An Expedition In Rare Books

My name is Arnoldia Pienaar. I am a student from South Africa. Last year, I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Languages and Literary studies from North-West University in Potchefstroom. My two main subjects were English and French.

I have always loved languages; learning them, speaking them, listening to them, and especially reading about them.

In fact, I love reading and books in general. Thus, a Master’s degree in Rare Books and Digital Humanities made a lot of sense to me. For me, it is about the evolution of ideas and human thought. It is where all the disciplines meet: anthropology, philosophy, archaeology, languages, politics, religion, and morality. All those complex aspects of humanity that make us so wonderfully difficult to understand.

Although, I have come to realize that a desire to understand is only the motivation, not the goal. In retrospect, it is the process of discovery that brings joy and a sense of purpose to the intellectual mind. At least in my own experience.

That is why I chose to pursue this degree. Because I have an appetite for exploration, discovery, and knowledge that has not yet been satisfied. Because I want more.

I have kept my expectations for this course deliberately open and flexible. I have adopted the uncertain but eager mindset of someone with a one-way plane ticket, not sure of the destination but excited for the journey. What I am certain about, is that it will lead to new insights and discoveries, that I will learn more about this world and the humans in it and even more about myself, and that it will open up avenues for career development that I can get excited about. To me, those are thrilling prospects.

The part of this course that piqued my interest, and for which I am the most excited is the conservation and digitization of books. I think the benefit of our species is our ability to reflect on the past in order to create a better, more appropriate, and more fulfilling narrative for the future. I see book conservation, digitization, and accessibility, as well as digital humanities projects as a tool in humankind’s process of self-actualization. I can see myself working in a library to contribute to this process.

So far, I am grateful that this course has pushed me to consider perspectives and possibilities that I would never have considered, and that it has put me in touch with a fascinating world of knowledge about the history of the book and writing.

This is my expedition. Coming to France to complete this master’s course was only the first part, and yet I already have something to take away from the experience so far. You do not need to move an inch in order to see the world and experience different cultures. If you can read, you can do almost anything.

Made with in our Tools For Rare Books class. Image: taken by Dulce Moreno, de re militari, 1472, in Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, Paris.