Charting History

CLYMER – Mostly barns are used to keep livestock, but sometimes they’re used to keep history.

This weekend and Memorial Day, a 21-foot-long canvas scroll depicting over 5,800 years of civilization in colored print and illustrations is on display at Ralph Williams’ 53rd annual antique barn sale. Thousands of antiques, collectables, books and general merchandise are on sale and available for browsing during the event, however one item specifically is more likely than not to catch collectors’ attention.

“A few years ago, I bought 10,000 books from an elderly woman’s estate,” said Ralph Williams, retired auctioneer and antiques and collectables vender. “Then even more recently, I bought another 18,000 from her. Unfortunately, she passed away recently, but when she did, her son called me and told me I could have first choice of items to bring back to my (Blue Lantern Barn). Somehow, we ended up with the scroll.”

The scroll, which is 21-feet long by 27 inches wide, depicts a complete biblical history of the world, beginning with Adam and Eve in 4004 B.C. and ending in 1881 A.D., when it was made. However, the scroll also peaks forward into the “future,” as the narrative goes as far as 1900.

It is beautifully colored and illustrated, and is so comprehensive that any guests who would like to read it in its entirety would be challenged to do so in less than half a day’s time.

“It’s a very rare piece,” said Williams. “The people come in, and they love reading it, but it’s so large and overwhelming that people get jumpy and want to try to look at the whole thing rather than read individual parts. It seems like it would take a whole day to read it in the detail it deserves.”

According to Williams’ research, the scroll is officially titled: Adams’ Illustrated Panorama of History. Some information that he was able to gather on it notes that: “Initially, (Adams) simply follows the Bible’s ‘begats,’ but eventually he slowly segues into the historical period with the development of Egyptian, Persian and Greek culture. He notes all important events and offers historical and Biblical commentary where appropriate – often illustrating historical monuments and Biblical events and monstrosities. Eventually the map gets necessarily more and more complicated as it passes into the classical era, the pre-modern era and ultimately modern times. At the end of the chart, Adams shows the currently reigning world rules, discusses the development of the United States, and even offers a breakdown of historically important technological developments.”

Williams has had the scroll in his possession since the spring. The scroll rolls up from both ends, and is in miraculously good condition. Although Williams had no idea what the scroll was when it first came into his possession, he said he could just tell it was something good.

“I’ve been 53 years in this business,” quipped Williams. “I knew I had something the moment I saw it.”

While the scroll does morph biblical and academic history, and therefore wouldn’t necessarily be a good resource for a classroom setting, it is an interesting and perhaps even invaluable tool for historiography: the history of how people kept history. It interestingly places events such as the building of the Tower of Babel and the nourishing of Romulus and Remus by the she-wolf, as well as the conquests of Alexander the Great and the building of the Pyramids of Giza. It even touches upon events such as the advent of juggling – or as the scroll puts it, “catching two and three balls at the same time.”

Guests may look at the scroll, as well as all of Williams’ other antiques, all this weekend and Memorial Day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Williams’ Annual Blue Lantern Barn Sale is located at 1290 Route 426 in Clymer. Visitors may direct questions to 355-9902. Williams’ apologizes that he is hard of hearing, so guests are encouraged to call back if they are unsuccessful in reaching him.