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Simpson, Alan, The Mysteries of the "Frenchman's Map" of Williamsburg, Virginia, Williamsburg: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1984. ISBN 0-87935-104-7. 21x28cm., x, 42pp., illustrated, paper. (Box C, Williamsburg, VA 23187, $6.95)

This is one of the most fascinating books I have read in a long time.  It deals with a manuscript plan of Williamsburg made during the Revolution, now in the possession of The College of William and Mary.  The plan was used in the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg. Despite the importance of the plan, it remains mysterious. Such questions as who did it, when, and for what purpose remain unanswered.  Nevertheless, Mr. Simpson has written a highly entertaining essay.  An amusing discussion centers on several French words of profanity at the lower left and right. In an effort to extract any possible meaning from these words, Mr. Simpson consulted "experts" on their meaning, though whether Marseilles dockhands were among them, he does not say.  Nevertheless, their significance if any, remains obscure.  He also describes the attempts to overcome librarian reluctance to permit photography of the map during the 1920s for use in restoration.  Librarians frequently fall victim to a logical fallacy in which the attributes of an object are confused with the object itself.  Thus librarians may be as reluctant to part with the image of the object as with the object itself.  The-book reads like a detective story.  For example, the map is thought to be an intermediate copy because there are two sets of pinpricks, although neither rough draft or finished version have ever been found.  Written with style, this book is highly recommended.

David C. Jolly, 1987

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