The Book of the Dead was the name used for a number of mortuary texts in use in ancient Egypt. The texts were placed in tombs to protect and aid the deceased in the hereafter.According to Egyptian beliefs, the dead would have to fight against demons in the hereafter and pass tests presented by 42 judges in the hall of Osiris. The texts were there to give good advice on how to pass these obstacles. But there were also several passages in the texts about how much a good life lived on Earth would be of help in the hereafter.The earliest examples of these texts date back to around 2400 BCE — these texts are called Pyramid Texts. Later, from around 2100 BCE, private individuals started to have the texts written on their coffins. Texts belonging to this group are called Coffin Texts. From around 1500 BCE the texts were written in colour with elaborate illustrations on papyrus rolls that were between 15 and 30 metres long. The rolls were put into the mummy case.Even if there are no examples of any single version of the texts that contain all 200 known chapters,there were recensions, which were used by the scribes when they copied the text. The oldest recension was the Heliopolitan, from around 2400 BCE. The next one was the Theban, from around 1500 BCE. The third and last was the Saite Recension, from around 600 BCE.
Example of text from the Book of the Dead. This is an excerpt from the chapter called "Making The Transformation Into A Divine Hawk": Travel thou on thy way safely, cry out the gods of the Tuat to me. O you who make your names pre-eminent, who are chiefs in your shrines, and who are guardians of the House of Osiris, grant, I pray you, that I may come to you. I have bound up and I have gathered together your Powers. I have directed the Powers of the ways, the wardens of the horizon, and of the Hemat House of heaven. I have established their fortresses for Osiris. I have prepared the ways for him. I have performed the things which [he] hath commanded. I come forth to Tetu. I see Osiris. I speak to him concerning the matter of his Great Son, whom he loveth, and concerning [the smiting of] the heart of Set. I look upon the lord who was helpless. How shall I make them to know the plans of the gods, and that which Horus did without the knowledge of his father Osiris?Translation of E.A. Wallis Budge (1895)
The subtitle is "The Book of Going Forth by Day." This is a beautiful color version of the Papyrus of Ani, one of the books of the dead which were often buried with the dead person who could afford to have one written to ease his/her way into eternal life. Above is a picture from the book. Ani (man with his wife bowing to the gods), while Anubis weighs his heart against Maat's feather of truth, and Thoth records the event, and Ammit the devourer waits patiently. There are several books by E. W. Budge about this papyrus but Faulkner's version is better and more beautiful. And, considering the page after page of beautiful color pictures, this paperback version is amazingly inexpensive. You may find yourself just sitting and marveling at it for hours and hours, maybe years and years.