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Scholarship is hard!

Our colleagues in English are whining about the loss of original materials:

“Melville scholarship is hampered by the lack of primary evidence,” Mr. Olsen-Smith laments. “So many manuscripts have been lost or destroyed, so many letters are unrecovered.”

I can really relate to that because our first Nicander manuscripts date from the 13th century, a mere 1500-1600 years after the poet’s floruit. If only we had his autograph and some letters to leading Hellenistic lights discussing his motivation and poetic aims.

But somehow we make do.

It is neat, though, that they’re able to read the marginalia written by Melville that others later erased. Still, it’s hardly a technological breakthrough (as the article suggests). We have the advantage with what’s being done with charred papyri.