Speculation about Egyptian hieroglyphs began in the Renaissance; though sometimes fantastic, much of it was fascinating and fruitful. During the next two centuries European travelers in the Near East came home with increasingly accurate copies of the strange inscriptions to be found there. The great age of decipherment dawned in the mid-eighteenth century, at the time of the Enlightenment, with the Abbé Barthélemy's solution of the Palmyra script. The author discusses the contributions to the science of decipherment made by theorists and practitioners, examining the intellectual developments that led to their outstanding achievements. He explains the process of decipherment largely from the point of view of the practitioners themselves, but in a way that laypeople can follow. Among the scripts analyzed are the Palmyra script, Sassanid Persian, Egyptian hieroglyphs, Persian cuneiform, Akkadian cuneiform, the Cypriot syllabary, Hittite hieroglyphs, the Ugaritic alphabet, and Mycenaean Linear B. For this revised edition, the text has been brought up to date and a new section added on the decipherment of Maya hieroglyphs.