Preparatory work on the present volume began in the mid-sixties, when, in collaboration with Karlheinz Deller, I transliterated the majority of the previously unpublished Neo-Assyrian letters included in it and made a number of copies and joins to texts previously published in R.F. Harper's Assyrian and Babylonian Letters (ABL). In the course of the following years, I identified several new pertinent fragments in the British Museum, made some further joins, and prepared copies of all previously uncopied texts for publication in CT 53, which appeared in 1979 simultaneously with Manfried Dietrich's Neo-Babylonian Letters from the Kuyunjik Collection (CT 54). The texts published in these two CT volumes constitute 42% of the correspondence edited here.

Having identified and transliterated a further 58 unpublished NA/NB epistolary texts in the British Museum, five of which are included in the present volume, I computerized all the texts published in CT 53 in spring 1983. After the launch of the Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, all the NA letters in ABL were entered into the computer from my transliterations and integrated into the Project's database in 1986-87.

In late 1986, the texts in the database were organized by genre and divided into files corresponding to projected SAA volumes. Many letters datable to the reign of Assurbanipal were at that point assigned to "non-Asb" volumes (see pp. XXXIX-XL below), and since the database at this time contained only few Neo-Babylonian letters, the "Asb" file was initially relatively small and editing it had low priority. I assumed the task of editing it with no firm production deadline, with Robert Whiting as a prospective co-editor. In July 1990, Whiting collated 30 NA letters assigned to the volume, and in February 1997, another 12 NB letters of Assurbanipal.

However, actual editorial work on the correspondence did not begin until February 2000, when I was asked to contribute an article to a Festschrift in honour of A.K. Grayson. I chose for my contribution an edition and discussion of a previously unknown Assurbanipal letter (no. 2 in this volume), and in order to better cope with the subject, translated all the royal letters of Assurbanipal identifiable at the time, 68 in number, as well as three other letters in the "Asb" file. I then prepared a sort order, table of contents and headings for these texts, based on which page proofs could be prepared in December 2000 and sent to Julian Reade. As always, he promptly selected illustrations for the volume and provided excellent prints and preliminary captions for them. In my contribution to Fs Grayson (completed on January 5, 2001), I felt bold enough to refer to "my forthcoming edition of the correspondence of Assurbanipal" as if its appearance had been already imminent.

But soon after that, work on the volume had to be stopped for many years because of other SAA volumes and many other projects and responsibilities gaining higher priority.

In June 2000, Manfried Dietrich had generously made his transliterations of all the NB letters published in CT 54 available to the SAA project in digital form. After conversion into SAA format, these could be integrated into the CNA database, enabling the production of Dietrich's edition of the NB correspondence of Sargon and Sennacherib (SAA 17) and Frances Reynolds' edition of the Babylonian correspondence of Esarhaddon (SAA 18). Moreover, the Assurbanipal volume could now be expanded to encompass all the NB letters to this king as well, so that volume, instead of 96 texts, now contained more than 350 texts. This made it necessary to revise the original plan of the volume. In February 2002, I decided to exclude from it all the letters sent by Assurbanipal as crown prince to his father, and include them in SAA 16 (The Political Correspondence of Esarhaddon). And since it would have been impractical and cumbersome to publish all the 350 letters in one volume, I agreed with Grant Frame in 2005 that he would include all the letters from Uruk, Ur and the Sealand in his SAA volume, while I would edit the remaining 178 texts. Four years later, in December 2009, I collated all these texts in the British Museum.

An opportunity to return to the volume in earnest finally presented itself in June 2017. It remained to translate the c. 100 letters still lacking translations and write headings for them, revise the transliterations and translations made 18 years ago, define a new order of the texts, compose the critical apparatus, compile and edit the glossary and indices, select the illustrations from the material received in 2001, typeset the text part, ink the collations made in 2009 and earlier, and write an introduction. I'm very grateful to my student Sanae Ito, who wrote her PhD dissertation on the letters of Assurbanipal and undertook writing the Introduction, thus relieving my work and expediting the appearance of the volume. I also wish to express my gratitude to all the friends and colleagues who helped me along the road: Irving Finkel, Jonathan Taylor and Helen Parkin of the Department of the Middle East of the British Museum; Julian Reade (formerly of the British Museum, now of the University of Copenhagen), Manfried Dietrich (Münster), Robert Whiting (Helsinki), Nicholas Postgate (Cambridge), Mikko Luukko and Greta Van Buylaere (Würzburg). Finally, I owe thanks to Stephen Donovan (Helsinki), who revised the English of the Introduction, and to Stefania Ermidoro (Leuven), who read the galleys and helped eliminate various errors, omissions and inconsistencies.

November 2017

Simo Parpola

Simo Parpola

Simo Parpola, 'Preface', The Correspondence of Assurbanipal, Part I: Letters from Assyria, Babylonia, and Vassal States, SAA 21. Original publication:Winona Laka, IN, Eisenbrauns, 2018; online contents: SAAo/SAA21 Project, a sub-project of MOCCI, 2020 []

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SAAo/SAA21, 2014-. Since 2015, SAAo is based at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Historisches Seminar (LMU Munich, History Department) - Alexander von Humboldt Chair for Ancient History of the Near and Middle East. Content released under a CC BY-SA 3.0 [] license, 2007-20.
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