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April 2017

- True Treasures -

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Book Fair in Abu Dhabi: it was our last day of the fair and I took the opportunity for a look round. “If you like a book, you can also pick it up and have a read,” the employee of a large Austrian antiquarian bookseller's said to me kindly. “Honestly, I'd actually like to paint the old books,” I replied. “They look so beautiful.” -  “No problem,” he said, “but in the showcases?” - “No,” I used the chance to express my heartfelt desire, “preferably stacked and a small open book with an illustration.” I smiled somewhat embarrassed - and was glad when the young Antiquarian nodded approvingly.

During my exam work in history, I had experienced the feeling of uncovering hidden treasures, when I discovered an unpublished letter by Georg Forster in the library archives. And now I experienced it happening again, when I looked at my motif whilst I was painting. Not with the small handbook with animal cuttings, nor with the large thick band with a fascinating woodworm channel, but it happened with the outwardly quite insignificant ‘Petit Voyages’ by Théodore de Bry. The volume was from the beginning of the 17th century and is a collection of texts from the early journeys of discovery to Africa, India and South Asia, supplemented by maps and drawings. As soon as I unfolded the first folded sheet of paper, my breath stopped. Here, unheard-of events were depicted, with many images full of intensity, which in their entirety told a story - page by page. I had found a treasure, that was clear to me!

In the evening, when I was going to show these volumes to my son Bruno, they were already packed, for the fair was over. “Next year, maybe you'll be lucky and the ‘Petit Voyages’ will be there again.” The young antiquarian said goodbye. “If I had three wishes,” I told Bruno, “these books would be one of them!” “Oh, you're joking,” he said, looking at me incredulously. “Yes, seriously. I would even take classes to refresh my Latin, so I can read the texts.”-  “Oh Mama!” Bruno shook his head amused. “Your head is always full of ideas!” - “No,” I said more to myself, “for me these are the true treasures.”

 

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