Thursday, June 18, 2009

Manuscript of Albertus Magnus found in Cologne Archive ruins

An ancient textbook detailing the animal kingdom has been rediscovered in the ruins of a German archives which collapsed into rubble three months ago, the chief archivist said Wednesday. In a heritage loss not seen since World War Two bombing, a pothole opened March 3 under the Cologne City Archives, containing one millenium of original historical records. About 85 per cent were sifted from the rubble.

"De Animalibus," a manuscript by the great medieval friar and scientist Albertus Magnus, lists 477 animals and classifies them by their means of getting around: on four legs, swimming, flying or snakewise.

"We found it a few days ago in a bin of salvaged pieces from the site," said archives spokeswoman Claudia Tiggemann in the western city. "It's complete, not ripped apart. It's still bound together."

The book is one of two manuscripts the archives owns by Albertus Magnus (1200-1280), often considered the greatest German medieval scholar. The other was recovered earlier.

In the jumble of concrete and dust, some documents survived battered but intact, while others were reduced to pulp. Recombining all the damp scraps of paper may take decades and cost tens of millions of euros, experts warn.

Hundreds of unpaid archivists from all over Europe have helped sort the rubble. The archives said the volunteer project would terminate at the end of this week, with most of the first-aid stage complete.