Norden, Frederick Lewis (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 41
Norden, Frederick Lewis

by Warwick William Wroth
Frederik Ludvig Norden in the ODNB.

NORDEN, FREDERICK LEWIS (1708–1742), traveller and artist, born on 22 Oct. 1708 at Glückstadt in Holstein, was one of the five sons of George Norden, a Danish lieutenant-colonel of artillery (d. 1728), by his wife, Catharine Henrichsen of Rendsburg. He was intended for the sea, and in 1722 entered the corps of cadets for instruction in mathematics, shipbuilding, and drawing. He made progress, especially in drawing, and attracted the attention of De Lerche, grand master of the ceremonies, who employed him in retouching and repairing a collection of charts and plans belonging to Christian VI, king of Denmark. In 1732 De Lerche presented him to the king, who made him second lieutenant, and gave him an allowance that he might study abroad the art of shipbuilding, especially the construction of the galleys and rowing vessels of the Mediterranean. Norden first visited Holland, where he was instructed in engraving by John De Ryter, and left in 1734 for Marseilles. At Leghorn he made models of rowing vessels, which were afterwards preserved in the chamber of models at the Old Holm, Copenhagen. He spent nearly three years in Italy, and studied art. He was made an associate of the Academy of Drawing of Florence, and in that city became acquainted with Baron de Stosch, with whom he afterwards corresponded on Egyptian antiquities.

While at Florence in 1737 he was commanded by Christian VI to make a journey of exploration in Egypt. He reached Alexandria in June 1737, but was detained by illness at Cairo. Starting on 17 Nov., he went up the Nile to Girgeh and Assouan (Syene). He attempted to reach the second cataract, but was unable to proceed beyond Derr. He met with many difficulties on the journey, partly through his ignorance of the native language. He again reached Cairo on 21 Feb. 1738. Norden kept a journal of his travels, and made sketches and plans on the spot. In 1741 he issued in London a folio volume of ‘Drawings of some Ruins and Colossal Statues at Thebes in Egypt, with an Account of the same in a Letter to the Royal Society.’ Norden's Egyptian journals and papers were translated from the Danish manuscripts into French by Des Roches de Parthenay, and published (after Norden's death) by the command of Christian VI, with the title ‘Voyage d'Égypte et de Nubie,’ 2 vols. Copenhagen, 1755, with 159 plates. This work was translated into English by Peter Templeman as ‘Travels in Egypt and Nubia,’ 2 vols. London, 1757, fol., with the original plates. There was a German translation by Steffens, Breslau, 1779, 8vo, and the French text was reprinted at Paris 1795–8, 3 vols. 4to. A ‘Compendium’ of Norden's travels through Egypt was published at Dublin, 1757, 8vo. Richard Pococke's ‘Travels in Egypt’ (‘A Description of the East,’ vol. i.) was published in 1743, but Norden's was the first attempt at an elaborate description of Egypt. The drawings are interesting, but the maps of the course of the Nile are said to be less accurate than other portions of the book. Another posthumous publication was ‘The Antiquities, Natural History, Ruins … of Egypt, Nubia, and Thebes, exemplified in near two hundred Drawings, taken on the spot by F. L. Norden … engraved by M. Teuscher,’ London, 1792, fol. (164 plates without letterpress).

Norden left Egypt in May 1738, and returned to Denmark, where he was ultimately advanced to the position of captain in the royal navy, and made a member of the shipbuilding commission. In 1740 he came to London, where he was well received by the Prince of Wales and by Martin Folkes (Nichols, Lit. Anecdotes, ii. 590) and other learned men. He was one of the founders of the Egyptian club composed of gentlemen who had visited Egypt (ib. v. 334). He volunteered to serve under the English flag in an expedition under Sir John Norris, and when this was not despatched sailed in October 1740 under Sir Challoner Ogle. He was present at the siege of Carthagena on 1 April 1741. He began, but did not complete, an account of this enterprise, illustrated by his own sketches. Returning to England in the autumn of 1741, he spent the winter and part of the following year in London, and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. He started for a tour in France in 1742, but died at Paris on 22 Sept. of that year from consumption. An engraved portrait of Norden is prefixed to vol. ii. of the ‘Travels in Egypt and Nubia.’ Beneath it is engraved a medal of Norden, having his portrait on the obverse, and on the reverse a pyramid.

[Life prefixed to Norden's Voyage d'Égypte, based on information supplied by his brother and by his friend Commander De Roemeling; Nouvelle Biographie Générale, s. v. ‘Norden;’ Prince Ibrahim-Hilmy's Lit. of Egypt, vol. ii. ‘Norden;’ Brit. Mus. Cat.]

W. W.