Erik Hornung has done a great service in making the ancient Egyptian Books of the Underworld understandable to both the average and trained reader with an interest in ancient Egyptian religion and its texts. David Lorton's translation of Hornung's original German text is excellent,and reflects both Hornung's written German and English lecture styles in describing such concepts as the reuniting of the ba of Osiris with Ra, the development of the idea of salvation of the deceased from the ancient Egyptian context, and the movement of time in the afterlife.
Hornung engages in little speculation in this work, citing solid texual or imagery bases for his statements. The book is beautifully illustrated with photographs, line drawings, and pertinent hieroglyphic texts, which makes it a useful tool for the professional in the field as well.
Each set of underworld books (five sets in all) are reviewed in this work. Of the New Kingdom set, twelve such books are reviewed. Hornung structures the discussion of each book, citing their sources, research, structure and language, and content in a manner that is both informative and a pleasure to read.
Like Hornung's similar German work, Tal der Könige:Die Ruhestätten der Pharaonen/Valley of the Kings, very complex concepts of Egyptian religion are carefully explained, illustrated from original texts and tomb scenes, and are discussed in the context of history and evolution of the ancient Egyptian funerary ritual.
This work is destined to become an invaluable sourcebook for the understanding of Egyptian funerary beliefs, and is a valuable addition to the library of any reader in ancient Egyptian history and culture.