When medievalist Emir O. Filipovic was studying ancient texts at the state archives in Dubrovnik, Croatia, he found something amazing: Cat pawprints gracing the pages of a 15th-century manuscript.
Let’s put this in some historical perspective: About that time, Johannes Gutenberg of Mainz, Germany, invented the first printing press. Fifty years later, printing presses were in operation all over western Europe. Nonetheless, the practice of copying manuscripts by hand — which had been done pretty much since the advent of written language and the invention of paper — didn’t die the minute the printing press was born.
Very few people knew about Filipovic’s discovery until historian Erik Kwakkel found and tweeted the image. It then caught the attention of Dr. Marty Becker, one of the most popular veterinarians on the Internet, who shared it on his Facebook page. That’s where I first saw it.
Imagine this: You’re a scholar or a scribe, painstakingly copying information from manuscript to manuscript, using your quill pen and your very best penmanship, turning handwriting itself into an art form while trying your darnedest not to make any mistakes. You complete an entire page when suddenly your cat hops up onto your desk, spills the ink in a puddle, promptly steps in said ink puddle, and then walks across your manuscript.
I suspect that much cursing ensued.
I feel bad for the person who worked so hard only to have his work autographed by his cat (I presume it’s a "his" because there were very few women working as scribes). At the same time, though, I’m kind of relived to know that cats have been "helping" writers with their projects for centuries. In fact, my cat Siouxsie is sitting in my lap as I type this CDASdswgkii;'[[[[[[[[[ ‘[p po-=ÔÇª
Doggone it, Siouxsie! Stay off the keyboard!
Well, at least I can press the delete key. That 15th-century scribe, not so much.