Word Watch: Paleography




Yep, it sounds like dinosaurs or a diet fad but it’s my new word this week: Paleography.

n. The study and scholarly interpretation of earlier, especially ancient, writing and forms of writing. (Thanks, Wordnik!)

I first encountered it here:

“Extensively and meticulously reworked, the texts were extremely difficult to decipher, but the happy result is that Kafka – almost against his own will – soon became universally recognised as one of the masters of literary modernism. Brod’s editorial decisions have been much disputed, but the fundamental problem is rooted in something deeper than paleography”

Rupert Christiansen, Kafka’s Last Trial: the strange story of the battle for his manuscripts

Difficult to decipher texts are a forté of mine. My literary estate will surely be a labyrinthine adventure for whoever gets to execute it (a phrase that demands to be followed by “Après nous, le deluge!”). That’s saying nothing of the hordes of academics sure to flock to my literary laying place to pick my bones or at least pick a bone with some error, omission, or otherwise inscrutable reference (like so many thorns on the primrose path). My handwriting will probably prove the real issue.

I direct my future paleographologists to my musings on notebooks and the keeping of them here, which will hopefully provide some kind of skeleton key. The Waste Books of Lichtenberg, Joan Didion’s perennial On Keeping a Notebook, Lost Lines and Posterity). To help organize my thoughts in the future, I might eventually venture into bullet journaling, but that sounds like something William S. Burroughs did in his off hours.

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