During the two semesters of the first year of my studies, I had the pleasure of becoming friends with a very old book. I ‘met’ “Libro d’Antonio Labacco appartenente a l’architettura nel qual si figurano alcune notabili antiquita di Roma”, which was written by Antonio Labacco in the year 1558.
At first, I was quite sceptical about the whole task: it seemed a very banal thing to do to get to know a book that I had not physically seen before, that I was not required to read, but had just to research the dates, the places and the author.
When we actually did get the chance to ‘meet’ these really old books – mine was an incredible 462 years old! – I was overwhelmed by its sheer age. It had already lived through so many great (and some less great) times and still looked virtually untouched. It seems unbelievable when you think how many people have read it or had dealings with it over the passage of time. What other objects can survive so many decades and yet still be in such an immaculate condition?
I was really fascinated by how beautiful the drawings were and how neatly the people used to write by hand. I love the thought that all the people who ever came into contact with these antique books really looked after them and cared for them well. The sheer notion of being in a library surrounded by hundreds of other books just like mine – and equally well-preserved −blew my mind.
Unfortunately, the get-together had been organized somewhat unfavourably so that in the end we didn’t really have enough time to spend with our books − our new friends. I would have liked to have had more time to form a proper impression of the book I was to bond with. I must also admit that it felt rather strange recording myself looking at the book and then posting the clip online. I would have enjoyed simply looking at the book, taking some pictures and just appreciating it in its entirety.
The third task I did not find so easy. As is well known, the internet contains a lot of information, but not all of it can be trusted. I found it therefore quite challenging to establish the right dates and names. It took a combination of guesswork and logical thinking to achieve a satisfactory result.
I found analysing the fonts and pictures in task four really interesting, as was considering the book’s purpose −even though I don’t understand a word of it because it is written in Italian, but which gave the book a kind of secretive personality.
At the beginning of the task, I felt that this exercise was a bit of a time-filler. But after attending the lectures, physically holding the book in my hands in its home of Einsiedeln, and seeing the links between history, written sources and architecture, I started to enjoy learning things about my book and architectural history. So, in the end, it turned out to be a really worthwhile and enriching exercise.