Sunday, March 03, 2019

On natives burning ancient manuscripts

VARIANT READINGS: Burning Papyri (Brent Nongbri).
The line that “the natives burn the ancient manuscripts” surely serves American and European scholars and collectors in justifying their acquisition of ancient manuscripts (“rescuing” them, to use the standard terminology). That’s not to say that such burnings never happened.
Yes, that about sums it up. But read the whole post for some interesting, and even entertaining, specifics.

The trope is also found for more recent manuscripts. There was a story to the effect that in the 1640s the cook baked her pies on pages from some newly-rediscovered papers of the sixteenth-century English Renaissance polymath and visionary magician John Dee.

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