Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Continuation from December 26th post...

I reworked the paragraph leading up to this bit...still in the first chapter...

But first things first. Adam had a small ritual he practiced as he carried the Erasmus to be photographed. He would jaunt past the other cubicles to a short hall while singing a soft little song ... sometimes in German, sometimes in Latin (as he did with the Orlando...), sometimes in English, and this time in Greek. "I see a book that's going to be took for Jeremy to photograph and put with all the rest. It's a lovely little book which soon will find its nook and she will be considered to be one of our best."

The hallway was short, with three doors -- two on the left and one on the right. The one farthest down was to Jeremy's office, which contained his computer, a table to mount the books on for photographing, his camera and tripod and a small light kit, all jammed into a space that was little larger than Adam's cubicle. He often whined about being cramped, but it was the only space available.

The other door on the left led to a kitchenette that held a sink, small refrigerator, microwave, kettle to heat water, and various teas and coffees and cocoas in cabinets overhead. They also contained cups and mugs, since each employee brought in his or her own. A single drawer held some cutlery.

The door on the right was to The Dark Chamber, where newly archived books were set on thick, solid shelves to await being brought before Jeremy's camera. Adam loved the room's mystical play of dust and light and darkness, as if it were wrapping the antiquarian volumes in the safety of shadows and silence. He knew it so well, he rarely turned on a light to find his way, even when selecting his next volume to archive.

He set the Erasmus on a shelf then checked his phone to make sure of the time ... and that his alarm telling him it was time for his meeting with Vincent really was engaged. He had done it wrong more than once, before, so now was a bit paranoid about it, but it looked all right. In fact, he had time to make a cup of tea and be at Vincent's office right on the dot, so he popped into the kitchenette.

He set the kettle to going and pulled down his cup -- a gleaming black one with the saying A room without books is like a body without a soul (Cicero). He'd found it at a small shop near The British Library, so bought two -- one for home and one for the office.

As he was filling his cup, he caught a glimpse of Elizabeth slipping into the dark room. She flicked on the light and placed a lovely clam-shell box containing a set of handwritten letters from Virginia Woolf to someone in the south of France on another shelf. The letters had been submitted for an export license and she was researching it as an expert for The Arts Council.

Adam pulled down her cup -- one sporting slashes of pink and green and blue and brown in a vaguely cubist design meant to look very modern but which struck him as common -- plopped a bag into it, and started pouring the still-hot water into it, calling, "Cup of tea, Elizabeth?"

"Tea?" she called back.

"Water's hot. Be set in a flash."

"Quarter milk, no sugar?”

"Just the way you like it," he said, dolloping some milk into both cups.

“No, thanks,” she called back.

Adam froze. He now had two cups of tea and only enough time to finish one. And they had to be drunk in the kitchenette; to take any sort of food or liquid back to your cubicle raised too great a risk of an irreplaceable book being damaged.

That is when Jeremy popped his head through the door and growled in his happy-puppy way, "Tea? You never make me any."

Since he was one of those half-Scally, half-punk, half-Eastenders sort of lads you would normally see in a pub nursing a pint, Adam had no idea how to respond except to say, “Didn't know you drank it.”

"So what about that bloody Erasmus?” he said. "Been on the shelf a week and you're the expert in it and -- "

Adam cut him off with, “It's all set to photograph.”

Which is when Hakim, their unctuous, self-proclaimed office manager, popped his head around the other side of the door and snapped, “The provenance better be right, this time.”

Adam huffed. Seven years he had worked here, and only once had he made a mistake -- when researching a manuscript copy of Richard Wagner's Die Nibelungen, he neglected to put an umlaut over a "U" in his transcription from the German, and never mind he was the one who realized the mistake and informed Hakim before it was sent to the Arts Council, he now acted as if Adam's work was riddled with errors. As if his own work was perfect.

Adam meant to respond with a gentle, “Of course,” but he shot Hakim a glare, instead ... and noticed Elizabeth was about to pass with a thick tome bound in vellum. He bolted over.

“Is this Die Schedelsche Weltchronik?” he asked. “The one found in Romania?”

It had caused quite a buzz around the department ... the discovery of an unknown copy of The Nuremberg Chronicle, by Hartmann Schedel. It was published at the end of the Fifteenth Century and was considered the first and most exquisite example of early printing combined with artwork. Supposedly, it had been in someone’s attic in Romania for who knew how long, but now was being offered for sale to the University. Photos had been sent and most of the staff had agreed it was a legitimate copy, as did Sir Robert ... Butterworth, a recent addition to the university's regents. He desperately wanted a Shedel for their collection and was upset when Adam insisted the binding looked wrong and the photographs were of pages that were too easily reproduced. He had overruled Adam and now the book was here, under consideration.

"Why are you taking it?" he asked Elizabeth. "This book's well outside your area of expertise while mine is perfectly suited for it."

“Vincent asked me to do the provenance,” Elizabeth said.

“Vincent? Why would he not give it to me?”

Hakim snorted. “Probably because you argued with Sir Robert."

Then Elizabeth added, with an acidic sweetness, "And neither one of them like being contradicted."

Adam huffed, again. Sir Robert had also insisted on putting down a substantial deposit to guarantee the purchase before the book had even been seen. He felt this was too good an opportunity to pass up, and he would not like being made the fool.

“But Elizabeth,” Adam said, taking the book from her, “the binding is not contemporary to the book. It's Eighteenth-Century, at the earliest.” He looked inside ... and huffed. Her initials were already on the front inside board, in soft graphite. While it is easily removed and only serves to show by whom the book was catalogued, until it is photographed, it's not supposed to be done until the book HAS been catalogued, something she had yet to even begin. He cast her a look of reproval. Once again, she was showing that she was not really a book person. He shifted a few pages over it -- and saw that he was right; the first verso page of text showed it had been expertly tipped in. “Here you go, she is a later printing, with a couple of true pages added to -- ”

Elizabeth cut him off with, “Adam, it's not a person; it's a thing.”

He cradled the book in his arm and carefully held the page up for her to see what was blatantly obvious, to him. “But look here at the base of the first verso page -- ”

She snapped the book closed and yanked it away, clipping his nose with a corner of the front board. He yelped.

“Give it here!” she snarled. “Hakim's right. Half the time you've got no idea what you're talking about.” And she stormed off.

Adam growled, because when he was right about something, he was right about it ... and that Shedel was not right. But he caught Jeremy snickering and Hakim glaring at him as if he were a complete incompetent and Elizabeth casting him a roll of her eyes as she entered her cubicle, so it appeared he would have to prove himself, and he knew exactly how.

The Dungeon.

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