Arts & Culture / Mosaic / May 5, 2011

A look at artifacts

Members of Classics Club were treated to a presentation by Librarian Sharon Clayton of the artifacts housed in Knox’s Special Collections and Archives. Clayton gave a presentation to a class taught by Visiting Assistant Professor of Classics Ryan Fowler in the fall; this spring, Fowler suggested that the Classics Club and classics honor society, Eta Sigma Phi, also go to a presentation by Clayton, and invited members of Eta Sigma Phi from Monmouth College to come along.

Classics Club President and senior Ben Reeves said, “It’s a good way to really understand and connect with classics in a really concrete way.”

Starting with the oldest artifacts in special collections, Clayton stood over the cases on the second floor, reciting facts about the tablets and seals originating from 2,350 to 2,000 B.C.E. Speaking about a cuneiform tablet from 2,000 B.C.E., Clayton explained a teacher would write a lesson with a stylus on one side and the student would mimic the lesson on the other. Other artifacts in the case included receipts for the purchase of sheep and a seal, which an official would wear around his neck and use to mark a message.

Students clamored to look at a pop-up from of the first English edition of Euclid’s “Elements of Geometrie,” printed in 1570. “Elements of Geometrie” features 3-dimensional figures, to which one student remarked, “I wish my geometry book was like this.” Euclid’s work was the most commonly printed book other than the Bible. Special collections also has Euclid’s “Elementae Geometriae,” the first edition of which was printed in Latin in 1482.

After looking at artifacts in the cases, the group moved toward tables where Clayton had a cart of books from special collections.

“My favorite thing that I saw was the very early edition printed book with a timeline in it,” Reeves said, referring to Eusebius’ “Chronicon.” “Also, we got to see holes that were made by bookworms.”

Before the timeline was a common form of knowledge, Eusebius’ “Chronicon,” printed in 1483, began to use timelines.

Chronicling the beginning of the world up through Abraham, “Chronicon’s” recorded years go until 1483, with a note from 1457 about Gutenberg’s printing press, saying it was going to change things. Students were allowed to flip through the books Clayton presented, which incited smiles and wide-eyes from the Classics Club members.

Smiling and holding out the book in her hands, Clayton said poet Ovid’s “De arte amandi et de remedio amoris,” printed in 1494, was the “original paperback,” which prompted some laughs. Classics Club member and senior Aaron Palmer said his favorite part of the presentation was seeing Ovid’s book, because it had a note from a Knox alum from the 1840s.

“It was kind of like two different layers of historical awesomeness. It made me feel very academic that I went [to] Knox, looking through these same things this historical guy had,” Palmer said.

The next book was Alexander of Aphrodisias’ “Physikon,” during the presentation of which Clayton reminded students that materials used to make books back then were more durable than modern materials.

Palmer, a history and creative writing double major, said, “That’s what I want to do. I want to be an Archivist and work with those old books. To just sit there and know it existed hundreds of years ago and existed like the same way is fantastic. It makes it history real and I really love it.”

Note Ben Reeves is Co-Mosaic Editor of The Knox Student.

Sheena Leano

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