Highlights From Myer’s “Oldest Books in the World”

Published on November 24, 2016 (↻ June 19, 2024), filed under (RSS feed for all categories).

The fourth part of a series, here are some highlights from Isaac Myer’s Oldest Books in the World (1900).

Emphasis as it appears in the original work may be missing, and my own edits, though marked, may be broad. Then, important: By sharing these highlights I neither implicitly endorse nor recommend respective authors and their views. Assume that I know little of the authors, and that I have a nuanced view on the matter. (Everything the highlights can tell is that—much like the books themselves—for some reason or other I found them of interest.) When a detailed understanding of my views is important, ask me.


  1. The Prisse Papyrus (2000 B.C.?)
  2. The Papyrus of the Scribe Ani (1250 B.C.?)
  3. Meyer: The Psychology of the Ancient Egyptians (1893)
  4. Per-Em-Hru
  5. Egyptian Ethical Writings of the Ptolemaic Period and that of Nero (64)

The Prisse Papyrus (2000 B.C.?)

The cover of “Oldest Books in the World.”

  1. Respect for the Truth. […]
  2. He says that he has been, when alive in this world, pious and righteous. […]
  3. He has had filial love and affection. […]
  4. Benevolence, docility, and humanity. […]
  5. Religion. […]
  6. Humility and defense of the weak […].

The Papyrus of the Scribe Ani (1250 B.C.?)

Some items omitted:

  1. Marry when young. […]
  2. Study on a subject before giving an opinion. […]
  3. The importance of making use of the present. […]
  4. Exaltation of soul and the reward, from doing good works. […]
  5. Respect to the interior of a man’s house[;] do not enter before the owner. […]
  6. Danger of watching and repeating as to the actions of others. […]
  7. This maxim inculcates the principle, that a man should not use his house as an observatory from which to spy into what is being done in another’s. If he sees anything unwittingly he should keep it to himself. […]
  8. Danger of seduction by evil women. […]
  9. Keep away from from ignorant and evil people. […]
  10. Do not be a babbler[;] advantage of silence. […]
  11. Abstain from intoxicating drinks and liquor saloons. […]
  12. Do not readily make associates[;] recall to [yourself] the past. […]
  13. It is not necessary for a man to go out of his house in order to contract a large acquaintance outside; if one seems to ignore a salutation to him, it is not necessary to hereafter give that man any further attention, but rather to think of all that one loves. Recall to yourself the past and study it so as to know it. […]
  14. The inevitability of death and the grave[;] prepare in this life for the world to come. […]
  15. [You are] notified [of your death?] and [know] it. […]
  16. Prudence and discretion in speech[;] avoid those who use insulting language.
  17. Guard [yourself] from sinning by words, that they may not wound […].
  18. Be prudent in the employment of agents[;] danger from the trusted embezzler. […]
  19. The Egyptian moralist desires to teach through this maxim, that it is important to distrust an unknown man who comes to flatter, and also men who are officiously around an elevated, distinguished, or wealthy man; they who offer their services without being requested, and who, not content to offer them, come in person to do them and to force themselves upon the attention of such persons, so as to take advantage of them. […]
  20. On want of generosity. […]
  21. The maxim inculcates charity and generosity in the wealthy and those of elevated rank. […]
  22. Importance of discipline in a house. […]
  23. Against idleness. […]
  24. Pleasures of a country life and of contentment. […]
  25. Do not covet the property of others[;] be contented with what you possess. […]
  26. Advantage of living in one’s own house[;] avoid controversies as to inherited property. […]
  27. Existence and children are gifts from God who protect them[;] have paternal love. […]
  28. A rule of politeness[;] deference to the aged.
  29. “Do not remain seated when another is standing if he [is] older than [you], even if [you] are greater than he in his functions.” […]
  30. Danger of saying evil things. […]
  31. Walk each day in the path of rectitude[;] then will result eternal reward. […]
  32. What should form the subjects of conversation. […]
  33. The general rule in modern cultivated society, is for the speaker to avoid talking of his family, profession, or business, in general society, unless his opinion is asked upon some subject pertaining to it, and even to ask such questions then, is not considered evidence of great cultivation in the questioner.
  34. Do not use harsh language.
  35. “Do not speak unkindly (ill-naturedly) to any one; the word (?) of the day of [your] gossip overturns [your] house.” […]
  36. Courageous in prosperity, adversity can be more easily supported. […]
  37. The good are respected, whether associating with many or living solitary. […]
  38. The great value of learning […].
  39. Gentleness in speech [is] necessary. […]
  40. […] The violent reply is the raising of the stick; speak with the sweetness of the lover (friend); certainly… for eternity.” […]
  41. Maternal love[;] education in youth[;] filial affection. […]
  42. Do not eat whilst another remains standing[;] uncertainty of wealth[;] advantage of benevolence. […]
  43. The maxim implies that it is the duty of a man at a repast, not to eat when unexpected guests are present standing, without offering them some of the food or a place at the table. […]
  44. Gluttony condemned[;] man created for something higher. […]
  45. Nothing in this world [is] unchangeable. […]
  46. Keep in the road of right conduct[;] one may be miserable or eminent[;] however, keep it. […]
  47. Hospitality to strangers. […]
  48. “Be not rude to a man who is in [your] house, (he is) [your] guest. He has rendered to [you] an account of who he is. […]
  49. Punctuality.
  50. “He who hates delay comes without having been called.” […]
  51. He who plans ahead arrives on time without hurrying. […]
  52. Do not go into a quarrelsome crowd.
  53. “Enter not into a crowd if [you find yourself] excitable in the presence of violence.” […]
  54. Do not encroach on the property of other. […]
  55. Keep away from the seditious. […]
  56. The advantages of friendship. […]
  57. […] the friend does not see one’s faults, or, if he does, passes them over lightly. […]
  58. The chief of the herd [is] only a similar animal. […]
  59. If the crops are destroyed, the spirits (of ancestors) are invoked. […]
  60. Want of energy. […]
  61. “He puts misfortunes in his house who has a heart without energy, because he believes in everything absolutely.”
  62. The maxim likely means, because such a person accepts everything without the trouble of investigating it. […]
  63. Treatment of a good and prudent wife.
  64. “Do not treat a woman (wife?) rudely in her house; even if [you know] her perfectly. […]
  65. Do not give too much attention to women.
  66. “Walk not after a woman; do not permit her to become master of [your] heart.” […]
  67. A gentle answer appeases anger. […]
  68. Respect the aged. […]
  69. The changes produced by misfortune.
  70. “Do not discourage [yourself] in the face of (before) [yourself]; one hour of misfortune suffices to put upside down the favors which one [has] enjoyed.” […]
  71. Advantage of conciliatory speech.
  72. “If any conciliating discourses are for the best, hearts incline to receive them.” […]
  73. Be silent.
  74. “Seek silence for [yourself].” […]
  75. Be not harsh in treatment of the manager of [your] estate. […]
  76. Inconstancy of popular favor.
  77. “At [the] entrance into a village acclamations commence; at [the] going out [you are] saved by the (strength) of [the] hand.” […]

Meyer: The Psychology of the Ancient Egyptians (1893)

[…] we are sure that the Ancient Egyptians, at a very early period, believed in an eternal condition of the soul, pre-existing forever before its entrance into its earthly life, and having an existence forever after it […]

[…] there is nothing in death which should terrify a man.


“Happy is the man who directs himself in the good way as to his actions.”

Osiris comes to you [if] there is neither evil, nor sin, nor soil, nor impurity, in him; there is neither accusation nor opposition against him. He lives with truth, is nourished with truth. The heart is charmed with what he has done. What he has done, men proclaim it, the gods rejoice themselves in it. He is reconciled to God through his love. He has given bread to him who had hunger, water to him who had thirst, clothing to him who was naked. He has given a barge to those who needed it. He has made offerings to the gods, and funeral consecrations to the Ka’s. Save him, protect him, and do not accuse him before the lord of the mummies (i.e., Osiris), because his mouth is pure, his hands are pure. He who perceived him, said: that he come in peace […].

Egyptian Ethical Writings of the Ptolemaic Period and that of Nero (64)

  1. Let not bitterness penetrate into the heart of [your] mother.
  2. Kill not, it is the exposure of [yourself] to be killed.
  3. Make not a wicked man [your] companion.
  4. Act not according to the counsels of a fool.
  5. Do not establish [your] tomb above those who command [you?] and of him who [gives you] orders.
  6. Do not (…) to [your] children in so far that [you] being older, they shall have grown in age and strength.
  7. Let it happen that [you] maltreat an inferior, and there will come to [you] the respect of the venerable.
  8. Let it not happen that [you] maltreat [your] wife whose strength is less than [yours]; let her find (in [you]) her protector.
  9. Curse not [your] master before God.
  10. Curse not that which (…).
  11. Speak not against [your] master.
  12. Save not [your] life at the expense of another’s.
  13. Desire not that [your] son (…) and his sons.
  14. Do not maltreat [your] child, he is feeble[;] (on the contrary) lend him [your] aid. […]
  15. Abandon him not to an (other) of [your] sons (who is) stronger and more courageous.
  16. That is the reason of the sorrow which happens to [your] form (…).
  17. Take not away the pleasure of those dependent on [you].
  18. Let not [your] son be familiar with a married woman.
  19. Establish not [your] tomb in [your] domain.
  20. Do not establish [your] tomb at the approaches of the Temple.
  21. Walk not with one of foolish mind.
  22. Stop not to hear his words.
  23. Do not pervert the heart of [your] acquaintance (comrade) if it is pure.
  24. Take not a haughty attitude.
  25. Do not make sport of an old man, [your] superior.

Read the whole book: Oldest Books in the World.

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About Me

Jens Oliver Meiert, on September 30, 2021.

I’m Jens (long: Jens Oliver Meiert), and I’m a frontend engineering leader and tech author/publisher. I’ve worked as a technical lead for companies like Google and as an engineering manager for companies like Miro, I’m close to W3C and WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly and Frontend Dogma.

I love trying things, not only in web development (and engineering management), but also in other areas like philosophy. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.

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