May 10, 2012

St. Patrick of Armagh, deliver me from writing


“The history of bookmaking hasn’t been without its challenges, but never was its craft as painstaking as during the era of illuminated manuscripts,” says Maria Popova. Well, try laying out an ebook that has art in it. But Popova makes a good case in a commentary for, citing a recent Lapham’s Quarterly article (not available online) that lists complaints written by monks found scribbled in the margins of those medieval illuminated manuscripts.

Some examples:

This parchment is hairy.

Thank God, it will soon be light.

New parchment, bad ink; I will say nothing more.

Now I’ve written the whole thing: for Christ’s sake give me a drink.

St. Patrick of Armagh, deliver me from writing.

Think of that, modern day publishers, the next time you find yourself working late at night on one of those tedious requirements of modern-day publishing, like, say, blogging. At least your keyboard isn’t … hairy ….


Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.