This is a fun book about the mania for things Egyptian through history, not in an orderly sort of way (the first chapter is about the authors collection of books, posters, letters, etc., all of which relate in some way to Egypt), but mostly chronological and jumping from great story to great story. A particularly good section, in Chapter Eight, is about the popularity of mummy songs in the early 20th century. Finally, there are three sections of color plates in the book, with pictures of Egyptian themed cigarette cases, cigar boxes, movie posters, jewelry, book covers, sheet music, cologne, party mix, etc.
It was an enjoyable read which covers the history of enthusiasm for Ancient Egypt from the Romans right up to the present day. Music was well covered in terms of the Tin Pan Alley era but it would have been nice to see it taken up to the present in order to include the likes of Egypt by Kate Bush, the popular Bangles' hit Walk Like An Egyptian or even Iron Maiden album covers.
In addition to this there are newspaper articles about Egyptology, books about ancient Egypt, museum displays of artifacts,and of course movies. My impression is that the 21 volume French book, Description de l'Egypte, based upon the information collected by the scholars Napoleon brought along during his 1798 invasion, is what set off the fairly sustained interest over the last two centuries. In the nineteenth the London Illustrated News is apparently an excellent source for information about such doings, as well as for archaeological coverage, so Bier has been collecting old issues. My favorite item made use of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, a collection of spells with illustrations intended to aid in the rebirth of the dead.
Overall I understood Brier's interest in collecting the various items but it really just brought attention to the fact that my love of Ancient Egypt has everything to do with the actual history and figures rather than the items created that allude to them. I also questioned whether Brier was just talking hypothetical or actually believes that Ramesses is likely the Pharaoh involved in the "Exodus".
I thought this book would mostly be about Ancient Egypt in pop culture, tracing how "Egyptomania" has manifested itself in different time periods to reflect people's changing interests and concerns.
I would like to read this chapter again to assess the author's conclusion on this controversial issue, before I add the book to my planned Africana Bibliographic Blog.
A Senior Research Fellow at Long Island University/LIU Post, he has researched and published on mummies and the mummification process and has appeared in many Discovery Civilization documentaries, primarily on ancient Egypt. In addition to his career at Long Island University, Brier has taught ancient Egyptian at The New School and Egyptology at Webb Institute for many years. This research earned Brier the affectionate nickname "Mr. Mummy" and was also the subject of the National Geographic television special of the same name, which made him a household name.