Books: Velio's Villainy

THE COUNCIL OF EGYPT by Leonardo Sciascia. 212 pages. Knopf. $4.95.

By the light of a single fluttering candle, a tall solemn priest sits bowed above a resplendent manuscript in his solitary scriptorium. On the table before him lie vials of red and blue and purple inks, pots of honey-colored glue, sheets of gold leaf, and reams of creamy antique vellum glowing golden in the candlelight. Only the scratching of a quill interrupts the rich religious silence as the priest pursues his labor of love.

As it happens, the labor of love is a forgery....