Spielberg grew up as the second oldest of four brothers in a German Jewish family. He studied Egyptology and archaeology in Strasbourg and Berlin, obtaining his doctorate from the University of Strasbourg in 1891. As a student his influences included Johannes Dümichen, Adolf Michaelis and Adolf Erman. After graduation, he continued his education in Paris as a student of Gaston Maspero. In 1899 he became an associate professor at Strasbourg, where in 1907 he obtained a full professorship. In 1919 he relocated to the University of Heidelberg, and four years later succeeded Friedrich Wilhelm von Bissing as chair of Egyptology at the University of Munich.
Starting in 1894, he took part in excavatory work in Egypt, most notably at the Necropolis of Thebes. Around 1900 he began work at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, serving as a cataloger and editor of Demotic material. Spiegelberg made important contributions towards the deciphering of Demotic script and in the field of Demotic lexicography.
During his tenure at Munich, he accompanied novelist Thomas Mann to Egypt, where he provided assistance towards the drafting of Mann's "Joseph" tetralogy. In 1919 he became a member of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences (a non-resident member since 1923), and from 1924, was a full member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences.
- Studien und Materialien zum Rechtswesen des Pharaonenreiches der Dynastien XVIII–XXI, Hannover 1892 (dissertation) – Studies on the law of the Pharaohs of the dynasties XVIII–XXI.
- Geschichte der ägyptische Kunst bis zum Hellenismus, 1903 – History of Egyptian art up until the Hellenistic period.
- Der aufenthalt Israels in Aegypten im lichte der aegyptischen monumente, 1904.
- Elephantine-Papyri, 1907 (with Otto Rubensohn; Wilhelm Schubart) – Elephantine papyri.
- Die schrift und sprache der alten Ägypter, 1907 – The script and language of the ancient Egyptians.
- Koptisches Handwörterbuch, 1921 – Coptic pocket dictionary.
- Demotische Papyri, Heidelberg 1923 – Demotic papyri.
- Demotische grammatik, 1925 – Demotic grammatics.
- Wilhelm Spiegelberg @ NDB/ADB Deutsche Biographie
- Statement based on translated text of an equivalent article at the German Wikipedia.
- Google Books Joseph and His Brothers: The Stories of Jacob, Young Joseph, Joseph in Egypt, Joseph the Provider
- Institut d'Egyptologie de Strasbourg Wilhelm Spiegelberg. A memoir by his son, Herbert Spiegelberg.
- OCLC WorldCat Identities published works
- de. Wikisource extensive bibliography