A school of writing

By Diomedes | Robert O'Reilly | 28 Mar 2023



silver ornament

          It wasn’t long after these discoveries that he began his school of bookmaking.  At one end of the long cabin he made a slanted table with tall stools, a scriptorium where three could sit together and copy out the contents of a wax tablet set between them.  Another table was set up nearby, where Paul could fashion leather and wood, the heavy covers of a book, while two others could stitch and glue and bind the pages together and silver the corners and the clasps that held the work together.

          Early each morning he’d copy several pages of his history onto wax tablets and bring them down the hill to be transcribed again to paper in lemon juice, with quills made of feathers.  Though the skins and fruit of the lemons these days were a waxy white, he found the juice still held its old property of being an invisible ink when first used, then turn a light but legible brown when the page was slightly heated.  He knew this was a trick of oxidation and reveled in the thought that these seemingly innocent bibles, passed out and placed upon altars, would one day turn brown, and like another miracle reveal to the world its own sad history.

          Such was the plan, and he set his followers to work several hours each morning at this new task.  After a week, and some wasted sheets, he found that Simon and Mary and Eve were the best scribes.  He would have each of them make one complete copy of his history.  He explained to them that it was a record of his own life, and that people might value this record in the distant future, when such knowledge would otherwise be lost.  They seemed to acquiesce to this without a question, so caught up were they in the simple mechanics of their work.

          So far he’d only taught them the sounds of the letters.  What he concentrated on was to make their handwriting neat and straight, using rulers as invisible lines to follow.  Holding these pages up to the light he was happy with the results.  Each person had their own distinctive style, but the matter was clear, though perfectly invisible when the pages were bound together.

          One day, several weeks into this project, Jonathan noticed that Simon was moving his lips and actually mouthing out some of the words, trying to decipher the sentences he was copying.  As Jonathan couldn’t forbid this he gave them more lessons, and in another week they were all incipient readers, delighted with their newly acquired skill.

          By the end of the summer the first three of his invisible ink histories were done, stitched and finely bound.  The covers were embellished with silver leaf, which in turn was stamped with delicate flowers and symbols.  Peter was groomed in this jeweler-like artistry, while Sarah, with infinite care, sewed the pages together.  The finished work was as sturdy as it was beautiful.

          Though each book had clasps of leather and metal that snapped shut, Jonathan made Paul carve three equally embellished presentation boxes.  The result was a gift that could hardly be refused, so much craft and thinking had gone into it.  In a world where ornament had long been outlawed, Jonathan thought, such a present should be welcome.  The desire in people to have some symbol of what they worshiped could not be dead.  As soon as the three gifts were finished Jonathan was eager to set out with them and test the truth of these reasonings.

          All this while Jonathan had privately pondered the question of whether or not to take any of his followers on the long journey to the capitals, where he would present these works.  In the end he decided on taking Simon and Mary.  Though he preferred traveling alone, he knew his presentation would appear in a better light coming from a school of people rather than an individual.  He also thought of the wealth of knowledge his pupils would gain by such a voyage and this settled him in his choice.

          He announced the decision one evening, and not to disconcert the others he gave them the option of staying on to improve the village or residing in town until his return.  All of them voted to stay at the sanctuary if this was acceptable to the head priest in town.  They’d even ask him to come there and oversee their work in Jonathan's absence.  Jonathan was pleased with this idea and told them they would all travel with him sooner or later, that is, if his first mission met with a favorable reception.

          "In fact," he went on, a little inflated with these prospects, "you might someday be the core of a unique bible school, and fill the world with your crafted works, while pilgrims trudge the continents to visit you in this holy factory of the wilderness.  You must make your lives and works exemplary.  A few short moons will tell us how we stand in the estimation of the Church."

          Though impatient to go, he spent another two weeks directing his scribes to make a second set of books, while three portable stands could be carved by Paul.  He also spent this time on a list of chores his four disciples could innocently pursue in his absence.  He told them not to mention the process of copying to the old priest, as he wanted to verify its propriety with the Church in the Capitol.  They could show the old man all the other arts they’d learned of binding and decorating the books and finish the three that were in loose sheets.  He concealed all his wax tablets and writing implements, and assigned tasks that would fill months.  Then he set off with the pack train and his fellow travelers and also Peter, who would return with more supplies and the old priest.

          When Jonathan and his disciples arrived at the temple a presentation ceremony took place, with the townsfolk as witnesses.  On a beautifully carved stand that Paul had designed, the first of the bibles was set up.  It was displayed that evening in the central square for all to admire.  In single file the entire populace passed by to touch the smooth leather with their hands, as if it could impart some holiness.  The next day another banquet was announced, to send off the pilgrims.

          On the following day, at the feast, Jonathan convinced the old priest to oversee his colony until his return.  The other priests were eager to concur, hoping to solidify their own importance while he was gone.  A boat was readied to carry Jonathan and his two disciples to the territorial capitol of White Perth.  The boat had been freshly painted, and the best clothes and provisions were gathered up, and three able fishermen were delegated to convey these passengers down the coast, on the four day journey to their destination.

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B.A. in Latin and Greek from U.C. Berkley. Writer, Blogger and retired Electrician.

Robert O'Reilly
Robert O'Reilly

I am educated in the Western Classical Tradition, B.A. from U.C. Berkeley in Latin and Greek, English major, one year at U. of Toronto, studied under Alain Renoir and Northrop Frye, read most classics full time for many years after university in French, English, Latin and Greek to the modern day. I am interested in the near future of technology, what changes it imposes upon our heritage and character as humans. Short stories and Essays are my medium.

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