One of the greatest amusements always supplied by the study of history is the humbling, and somehow never ending surprise, that the world continues to roll along just as it always has before no matter who rules it or what anarchy runs rampant. The sky once fell asleep under Napoleon’s watch in purples and pinks, Joan of Arc likely haggled over the price of food with a man too full of his own goods to see who stood before him, a young Julius Caesar perhaps cried tears from the lonely corners of his presently squelched ambitions, and a copy typist monk was forced to confess that a cat peed on his homework.
Most fortunate for us, the latter has recently been proven true. The tagline for this blog starts by saying, “Believing history is an adventure” and I stand by that no less than when I first wrote it, especially when jewels like this are discovered. A 15th century Deventer (Netherlands) monk was working hard on his manuscript and left it unattended for the night, (the story writer in me would love to leave the real reason it was left unattended to your imagination and mine), and in his absence one of the local mousing cats with an ego all too familiar to modern cat owners, decided that the crispy pages full of carefully written words was most desirable and so marked it as their own by peeing on it. Upon his return to his project, the monk was so distressed that he excused his newly fouled page for all of history, not as a clumsy fault of his own but of the cat, by drawing accusing hands to the affected area, drawing a small portrait of the accused, cursing the cat and his co-conspirators, and leaving a lesson for posterity which most of us have figured out the hard way on our own: don’t leave your homework out for the animals to abuse.
Hic non defectus est, sed cattus minxit desuper nocte quadam. Confundatur pessimus cattus qui minxit super librum istum in nocte Daventrie, et consimiliter omnes alii propter illum. Et cavendum valde ne permittantur libri aperti per noctem ubi cattie venire possunt.
Which translates as:
Here is nothing missing, but a cat urinated on this during a certain night. Cursed be the pesty cat that urinated over this book during the night in Deventer and because of it many others [other cats] too. And beware well not to leave open books at night where cats can come.
You can check out the original article here and share in the poor monk’s pain by laughing with him, not at him 😉