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 by the efforts of several library employees, working over the course of the twentieth century. In June 1918, some years after the manuscript was given to 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 cross-reference on an index card. Seventy-five years later, a restorer named "D.N." repaired several pages with laminate and "mylar coated with texi-cryl," carefully noting these substances for the benefit of any future restorer. Then at some 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 thousands 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and restorers had no way to know whether anyone would ever benefit from their attentiveness to an obscure dentist's unpublished travelogue, and quite likely no one ever has before now, but thanks to their work a direct window can be opened onto Smith's final days.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 (2007)



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