22 September, 2005 at 7:42 pm (literary, webjunk)

Snippets of manuscript by (from top to bottom) Carroll, Austen, and Da Vinci.Continuing my recent literary fixation, another post about books. Sorry. But when one finds that one’s studies to be a librarian aren’t as bibliophiliac as one anticipated, this stuff is bound to boil up in other aspects of one’s life.

The Library of Congress is a vaguely disappointing tourist attraction. When I visited there in 1998 I think I expected to be able to wander through the concentric research desks and check out where Robert Redford sat in Three Days of the Condor. I had forgotten, if I ever knew, that it was not actually an open stack library, nor a national library. However, there was a curious exhibit of assorted works on display in an area open to the public. There was a rather awe-inspiring letter from Edith Wharton, who had the most divine, refined handwriting I had ever seen. I made me despair of my own haphazard scrawl… but it also reminded me that the only D I ever got in school was in fourth grade handwriting, and that such elegant curves were probably a dream I shouldn’t bother to germinate.

However, as compelling as that letter was, I must say that the most amazing thing in the exhibit was a page of original art from Walt Kelly’s “Who Stole The Tarts”, an “Alice in Wonderland meets Joe McCarthy” pastiche from The Pogo Stepmother Goose. It was amazing to see Kelly’s careful penwork, and a surprise to learn that he did his pencils completely in non-photo blue.

Speaking of Alice’s Adventures, The BBC issued a technology press release today about the addition of the manuscript copy of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground to the British Library’s “Turning the Pages” collection, digital representations of browsable original works that are too valuable and/or fragile to be visited in person. Alice joins thirteen other works, including “the Diamond Sutra, Jane Austen’s History of England, the Leonardo Notebook, the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Mercator Atlas of Europe…” The fact that these are manuscripts and not first editions means that one can attempt to peer into the heart of the writer through his or her handwriting. The samples to the right demonstrate Lewis Carroll’s neat, legible text — almost certainly restrained and refined so that it could be read by Alice Liddell — Jane Austen’s loose student script, and Da Vinci’s famous backwards rebus.

By the way, the above selection of Da Vinci is translated as follows: “.yadretsey aet revo tuoba em gnillet saw sumadartsoN gnuoy taht nworB naD tawt sselkcef siht ekil hcum …seil syawla droc eno no dednepsus ydob a fo ytivarg fo ertnec ehT”

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