Thumbprints on Ghent counter-seal

The face to face interaction with centuries-old cultural artifacts is something I have become accustomed to. I’ve visited dozens or hundreds of Churches, monuments, art objects and manuscripts that pre-date the Renaissance. However, when I first came across the fingerprints of the scribe who had pushed soft wax into the matrix of a seal, I felt a thrill and a shudder at the encounter of a centuries-old biological artifact. This seal dates to October 31, 1275, and as I overlaid the ridges of my own thumbprints over the preserved wax impressions, I felt a unique and human connection that traversed centuries of separation.

ADN-B1336-1882 Counter-seal
Great seal of Ghent – counter-seal. Lille, Archives Départementales du Nord, B1336-1882 (Oct. 31, 1275) © Photo by Jesse Hurlbut

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