When A Written Work Was Written

We often think of a handwritten work as a thing of the distance past. But I was filing some papers that I had gathered for previous projects when I ran across a copy of a rather massive paper in four segments on Šumma ālu by F. Nötscher (“Die Omen-Series ālu ina mēlê šakin,” Orientalia, NS 51-54 [1930]). The whole thing is handwritten. Here’s a sample,

Page from Nötscher’s work on Šumma ālu

Many Assyriologists and Egyptologists once wrote all or part of the works by hand. I frequently consult a 1963 edition of René Labat’s Manuel d’Épigraphie Akkadienne and it’s all handwritten with the signs carefully hand drawn. I need to go to a library to consult a newer, still mostly handwritten, edition.

2 thoughts on “When A Written Work Was Written”

  1. You sent me rushing to the Library of Congress database to see whether my trusty Labat is the latest edition. It does appear to be (6th). I think I must know his handwriting as well as I know that of my close family members.
    Among the reasons I can say I’d have been washed up as an Assyriologist I include my handwriting.

  2. I sat down next to Hugh Williamson at an Oxford Old Testament seminar and pulled out my laptop to start taking notes. He asked if I was going to be “clacking away” throughout the seminar. I replied “if it’s interesting!” He got up and moved to the other side of the room. That was before we were properly introduced, and I was told by a colleague of his that he avoids computers and still writes his book manuscripts by hand. I never verified that from him, but it wouldn’t surprise me, based on what I was able to observe. One thing several professors told me was a big problem for American students at Oxford was their difficulty with sitting for three hour exams and writing by hand the entire time.

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