Friday, April 29, 2005

Echoes of Da Vinci Code at National Library - icWales

Echoes of Da Vinci Code at National Library - icWales

IT sounds like it could be a chapter straight from the pages of the international best-seller The Da Vinci Code.

Just like Dan Brown's book, the dusty document contains long forgotten insights into the history and relationships of Jesus Christ.

Now scholars at a Welsh college believe they have unearthed their own version of the Da Vinci code with the discovery of a 400-year-old book. Entitled The Genealogy of Jesus Christ, it has spent the past 70 years locked in the dusty depths of the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.

Peter Hogan, the warden at Llandovery College, happened on the school's lost document while trawling through archives.

He said, "I was absolutely flabbergasted.

"There isn't anybody I know who hasn't read The Da Vinci Code, and we've found the sort of thing that would have been a major part of the plot."

A spokesman for Catholic newspaper The Tablet believed the find could be extremely significant.

Philip Crispin, who writes for the national publication, said, "I think people should be excited about it because it sounds a fantastic find.

"Certainly if it is a genuine document, and not some sort of 19th century hoax, it is extremely interesting.

"Dan Brown's novel has generated a huge amount of new interest in religion and the Bible, even though a lot of his ideas were taken from earlier books."

The leather-bound, hand-written book by William Spenser has nearly 600 A3-sized pages, split into two sections. One is about, "the names, people and empires recorded in the old and New Testaments".

The other is titled "biographical reference of old Bible stories".

It is an alphabetical way to find a seemingly endless list of religious characters.

Mr Hogan said, "It has details on everybody in the Bible, who they were married to where they came from and their family trees.

"The college has always had a history of owning many interesting books, but this one had slipped through the net.

"We have a section in the library that has some of our books in but I think I'm the first warden to have looked at it in about 70 years.

"I knew we had some books squirrelled away so I went to see. I was taken right into the bowels of the building."

It was only his noticing a discrepancy in what should have been there and what was on the list, which led to the book's discovery.

The allegation at the centre of Dan Brown's novel is that the church has conspired for millennia to lie about the role of Mary Magdalene in Christ's life.

It is an idea which Mr Hogan feels has echoes in his newly discovered tome.

He said, "One name I was interested in was Mary Magdalene."

The woman some believe to be the wife of Jesus Christ is a central figure in The Da Vinci Code, which claims Catholic historians have diminished her role in the early church.

Mr Hogan revealed, "The interesting thing is that about half of what's been written about her has been crossed off.

"It may be just a co-incidence, but there's not too many other crossings-off that I can see yet."

One piece of legible text reads, "She was one of many women ministering into Christ, of their substances."

Scholars at Lampeter, Swansea and Canterbury universities refused to speculate on how much the book could be worth. It is being taken to Christie's auctioneers in London today for valuation, although Mr Hogan did not want to contemplate selling it, saying, "I'd like it kept at the National Library.

"This has to survive another three or four hundred years and I want to know it's being properly looked after.

"All I know is I've never seen anything like this before and I want it put in a safe as soon as possible."

He did admit however, "If it turns out to be ludicrously valuable we may have to think again."

The book was acquired by the founder of Llandovery College Thomas Philips in 1851. It's history before that is currently a mystery.