Man's first story, the epic of the great Sumerian king who was greatest in friendship, is presented in a book as intelligently conceived and sensitively executed as it is beautiful. Neither in his motivation nor in his milieu is Gilgamesh the most accessible of heroes: Miss Bryson has clarified the former by avoiding ambiguities and developing a straight story line; she has clarified the latter by means of a brief introduction and graceful interjections, but there is no historicizing until the explanatory note at the end--the reader is thrust immediately into the world of Gilgamesh (with the aid of an ancient map) and the story proceeds apace. The author acknowledges that this is her version, absorbed from many and addressed to young readers; it retains the essential pathos and strength of the bond between Gilgamesh, more-than-man, and Enkidu, monster who became very much a man, the essential irony of the Jealous, contentious gods. And the Journey to Utnapishtim, the eternal ancestor who survived the flood, is magnificent: a rigorous quest, a bitter lesson. The paintings, based largely on actual relies (identified in the notes), use ancient conventions variously and imaginatively; sometimes they depict, sometimes they evoke, sometimes they enlarge. A large book in more than size--and don't let the size deter the readership: this isn't just a production, it's an experience.