Damn It Feels Good to be an Encyclopedist

Pliny, Natural History (Preface)

“Moreover, the path is not a road trod down by authors nor one on which the mind would seek to wander. There is no one among us who has attempted the same ting, no one among the Greeks who managed all of these studies alone. Most of us seek the pleasant parts of our studies: but those things, handled by others, are said to be of immense subtlety, and are pressed down by the dark shadows of the material. Before all, one must deal with what the Greeks call encyclopedic education, and yet they are either unknown or made uncertain by the great minds; other subjects have been published by so many that they have been led to the point of scorn.

It is a hard thing to give novelty to ancient things, authority to new things, splendor to the obsolete, light to the obscure, charm to the stale, trust to the doubtful, and indeed nature to all things and all things to their nature. And it is damn fine and magnificent to have wished to do so, even if one does not succeed.”

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Praeterea iter est non trita auctoribus via nec qua peregrinari animus expetat. nemo apud nos qui idem temptaverit, nemo apud Graecos, qui unus omnia ea tractaverit. magna pars studiorum amoenitates quaerimus; quae vero tractata ab aliis dicuntur inmensae subtilitatis, obscuris rerum tenebris premuntur. ante omnia attingenda quae Graeci τῆς ἐγκυκλίου παιδείας vocant, et tamen ignota aut incerta ingeniis facta; alia vero ita multis prodita, ut in fastidium sint adducta.

Res ardua vetustis novitatem dare, novis auctoritatem, obsoletis nitorem, obscuris lucem, fastiditis gratiam, dubiis fidem, omnibus vero naturam et naturae suae omnia. itaque etiam non assecutis voluisse abunde pulchrum atque magnificum est.

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