“Someone discovers something every day,” Don Skemer, curator of the manuscripts collection at Firestone, tells me.
Some of those discoveries are more exciting than others. For example:
Back in the late 19th century, Robert Garrett decided to collect documents in every language that had ever existed on earth. The resulting collection is now safely nested in the vaults of Firestone Library.
In the 1960s, an effort was made to catalogue the collection and some parts, especially the Islamic texts that were Mr. Garrett’s prime interest, were very well documented.
Others, however, were not.
According to these records, one Syriac manuscript (Syriac, as Mr. Skemer explained to me, is the ecclesiastical version of the common language of the Holy Land, Aramaic) came from around the 14th or 15th century.
But when Mr. Skemer pulled it out to show it to one of the foremost scholars in the field, his guest was quick to correct his dates–suggesting that the document might actually be from around the 4th century AD.
Just a thousand years off. No big deal.
The point is, it’s an interesting job and one that involves a lot of behind the scenes work. Check out my interview with Mr. Skemer above to learn a little more about the Princeton University Manuscripts collection.
For more on Manuscripts, check out this great Princeton Alumni Weekly article on found treasures in the collection.