An archetype in search of copies

Literature in the manuscript age is a living organism, breathing its progeny out in the attempt to give the geniture a chance to extend its longevity despite the perils of existence. Before the deus ex machina of machine duplication, before the printing press and the instant multiplication of electronic media, books struggled to outlive their parentage. An architectural edifice survives through renovation. A manuscript owes its viability to the copies it secures. Like wild flowers in a meadow, manuscript books are afforded no guarantee of endurance. They resist through the work of scribes who, by copying another book, add another day to a work’s life. There is poetry, and there is death, in the world of handwritten books. Entropy works its black magic on those books which, once released into the world, don’t find their way back under the quil of the relentless copyist.

Archetypes are germinators, the original books from which copies stem like the corolla of a flower. Each archetype manuscript is the starting point of a long adventure. The archetype always begins in doubt over its own fate, a question mark hanging over its leaves. Will it last? It is a gamble played out through history. It is also a work of solitude and alienation, as copies become the copies of other copies, and the archetype recedes from view. Except for when scholars begin to pull the thread back, bringing the archetype back to light, telling its story, recovering its lost lustre.

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