Book of the Day: Touching History

Kinda sorta bringing back the Book of the Day, if only for a minute. I still work in the warehouse of book reclamation, after all, though my position these days doesn’t allow for rescues very often. It doesn’t mean things that are just plain awesome don’t still cross my desk, however, and even though I may not always get to take them home, I still get to see some pretty awesome stuff. Stuff that allows me to attempt to figure out how to use BlogPad Pro’s editor for something slightly more taxing than just throwing up a wall of text.

Stuff like this:

Yes, that date does say 1718. Crazy!

Or maybe this: 

I think I should pursue a career change. The Inquisition sounds fun, Mr. Mathers.

The former is a copy of volume 2 of The Decameron, nearly 300 years old, in Italian. I’ve no idea what the value is, or how many volumes it would have originally been split into or if I’ll ever see the remaining volumes. Still, that’s fascinating. The condition especially was impressive. The binding was still mostly intact, all the pages appeared to be present, nothing torn.

I carried it to my boss’ office like some sort of holy relic, not wanting to inadvertently damage it, holding it daintily aloft in both hands, afraid to touch it more than I already had. I almost felt bad for it, for the book’s experience of having been buried beneath thousands of its paper brethren, the waxy covers (I’m not sure what they actually are made of, but it’s sure as hell not just leather and paper) being abraded by the foul touch of piles of Frank Slaghter and Victoria Holt book club editions. I told them “You might wanna get this in a bag and to someone who knows what to do with real antiques.” When he took hold of it, he was just as in awe, not wanting to touch it either for fear of damaging it.

Okay, it probably isn’t all that impressive to real book collectors, and it may not be the oldest thing I’ve found (I’ve found some gospels and more than one bible of similar age), but I think it deserves noting just for being an actual book rather than a bible or copy of a holy text, which were a hell of a lot more common back then. Plus, with the wonky wax cover and the insanely good condition, it is probably the most different and well preserved thing I’ve seen of this age.

The second was just a source of ironic amusment, since I found it about twenty minutes after remarking that I needed to change jobs, and quipped to the person across my desk that I thought I would have done well as a religious zealot or torturer and that I found it sad the days of secret wizarding orders and the Inquisition were over. My rationale for that was that it would enable me to deflect questions about my own habits and interests into persecuting “witches” and “heretics,” thus providing both amusement and safety for myself.

Yeah, I’m a bit of a facist asshole. I’m pretty sure I probably was a Witchfinder General or something similar in a past life.

There’s just something fascinating to me about holding books like this in my hand and saying “This is older than the country I call home. When published, nothing I know or understand about this place existed. My famous great-grandpappy was only 8 generations before this book, compared to the 14 he is from me. My less famous but still intriguing ancestors, such as the great-grandfather who fled Scotland to avoid taxes and gambling debts, were still 100 years from existing, let alone spawning the genetic soup that would in the fullness of time become me.”

It sounds pretentious and stupid and silly, but the chance to hold a literal chunk of history in my hand and say “I touched this,” and despite the increased pretention and delusions of granduer, to wonder if sometime in the 24th century someone like me will pick up a copy of Darkness of the Soul or Woken and think the same things.

It’s crazy, and amazing, and makes me feel very small and yet somehow very important. And no matter the political BS going on at work right now, or how sometimes I feel like I’m useless and unappreciated or persecuted there, or how much I want to leap over the divider and start screaming at the people behind me, it’s what makes me genuinely love and want to be there. And I keep hoping one day I’ll trip over a copy of the Gospel of Judas or something, or Oswald’s secret written confession or something else tied to one of my favorite conspiracy theories. It could happen; to anyone who doubts, including myself, I just say “Well, I bet nobody thought crazy little Kaine would find a 300 year old instruction manual on how to expose witches, either, you know?”


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