National Geographic : 1958 Feb
Artist Brings a Tattered Manuscript Back to Life Each year Huntington restores thousands of old manuscripts. Ronald E. Tank has washed this page from a monastery's financial accounts. Now he traces the jagged edges on a trans parent backing sheet. Feather-edged and coated with paste, the sheet will reinforce the crumbling manuscript. Tweezers and knife will separate the next sheet from the bundle. There was, for example, the strange manu script of Edgar Allan Poe's essay, "About Critics and Criticism." It is written on pieces of paper four inches wide and fastened together in 14 places by adhesive wafers; the whole is 144 inches long. Poe's parents were actors. Possibly they used scrolls like this in rehearsal; such a rolled manuscript was called a "part." Poe may have tried adapting this theatrical device to his writing. Even more intimate an insight into a pri vate life was a little manuscript from the girl hood of Charlotte Bronte, author of Jane Eyre. Charlotte, her brother, and her sisters (Emily wrote Wuthering Heights) had little contact with other children. Their amuse ments they found within themselves and with one another. Once they started a magazine 276 for an audience of Lilliputian subscribers, their own wooden soldiers. For such tiny readers they learned to write in a miniature hand. The Bronte manuscript I saw almost re quires a microscope. It is called "Corner Dishes-Being a Small Collection of Mixed and Unsubstantial Trifles in Prose and Verse," by Lord Charles Albert Florian Wellesley. The name was one of Charlotte's pseudonyms. There are-we measured them-16 lines of handwriting to the inch. As the space be tween her lines is of an equal depth, it means that Charlotte's penmanship is only 1/32 of an inch tall. And, when you ex amine her work closely, it is eminently legible! Yes, I thought, one might easily become lost among the people whose books, manu scripts, and portraits live on in San Marino, California, in air-conditioned immortality.