This year I got to know a book assigned to me. Personally, I had a rather hard time to know exactly what I was doing this for, but I knew I had to do it, so I did. I found it difficult to find an important enough reason to spend my scarce time (due to the other duties in this study) on Friends with an old book, I didn’t seem to get a real benefit out of it.
But still, it was an interesting exercise looking back on it. Before, I never really went to a library to actively search a book, especially not one from the 18th century. It was interesting to see the national and sometimes even international logistics and infrastructure behind libraries and other places that store books, such as archives. It was also a nice surprise to see that a lot of these books have actually been digitalized. It’s good to know, so I don’t immediately buy a book for like 150CHF if I could have a look at it first online.
Visiting the library itself was exciting as well. After a couple wrong turns and confused looks at the map on my phone I entered this library, just dedicated to a specific kind of literature. I first tried to find the book myself but gave up after a couple minutes because there were just too many books. After having asked the librarian, that kindly showed me where the book was, I went through the book and tried to decipher what it said. The book was written in French, which pulled me even further away from becoming friends with the book, than the writing style from 300 years ago did. My French teacher in High School once (in)famously screamed the German saying at us: “Ich werfe hier Perlen vor Schweine!!”. I think it is clear that with the pigs she meant us, the pupils. Ah yes, good memories.
So, the language barrier made it really difficult for me to get to know this book. But in spite of the difficulties I was able to grasp some of the content, and I actually found it pretty funny. The author I got assigned to felt really important and did not shy away from telling his readers what is right and wrong. And I can imagine that many authors did. I find the idea of this petty universe of authors that all know better pretty amusing. But back to the library: The sheer thought, that every book in this building contains roughly as much information as the one I looked at, is mind blowing. It also makes me think about the library of Alexandria and all the knowledge got lost. So in a way, I guess, the digitalization of literature is a good thing but the materialization allows the mind to, at least a little bit, grasp what huge amount of knowledge and opinions there are.
In conclusion: The exercises felt pretty unnecessary at the moment, but now, in hindsight, with this reflection tying all the exercises together, I think I still learned something, maybe not really what the book contains but something.