Thursday, 1 July 2010

Biblioteca apostolica Vaticana

I get the Vatican Library e-mail newsletter, and it usually makes me feel cheerful. The person who writes it has not heard of the five sentences rule which I mentioned in a recent post; he talks at length, and in an engagingly unfiltered manner. The library closed very suddenly about three years ago, and no one has been able to do any research on Vatican manuscripts in the meantime, which is a big deal considering their collections. Luckily I've only had one thing I needed to see, and I was able to get by without it by fudging a little, but many are anxious for it to reopen its doors. Anyway, here is one entire paragraph from the latest newsletter:
In fact, in recent meetings with various people, I have often heard the question, "Say, when will you open the Library"? My initial reaction, which I always try to suppress, is to think that they have clearly not been paying attention to the newsletters we have sent; nor have they been reading the newspapers or the web pages where the news has been announced and passed on. Of course I tell them, affecting as much indifference as I can muster, that we will open on September 20. But then another idea occurs to me: could it be that the inquirers were well aware of the date, but had been seized by an "impertinent" doubt which made them fear that it might not be true? Perhaps this was their way of asking a different question: "Will the reopening actually happen as planned? Will you keep your promises"?

The combination of, on the one hand, awareness of the neurotic undercurrents in academics' conversations with, on the other hand, the naive expectation that academics will go to the effort of reading newsletters or checking things online instead of just bothering the first person they can find to ask, is really very endearing. The nearly-2000-word-long message ends with this:
The number of newsletter recipients has now reached 15.327: the population of a small city, united by a love for culture and certainly also by reciprocal esteem and friendship. In that spirit, in the name of the entire staff of the Library, I send my warm greetings and best wishes to all.

Which is quite nice. I'm afraid I suspect that there are many among the other 15 326 whom I might find a bit trying, but I am doing my best to esteem them long-distance nonetheless.

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