Preface to The Bible of Amiens

   There is a trait in the physiognomy of Ruskin whose excellence is not immediately evident since the pleasure it gives us derives over much from what we feel in regard to the man rather than to the truth or to a certain part, or a certain aspect of the truth, it is a species of originality as for example in a book about Giotto of Padua in which each painting in the Arena is given its own particular description, but which has only one illustration. This single illustration placed opposite a description of Giotto's Baptism of Christ does indeed portray the baptism of Christ, but certainly not the one by Giotto, rather one from an illuminated missal that is quite anterior to Giotto. In The Bible of Amiens, a work devoted to Amiens cathedral, there are three illustrated plates. The first shows a Virgin of Cimabue, the second a View of the Somme. The third alone shows a porch of the cathedral but before its restoration and which is not described in the book. In St. Mark's Rest the most important parts of St. Mark's are not described, yet there is a whole chapter devoted to a medallion that is certainly not a metre square and which is quite ordinary. (Ruskin in any case did not suggest the contrary).

   I have preceded this translation of The Bible of Amiens with an Introduction, the greater part of which merely reproduces the articles I submitted to the Mercure de France and the Gazette des Beaux-Arts at the time of Ruskin's death. I have accompanied the text of The Bible of Amiens with notes, every time it aroused, by some remote but striking analogy, a memory of a page read in another of Ruskin's works, that is to say perpetually. By so doing I have in some way improvised for the reader a kind of factitious memory, filled with the sensations that Ruskin gives us, a kind of sounding board where the very words of The Bible of Amiens can take on a deeper reverberation and discover fraternal echoes throughout all of Ruskin's works. These echoes do not respond unfortunately at the various distances that little by little our past has measured itself, from sometimes almost indistinct distances, passing through the whole atmosphere of the life we have lived and which is all the poetry of memory.

   Without any doubt when talking to a person for the first time, we discern in that person the traits that are unique to them. But it is only through repetition (not identical of course) that we recognize in these unique traits those that are essential to that person. With these notes I allow the reader, at every word Ruskin tells him, to be carried back as if to earlier conversations had with him, to disengage from these traits those resemblances [text interrupted

Manuscript sketch of the Preface in NAF 16617.


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