This photo is of an artist’s High School Botany Class notebook, showing handwritten pages, and detailed drawings of nature. The artist was this blog-wright’s mother, Rosiland Munro (Heitzman) and the book was created around 1932.
Historical Setting, 562 C.E. Gaul
“How is it that you have a book?”
“I’m sorry Papa. I know I shouldn’t; I know books are only for the Popes and Priests. But this one came to me from the hag when she was reaching to take death by the hand and go off to her wonderful pit of hell to leave me alone. She told me to find it with her things because it was precious and I could cherish it forever.”
I’d not given it a thought before, that the possession of a book was only a Christian privilege. I assumed it was simply a circumstance of a last thread of the Roman economy. And that makes me wonder how might one who reads be empowered in this new world without writings?
“So, Eve, if Ezra has no book and he doesn’t even know of yours, what is it that he reads?”
“He reads the parchments of lords and tax collectors and the edicts that are used over us. He says it keeps the wealthy and the priests wary of him because he might actually know what is written and they can’t easily flounder him in lies. When someone comes on horseback and unfurls a document and speaks an order, Ezra simply asks to read it; and they just roll the parchment back into its bows and laces and move on to another peasant who doesn’t read.”
“Eve, if you think reading is helpful I would be glad to spend a bit of time each day after the chores to give you reading lessons. Then you can be the one to teach the children to read. They can read the stories you letter for them onto a wax board. That will be a very good thing! Our family can pass along and shelter this reading gift until books and letters are again to be had by anyone who reads. There are scriptoria in monasteries these days. I expect books will soon become more abundant.”
“I don’t know Papa. Perhaps I shouldn’t read. Isn’t it even against the Christian law that I would own a book?”
“Maybe not. Yours is a book of medicine and science. It isn’t heresy in these times because it is simply unknown and nearly forgotten information about healing. I would say the right thing to do with the book is keep it forever and ever and read it when you wish to know things that are mostly forgotten, things that become lost in the dark places.”
Eve seems hesitant, “I need think about this. Maybe I will choose not to learn to read.”
(Story continues Tuesday, January 14)