Touring the Meritt Library: The Meritt Notebooks

This post is adapted from materials originally on the Krateros Instagram page. The posts there ran from November 9 – November 25, 2020.

November 9, 2020: The last few days we’ve had the most gorgeous weather here in southern New Jersey – blue skies dotted with fluffy clouds; warm, sunny days; calm, cool nights. Let’s take this opportunity to relax and reset a bit. Come join us for a stroll into our home before the winter chill arrives and we settle down with more squeezes by the rattling radiators.

A grassy path to Fuld Hall at IAS, lined by tall trees in their colorful fall splendor

Take a stroll past the same trees that watched over Einstein and Gödel, glance up at the Institute bell tower, and then pop in to the epigraphical laboratory of the IAS, often referred to as the Meritt Library.

The iconic bell tower atop Fuld Hall

We’re more than just a squeeze collection, so while you’re here let’s take a look at some of the other resources that the Meritt Library has to offer.

The interior of the Meritt Library. At left is the edge of the shelves holding the squeeze collection proper, and in the center of the image are Krateros scanners and computers

November 11, 2020: First on the docket are the epigraphical notebooks of Professor Meritt himself: a series of 36 binders full of Meritt’s thoughts on the inscriptions unearthed in the excavation of the ancient Athenian Agora by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.

These notes can take a variety of forms, and in the next few posts we’ll be checking out three different types. First of all, we see with some regularity pages like that for Agora I 6018 (a fragment which has not yet been published), on which Meritt simply comments “too small”. Sometimes we don’t even get “too small”, just a laconic “NO”, or the classic completely blank page as you see for Agora I 6034 (also unpublished, but we’re not exactly leaking any secrets with this page).

November 13, 2020: Continuing our series on the Meritt notebooks, we come to the entry on Agora I 6026. This fragment was not published until after Meritt’s death, and so the notebook page for it contains an initial study that might later be worked up for publication: Meritt has drawn the inscribed face of the squeeze and made initial conclusions about the letters surviving there.

Before an inscription would be ready for publication, Meritt would usually add to his notebook (a) excavation information about the fragment; (b) bibliographical information if it (or other relevant stones) had been treated previously; and (c) ideas for letters/words to be restored in the gaps left on the stone.

November 16, 2020: The first example of what Meritt’s more extensive notes looked like is Agora I 6022. You will see that most of the notes here are archaeological, rather than epigraphic in nature: the place and date of the find, the exact dimensions of the stone, the type of marble, the layout of the stone and inscription.

Beneath that material are written the letters on the stone, this time without the sketch of the stone itself that we saw with Agora I 6026. There are also a few bibliographical notes: that Geagan wrote up and published the fragment, and that he associated it with several other fragments listed by their EM (Epigraphic Museum) or Agora numbers.

November 23, 2020: Next in our Meritt Notebook series we have Agora I 6013. In this instance we lack the archaeological notes, but we not only have the letters written out, we also have prospective reconstructions of the missing letters, indicated with different colors and square brackets. Here again there are bibliographical notes, including the date when the fragment was written up and the date when it was published, as well as a related publication of D.M. Robinson and a prosopographical note about one of the names from the text.

November 25, 2020: We wrap up the Meritt notebooks with Agora I 6012. This rather full page includes archaeological notes at the bottom, letters at the top, bibliographical notes about when it was written up (by BDM, Benjamin Dean Meritt) and published, and perhaps most interestingly an additional set of notes in the middle.

These middle notes include theorized restorations and a quotation from a German publication, and they are signed G.A.S. – probably the Greek epigraphist George Stamires, who was a member in the School of Historical Studies at the IAS from 1948 to 1953, before becoming a research assistant here.

Subsequent to these Instagram posts, the wonderful Angelos Matthaiou informed us that George Stamires had his own almost identical set of epigraphic notebooks, which he donated to the Greek Epigraphic Society shortly before his death. Hopefully we can compare the two sets of notebooks in the future!

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