Press Review

Tablets of Chanteroels
Le Manuscrit apocryphe

The Apocryphal manuscript

Lettrissimus Historica (No 254 – January 2002)

Alsace. After starting up the construction work of a housing estate, named “les Chanteroels” (because of the prolific eponymous mushroom – in local dialect – growing there), a first stone covered with signs had been dug out by a mechanical shovel in September 2001. In the weeks that followed, twenty or so additional tablets were unearthed. As the months went by, the experts understood that they should question the discovery. In fact, a text that nobody as yet has been able to decipher lies hidden in the stones.

From the tablets to the apocryphal manuscript. For the last few weeks, the most troubling evidence has shed new light on the brainteaser. Some epigraphic extracts or gloss appearing on the tablets seem to categorically echo the ideograms of a text preserved under seal among the ancient works of the Dominicans’ Cloister in Colmar and called the apocryphal manuscript. What do we know about this work? The characters used are strikingly similar to the writing of certain tags or other contemporary urban graffiti. This similarity comes at the right time as it adds on to a linguistic theory said to be transversalist but strongly deplored all the same.

A historical account of the discovery. Like André Breton and Aragon, who discovered the only known copy of Les Chants de Maldoror , stored at the National Library, Francis Gut, the curator of the Dominicans’ Cloister of Colmar, found a manuscript among 8th-century works. It seemed to him that it was closely linked to tags or contemporary logos rather than to the caroline writing of the incunabula covering the shelves of the venerable institution in his care. The manuscript in question might also have passed through the Humanistic Library of Selestat (France, Alsace) as well as those of Kassel and Mayence (Germany) that had it in their possession for some time. Thus, Erasmus, and four centuries later, the Grimm brothers may have been the first scholars to hold the work in their own hands. As for the adjective “apocryphal”, it may come from the fact that the manuscript shows characters that do not belong to any formal canon. If the text can be decoded some day in the future, it would not be surprising to find that the word applies mostly to its content. Unsurprisingly, most exegetes of the manuscript are rather in favor of the transversalist thesis, suddenly and unexpectedly supported by the book.

Transversalism. It is a particular way of understanding the language, which some people had hastily shelved owing to a dying post-structuralism movement, still steeped in former certainties though. This conjecture actually implies that civilizations go through the same stages of evolution, which they would recognize, over and over again. In other words, the Homo Sapiens would tend to formally reproduce, in time of need, the archetypes of his ancestor, the Homo Erectus, the venerable senescent who did not yet know how to write. What’s more, he would have borrowed the process from his own ascendant, the Homo Habilis…