Parson's manuscript could easily have been buried in the archives, forever
unknown to anyone interested in George Smith. It was saved from this fate
the efforts of several library employees, working over the course of the
twentieth century. In June 1918, some years after the manuscript was given
the library, a cataloger named "G.J.E." read through all 464 pages, and
noticed the ten pages on Smith's death; he or she then made a
on an index card. Seventy-five years later, a restorer named "D.N."
several pages with laminate and "mylar coated with texi-cryl," carefully
noting these substances for the benefit of any future restorer. Then at
quite recent date, a cataloger transferred G.J.E.'s cross-reference to the
library's electronic database, making it possible for a contemporary
researcher to learn of its existence. This is the kind attention that
generations of the British Library's staff have expended on tens of
of documents in their care; Parsons' narrative is number 39,300 in the
library's "Additional Manuscripts" collection. The library's catalogers and
restorers had no way to know whether anyone would ever benefit from their
attentiveness to an obscure dentist's unpublished travelogue, and quite
likely no one ever has before now, but thanks to their work a direct window
can be opened onto Smith's final days.
From "Early Fame and Sudden Death [in Aleppo, of legendary Assyriologist
George Smith (1840 - 1876)]", chapter 2 in David Damrosch's "The Buried
Book -- The Loss and Rediscovery of the Great Epic of Gilgamesh", pp. 70-71
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