Manuel de Codage

The Manuel de Codage (usually written as MdC) is a way of representing ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs in letters and digits. The source material is “Manual for the Encoding of Hieroglyphic Texts for Computer-input” by Jan Buurman, Nicolas Grimal, Jochen Hallof, Michael Hainsworth and Dirk van der Plas plublished in Informatique et Egyptologie 2 in 1988. In short MdC combines 2 main elements:

  1. a standardised way of identifying individual symbols from the Gardiner set of Middle Egyptian hieroglyphs (eg A2);
  2. a set of phoenetic representations (which I prefer to refer to as mnemonics) which map onto the Gardiner set (eg the mnemonic code m can be used instead of the Gardiner code G17) and
  3. a small set of separators (- * : and !) which define the placement of a hieroglyph in a fragment of text in relation to the immediately proceeding glyph or glyphs.

MdC was a great step forwards but, although a standard for computer display of hieroglyphs, it is not available online. There are also many extensions to the basic MdC to make it more useful, most notably a version published online by Hans van den Berg in 1997, but which by April 2011 still indicated it is “under construction”.


Translitered text is sometimes confused with Manuel de Codage which only uses separators and Gardiner codes (or mnemonics).  The key is that MdC is a system for representing a visual layout of hieroglyphic texts, not their transliteration nor the inherent grammar, so something like sdm.n=s is not valid MdC although it is sometimes assumed to be.   In other words, MdC is a markup language for the display of hieroglyphs and not their pronunciation.  As a markup language for display it has some deficiencies: it isn’t precise.  Neither were many inscriptions.

It is a useful way of indicating a text but it lacks the precision necessary to capture the precise layout of an individual inscription.

Further Reading for Developers

  1. Hans ven den Berg has the definitive online page about the original Manuel de Codage with extensions for WinGlyph.
  2. Serge Rosmorduc, creator of Jsesh, wrote a detailed language reference for MdC
  3. Mark-Jan Nederhof analysed Manuel de Codage as part of his proposals for an alternative system which he calls RES.  His analysis covers many of the MdC variations.