Reading a book in antiquity was no easy task. Not because literacy was hard to come by (though it was), but because books were so awfully unwieldy. They were written on papyrus, usually without spaces between the words or punctuation and then rolled around two wooden rods. To read the text, you held the roll in the right hand and unrolled with the left until the end. To reread it, you had to first unroll the whole thing back to the right. If you wanted to find a specific passage quickly, good luck. You were your own search engine. The fourth-century saw the development of the codex, the forerunner of the modern book, but this made locating information only somewhat easier. It wasn’t until the early modern period that the motto of the pre-Google, Latin-speaking world of letters—statim invenire, “to find immediately”—could be said to have any meaning.

By the statim invenire standard, The...


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