For today’s post we will look at another book, this one a somewhat worse for the years example from 1938 titled Maps from the Land of Christ. In case the title was insufficiently explicit, the cover art ought to clearly signal the subject to the reader: a reference explaining the events and the epochs of the Bible with a geographical focus.
The thing the Order of Capuchin Friars Minor are best known for – or perhaps second best: they are probably best known for the coffee drink cappuccino, which took its name from the color of their robes – but one of the things they are known for is their crypt in Rome, an ossuary beneath the church of Our Lady of the Conception of the Capuchins. Containing the remains of over 4,000 friars, the crypt’s inscription provides an impressive example of Medieval memento mori: What you are now, we used to be. What we are now, you will be.
Our Lady of the Conception of the Capuchins (Left), Crypt of the Capuchins (Right)
Setting the historical digression aside, the major part of the book is made up of maps of various events of the Bible accompanied by the corresponding scripture verses for reference.
Map and accompanying scriptural references describing the Journey of Abraham
Chart providing scriptural references detailing the Journey of the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land
Naturally there is an emphasis on the events and travels of the life of Christ.
The childhood of Christ
Christ in Perea
Being a Catholic work, the Stations of the Cross is included; being an excellent Catholic work, its summary is of corresponding excellence:
In addition to the maps there are also diagrams of many of the major Holy Sites.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, surroundings and floor plan
The book was obviously intended to see use as a guide for journeys to the Holy Land; considering the changes in the region since 1938, some of its recommendations and terminology are quaintly out-of-date.
Church of the Nativity, description, surroundings and floor plan
The last section is a quite impressively organized and detailed summary of all the events of Christ’s public life including scripture verse, geographical location and date on the Church Calendar.
Events of Christ’s Public Life, Page 1 (Left) and Page 7 (Right)
Like the footnotes in the Jerusalem Bible or Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, works like this give lie to the Protestant Fundamentalist contention that Catholics are somehow indifferent to Biblical study. Truth is that Catholicism contains a quite rich tradition of Biblical scholarship, albeit one that’s more speculative – I would even say more profound – than the Literalist proof-texting many Fundamentalists seem prone to.
Excited as I was to find such a useful work, I was somewhat dismayed at its condition (I’ve always had a strong preservationist impulse, enjoying old things sometimes for nothing more than their oldness). The book is not in bad condition at all – a testament to book binding quality of its day; indeed, properly cared for, a book from the 1940s is probably more likely to survive another 50 years than one newly bound today – but still bore the scars of its storage; decades in the condensation rich environment of a Michigan attic did it no favors, exacerbated by it being at the very top of a half-opened box.
The book was in storage since sometime in the 1970s so it’s hard to jump too quickly to assign blame, considering the kind of materials available at the time. Now though we have the means at hand to avoid such damage, plastic cartons are easy to find and, even when cost places them out of reach, Tyvex envelopes large enough to hold most books can be obtained for free at any post office; the damage to this book could have been avoided simply by sliding it in an Express Mail envelope before setting it into its carton.
And really, the value – culturally, if not economically – of old books rises every day, especially older – think 1980s or earlier – texts. As developments like Common Core render our history texts as nothing more than anthologies of civil disobedience and social studies a recitation of identity-themed grievance-mongering (e.g, intersectionality, the esoteric calculation of competing claims of within a hierarchy of grievance) it’s all too easy to imagine a day where one needs to drag out some dust-covered carton in search of some yellowed and water-stained to learn the truth of something of consequence – say the War of 1812 or the discovery of the genetic theory of inheritance.