurate reverse relief of the inscription and a negative right-reading impression of the inscription.
Karl Richard Lepsius
Denkmaeler aus Aegypten und Aethiopien