Sunday, 28 September 2008

The Archives

Gosh. With this monosyllabic utterance comes an impenetrable subtext of emotions and a chasm of primordial sensations not encountered for millennia (last time was probably when a far-flung ancestor was staring into the maw of a sabre-toothed wombat or some such). Panic, fear, horror, doubt, agitated twitching, frothing at the mouth, the beginnings of a migraine and so much more combined into one, simple utterance.


And I present to you the reason for this utterance of despair

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is the delights of palaeography, the 14th C Dalmatian variety that is soon to become a firm favourite of mine. For those of you mere mortals who cannot read this sort of thing straight off yet find your curiosity piqued into a frenzy, a transcription can be found in Giuseppe Praga, Documenti per la storia dell'arte a Zara dal medioevo al settecento, ed. by Maria Walcher, Studi e recerche d'arte veneta in Istria e Dalmazia (Trieste: Edizioni "Italo Svevo", 2005), p. 16, Document 2. I just hope your medieval Latin can cope.

But even those of you who can read this document at the same speed as a gifted twelve-year-old with the most recent edition of Harry Potter in their sticky fingers, can surely still remember their first few days of horror in the Archives. For those who cannot, just try and channel that primordial ancestor and their last few minutes upon this earth before they became wombat lunch. Apparently this sensation will subside with practice, hence the safety net of Praga’s transcription with which to compare, contrast and try to work out how on earth a squiggle that looks worryingly similar to something in a garibaldi biscuit could in fact be construed as the word “condicionibus”.

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