Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Scholarly Fantasies

Maybe many that read old books might find interest the rediscovery of works whose existence was previously unknown or thought to be gone forever. Some examples:
  • The Gospel According to Thomas and other gnostic manuscripts: Two Egyptian farmers discovered the Nag Hammadi library in 1945. This story is fairly incredible. While these Egyptian brothers pursued a feud with one of their neighbors, they left them in the keeping of their mother. She, in turn, I guess, started a fire with them every morning, until a coptic priest recognized their importance. And then they were smuggled out of Egypt.
  • Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur: While cataloging the Winchester College library, in 1934, Sir Walter Fraser Oakshott discovered a manuscript of this book. This manuscript suggests that Malory conceived his work as a collection of tales. Caxton, the printer, edited it into an unified tragedy.
  • Third edition of François Quesnay's Tableau Économique: Marguerite Kuczynski, in the late 1960s, asked the heirs of Pierre Samuel Du Pont de Nemours if they had any printed works by Quesnay in their possession. And the Eleutherian Mills Historical Library told her "Yes".
  • David Ricardo's unknown correspondence and manuscripts: Piero Sraffa's discovered, in 1934, a bundle in F. E. Cairnes castle at Raheny. Raheny is near Dublin, and F. E. Cairnes, son of a 19th-century economist, had recently died. The bundle contained 57 letters from Ricardo to James Mill and various manuscripts written by Ricardo
  • Ludwig Von Mises' papers from his apartment in Vienna: Unbeknownst to Mises, the Nazis preserved these after Mises fled. The Soviets captured them from Germany at the end of WW II, catalogued them, and preserved them in the KGB archives. Richard Ebeling brought them back from Russia in 1996 after their discovery by western scholars after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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