As might be expected of such ambitions, pursued as they were under difficult economic circumstances, by two somewhat over-idealistic young men, things ran as smoothly as a broken lawnmower. Speyer nearly drowned, not once, but four times – and no less than two hundred books were deemed to have been rendered ‘unreadable’. This last detail has always struck me as particularly ironic: the main point of the project, after all, was to make books ‘more readable’; to prise open the damp shell of their secrets, rather than send them to a watery grave. Speyer, though, was never scared of making sacrifices. If anything, he was a little too fond of throwing himself, and his books, on the fire of experiment.
Conversations with Speyer: Chapter Seven, Part Two