Hodder & Stoughton has acquired Dr Irving Finkel’s book on the world’s first ghost stories.
Non-fiction publisher Rupert Lancaster bought world rights from Gordon Wise at Curtis Brown. The First Ghosts will be published in September.
Finkel, assistant keeper of ancient Mesopotamia at the British Museum, is the author of The Ark Before Noah (Hodder & Stoughton) which told the story of finding a cuneiform tablet containing the flood story with detailed instructions for building the ark. It sparked an international news story, was sold around the world and inspired a Channel 4 documentary.
Now Finkel has turned his attention of humanity’s belief in the afterlife. The synopsis states: “In the world’s first writing in Ancient Mesopotamia, documented on the cuneiform tablets that occupy Irving’s days in the museum, ghosts appear as a fully formed concept. The whole panoply of ghost belief, that is theory, explanation, manifestations, ritual and procedure, and absolute belief in the underworld, was already in place by at least 2000 BC. The system of belief in spirits spills into existence at this time, so much so that virtually every feature of contemporary belief about ghosts was anticipated at that point, in a complex literary society that in many crucial ways was like our own today, populated by people who are very like us.”
Finkel said: “Here is a world in which no one questioned the existence of ghosts, but regarded them with sympathy, and often tried to help. Extraordinary voices, but strangely not as remote as one might think.’
Lancaster added: “Irving is a born communicator and immensely knowledgeable. Publishing him is a joy.”