It’s nice to have a pal. Who wouldn’t agree? As my latest stay in the Vatican library comes to a close, I thought I’d record some of the thoughts and feelings I’ve had over the week. It has been a very intense week, yet a happy one: I worked a lot, or so it feels, but this time I wasn’t alone. I shared a flat (and some beers) with a proper palaeographer friend: let’s call her Miss Manuscripts. Every day we sat together at the long table, piously checking in at dawn (almost) to make the most of our day.
For the first time in my life, I wasn’t alone investigating ugly manuscripts of pseudo-Galenic texts. I am elated. I have drawn someone else into this hell hole of classical philology! We were two in the manuscripts room of the BAV; but there might be more out there. There are. There is now a field! As we looked at this stuff all day long through squinting eyes and tired eyelids (nothing more taxing for your eyesight than those unloved books), each working on a different selection of Pseudo-Galenica and uroscopic delights, I thought of my first bewildering months studying the manuscripts of Pseudo-Galen, more than 15 years ago… A hell hole it was.
For all the excitement I owe my dear ugly manuscripts (see previous posts), I must say this week has been especially taxing: endless pages of anonymous or near-anonymous medical texts on practical aspects of diagnosis and prognosis; manuscripts almost exclusively from the 14th century; no decoration or funny drawings such as those regularly published on Twitter by famous expert curators; only an ocean of monotonous dark lines, hardly broken by red-inked headings. I thought I’d have fun browsing existing copies of the dubious Euporista, for a change, but I didn’t, really: the 16th c. copy I tried to analyse was simply horrible (Palat. gr. 147 if you want to know). Those Euporista, in fairness, deserve a blog of their own, and more: the recipes and advice there are worth their weight in gold (?), and they are aimed at the general public! They are based on everyday products! You can try them! But I won’t write that post today, as I am about to pick up my last manuscript for this session. One more 14th c. collection of medical nonsense? Corraggio!We have made progress, yes we have, my preciouss! My editions are progressing indeed, but I’ll have to come back (fine by me, fine, fine, fine!). As for Miss Manuscripts, I don’t want to disclose her current interests, but she looked extremely excited, typing away millions of lines of new catalogues, handling the filigrane machine (or whatever it’s called in English), ordering piles of (more or less ugly) manuscripts. It’s nice to have a pal.