The Fell Gard Codices

Another Thought on Gibbon

April 9th, 2013

I mentioned I’d been reading Gibbon lately. Here’s a great aside he had, after describing the convoluted attempts by the Byzantine Empire to smuggle silk worms out of China and develop a silk industry of their own:

I am not insensible of the benefits of elegant luxury; yet I reflect with some pain that, if the importers of silk had introduced the art of printing, already practiced by the Chinese, the comedies of Menander and the entire decads of Livy would have been perpetuated in the editions of the sixth century. A larger view of the globe might at least have promoted the improvement of speculative science, but the Christian geography was forcibly extracted from texts of scripture, and the study of nature was the surest symptom of an unbelieving mind.

An interesting early hint of counterfactual history — and a damned good point.

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