I have long felt this sense of time’s encapsulation in manuscripts, and I like this example of a manuscript being dated to a single day over 1,000 years ago because of the precision with which an unknown illuminator drew planets in orbit. Having occasionally been privileged to sit in a quiet library handling an old manuscript, I always felt it was somehow connecting me to the hand that wrote it. A person long dead, sitting one day among thousands during their life, to write this letter, poem, or other document now in front of me.
I then wonder about the links along the chain of time connecting my handling of the manuscript with others who have done so in the past and will in future. Imagine if we could meet and discuss our reasons for visiting the same manuscript, and our impressions of it.
Yes, I am enchanted by writing and by time and how they connect us to people we can never know.
‘Manuscripts are words written down, but they impart more than sentences. Precise moments in time can be found, like pressed flowers, preserved in their pages. In one ninth-century manuscript a picture of the planets in orbit has been drawn with such precision that astronomers say this configuration happens only once in 17 trillion years. They have dated the manuscript to March 18th 816.’
Source: ‘Patricians of parchment’, The Economist, 17 September 2016, p. 74