Evelyn Simpson, Helen Gardner, and T. S. Healy (eds), John Donne: Selected Prose

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4. [The Register of Scripture]

Amongst men, all Depositaries of our Memories, all means which we have trusted with the preserving of our Names, putrifie and perish. Of the infinite numbers of the Medals of the Emperors, some one happy Antiquary, with much pain, travell, cost, and most faith, beleeves he hath recovered some one rusty piece, which deformity makes reverend to him, and yet is indeed the fresh work of an Impostor.

The very places of the Obelises, and Pyramides are forgotten, and the purpose why they were erected. Books themselves are subject to the mercy of the Magistrate: and as though the ignorant had not been enemie enough for them, the Learned unnaturally and treacherously contribute to their destruction, by rasure and misinterpretation. Caligula would abolish Homer, Virgil, and all the Lawyers Works, and eternize himself and his time in Medals: The Senate, after his death, melted all them: Of their brasse [Claudius] his Wife Messalina made the Statue of her beloved Player; and where is that? But Names honour'd with a place in this book, cannot perish, because the Book cannot. Next to the glory of having his name entred into the Book of Life, this is the second, to have been matriculated in this Register, for an example or instrument of good. Lazarus his name is enrolled, but the wicked rich mans omitted.

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