I was unsure of what to expect out of my trip to the Boston Public Library; it was confusing to me to see the use of traveling all the way into Boston to see books that were just as accessible online from the comfort of my room. I certainly did not understand the gravity of holding and touching the books which had first been held centuries before or first editions that I had read copies of before. I greatly underestimated the effect the library would have on me as well as the effect seeing and working with the books would have on me.
I was analyzing an early translation of Ovid’s Metamorphosis, translated by George Sandys. The age of the copy would have been impressive in and of itself; it was a missive folio, published in 1632, and clearly delicate from age. I had a strong fear that my touch would disintegrate the pages or that my turning them would ruin the binding (none of which happened, thankfully!) However, the text itself, though fascinating, was nothing compared the marginalia, transcribed from previous authors. Notes scrawled next to the title page predicted that the work I was holding fearfully was the author’s personal copy. There were the hand written initials G.S. and they appeared to be the work of Sandys himself. Having an author’s personal copy was almost too exciting, the fact that I was holding papers that may have been held by Sandys centuries before is still difficult to wrap my mind around.
I have read and admired Ovid’s Metamorphosis before, but never truly took into account the history of the work. Sandys published it in English as a way to bring the story into a new time period, a way to make it available to more people eager to learn. The marginalia displays its import as well, being passed down through various authors in various periods, all interesting in reading and speculating about its history. And our trip into Boston only further seeks this point; traveling in to see and hold these copies, to study and learn from them, years after their publication.