Sunday, March 23, 2008

Serendipitous Diringer

"serendipity": a phenomenon of good luck, or an aptitude or faculty for making desirable discoveries not sought for (coined January 28, 1754 by English author, Horace Walpole, from characters in the Persian fairytale, "The Three Princes of Serendip", who made such discoveries).

For many years even before I became the LMLK enthusiast I am today, I've been intending to purchase one or more of David Diringer's books about Writing. Beyond his many journal articles & other scholarly History-book chapters, he wrote, co-wrote, or edited several books on this fascinating subject:

(Note: These are all in English, though his landmark, extremely rare 1934 book, "Iscrizioni Antico-Ebraiche Palestinesi", was in Italian.)

In my quest to acquire autographs by LMLK VIPs, Diringer's has eluded me even though his was the first I ever saw (in the Bade library).

Ms. Irony & I have an intimate relationship!

It's also ironic that someone with such a deep interest in, & vast knowledge of, writing apparently didn't sign many copies of the books he authored (compared to contemporary LMLK luminaries such as William Albright, James Pritchard, & Yohanan Aharoni; I own several of each of theirs).

I decided to buy this 2-volume set when it became available at a bargain price (it normally sells from $40-$300; I stole one in near-mint condition for $15) even though it lacks his signature, because I simply love the history of writing--it being one of the excellent pieces of evidence supporting the belief that we live in a relatively young world per Genesis.

Naturally, the first thing I did was search the index for evidence of LMLK seals--usually the author will list "Hebron", but none of the inscription words were present, nor any of the variant spellings of "LMLK" in the "L" section. It didn't bother me, because I wasn't expecting to find any. LMLK inscriptions may be important in the relatively short-lived Judean monarchy, but I don't think of them as superstars in the entire history of Writing.

However, as I thumbed through Volume 2 containing the plates, being blown away by the incredible variety of specimens shown--things I never imagined existed, plus so many paleography tables that Diringer is well-known for--there they were on page 164:

And not just the usual lousy, poorly cropped stamps from Lachish, which Diringer is famous for publishing in PEQ vol. 73 (July 1941), but SIX additional handles unpublished elsewhere (1 Z4CI, 1 S4L, & 4 H4Ls)!

Imagine my glee!

Here's the accompanying text from Volume 1 (p. 188):

"On various sites in southern Palestine many hundreds of jar-handles have been found which bear impressions of factory stamps (Fig. 14.5). Some of these are royal trade-marks, others reproduce the names of private pottery works, while others are Yehud stamps, 'Jerusalem' stamps, and so forth."

He did not provide any specific credits for any of the photos, & because their resolution is so poor (the actual size of the page shown in the photo here is only 7.5x5.5"), I added them to the LMLK Research website yesterday since I doubt anyone at Funk & Wagnalls knows where these handles came from--I'm guessing they're from Lachish at the British Museum (listed along with 12 other institutions on p. xiii of Volume 1), but they could very well be from Diringer's own personal collection (although I can't say for certain if he had one).

If anyone can prove where these 6 are, or where Diringer obtained the photos, please let me know & I'll gladly provide proper credit, &/or remove them from the website if requested. Until then, it's fair use to categorize them for research purposes. Besides, I spent extra time despeckling the greatly magnified ink dots (there are 3x127=381 possible settings), so the versions you see on the Research site our essentially my own rendition (ad-hoc original on top; despeckled on bottom):

And oh, by the way, this new batch pushes the total number of unique stamp photos on the LMLK Research website over 900 now!

Song of the week: "Good To See You" by Vangelis (click the song title to visit Amazon; click here for a 30-second sample; 393kb).
G.M. Grena


Charles Ellwood Jones said...

Iscrizioni Antico-Ebraiche Palestinesi doesn't seem so rare. I see at least two copies for sale at the moment, one of them quite inexpensive.

-Chuck Jones-

G.M. Grena said...

Thanks for your comment on the rarity of "Izcrizioni"! You might want to check again. When I drafted this blog, I wrote that sentence based on my extensive LMLK research during 2002-2003, visiting numerous college/university & major public libraries. Even if it's listed in a library's catalog, it doesn't necessarily mean it still exists--on more than one occasion I requested assistance from a reference librarian, who confirmed that the book wasn't checked out, but it was MIA; especially with older material, they're more likely to get misplaced or stolen.

Compared to Diringer's other books, & compared to other key LMLK books, I stand by my statement that it's rare. But just to be sure, after I drafted the sentence, I did my own search Saturday, found the one you said is inexpensive, & immediately placed an order for it (even though it's still showing up on Amazon as of this evening, now 2 days later--Internet booksellers' catalogs are not any more reliable than libraries'; I've also placed orders for other books, only to be informed the next day by the bookseller that they're not able to find it in their inventory). As the bookseller was closed on the weekend, I waited patiently till now before responding to your comment, until I could receive confirmation. They did indeed reserve it for me, & it's on its merry way.

I just did another Internet search, & could not find any other copies available. I'm curious what the other copy is selling for since you said you found 2. Regardless of its price, I think you'll agree with me that if only 1 copy is available in the world, it's sufficient to classify the book as "rare". My yet-to-arrive copy is another from the library of renowned Writing expert, Frank Moore Cross, Jr. (I already own a baker's dozen therefrom, so this will be another nice addition).

I'd like to announce to the world of bibliophiles that my copy is NOT for sale at any price.