Tuesday, October 23, 2007

My Library

Inspired by librarything, I decided to start an occasional series of blog entries featuring “Random Books from My Library.” The first selection – let me say at the onset – is not random. The book was not chosen for its literary merits, either, or its appeal to collectors. It was chosen simply for its value to me. It’s a first edition of Olof Rudbeck’s Atlantica (1679).

Readers of Finding Atlantis will remember this as the first volume of Rudbeck’s massive attempt to prove that the fabled lost world of Atlantis was actually in Sweden (Yes, that Atlantis and yes, that Sweden.). And Rudbeck became so convinced of his theory that he would soon challenge any thinker to Europe to come to the north and prove him wrong. He would pay the expenses.

Olof Rudbeck was – I should add at this point – a pioneering physician who discovered the lymphatic system (as a teenager) and then became embroiled in a bitter priority dispute with Thomas Bartholin. He was also an anatomist, botanist, architect, engineer, surgeon, painter, astronomer, inventor, shipbuilder, singer, composer, mapmaker, fireworks maker, prankster and general loose cannon around town. All those skills and experiences were brought to his search, and it was one wild ride.

The work, at first only 900 pages, swelled to four and a half volumes and some 2,500 pages of “evidence” he found of the lost Atlantis of ancient Sweden. By the end of the thirty year quest, Rudbeck had believed that he had found not only Atlantis, but also virtually every major god, hero, or other figure of classical Greek and Norse mythology - and they were all Swedes. Mount Olympus, Asgard, and even the Kingdom of Hades were all in Sweden. I read every word of the bulky work, which prompted more than a few of my Swedish friends to wonder who was more obsessed, Rudbeck or me. At any rate, I will begin my library series with the Atlantica, very soon, that is, as soon as I have a decent photograph of the book to post.