Tablet Depicting St. Palimpsestos
Before there were little notebooks in which one could jot down a memo or grocery list, there was the wax tablet or cera. I carved this one out of cherry and lined its two writing surfaces with bees' wax. My design permits one to place either tablet on top to avoid fouling the other surface with one's writing hand, yet the two tablets remain connected by the leather thongs.

To use it, you remove the iron stylus that serves as both the bolt fastening the two halves closed as well as the writing implement you use to scratch your message into the wax. Erasing is easy: just smear over your mistake and write over it... a procedure that is known to paleographers, those who study old manuscripts, as a palimpsest... which brings us to a description of the scene carved in the cover.

You'll notice the relief depicts a diligent and neatly tonsured monk--identified as Saint Palimpsestos by the inscription--busy at work in the scriptorium. Look closely at the details: one foot out of its sandal, a tiny mouse sniffing around the floor, but also, can you see the instrument raised above his head? It's a type of "pen knife" and scraping tool used by scribes to sharpen quills and scratch-out mistakes written with ink on parchment. The fellow is poised to scratch out the next mistake... but that's odd: he has two right hands! A Saint Palimpsestos if ever there were one! (And indeed there was not; I just invented him.)

So perhaps his likeness on this tablet will be sufficient to ward off the mischief of that patron demon of medieval scribes, Titivillus. To see Titivillus at work collecting typographical errors in his bag, look here... but please excuse the orthographic blunder: his name is missing an "L"...

But I blame Titivillus.

-- Brian Zegarski
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Copyright © 2004 - 2011 Brian Zegarski, all rights reserved.

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