Tomes, Travels, and Tribulations: My Hunt for Classical Antiquities
Many people are familiar with the story of Ali Baba and the cave. A poor woodcutter finds the key to untold riches. However, those who have read the story will remember that it is much more complicated than that and how much danger he faces at every turn.
As odd as it may sound, such experiences and treasures are not impossible to find nowadays. People always obsess about the cave: How big would it be? How many jewels would I find inside? What sorts of marvellous treasures would exist within?
Finding the cave is easy, you’re looking at it.
I’m here to give you the key.
The internet, at least from the perspective of a treasure-hunter, is a seemingly boundless mix of brilliance and stupidity. As harsh as it may sound, your job is to find the former in the latter. There are many people in the world who possess unimaginable things and yet don’t have the faintest clue what they are. Inheritance is a wonderful thing.
Whilst I haven’t dodged projectiles while running for a seaplane like Indiana Jones, I have certainly found myself in the middle of various governments vying for control of artefacts. Though my ability to climb would fall far short of Lara Croft’s expertise, my language skills have definitely been put to the test and have acquired me my most prized items.
These days it is easy to be an armchair collector and use simple purchasing methods to buy things you like the look of. There are two problems with this. Firstly, you will pay an absolute fortune as the people you are buying from will know exactly what it is that they are selling. Secondly, and more importantly, you may get things you like but you won’t get the things that you truly desire, especially if, like me, you enjoy the chase as much as the prize itself.
For example, a friend of mine in the United States is an antiquarian book dealer, and sells his books for very reasonable prices. He is selling a copy of Phaedrus’ fables for $675. I acquired the same copy in far better condition for twenty pounds. John Oldmixon’s book, ‘The Life and History of Belisarius’ exists in physical form in only two places in the entire world. One is in the British library and one is on my desk at home. Through Christie’s and Sotheby’s, tiny fragments of papyrus are regularly sold at auction for prices exceeding $15,000, often pushing upwards of $50,000. Hearing that a huge segment of papyrus could be bought for a total of less than £100 must sound impossible. It is not.
The trick is travel.
You don’t need to go far, perhaps just to the bookshop down the road, maybe the museum that your parents used to take you to when you were younger and had no clue or interest in what you were seeing. Start to build up a knowledge of books and their authors. Start building a database of names and periods for archaeological finds. Translating these into other languages such as French, Spanish and German will widen the array of your findings.
If you can travel abroad, even better. Europe, in my experience, is where you are most likely to strike gold, but don’t be afraid to look in other places too. A great deal of interesting material made its way to the New World centuries ago just waiting to be rediscovered.
If nothing else, visiting other countries will teach you a great deal about the world, its various cultures, and how weird and wonderful people can be.
One important thing to be aware of, however, is that you must be careful when bringing such artefacts and books out of certain countries. I had to learn the hard way. France and Germany, for example, are easy, Italy is complicated, Greece is impossible, and Turkey… well Turkey is an entirely different ball game.
To summarise, here are a number of lessons that I learned from my hunts and travels:
· Crossing the land border into Albania can be a scary undertaking. By boat it’s simply terrifying.
· It is easier than one thinks to get detained and interrogated on the border of America, even aged 16.
· Something as harmless as a book can cause an international dispute.
· Things even more harmless can still have the same effect.
· Governments hate collectors.
You may be wondering with legitimate concern, what is my end goal for all of this?
I have painstakingly written out a list of all the thousands of Latin and Greek authors (spanning all the way up until 1453 when Constantinople fell), and my objective is to someday have copies of all of their works.
If you’d like to know more, leave a comment below or message me. I’m more than happy to tell you more about what I do and how you can do it too.
Who knows, if you really like the sound of what I say I can always take you with me!
Adventure is only a few clicks away…