A Most Grand and Excellent Google Search—Part 3
Yes, dear reader, we are in the midst of a serial blogpost…
Father Palladino, as I now knew him to be, invited me to his home (a small farm several miles southeast of Portland) and we settled on a time and date. I asked for his address so I could MapQuest it, but he said he didn’t do computers; he’d mail me an address and map. I decided not to tell him about Siri.
Several days later an envelope arrived, my name and address written in an elegant, oversized script. Calligraphy, done by a master of his craft. The manner of it, the beauty of it, elevated my day. Inside the envelope was a letter of welcome, warm in its content and beautifully penned in the same letterform as the envelope. Also enclosed was a hand-drawn map. Gentlemanly manners at their very best.
Wending my way through an evergreen forest and down and across the Sandy River, I arrived to find Father Palladino waiting for me at a gate alongside the road. He swung it open, closed it behind me and guided me down a curving, primitive and shaded lane to his home about a hundred yards beyond. The sun was high, the air dry, the smell of late fall. A number of sheep grazed freely around us. The house is a hundred years old, he said. He and his wife had remodeled it some, but she had died in the mid-nineties.
A wife, this Catholic priest?
He walked me past a desk on a cluttered sunporch which ran the breadth of the house, and told me he would sit there in the mornings to compose his homilies; he still filled in when other priests were absent from their parishes. We walked through a little living room, a small formal dining room and into his workroom—his scriptorium. It was largest space in the house but overrun with the type of slanted worktables used by scribes, books, boxes, cups with what seemed like scores of special pens all standing tall, and sheet upon scrap upon shred of hand-lettered paper. Some of them were decades old, part of a book he was still hoping to complete.
Over the next three hours Father Palladino showed me samples of his craft and we spoke comfortably of his life and my book. I told him that the Latin letterform I’d settled on for the pieces of parchment my protagonist finds had been a real one, used primarily in the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. I told him one of its characteristics was the frequent use of abbreviations, for it had been created for the chancery—the law—for its speed and economy; both the labor of scribes and pages made of animal skins were expensive. Father Robert (note the change to the informal) rummaged through a shelf and emerged with a small book, a hardcover. It was a dictionary of sorts: its sole content a list of Latin abbreviations and their extensions. It may be the most esoteric book I’ve ever come across. (Gifer the Worm, an obscure little chapbook I once used in an English lit assignment, has slipped into second place.)
To be continued…
Photo by J. S. Anderson