6 January 2015

Redundant Amplitude

Isaac Taylor, History of the Transmission of Ancient Books to Modern Times (Liverpool: Edward Howell, 1875), pp. 95-96:
[U]nless a universal devastation should take its course, at once, over every region of the civilised world, the literature now extant in books can neither perish, nor suffer corruption. A temple, a statue, a picture, or a gem is but one; and however durable may be the material of which it consists, it continually decays, and it is always destructible. The touch of the sculptor moulders from the chiselled surface; and the time will come when every monument of his genius shall have crumbled into dust, and when his fame — lost from the marble, shall live only in the works of the poets and historians who were his contemporaries.

Thus it is that the written records of distant ages, with the knowledge of which the intellectual, moral, and political well-being of mankind is inseparably connected, are secured from extinction by a mode of conservation that is less liable to extensive hazards than any other that can be imagined. If Man be cut off from the knowledge of the past, he becomes indifferent to the future, and thenceforward sinks into the rudeness and ferocity of the sensual life. The redundant amplitude, therefore, of the means by which this knowledge is preserved, only bears a due proportion to the importance of the consequences that depend upon its perpetuation.