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[BKARTS] WOID #VIII-48. Beam me up, Scottie



Michael Crichton: Timelines. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1999.

A French poet wrote that the pleasure of books lies in the
"Delectation of discovering someone dumber than one's self." Michael
Crichton's "Timeline" satisfies that craving.

It's actually well written and might be useful on a airplane - you
could bop a hijacker with the hardcover version. Crichton's the
author of "Jurassic Park" and "the Andromeda Strain:" all his novels
involve fancy concepts from Scientific American, and usually a PhD
gets eaten. My favorite exchange in "Timeline" goes: "What if we
lose the graduate students, too? - A publicity nightmare."

But "Timeline's" about traveling back to the Middle Ages, and while
I can't vouch for the stuff about quantum foam, the historical
background should keep Medievalists smiling, and laughing out loud
on occasion.

Below is a short passage from "Timeline": our heroes are trying to
determine if a manuscript was written in Southern France in 1357. A
prize copy of either "Dragonsblood and Ashes" or "Vellum
Preparation" to the reader who can find the most bloopers. Employees
of WOID and their *famuli* are not eligible.

     "Chemically speaking," Stern said, "it's exactly what you'd
     expect: iron in the form of ferrous oxide, mixed with gall as
     an organic binder. Some added carbon for blackness, and five
     percent sucrose. In those days, they used sugar to give the
     inks a shiny surface. So it's ordinary iron-gall ink, correct
     for the period. But that in itself doesn't mean much."

"Right." Stern was saying it could be faked.

"So I ran gall and iron titers," Stern said, "which I usually do in
questionable cases. They tell us the exact amounts present in the
ink. The titers indicate that this particular ink is similar but not
identical to the ink on the other documents."

"Similar but not identical," Marek said. "How similar?"

"As you know, medieval inks were mixed by hand before use, because
they didn't keep. Gall is organic - it's the ground-up nuts of an
oak tree - which means the inks would eventually go bad. Sometimes
they added wine to the ink as a preservative. Anyway, there's
usually a fairly large variation in gall and iron content from one
document to another. You find as much as twenty or thirty percent
difference between documents. It's reliable enough that we can use
these percentages to tell if two documents were written on the same
day, from the same ink supply. This particular ink is about
twenty-nine percent different from the documents on either side of
it."  (pp. 93-94)

Paul T Werner, New York
http://theorangepress.com
WOID: A journal of visual language
THE ORANGE PRESS, publishing "Vellum Preparation: History and Technique"

DRAGONSBLOOD AND ASHES, a project to research and practice the
techniques of the medieval scribe

Paul T Werner, New York
http://theorangepress.com

WOID: A journal of visual language
THE ORANGE PRESS, publishing "Vellum Preparation: History and Technique"
DRAGONSBLOOD AND ASHES, a project to research and practice the
techniques of the medieval scribe

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