Friday, September 10, 2004

Say Ellis…

A quote that combines your interests in Travels With Charley and epidemiology:

    The Morgan Library has a very fine eleventh-century Lancelot in perfect condition. I was going over it one day and turned to the rubric of the first known owner dated 1221, the rubric a squiggle of very thick ink. I put a glass on it and there imbedded deep in the ink was the finest crab louse, pfiththira pulus, I ever saw. He was perfectly preserved even to his little claws. I knew I would find him sooner or later because people of that period were deeply troubled with lice and other little beasties - hence the plague. I called the curator over and showed him my find and he let out a cry of sorrow. "I've looked at that rubric a thousand times," he said. "Why couldn't I have found him?"

A plaintive archivist, innit. Of course, Steinbeck intends Pthirus pubis, pubic lice. Judging from the photo, they're quite the acrobats. Anyway, I'm off to comb my local library....


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