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Taken from Sir Lesley Stephen & Sir Sidney Lee (eds.), Dictionary of National Biography: from the earliest times to 1900 (London, Oxford University Press, 1949).
James Haliburton, formerly Burton, an Egyptologist, was born on 22 September 1788. His father, James Haliburton, of Mabledon, Tunbridge, Kent, and afterwards of The Holme, Regent's Park, was a member of the family of Haliburton of Roxburghshire, but changed his name in early life to Burton, and devoted himself to the conduct of large building speculations, especially in London.
James Burton the younger was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. in 1810 and M.A. in 1815. He was engaged by Mehemet Ali Pasha to take part in a geological survey of Egypt, and sailed from Naples for that country in March 1822. During this and the following years he made a journey into the eastern desert, in the course of which he decided the position of Myos Hormos or Aphrodite. In April 1824 he was with John Gardner Wilkinson, the famous Egyptologist, at Alexandria, and was contemplating an expedition to the oasis and Western Egypt. During 1825 and 1826 he made a journey up the Nile, and in the latter year met Edward W. Lane at Dendarah, and afterwards travelled with him.
Between 1825 and 1828 his Excerpta Hieroglyphica, consisting of sixty-four lithographs without any letterpress, were published at Cairo. Shortly afterwards Burton returned to England, where he spent the next two years. From April 1830 to February 1832 he was on a journey in the eastern desert. He came home about 1835, and does not appear to have again visited Egypt. In 1838 he resumed the name of Haliburton, and in the same year he was one of the committee for the White River Expedition. During the latter part of his life he devoted himself chiefly to the collection of particulars concerning his ancestors, the Haliburtons. For many years previously to 1841 he was a fellow of the Geological Society, but after that date his name disappears from the society's lists. Haliburton died on 22 February 1862, and was buried in West Dean Cemetery, Edinburgh; his tombstone gives the dates of his birth and death, and has the inscription, 'James Haliburton, a zealous investigator in Egypt of its Languages and Antiquities.'
Haliburton was a friend of Joseph Bonomi, and, like him, held an honourable place in the band of workers employed by Robert Hay of Linplum, N.B., to make sketches and drawings of Egyptian antiquities. His merits were rather those of an intelligent traveller and copyist than of a scholar, but Sir John Gardner Wilkinson, in the preface to his Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians, speaks highly of the assistance which Burton rendered him. His Collectanea Ægyptiaca, contained in sixty-three volumes, were presented to the British Museum in 1864 by his younger brother, Decimus Burton, the architect. They include, besides carefully kept diaries, numerous drawings of hieroglyphic inscriptions, architectural sketches and notes on the history, geology, zoology, and botany of the country, together with his passports and correspondence. Many of Haliburton's other drawings and maps are contained in the collection of views, sketches, &c., made for Robert Hay, and now in the British Museum.
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