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In Search of “Sun Pictures”

Splendid buildings constructed of six kinds of precious wood I built within the precincts of Nineveh for my royal dwelling. With Sarmakhu trees from the foot of Mount Hermon, which the Syrian carpenters call the very best trees that they have in their land, or in the land of Chaldaea either, I erected the columns of its porticoes. Then Nineveh my royal city and its dwellings I embellished and made as splendid as the Sun.

SO SPAKE SENNACHERIB, “THE GREAT king, the powerful king, the king of Assyria,” according to the first attempted translation from a cylinder seal in the British Museum by Henry Fox Talbot, Esq., in a slim booklet, “printed for private distribution,” in 1856. There is a certain aptness, fully in accord with the tradition of the English gentleman as tinkerer and inspired dabbler, to the fact that it took a classical etymologist to invent the modern technique of negative

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