This article on lost books is interesting. I don't share the author's fascination with "book-shaped holes in the intellectual firmament," but I do love manuscripts. An excerpt:
"Why does a manuscript hold more value to us than a published, finished product? 'It depends on what you want to experience,' says de Hamel. 'It is quicker to read Chaucer in a modern edition. But that personal thrill of touching and turning the pages of the original is incomparable. We all want to touch hands with history.'"
Does the Book of Kells lose any of its allure when a mass-produced paperback version is available to buy just feet away, in Trinity College Dublin’s gift shop? No, says de Hamel: 'There are things you’ll see in an original manuscript that even a microfilm or digitised surrogate cannot convey – drypoint glosses, erasures, sewing holes, underdrawing, changes of parchment, subtleties of colour, loss of leaves, patina of handling – even smell and touch and sound, which can transform knowledge and understanding of the text when its scribes made it and first readers saw it.' So, when we mourn lost manuscripts, it’s not just over the disappearance of words, we are also losing an understanding of the process of their creation – the author’s scribbles, their hasty additions, their fraught deletions."