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Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

NUMBER: 1236
AUTHOR: John Ruskin (1819–1900)
QUOTATION: Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts, the book of their deeds, the book of their words and the book of their art. Not one of these books can be understood unless we read the two others, but of the three the only trustworthy one is the last.
ATTRIBUTION: JOHN RUSKIN, St. Mark’s Rest: The History of Venice, Preface p. 1 (1885).