Artifact Aura: A Follow-Up to the Previous Post

An instance that has stayed vivid  in my memory over the years took place in the rare books library at Harvard. I knew that they possessed the manuscript of my favorite poem, John Keats’s To Autumn; so, with the chutzpah of the young, I walked in and asked a librarian to bring it out for me to look at. After filling out forms and donning plastic gloves, they brought it for me to hold, behold, and wonder:




The manuscript in my hands was (in the words of Stefan Zweig) “one of those poems which from the minute that the inspiration found its first earthly realization, started on its way to eternity.”

An unromantic realist might object: “The artifact has no aura. It’s all in the mind.”

To which I readily agree: “Yes, that’s true. An artifact of great significance is a mirror as well as a window.”