November 2015 | Nate Pedersen

The Longest Book at the Fair

The award for the longest--and perhaps for the oddest--book at the Boston Antiquarian Book Fair this weekend goes to an 800-foot manuscript scroll of La Fontaine's Fables. Carried to these shores by English bookseller Justin Croft, the La Fontaine scroll was transcribed by an unknown person sometime around the turn of the 19th century, presumably from a printed copy.

The complete text of La Fontaine's Fables is written out--by hand, it's worth stressing--on two thin strips of paper, which the reader can gradually unfurl as she progresses through the manuscript. Half way through the work, the reader must "rewind" to the beginning to commence reading on line two. Owing to the enormous length of the two strips, which combine to a total of over 800 feet, only the two lines of text are required for the entire transcription.

What inspired the transcriber to embark on this project and how she managed to produce the free time necessary for its completion remain entirely a mystery.

Justin Croft can be found at the Boston Antiquarian Book Fair this weekend November 13-15. The La Fontaine scroll is priced at £4,000 ($6,000). 

[Image from Justin Croft]