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The Vatican Library

See this charming New Yorker article by Daniel Mendelsohn on the Vatican Library. (Abstract only for now). I've worked there, briefly, and Mendelsohn does seem to get the atmospherics right (including enthusiasm for the coffee bar in the courtyard of this Renaissance palazzo, and the widespread sense that Benedict XVI understands the ideals of a great research library better than John Paul II). What Mendelsohn doesn't touch on, although his interlocutors do, is the most remarkable fact: that Catholicism, the papal court and western humanism remain so deeply intertwined.

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Great stuff. We are fortunate to have so many documents available for us in our times. The last fifty years have been revolutionary, enabling scholars to check and verify sources. Do we owe any of this to John XXIII? Unlike George Weigel many in the Vatican knew that John Paul II was no scholar. The Vatican has the original of Procopious' Secret history which is still challenged Byzantines and some in the West. Fordham has many historical documents available along with this work of Procopius. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/procop-anec.html

See also:http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/religion/july-dec10/sacredtexts_12-31.htm... AIR DATE: Dec. 31, 2010Monastery Works to Preserve Ancient Christian Texts

The Minnesota Benedictines also commissioned the first handwritten Bible in 500 years. The artistic director is the great calligrapher Donald Jackson, scribe to the House of Lords and the Queen. I think he's one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century (though I'm rather disappointed in the Bible -- apparently he didn't do much of the actual calligraphy or illumination). Here is a YouTube presentation of him doing some illumination -- cutting the quill, mixing pigment, preparing and doing gold leaf, and actually drawing an illuminated versal with a pen. Wonderful.http://www.youtube.com/SaintJohnsBible#p/a/u/1/ohAD2mG08j4

I'm jealous that you got to work at the Vatican library! It is a distant dream of mine. It seems that everyday is a treasure hunt!http://historywasneverlikethat.blogspot.com/

An excellent piece, and Mendelsohn is a superb writer. But he seems not to know that "Come and see" is from the New Testament.

Ann, thanks for a lovely way to start the morning!

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About the Author

John T. McGreevy is the I.A. O'Shaughnessy Dean of the College of Arts and Letters and Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame.