In his short story “On Exactitude in Science,” Jorge Luis Borges imagines a guild of Renaissance cartographers so committed to precision that they created a 1:1 scale map where “the kingdom was the size of the kingdom.” Later cartographers found such obsessiveness absurd and destroyed the map, but its fragments littered the realm, “providing shelter for beggars and animals.”
An obvious statement: This book should not have been published. Well, perhaps this is not so obvious. Go Set a Watchman was a success from one point of view, which is the one of making money, and that is probably all that matters. We have been informed by Lee’s lawyer, Tonja Carter, that a third manuscript may have also appeared (more accurately, another draft of Mockingbird). For anyone who is concerned about Lee’s papers being carefully treated after her death, Go Set a Watchman and the subsequent announcement of a potential third book are both cause for alarm.
The Westminster library of the 17th-century antiquary Sir Robert Cotton was organized in a highly eccentric manner. Cotton used busts of Roman luminaries—Julius, Cleopatra, Augustus, Vitellius, and so on—to mark his shelves. Here, placed, perhaps inauspiciously, under Nero was a manuscript that contained four poems, all, it would seem, by the same author: an elegy in the form of a dream vision, a homiletic narrative illustrated with examples from Genesis and Daniel, a paraphrase of the Book of Jonah, and a chivalric romance. For centuries, no mention is made of Pearl, Cleanness, Patience, or Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, as we now call them, in the works of English bibliographers.