Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Cathedrals: Who Paid?

Here's a find, in a Brussels bookstore: L'argent des cath├ędrals, "The Money of Cathedrals," previously unknown to me, by one Henry Kraus, also new to me. It's apparently a translation of something called Gold was the Mortar: the Economics of Cathedral Building, published in 1979.   From the Amazon page, I gather the American version is out of print.  From frontal notes I infer that a French translation was first published in 1991.  My copy seems to be the same translation but in a newly minuted paperback edition from Les Edition du Cerf, published just this year.  Kraus (Amazon again) "was a labor historian, and European art historian. ... He was an organizer of the Flint Sit-Down Strike ...  He moved to Paris, and worked as a European correspondent for World Wide Medical News Service."  It's a topic about which I've long had a desultory curiosity; up to now my learning has been pretty much limited to what I can draw from Wiki.  I see from Amazon that I could have acquired a used copy (and in English) if I had just waited until I got home.  But this way, I have something to keep me company during takeoff and landing.

 Now if I could just find someone to explain the finances of the pyramids, or the Parthenon.  Or the ark.
Who built the seven gates of Thebes?
The books are filled with names of kings.
Was it the kings who hauled the craggy blocks of stone?
And Babylon, so many times destroyed.
Who built the city up each time? In which of Lima's houses,
That city glittering with gold, lived those who built it?
In the evening when the Chinese wall was finished
Where did the masons go? ...
--Bertholt Brecht, "A Worker Reads History" 

Afterthought: I do not cease to marvel at these bookstores you find in Paris--and now, here in Brussels--just jam packed, floor to ceiling, with really good stuff.  Evidently the Bezos revolution has not got traction here yet.

3 comments:

Ken Houghton said...

The Ark isn't all that large. It's the alleged transport of the species that would have been expensive.

The New York Crank said...

Re bookstores:

I noted the same thing in Paris a few weeks ago. A French friend explained — with how much reliability I don't know — that in France the government sets the price of books. Bad for Amazon, good for the booksellers. I'm not sure how Amazon in the U.S. is made to toe the line in France, but hey, I'm just couching back what I heard.

In addition to "les bookanistes" whose stalls line the Seine, the 5th Arrondissement in particular is chock full of book stores. Some specialize in subjects from philosophy to law to anthropology. Some eschew niches in favor of a go-rummage mentality.

Take this for what it's worth.

Crankily yours,
Thje New York Crank

The New York Crank said...

Of course, I was coughing back what I heard, not "couching it back."

Crankily yours,
Typo Mary