Friday, July 02, 2010

Justified and Ancient

There are days when I wonder why I'm spending such a large chunk of my short life in a job that pays so little. But apart from the obvious reasons, there are books like these that make it all worthwhile:

Somebody found it this morning, while they were unloading a delivery of dusty crates in the warehouse. It doesn't look much on the outside and at first glance, the inside isn't particularly promising:

It's an old Bible. We get hundreds of them every month and they're rarely worth any money, even if they're two hundred years old. But as soon as I started reading the text, I knew that there was something special about this book. Then I found this:

I have never held a book that's 420 years old before. Everyone in the office had a David Attenborough moment, talking in hushed voices, as if a normal volume would cause the pages to turn to dust.

It even has music (or should that be sweete musick?):

And in another section, published the following year, there's one of several beautiful woodcuts:

I might work too many hours and the money is dreadful, but I would be loath to turn my back on a job that provides moments like these.

7 comments:

Jim Murdoch said...

I was only talking about this this morning. Do you remember the scene in the library in The Time Machine where Rod Taylor find all the books have turned to dust but a shiny, DVD-looking disc plays without any problem? Well I was watching Click on the BBC News Channel a couple of weeks back and they were talking about how long to trust our DVDs. They were saying we should re-back-up our backups every four years. Even the new discs aren't expected to be trustworthy for more than ten years. But 420 years! Forget it.

Mrs Jones said...

There used to be a rather fine secondhand/new bookshop in Guildford called Thorpe's and I used to love going in there and just gazing at all the lovely old books, seeing if I could find a really old one. I once found a Latin primer, dated 1460-ish that had tiny doodles of horses in the margin in ink that had gone pale brown with age. Sadly it was more than I could afford which, at that time, in the unemployed 1980s, was probably more than a fiver so I had to return it to the shelf. I still think about that book from time to time....

Mrs Trefusis... said...

What a wonderful find. My friend Joad had an original copy of William Lilly's Christian Astrology from 1647 which I envied wildly, and some of Marchamont Nedham's newsbooks from the English Civil War, but I've never actually handled anything as early as your bible - what a magnificent find.

Brett said...

I wonder which translation it is? Since it was printed by the "Printer to the Queenes moft excellent Maieftie", might it be the C of E authorized Bishops' Bible, rather than the dissenters' favored Geneva Bible? What a find!

Anonymous said...

It's things like this that make me wonder why anyone would want a Kindle? How can an electronic machine hope to compete with the feel of the ancient paper, the smell of the dust and ink, the thrill of wondering how many pairs of hands and eyes have touched this book since it left the printer's shop? Where has it been hiding for so long? Who owned it? What a wonderful find. Thank you for sharing its discovery with us.
Canadian Chickadee

Steerforth said...

I quite agree Canadian Chickadee. I can see the logic of having a Kindle if you're a commuter who reads James Patterson, or a student who doesn't want to carry heavy textbooks around, but I hope there will always be room for books.

As Jim says, technology is far more epheral than a well-made book. The older ones, which were made from linen-based paper, are particularly robust and the pages of the Elizabethan Bible (which was the C of E version, Brett) feel very strong compared to many books that are only a century old.

boxofmisc said...

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbours
book, but I do!