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"[…] I picked up a book. It had lost its covers, and the pages had been thumbed into a state of extremely dirty softness; but the back had been lovingly stitched afresh with white cotton thread, which looked clean yet. It was an extraordinary find. Its title was, "An Inquiry into some Points of Seamanship", by a man Towser, Towson – some such name - Master in his Majesty's Navy. The matter looked dreary reading enough, with illustrative diagrams and repulsive tables of figures, and the copy was sixty years old. I handled this amazing antiquity with the greatest possible tenderness, lest it should dissolve in my hands. Within, Towson or Towser was inquiring earnestly into the breaking strain of ships' chains and tackle, and other such matters. Not a very enthralling book; but at the first glance you could see there a singleness of intention, an honest concern for the right way of going to work, which made these humble pages, thought out so many years ago, luminous with another than a professional light. The simple old sailor, with his talk of chains and purchases, made me forget the jungle and the pilgrims in a delicious sensation of having come upon something unmistakably real. Such a book being there was wonderful enough; but still more astounding were the notes penciled in the margin, and plainly referring to the text. I couldn't believe my eyes! They were in cipher! Yes, it looked like cipher." (2.9)
Marlow rejoices at the discovery of a book because it gives him a sense of contact with the civilized human world, from which he has been absent from for so long. Despite its boring content, Marlow treasures the book for its attention to how things should be done, its care for correctness – something distinct from Marlow’s activities in the last few months. In this world of strange surrealism, Marlow feels the book is a touchstone to reality, especially when he sees handwritten notes in the margin – proof that other men have existed in this place.
"When deciphered it said: 'Wood for you. Hurry up. Approach cautiously.' There was a signature, but it was illegible – not Kurtz – a much longer word. 'Hurry up.' Where? Up the river? 'Approach cautiously.' We had not done so. But the warning could not have been meant for the place where it could be only found after approach. Something was wrong above. But what – and how much? That was the question. We commented adversely upon the imbecility of that telegraphic style." (2.9)
Language breaks down in the interior, making any written signs difficult to decipher and harder to interpret.
"[…] but I have a voice, too, and for good or evil mine is the speech that cannot be silenced." (2.8)
In making his claim that the native Africans are human like white men, Marlow is regarded incredulously by his traveling companions; he feels the need to justify himself. He uses his voice as a vehicle of (what he hopes is) truth. He understands how important it is to have a say, especially after living in the oppressive silence of the interior and hearing Kurtz’s harsh and merciless voice.