CHAPTER 1 – To Begin
Thursday 1st August
I'm not really sure how to begin. I’ve never had a blog before, but I used to be on Facebook and I've heard they’re similar.
My name is Emma. I work at a very large and famous museum, in a city that is also large and famous. My job entails the conservation, restoration and translation of ancient Latin texts. I'm a book conservator. This may sound as interesting as watching the man who is scrubbing the smog off the workshop window as I write, however, writing about my job, while it will be necessary at times, is not the purpose of this blog.
So I come to the purpose – I wish to translate a book.
On Monday, I overheard a conversation between Jack, a fellow conservator, and our department curator, Monsieur Philippe. They were discussing a book, or more specifically, a diary. When I approached them I overheard "sixteenth century" and my heart leaped. The sixteenth is my favourite, mainly because of the stream of fascinating events and people in that century. It saw the end of the War of the Roses; the reign of Henry VIII and the major bitch fight that followed when his two daughters grappled for the throne. Then there’s Shakespeare and Nostradamus (his prophecies are fascinating!). But, this blog isn’t about my obsession with English history, so let me get back to the purpose.
When Philippe finally left, Jack let me look at the little book. Not for long enough, though. I was disappointed Jack had got this job rather than me. The fact that the book appeared to be a diary only heightened my disappointment. I longed to know the secrets it held.
I, on the other hand, was stuck with the most tedious job in the museum (aside from cleaning those windows). My current project is just a long process of data entry: listing the soldiers who fought in major European conflicts in the later middle ages. Thankfully, I've only been given the job for British soldiers. The project is called 'The Medieval Soldier Database' and continues the work started by Dr Adrian Bell. I don't deny the significance of the job, but ploughing through reams of various exchequers' records becomes a little monotonous. At least I get to begin with the sixteenth century.
Today, I noticed Jack had put the diary on top of the precariously high 'in' pile on his desk. I was puzzled, as it wore no special jacket to protect it from the atmosphere. In fact, sitting on top of Jack's in-tray offered very little protection from anything. We take a number of precautions when working with ancient texts; they are handled with great care. We normally only place them on the laboratory table to work on or read. When I asked him about it, I was surprised by the answer.
"It's a fake. I don't know how they did it, but they're good!" I remembered his words because they were so unexpected; in my five years here I've never come across an actual 'fake'. When I asked him why he thought it was a fake, he just smirked and said, "Read it, you'll see.” Then he handed me the book and told me I could have it. I put the diary in a protective cover and returned to my work for most of the day.
As soon as Jack left, I put my gloves on and took the book to the lab table. It was bound in the usual leather and had remained exceptionally intact. The cover had the letters "N.C." engraved into it. I opened to the first page, which had a single title in Latin – Anno Mortem Meam, translated it read - "The Year of my Death”.
I couldn't help myself and read on. After skimming most of the book, I understood why Jack assumed it was a fake. Of course a story like that couldn't possibly be true. However, I only translated random segments, and the structure of the book seemed so authentic. In any case, someone had put a lot of effort into it.
So, I have decided to translate the seemingly dark tale this little book tells, and transcribe it in this blog. As a fake it tells a riveting story – but is it a product of the twenty-first century, or the past? I think there is more to it than meets the eye.
Cheers for now,