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Incunabula

March 21st, 2008

Incunabulapl., noun

  1. extant copies of books produced in the earliest stages (before 1501) of printing from movable type.
  2. The earliest stages or first traces of anything.

I happened upon the word while translating an obituary for the Count Gaston de Marchant d’Ansembourg, with whom my friend Patrick and I stayed several nights while backpacking Europe in June of 1999. Here’s my attempt at translating this .pdf

Count Gaston de Marchant d’Ansembourg died at the age of 68 this past weekend [ed. – March 27, 2007] while in France. He had never fully recovered from a stroke [ed. “l’attaque cérébrale” could be an aneurysm?) he had suffered several months prior. The Count lived with his wife Beatrixe de Brabandere with whom he had three children – Vinciane (42), Gaston-Gaëtan (28) and Susan (22) – in the Chateau d’Ansembourg, dating to the 12 century, et worked as a business consultant/economic advisor. At one time the Count also owned a 17th Century Chateau, which he had sold to a Japanese sect, Sukyo Mahikari. His death brings to question the future of the library of that chateau, a library comprised of six thousand works, including nearly one thousand incunabula. The State was planning to acquire the library and had been in negotiations with the Count prior to his death. Experts are now charged with determining the library’s value.

I was previously not aware of his death, but then, our paths had crossed only briefly.

I have fond memories of exploring the 10th century castle adjacent to the farmhouse in which he lived (built in the mid 18th century), enjoying a morning cup of coffee overlooking the valley, touring the grounds of the Château, dining in some of Luxembourg’s brasseries and finer establishments, and watching the fireworks in celebration of Luxembourg’s national holiday. Gaston was one of the most hospitable people with whom I’ve ever become acquainted, always quick to remind us that our money was no good in Luxembourg. Patrick and I had always talked about taking him up on his offer to “come and visit anytime!”

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