26 julio, 2006

Apotheosis of the Bookworm

Recently I had a really curious experience. Asked for the Opus Catechisticum sive De Summa Doctrinae Christianae of Petrus Canisius (edition of Cologne 1586) in the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (shelfnumber 542.863), and as the volume arrived, the first thing I took notice of was something that could be most appropriately described as a papal bull hanging from between the leaves of the book:

However authoritative the Catechismus of Canisius was, nevertheless this appendix was not a papal bull. Its circumscription said in a slightly archaizing Hungarian:

MDLXXIV - 1962

Was this the opus magnum of an exceptionally thoroughgoing restorer? The outpouring of an übertreibener Antiquargeist? A fanatic of zoohistory avant la fête? One thing is sure: in those days of high Communism time was a cheap commodity, and people could at ease addere limam to a restored bookbinding well done.

I'm only embarrassed with the year indicated in the bull as of the first tumulation of these late Renaissance insects before the translation of their relics in 1962. It is 1574, that is, twelve years before the very printing of this Catechism. Had they been documentedly transferred to this book from an earlier one? Had they been buried in an earlier volume, but the restorer regarded it more honourable to confide their remains to this authoritative Catechism to look forward with brighter hopes to the dies irae? Or did time flow this much at ease in those days of high Communism?

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