With a heavy heart, reaching for my handkerchief, I wave a last goodbye to my papyraceous friend, as I shut the heavy oak door to the cabinet where L’anfiteatro Flavio by Carlo Fontana rests in its flamboyantly ornamented protective box. Despite the journey to our comradery having been a rather long and arduous one, I believe the sweat and tears have transformed my understanding of what true friendship of the mind can entail.
I was drawn to L’anfiteatro Flavio from the first time I glimpsed the name next to mine on the list. It could have been the way that the Italian just rolls off the tongue. I think, however, what really had me intrigued, was my great surprise at finding out that Anfiteatro Flavio refers to the Colosseum. Despite having studied Latin for six years at school, I hadn’t known of the monument’s original name. Excited by the prospect of making many more of these delightfully confounding discoveries, I was eager to embark on this voyage.
We first met online, L’anfi and I (yes, I call my book L’anfi now!). My research into its current residences was surprisingly simple. Given its age and rarity, I had expected it to be much more difficult to locate. Thanks to this friendship, I have been introduced to the vast world of online cataloging. No doubt, I will make use of this newly acquired knowledge sometime in the near future and I will be reminded of my first date with L’anfi. Having gotten a sneak peek into its content I was very excited to meet L’anfi in real life in Einsiedeln, at the Werner Oechslin Library. Upon seeing it in all its glory for the first time I was in such reverence of its beautiful illustrations as well as it’s carefully designed layout that I promptly forgot to breathe and had an asthma attack. On second thought, it might have been due to the dust that had gathered on L’anfi over time.
Having overcome my initial embarrassment, I was eager to engage in conversation with my new friend. Disappointingly, the language barrier made it rather difficult to reach any depth in our tête-à-tête. The short time frame that had been set for us to get acquainted as well as the resulting awkwardness from being video recorded, our interaction amounted to little more than my appreciation of its beautiful plans and drawings.
Up to this point our friendship, while still very superficial was a welcome distraction from the usual workload of my architecture studies. Little did I know that things were about to change. It happened to be a drizzly Tuesday in February of this year, the day I was put in a bad mood over having lost several hours of precious study time trying to find later editions of my new friend. Having searched every dark and dingy corner of the internet and skimmed through every reference on Carlo Fontana I could find, it then dawned on me that perhaps my search had been in vain and there just weren’t any later editions of L’anfi. My initial dismay led to a fight between the two of us during which I prematurely vowed never to see my book again. In retrospect, I value that afternoon greatly. I learned so much not only about L’anfi itself, but also about the author, the tumultuous journey from manuscript to the printed first edition, and the historical context of the book. My research has given me a new outlook on the importance of republishing books so that they may be annotated for accuracy, expanded upon in complexity, and questioned for their content not only by scholars but by the general public and the dedicated amateur as well.
After I had cooled down somewhat, we talked everything over and today we both consider the dispute a bonding moment, vital to our personal growth as well as the prosperity of this friendship.
Today, it is with great pride that I watch L’anfi give its final performance, interacting with books of similar nature. As I struggle with the excruciating pain of letting a precious friend move on, I am happy, knowing that my book has found a new circle of friends that will keep it company until the next student comes along.