In transcribing the following paragraphs from the Internet Archive online version of The Imperial Gazetteer’s entry on Egypt I have divided the long entry into separate documents, expanded abbreviations for easier reading, and added paragraphing and links to material in the Victorian Web. Unless otherwise noted, charts and illustrations come from the original Gazetteer. — George P. Landow

Decorated initial M

GYPT is a country remarkable alike for its physical peculiarities, and for its place in history, and which still retains, in its wonderful monuments, the earliest records of civilization, extends along the Nile at the Northeast angle of Africa, and embraces properly the lowest and most North division of the valley of that river, from the last cataracts to the sea. In latitude 24˚ 3' 45" North the Nile, issuing from the rocky glen of Lower Nubia, sweeps in a smooth but rapid stream round the little island which was called by the Greeks Philæ, by the Arabs Bilak (both names being corruptions of the Coptic pi-lakh, that is, the limit), and then immediately hurries down the cataracts, or rather rapids, of Assouan (Syene), and by the island of Elephantine, about 2 miles below PhilEe. Here the obstructions to the navigation of the Nile are at an end, and the river extends in a general course, North by West, to latitude 31˚ 35' North, where, in the neighbourhood of Damietta, the principal branch falls into the Mediterranean Sea.

The length of Egypt, measured on the meridian, is but 450 geographical miles; but along the winding valley of the river, which is truly the habitable country, it has an extent of above 600 miles of these, or about 720 statute miles. The average width of the valley of the Nile may be assumed to be 8 miles; the greatest width of the delta, from Alexandria on the West, to the ruins of Pelusium on the East, is about 160 miles The whole area, comprised in the valley and delta, may be taken at 11,000 sq. miles


[Greek, Aiywffro AW; Latin, Ægyptus; French, Egypte; German, Ægypten Italian, Egitto; Arabic, Missr; Turkish, Kibt)

Egypt is now called by the natives, and throughout the East generally, Misr or Masr, a name evidently connected with the Mitsraim of Scripture; and this name being in the dual number, seems to refer to the division of the country into Upper and Lower Egypt, which were always considered, under the native dynasties, as distinct kingdoms, symbolized by different crowns. The ancient Egyptian name of the country, Khemi (whence Cham or Ham], signified black, and was probably suggested by the dark colour of the sedimentary soil. As to the origin of the name Egypt (Ægyptus), no one has yet been able to offer a plausible explanation of it. The attempts to derive the word from Greek roots are merely puerile, and Bruce s assertion, that y-gypt signifies in Ethiopic the land of canals, requires confirmation. Besides, the Ethiopic (or Geez) language is apparently too modern a source to allow us to hope that it could furnish any elucidation of Egyptian archeology.


Left: The Island of Philæ by Sunset. Right: Island of Philæ, looking down the Nile. Both by David Roberts, R.A. Signed with the name of the artist and lithographer, Louis Haghe. From Eygpt and Nubia. 1842. [Click on images to enlarge them.]

The island of Philae, at the South extremity of Egypt, has been compared by Arab writers to an emerald set in gold; and this allusion to the luxuriant vegetation of the island, compared to the glowing naked surface of the sur rounding desert, is equally applicable to the valley lower down. The Nile, in the valley of Egypt, is everywhere an agreeable object; not so much owing to the majesty of the stream, or the variety of its scenery, as to the strong contrast between the freshness, verdure, and animation of the river s banks, and the desolation which reigns beyond themiles The scenery of the river is, in the South part of Upper Egypt, wild and romantic; but as we descend, it grows continually more tame and monotonous, till at length every lively and picturesque feature is lost in the uniform level of the delta. [2.906-07]


Blackie, Walker Graham. The Imperial Gazetteer: A General Dictionary of Geography, Physical, Political, Statistical and Descriptive. 4 vols. London: Blackie & Son, 1856. Internet Archive. Inline version of a copy in the University of California Library. Web. 31 July 2020.

Last modified 1 August 2020