Issuu on Google+

Editor’s Note to the Reader


he circumstances surrounding The Book of the Shepherd are rare— even mysterious. They began in 2007, when I

bought an old farmhouse in Dorset, Vermont, from the estate of Professor Orlando Roberts, a distinguished teacher of classics at nearby Bennington College. The professor, a bachelor, had lived alone in the house for nearly fifty years. Upon signing the purchase agreement, I learned that he had no heirs and had stipulated that the contents of his house become the property of whomever bought it.

Shepherd_i_xvi_1_208_2p.indd 11

3/26/09 2:59:27 PM

E d itor's N o te t o th e R e a d e r To be honest, I had no idea what I was getting myself in to. In the euphemistic language of real estate, the place was a fixer-upper. In truth, it was a wreck. Full of leaky faucets and creaky doors, the house was also a cache of files, trunks, books, and portfolios scattered about in nearly every room. Weeding out the old professor’s study alone looked like a job that was going to take several days. It was in the study that I found it. Bound in vellum, the book had an image of a shepherd pressed into it. I later learned that the text was written in an unusual hybrid of Middle English and Dutch. Tucked inside the pages was a piece of Professor Roberts’s personal stationery bearing the words, “Purchased in Old Barn Bookshop, Route 7. Must get translated.” The note was dated December 25, 2007, a poignant Christmas for all in the historic village of Dorset, it turned out, because it was the day that their long-

q  xii

Shepherd_i_xvi_1_208_2p.indd 12

3/26/09 2:59:27 PM

E d itor’ s N o te t o th e R e a d e r time neighbor “Old Orly” died at his desk, poetically slumped over a stack of holiday greeting cards, in front of the fireplace. Old Orly’s heart, known for its warmth and generosity, had simply given out. Needless to say, I was stunned, mystified—and possessed of an obligation to do as Professor Roberts had intended. Securing translation experts from some of the greatest universities, I spent a year readying this work for publication. Was it worth my time? Each reader must decide. —Joann Davis Dorset, Vermont, 2008

xiii  r

Shepherd_i_xvi_1_208_2p.indd 13

3/26/09 2:59:27 PM

Editor's Note from The Book of the Shepherd