Thursday, 31 May 2012


... a word poem, in which figural images were superimposed onto the grids of letters, to form a religious image. The genre was popularized greatly by Porphyrius, who at the end of the fourth century produced a series of poems for the first Christian Roman Emperor, Constantine. 

by Hrabanus Mauru, Germany 12th c
by Hrabanus Mauru, Germany 12th c
Five Scrolls from France 14th c.

Prayer book, France 14th c.

Five Scrolls from France 13th c.

PS: These are NOT Greek pattern poems or Concrete poetry.
PPS Photos are from the British Library manuscript archives.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012


A useful new word I learned today. OSTALGIE is a German term referring to nostalgia for aspects of life in East Germany. It is derived from the German words Ost (east) and Nostalgie (nostalgia). The word can also be used more broadly, to denote nostalgia for all things Soviet elsewhere in the Eastern Europe.

I am pleased to know, that there is a term to describe the phenomenon that results in Tarybinės dešreles (soviet sausages) and Tarybinis batonas (soviet bread) on the Lithuanian supermarket shelves.  Somewhat differnet from selling a Victorian Chutney at Sainsbury's. 

Monday, 21 May 2012

Churchill's letters @ Chartwell

On Sunday we ended up at Chartwell - Churchill's home since 1920.
"This must be very good" I thought, as we fought our way through the coachloads of anglophile French and Japanese tourists as well as WI groups from the shires. The house was so full, one could only trail like an ant in a very English orderly line along the marked route. I was only pleased that NT failed to cancel our membership last week and we did not have to pay for the experience.
On the positive side, Churchil's studio was almost empty and much more interesting too. Especially the letters at the end.
Here is one on the foreign names:

1. The principle at “A” is entirely disagreeable to me. I do not consider that names that have been familiar for generations in England should be altered to study the whims of foreigners living in those parts (true, we call England Anglija, Poland Lenkija and Germany Vokietija). Where the name has no particular significance, the local custom should be followed. However, Constantinople should never be abandoned, though for  stupid people Istanbul may be written in brackets after it (competing with Prince Phillip in rhetoric?). As for Angora, long familiar with us through the Angora Cats, I will resist to the utmost of my power its degradation to Ankara.
2. You should note, by the way, the bad luck which always persues peoples who change the names of their cities   Fortuna is rightly malignant to those who break with the traditions and customs of the past.
(auch. Think of all the Eastern Europe towns that have been named and renamed at least twice in the last hundred years: local names, Nazi names, Soviet names. So how come, it is Greece and Spain who are in so much shit now?) As long as I have a word to say in the matter Ankara is banned, unless in brackets afterwards. If we do not make a stand we shall in a few weeks be asked to call Leghorn Livorno, and B.B.C. will be pronouncing Paris Paree. Foreign names were made for Englishmen, not Englishmen for foreign names (indeed). I date this minute from St. George’s day.

Here is another note:


Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Victorian curiosities from Narnia: Lady Wilson's cabinet @ Wallington Hall

The very top floor of Wallington Hall. Lady Wilson's room of curiosities: stuffed birds, fish, documents, bits of china, fabric, etc. Like a very large scrapbook it houses an impressive array of objects and their labels.
Labels. I wondered about labels as I looked though them. I am assuming, the pseudoscientific nature of the curiosity cabinets allows me to pretend that the labels are all true, while I know, that they may well contain a number of errors or fakes among them. There is a make-believe air about it - if the room contained a pebble from Narnia, it would neither be out of place nor seem any less credible.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Recycling printed matter: ancient palimpsest II


South Asia developed a very efficient manuscript culture, allowing copying and distribution of very large quantities of texts. Scribes were employed and editions of identical copies often reached into thousands. The books were written on palm leaves, which deteriorated rather quickly. The texts had to be regularly rewritten and the damaged ones had to be regularly disposed of. Buddhists traditionally buried their worn manuscripts in the jars, while Hindus drowned theirs into the flowing waters.