Centuries ago, a mischievous cat immortalized itself by leaving its inky paw-prints on a medieval document.
In 2013, while researching in the State Archives of Dubrovnik, Croatia, a doctoral student at the University of Sarajevo, Emir O. Filipović, stumbled upon the paw prints on the pages of a 15th-century book.
Filipović describes his discovery:
It is a pleasant and heartwarming experience to see a photo I took receive so much positive attention from so many people in different parts of the globe. It has now been re-blogged, re-tweeted, shared and commented on so many times that I cannot keep track of it all, and the story has been covered in English, Russian, Japanese, Greek, Romanian, French, Hebrew, to name just the ones that I saw.
But why could a simple photo of cat paw prints on a medieval manuscript become so popular on the Internet? Do manuscripts and felines make a good combination, or can this popularity be ascribed to the fact that many contemporary cat owners identify themselves with the unfortunate medieval scribe? ….
My story line follows a simple path: I was doing some research in the Dubrovnik State Archives for my PhD, I came across some pages which were stained with cat paw prints, I took a few photos of this (as I do whenever I notice something interesting or unusual on any old book I’m reading), and carried on with my work not paying too much attention to something which at that time could essentially be only a distraction….
[A] truly positive aspect of the story, beside the obvious worldwide promotion of the State Archives of Dubrovnik, is that the document with the paw prints is going to be featured in the Interactive Album of Medieval Paleography, which is maintained by Dr. Marjorie Burghart in Lyon, France. This will, hopefully, allow students and other medieval historians to familiarize themselves with the kind of documents which I have been working on during these last couple of years. Apart from that, another advantage of the photo is that I got an opportunity to share the other interesting bits and pieces I found in Dubrovnik/Ragusa, a truly remarkable place on the eastern coast of the Adriatic….
The photo of the cat paw prints represents one such situation which forces the historian to take his eyes from the text for a moment, to pause and to recreate in his mind the incident when a cat, presumably owned by the scribe, pounced first on the ink container and then on the book, branding it for the ensuing centuries. You can almost picture the writer shooing the cat in a panicky fashion while trying to remove it from his desk. Despite his best efforts the damage was already complete and there was nothing else he could have done but turn a new leaf and continue his job. In that way this little episode was ‘archived’ in history.
Read the rest of Filipović’s account here.
Dubrovnik, a Croatian city and seaport on the Adriatic Sea with a 2011 population of 42,615, is one of the most prominent tourist destinations in the Mediterranean Sea.
Emir O. Filipović is now a lecturer in medieval Bosnian history at the University of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Better than Drudge Report. Check out Whatfinger News, the Internet’s conservative frontpage founded by ex-military!