8/19/09

Uncovering a "Righteous Pagan"

Angelo swatted at the little wasp that kept hovering over his brush-hand. He winged it and it flew off in dizzying arcs until it crash-landed on a stack of parchments atop a bureau by the window.

It had been a long fruitless day for him and his eyes were tired. He rubbed them with his knuckles and rose and walked slowly towards the bureau. He looked down on the buzzing pest. It was on its side, one wing flapping manically; spinning. Angelo cracked the window and bent down to eye-level with the bug. He stared as it spun helplessly, for a minute feeling sorry for it.

“I know how you feel, little wasp… always going in circles …”

And then Angelo pressed his middle finger against his thumb and flicked the creature out the window.

He glanced down at the parchment from which he had launched the fly. It was obviously from a different subset than the group he had been working on. It peaked his interest.

“I suppose I have time for one more this evening,” he said to himself.

He dropped the parchment carelessly on his desk, sat down and dipped his brush into a little vial containing a mixture of sap and vitriol and beer. Sitting at the bottom was a yellowed oak gall. Noce di gallo.

As he lightly dragged his brush between the lines of an unfinished essay by Saint Augustine, some previously unseen letters suddenly rose to life –“DE RE PUBLICA.”

“It can’t be,” he said to himself and brushed a little more of the solution on and broke into a smile.

It was around January 5th, 1822, and the Monsignor in charge of the Secret Vatican Archives, Angelo Mai, had discovered through his relentless study of palimpsest restoration, the long-searched-for Republic by Cicero.

2 comments:

100swallows said...

A very interesting post, Christopher. Like all of yours it makes a fellow go investigate once he's finished the good read. That's real teaching. Then you make his search easy too with those links. Thanks (a surprise!) for that one to my Cicero post.

cyurkanin said...

Thanks sir. I still don't quite understand how his ink was any different than the original ink that was used on the parchment. There must have been something different, perhaps just a wash. I've been wanting to link to one of your posts for a while now and since I knew you were a Cicero fan...