Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Principles of Providence

"Do nothing without a sufficient reason:" such is the fundamental Law of Wisdom, the law which determines the end as well as the mode of all wise action.

This first law, when applied to the mode of action, produces a second, which we have called the Law of the Least Means.

This second law requires a principle of application; and we found that the principle of its application to the government of contingent beings may be thus expressed: "Govern these beings in such a manner that they may produce by their own aptitudes all the good which they can possibly yield."

The fecundity of this principle revealed itself to us when we passed on to consider it in the generation of sundry other laws which preside over the government of the universe, namely: the law of the Non-Intervention of God in nature without necessity; that of His Intervention when necessary; that of Excluded Superfluity; that of the Unity and Harmony of the Universe; that of the Gradation of Beings; the laws of Variety, of Excluded Equality, of the Unity of God's Action, of the Manifestation of God in Time, and of His Manifestation in Eternity, wherein all passing events become consistent and necessary, the means of the Divine Glory, the ultimate end of creation.

Antonio Rosmini, Theodicy, vol. 2, pp. 186-187.

Classification-Based Validity

Perhaps the most commonly used account of validity is modal; it is the idea that an argument is valid when, its premises being true, the conclusion cannot be false. This account of validity makes the following argument valid:

Socrates is human;
therefore Socrates is an animal.

However, it would often be said that this is not valid in terms of its form; it is not formally valid but materially valid. Since anything formally valid that does not equivocate would certainly have also to be materially valid, the question arises as to what the principle is identifying an argument as formally valid. The usual principle suggested is some variant of Buridan's idea that it has to hold for all terms, keeping the form common to all of them the same. Thus people would usually say that the above argument is not formally valid because it would not be invariant under a consistent but arbitrary substitution of terms:

New Orleans is a city;
therefore New Orleans is a river.

But I'm not sure we should let this pass so easily. For one thing, 'keeping the form the same' has to apply to the actual logical principles used in drawing the conclusion, and it seems clear enough that the New Orleans argument does not use the same logical principles to draw its conclusion that the Socrates argument does. The conclusion in the Socrates argument 'works' because it simply moves the predicate from specific to general; that's what pretty much anyone making the argument would be doing. But this is not involved at all in the New Orleans argument.

One could perhaps argue that this is somehow not part of the argument's form, but it's difficult to see how it wouldn't be. It certainly would be if I did something like this:

Socrates is an animal that is rational;
therefore Socrates is an animal.

But there's not any obvious way in which this is different from the other. Logical terms are not words but meanings, so if 'human' includes 'animal' as part of its definition, the movement from 'human' to 'animal' should be as formal as the movement from 'animal that is rational' to 'animal', if they both proceed on the same principles, which they appear to do.

One could perhaps argue that the original is an enthymeme:

Socrates is human;
(everything human is an animal);
therefore Socrates is an animal.

This is certainly formally valid. But it's unclear that the implicit premise actually adds anything that is not already in the first premise, for exactly the reason just noted.

If one took each logical term to be a 'slot', so to speak, in a classification system, then an argument's form relates these 'slots' to each other; but then one would expect species-to-genus inference to be as formal as subalternation, universal instantiation, or inference involving the dictum de omni et nullo.

It has been noted by others that, while we can fairly easily handle the notion of logical form in particular logical systems, we don't have any general account of logical form. This is a related issue, I think, since there appears to be no useful account, applicable to the full range of arguments people would want to consider formally valid, that also obviously rules out the possibility that the classification of the terms can be part of the formal structure of an argument.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Links and Linkabilia

Due to a busy term, some of these are quite late; but still possibly of interest.

* Yogi Berra turned 90.

* Communication between bird species (and even some other animals, like squirrels) seems more extensive than had previously been thought.

* A humorous look at fake degree programs by way of their use of stock photos.

* Teresa Blankmeyer Burke on doing philosophy in American sign language.

* Ed Feser on C. S. Lewis on Transposition

* Larry Hurtado on the question of how far Paul was influenced by Stoicism

* Rav Elchanan Samet on rabbinical interpretations of the command not to put a stumblingblock in front of the blind.

* I'm way late on this, but apparently the official English translation of the Ukrainian Catholic Catechism is supposed to come out this year. I put this here in part to remind myself to keep an eye out for it.

* Greg Sadler on Anselm on divine power and greatness

* John Farrell discusses the decline of the priest-scientist

* A Clerk of Oxford discusses a Pentecost sermon by the tenth-century Saxon Aelfric.

* A periodic table of firework colors

* John Norton on Einstein's Zurich notebook (and scientific creativity)

* Catholicism in space

* Marina Folescu on Thomas Reid's philosophy of mind at the IEP

* Charles C. Petersen on the great Byzantine military strategy handbook, the Strategikon.

Hanique, Part IV

A silence hung between us, and I narrowed my eyes. "What kind of game do you think you are playing here?" I asked.

"No games, Dr. Montgomery," he replied.

"Stop calling me Dr. Montgomery," I said; "that's not my name."

"As you wish," he said. "But it is important that you take all three pills -- not just the white, but also the red and yellow. Can we do that?" His arid face seemed sinister in the light from the window behind his desk, and I wondered what they would do to me if I refused.

"Yes," I said finally and cautiously.

"Good," he said with a brisk smile. He gestured at the professor of mathematics and the professor of biology. "Please take Dr. Montgomery back to his room."

They practically dragged me out of the chair and down the hell. At the door to my office there was some fumbling as the professor of mathematics had to try more than one key to open it. They pushed me inside and locked the door behind me, leaving me, no doubt, to think myself a patient in a madhouse.

But they made a mistake. As they dragged me from the chair in the Dean's office, I caught a good, clear glimpse of the quad outside the Dean's window, and the black helicopter in it. Clearly whoever it was that had stolen the copy of Vision of Two Souls by Catharine of Hanique had also suborned the Dean. The Dean, in turn, being a man of absolutely no imagination, had invented this nonsensical story of the pills.

Also, I had palmed the professor of biology's keys while the professor of mathematics was fumbling around with the door.

I sat down a moment, wondering how best to proceed. My head was aching a bit and I looked for an aspirin, but I could find none in the room and my pocket turned up nothing but some red and yellow buttons that had fallen off my shirt a few days before, which I had forgotten to sew back on. I just threw them in the trash; no time for them now.

Clearly the thing to do is to set out and find this mysterious Hanique and discover what happened to the missing book. It will be dangerous, no doubt; one can hardly expect people who fly around in black helicopters stealing books and bribing Deans to be safe. But that is a true academic life, to purse truth at all costs and regardless of the obstacles. And when I actually retrieve the book and lay bare the mystery! It will vindicate my life's research.

But it is, again, dangerous, so I realized that I needed to leave some record, so that the Dean and his goons in the biology and mathematics departments cannot have the last word. This, my dear reader, is the manuscript you have in hand; I had already started writing it, so it was suitable for leaving an exact and objective record of events as they have happened to me. I will hide it, I think, by the statue of St. Catharine of Bologna. If you read this, I hope that I will have already returned from Hanique with the fruits of my research! But if not, at least someone else knows of the adventure I have had, and perhaps can carry on the pursuit, so that one day the human race may know the mystery of St. Catherine of Boulagnon, which has come to be tied so strangely to the mystery of Hanique.

Sui Juris Churches XV: The Eritrean Catholic Church

(on sui juris churches in general)

Liturgical Family: Alexandrian

Primary Liturgical Language: Ge'ez

Juridical Status: Metropolitan

Approximate Population (to Nearest 10,000): 160,000

Brief History: The relationship of Eritrean Christianity to Ethiopian Christianity has always been complicated by the difficult relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Eritrea was converted to Christianity along with Ethiopia as part of the Kingdom of Aksum, but as Aksum's might waned, the kingdom of Medri Bahri rose; it was a Christian kingdom, and fought off the Adal Sultanate, but it was often in conflict with the Abyssinian Kingdom from which modern-day Ethiopia descends. In 1517 it temporarily became part of the Ottoman Empire; the Ottomans would eventually be driven out, but still remained a major influence until the coming of the Italians at the end of the nineteenth century. This Italian period, which lasted until the British threw the Italians out in 1941, saw the arrival of many Catholic missionaries. In 1930 an Ordinariate was established for Catholics in Eritrea, but it was a Latin Rite Ordinariate. In 1951, the British left, and the Ordinariate for Eritrea was abolished, replaced by an exarchate that was attached to the Ethiopian Catholic Church. In 1959 a separate Latin Rite Vicariate was established for Latin Rite Eritreans, and in 1961, Eritrea's status was raised from an exarchate to an eparchy.

Despite a strong desire for independence, the country was federated with Ethiopia under pressure from the United Nations; Emperor Haile Selassie would then forcibly annex the country in 1962. This led to a decades-long war until Eritrea finally established independence in 1993. In response to the independence, John Paul II reorganized the eparchial structure of the country and abolished the Latin Vicariate (which was, in any case, caring for a dwindling population), thus putting all Latin Rite Catholics under the authority of the Ethiopian Catholic bishops of Eritrea, making the nation the only nation in the world in which all Catholics regardless of rite are under the authority of Eastern Catholic bishops. In 2015, Francis detached the Eritrean eparchies from the Ethiopian Catholic Church and raised the eparchy of Asmara to a Metropolitan Archeparchy.

Notable Monuments: St. Joseph's Cathedral in Asmara.

Notable Saints: St. Justin de Jacobis (July 31); St. Frumentius (October 27); St. Kaleb Elesbaan of Axum (October 27).

Extent of Official Jurisdiction: The Archeparchy of Asmara and three suffragan eparchies, all in Eritrea. (Sphere of influence always extends beyond the official jurisdiction due to members of the church living outside of any official jurisdiction of the church.)

Online Sources and Resources:

Monday, May 25, 2015

Three Wombs

The Syriac fathers view Christ's redemptive work as resulting from his entry into three wombs: the womb of Mary, the waters of the Jordan, and the depths of sheol. (This very concept is affirmed in the Maronite Anaphora for the consecration of baptismal water when the celebrant states, "By your will, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, he abided in three places: in a womb of flesh, in the womb of baptism, and in the dark mansions of sheol.")

Seely Joseph Beggiani, Early Syriac Theology, Revised edition, CUA Press (Washington, D.C.: 2014) p. 41.

Hanique, Part III

I stared at him in bewilderment.

"Please sit down," the Dean said. "I always look forward to these talks, Dr. Montgomery." The smile on his face seemed permanently frozen.

I sat down, feeling nervous and edgy.

"I'm glad to have a chance to talk to you," I said. "I have made some recent discoveries that I need to talk to you about. The research may require travel funds."

"Discoveries?" The frozen smile somehow seemed slightly more frozen.

I began with the events of the conference and told him of my research since then.

"And you have drawn conclusions from this?"

"Conclusions?" I said angrily. "Conclusions? Getting conclusions from this evidential mess is impossible. Even to begin to get a hold on this problem, I'll need to go to Hanique myself and...."

"Where is this 'Hanique'?"

I was at a complete loss, suddenly realizing for the first time that I hadn't the faintest notion of where Hanique was located. The only evidence I had that it actually existed at all, and was not a corruption like 'Boulagnon' was usually assumed to be, as the obscure statement of the man at the conference. A man I could not contact, as I did not even know his name.

I was still caught up in the puzzle this presented when the voice of the Dean broke in.

"Dr. Montgomery," he asked, "have you been taking your medications?"

Startled by the odd, and rather insulting, question, I replied indignantly, "I don't take medications; I haven't had anything recently except a few aspirin."

"Aspirin," he said, the frozen smile turning suddenly into a frown. "Do you mean the white pills? You are only taking the white pills?"

"Aspirin are usually white," I replied sarcastically. "But I don't see what business it is of yours what I'm taking or not."

"And the others?"

"What others?"

"The red and the yellow pills," he replied. "What have you been doing with the red and yellow pills?"

"Look," I said. "You're just a Dean. You're not my doctor, so I don't understand why you keep talking about medications."

The frozen smile returned to the his face.

"Dr. Montgomery," the Dean said, "we both know that I am not the Dean."

I stared at him in bewilderment.

to be continued

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Fortnightly Book, May 24

The fortnightly book this time around will be Umberto Eco's third novel, The Island of the Day Before. It's unlikely to top The Name of the Rose or Foucault's Pendulum, the only fiction works by Eco that I've read (I've read a large portion of his nonfiction), and a look at critical reviews shows that most people think it hasn't come close, but as it's Eco one can be sure that there will be plenty in the book to like, whatever its shortcomings.

In the 1640s, Roberto della Griva finds himself shipwrecked and cast up, not on a deserted island but on a deserted ship. He's stuck there because although he can see land, he cannot swim. It is thus a Robinsonade with a twist. (Telegraphed by the name of the main character, who is doubly Robin-ish: Robin is a diminutive for Robert and 'Griva' is Catalan for a thrush, of which a robin is one kind; and the robin references are increased by other names, like Wanderdrossel, also a name for a thrush.) It, of course, would not be an Eco novel without also being a treatise on epistemology, and one can see just by glancing through that we have Eco's full toolbox of semiotic quirks and curiosities -- doppelgangers and lists and anachronistic allusions and endlessly many other things.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Marshall Terry, Tom Northway


Opening Passage:

When he awoke, a miraculous new dawn was just beginning to come up over the glazed white land and play and dance at his uncurtained window.He lay very still, for a long moment savoring the light, feeling through him the wonder of it. Once asleep, he had slept long and hard. Overslept, like an old fool.

Summary: Tom Northway, living alone on his Ohio farm with his dogs and with the help of his Amish neighbors, wakes up on his ninetieth birthday. It will be an eventful day, and the reader follows him through it. A worry throughout is that his son Ben is coming; Tom expects that Ben will find some way to force him off the farm where he has lived so much of his life.

There is not much story to pack into such a short time, and although almost the whole book is Tom reminiscing about his life, we don't really get a complete sense of that story, either. But the book, as the title might suggest, excels at character study, and that is perhaps the best way of thinking about the story. The Kirkus review for the book was surprisingly critical when it came out:

Marshall Terry (Old Liberty -- 1961) sets down in a low key, with consistency and constancy that does not reach for effects, a simple, modest life. One is left with the sense that perhaps it has been a little too simple to hold the reader's attentiveness.

I'm not sure that this is quite so, although it's easy enough to see why the reviewer might say this. The primary difficulty with the book is that it in some ways is very much like being stuck in a room with a voluble ninety-year-old rambling about his life for 186 pages. But I think this is an analogy that also shows the other side. Such a ramble is not uninteresting in itself; the difficulty with it is that it never quite gets to the point of explicitly binding it all together in a tight bundle -- the linking idea that, on being seen, would suddenly make it obvious that the associations between these different stories are rational is never quite stated, or the key event that would organize everything else into a meaningful whole is never quite reached. It's in trying to capture the whole that we are lost. The details may nonetheless be quite interesting -- and, again, there often is a real logic to the whole thing, that just needs to be sussed out by patience and thought. Tom Northway is an engaging enough character in his own right, and the book, while perhaps a little long for what it is doing, is nonetheless not interminable. You're really just sitting down to get to know Tom; and getting to know someone is not too simple to hold your attention -- it's a considerable part of what your attention seems to exist for in the first place. But it also takes an interest in getting to know Tom in the first place, and a little work and endurance actually to get to know him.

Favorite Passage:

He put a new sheet in the Oliver and began a letter to Ben.

Dear Ben,
You are a damn fool.

He looked at that. Then he wrote:

I love you very much.
Your father,
Thomas Northway (p. 160)

Recommendation: It takes a taste for characters over story, but it was enjoyable, and can be recommended for those who have it.


Quotations are from Marshall Terry, Tom Northway, Harcourt, Brace, & World, Inc. (New York: 1968).

Sui Juris Churches XIV: The Ethiopian Catholic Church

(on sui juris churches generally)

Liturgical Family: Alexandrian

Primary Liturgical Language: Ge'ez

Juridical Status: Metropolitan

Approximate Population: Between 200,000 and 400,000.

Brief History: Christianity in Ethiopia is very old, as witnessed by the story of the Ethiopian eunuch in the book of Acts, and beginning in the fourth century, when under the influence of St. Frumentius of Tyre, Emperor Ezana converted, the nation became an officially Christian nation. A large number of Ethiopian bishops, however, rejected the Council of Chalcedon, and for much of its history Ethiopia was essentially Coptic nation in its religious life, although they had different customs and used a different language from the Copts in Egypt.

In the late medieval period, however, Ethiopia came into contact with the West again, through the Portuguese, and tentative steps were taken by the West to reinstate communion. Most of these came to nothing, but Ethiopia was in a state of serious peril from the expansion of Islam, and in the sixteenth century, the Ethiopian Empire and the Adal Sultanate (roughly modern-day Somalia) came into direct and active conflict, with the Sultanate making massive gains in Abyssinian territory. Ethiopia appealed to the Portuguese for help, and the Portuguese came through with massive naval and arms support, turning an inevitable defeat into an Ethiopian victory. But the war left the Empire as well as the Sultanate in a weak and vulnerable state, and thus Ethiopia still depended heavily on the assistance of the Portuguese. This led to increased exposure to Western missionaries.

The missionary activity reached its pinnacle in 1622 when the Emperor Susenyos became Catholic; Rome appointed a Jesuit, Afonso Mendes, to be Patriarch of Ethiopia and Catholicism became the official religion of the Empire. But Mendes and Susenyos acted with a very heavy hand, creating a strong popular reaction to their new reforms, and the Emperor's son, Fasilides, took the side of the populace. When Fasilides took the throne, he began to restrict Catholic activity in his realm, and the Patriarch and a number of other foreign priests were exiled from the country. The union was broken, and for over two centuries the Ethiopians refused to allow Catholic missionaries into the country. These restrictions loosened, very slightly, in the 1830s, so that in 1839 the Apostolic Prefecture of Abyssinia was established and St. Justin de Jacobis began slowly to rebuild the Catholic Church in Ethiopia. One of the things he did was to require priests to celebrate in the Ethiopian Rite. When Emperor Menelik II took the throne, among his many modernizing reforms was to remove the restrictions on Catholic missions, and slow growth continued until the conquest of Ethiopia by Italy in the Second Italo-Ethiopian War, after which missionary activity increased, and the number of Latin Rite churches grew.

At the end of World War II, foreigners were expelled, however. This meant that there were a large number of Ethiopian Catholics of Latin Rite with no priests. The duties had to be taken over by Ethiopian priests who had kept their rite on conversion. To handle this complication, the church in Ethiopia was organized into an Apostolic Exarchate in 1951, and Addis Ababa was raised to the status of a Metropolitan see in 1961. There have since developed minor Latin Rite jurisdictions in Ethiopia, but it is still the case that the primary Catholic hierarchy in Ethiopia is Ethiopian Rite.

Notable Monuments: The Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Addis Ababa.

Notable Saints: St. Justin de Jacobis (July 31); St. Frumentius (October 27); St. Kaleb Elesbaan of Axum (October 27). (It is perhaps worth noting that St. Kaleb, who has been in the Roman Martyrology since the 16th century, lived during a period in which Ethiopia was not in communion with Rome.) There are also a number of beatified Ethiopians, such as Bl. Ghebre Michael, who may eventually end up on the general calendar.

Extent of Official Jurisdiction: Archeparchy of Addis Ababa and eparchies in Adigrat, Endibir, and Bahir Dar-Dessie. ( (Sphere of influence always extends beyond the official jurisdiction due to members of the church living outside of any official jurisdiction of the church.)

Online Sources and Resources:

Friday, May 22, 2015

Hanique, Part II

When I returned home I continued to be haunted by the events at the conference; so I did what any academic would do under such circumstances. I went to the library and began wading through books.

For days I researched fruitlessly, poring over tome after tome in a futile attempt to find traces of this Blessed Catharine of Hanique. I did find three small bits of evidence in an author named Daniel Livingston Montgomery. The first was a fragment from a Latin poem (author, unidentified; date, unidentified; provenance, the margin of an unidentified manuscript) that mentioned the phrase, radix Hanicae. The second was the identification of Catharine of Hanique's feast-day as May 9. The third was the attribution to her of the following statement:

En mathématique on ne doit regarder que le principe, en morale que la conséquence. L'une est une vérité simple, l' autre une vérité complexe.

But, as I am sure you can see, it was all nothing. The passage is not from Catharine of Hanique at all; it is from Chateaubriand. The ninth of May is the holiday of St. Catharine of Bologna, and no liturgical calendar, whether Roman, Ruthenian, Coptic, or Syrian, gives any day at all for Catharine of Hanique. I know nothing further about the Latin phrase; even assuming it is not mere fiction, I have no real context within which to place it. Three minor bits of evidence, three dead ends.

I did, however, make an interesting discovery in passing: none of the liturgical calendars I had consulted mentioned the feast-day of any St. Catharine of Boulagnon, either. The day I had usually heard given was the solemnity of another St. Catharine entirely, St. Catharine of Alexandria.

Sitting back, I puzzled over this new and unexpected problem. Who was this Catharine who kept stealing what belonged to other Catharines? And how had such an obvious error such as that of her feast-day gone unnoticed for so long?

I pondered the question for a quarter of an hour, then decided to take a walk in the quad. I passed the spiky, nondescript bushes outside by the steps, then walked past a statue -- as it happens, it was a statue of Catharine of Bologna, with the motto inscribed below it, "He has favored". I wandered around on the manicured grass for a bit, ignoring the "Do not walk on grass" signs, then returned to my office to ponder the question further. Alas, I had almost no time to think, because I was interrupted by the arrival of two of the Dean's thugs. I recognized them as a professor of biology and a professor of mathematics.

"Well, Dan," said the professor of mathematics, "it's time for your appointment."

"I am busy," I replied.

"Now, Dan," said the professor of biology, "let's not do this the hard way."

Sighing, I rose, and, flanked by the Dean's minions, walked to the Dean's office.

When I entered, the short, arid-looking man who was the Dean rose and said, "Good morning, Dan. I trust you are feeling well today."

to be continued

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Hanique, Part I

This is an old short story draft that I'm touching up a bit and completing.

It began, as all good adventures must, at an academic conference in the south of France. The conference was called "Saint Catharine of Boulagnon: Identity and Fragmentation in Transnational Memory", and I had attended to present my paper, "Misattribution of Identity: The Case of Catharine of Bourdeaux", which (of course) discussed the common conflation in the legends of Saint Catharine of Boulagnon and Catharine of Bordeaux. Catharine of Bordeaux, of course, was much later, and, far from being a mystic visionary, she was a merchant's wife around whom a minor folktale had developed about three pigs on a boat. The conflation was perhaps not unnatural. There are similarities between the two lives. Further, nobody knows where 'Boulagnon' is located. Indeed, the common view of the scholarship (but it is really just an educated guess) is that 'Boulagnon' is a textual corruption for some other name; which other name is a matter of considerable dispute.

After I had given my paper at the conference, which was politely received although not, if the questions were any indication, correctly understood, I noticed an earnest young man dogging my steps. He was dressed all in black, rather like a valet, looking odd and out of place in this conference of staid and stuffy academics. He seems, however, to have been one of the presenters, and well known to several others attending the conference. I did not quite catch his name (it sounded vaguely like Dr. Personne, which I doubt is right); but I believe he delivered a paper on the confusion of identities between Saint Catharine of Boulagnon and another Catharine, Catharine of Hanique. I did not attend that paper, because I was eating brunch at the time, but I think he was the one who delivered it based on some comments he made. When I had tired a bit of idle conversation and had moved away from the main mass of chattering academics, he urgently beckoned for me to come with him into a quiet, empty side-room.

"I enjoyed your paper," he said. "I think you are the only one here who could appreciate this as it should be appreciated." He took a small box out of his satchel, and, opening it, carefully produced a book of exquisite make, an incunabulum which had been carefully illuminated to look as if it had been hand-produced. It was small and leather-bound, fitting comfortably into the hand; the spine was about an inch-and-a-half thick. I was not familiar with the typography of the Latin script, but it strongly reminded me of fifteenth-century English print; in particular, a late fifteenth-century edition of Christine de Pisan's The Fayte of Armes and Chyvalrye.

"What is it?" I asked.

"It is a family heirloom," he said. "This book appears to be the only remaining copy of the Vision of Two Souls, by Catharine of Hanique."

"Catharine of Hanique?"

"Yes. The Blessed Catharine of Hanique was the stepsister of Saint Catharine of Boulagnon, or so she claims. They had the same father, but different mothers. The two are often conflated; all the achievements of Catharine of Hanique are attributed to Catharine of Boulagnon. It has been one of the foremost obstacles to her canonization. While I am not Catholic myself, my family had a long history of advocating her cause, which is how this came into my hands."

"It seems like a priceless discovery," I said neutrally, in the useful tone scholars use when talking to people on subjects about which they know nothing, the one that manages not to convey that they know nothing about it.

"Indeed. Not only is it the primary evidence for the distinction of Catharine of Hanique from Catharine of Boulagnon, there is reason to believe it was printed in 1441 by Janszoon Koster, which would make it one of the earliest printed books."

I was naturally very skeptical of such a claim, since it did not seem likely that anyone reasonable would carry a book that significant in a box in a satchel. It would be unprofessional. But I did not have time to express my skepticism because, as the man held the book out to me to show an exquisitely illuminated capital, a man in a mask rushed out of a dark adjoining room, grabbed the book, and sped away.

Without thinking, I ran after the thief. Across the lobby, out the door, and across the field we ran. Although he was fast, and had the headstart that surprise had given him, I was catching up to him. Alas, I could not catch him; for in the middle of the field was a black helicopter. He jumped in and it rose into the air, carrying away the priceless book by Catharine of Hanique.

I returned to report the sad matter to the earnest young man. "Ah," he said sadly, "they have taken it to Hanique." And he would say no more. I began to be somewhat suspicious.

to be continued