Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.
Researchers from the University of Warwick and the Université François-Rabelais Tours have identified the first manuscript known to have belonged to the eminent French essayist, Michel de Montaigne.
Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-05-manuscript-discovery-montaignes-library.html#jCp
Of Montaigne’s celebrated library, thought to have contained around 1,000 books, only 101 are known to have survived. Until now, no manuscript (other than Montaigne’s own annotations in printed works) was known to bear the mark of the writer’s provenance.
The sixteenth-century manuscript, held at the Herzog August Bibliothek at Wolfenbüttel, contains copious notes by an unknown individual based on lectures on Roman law by the distinguished jurisprudent and historian François Baudouin. Montaigne’s Latin signature ‘Michaël Montanus’ is clearly visible on the manuscript’s title page.
Ingrid De Smet of the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance, University of Warwick, explained the significance of her discovery:
“The identification of Montaigne’s ownership of this work is exciting for the study of sixteenth-century French intellectual culture. It confirms Montaigne’s legal interests and potentially opens new vistas for the reading of his essays and the understandings of his political views.”
Books, Consumer Protection Commission, Environmentalism, Lead, Official Idiocy and Incompetence, Ousiaphobia, Popular Delusions, Science, Superstition
Winston Churchill as a boy owned, played with, and undoubtedly cast and painted lead soldiers. He owned something like 1500 hundred of them—probably one of the largest juvenile collections ever on the planet—, and no one ever thought Churchill intellectually impaired.
The Left, as we all know, has Science on its side, and its regime of experts intends to govern us guided by the insights delivered by established science.
The Left’s supposedly science-based policies, however, have a tendency to resemble primitive superstition, frequently incorporating Ousiaphobia (My own neologism: “the fear of substances”) which in every way resembles the sort of fear that primitive natives manifest toward things declared taboo by tribal witchdoctors.
Our own witchdoctors come with Ph.D.s, of course, and our politicians enthusiastically embody taboos in legislation. One particularly notorious example was the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008 which banned ever-more-minute levels of the taboo element LEAD (symbol: Pb) in children’s toys, &c.
That particularly absurd piece of legislation had much more far-reaching implications than banning the importation of toys painted with lead paint from China. It effectively prohibited the sale of used (and antique) toys carrying traces of the forbidden metal, and when the law (passed under George W. Bush, mind you) went into effect early in 2009, it was thought also to ban all children’s books printed before 1985, because (oogah, boogah!) back then printers’ ink contained minute quantities of lead. The act banned lead in levels of 300 parts per million, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission promised that it would enforce the ban since “[g]iven the way that kids tear and chew through library books… it’s unlikely that libraries have many children’s books that are more than 24 years old.”
Our federal government has declared all children’s books printed before 1985 taboo on the basis of the belief that children customarily eat books.
Apparently, the book purge is still underway, four years later. A commenter on a publishing blog (read by my wife) reported yesterday.
My regional library system got hit hard by the requirement to riff all the older kids books (lead in the ink, natch). That really flubbed up their budget. I suspect they are not alone in this. The Friends of the Library group has stepped up and done a lot, but I’ve noticed the number of new acquisitions is declining.
Most people in America go to school for sixteen long years. They get science courses, and learn that Darwin proved that life arose spontaneously by chance, and that Natural Selection is good as a basis for rejecting traditional religion, but is absolutely not to be tolerated in human society. I presume everyone gets Chemistry courses and learns that lead is an element, is a metal, and is heavy. Chemistry courses probably inform people today that compounds of heavy metals tend to be very poisonous, but it is clear that the relationship, or lack thereof, between very poisonous and “300 parts in a million” is very evidently not made clear. Neither is the obvious necessity of employing common sense and testing theories against historical fact.
If exposure to books with infinitesimal amounts of lead in the ink they are printed with really impacted children, every youngster who was so foolhardy as to devote significant time to reading would have to be presumed to have damaged his intelligence. In reality, it’s the children who read a lot who went on to get scholarships to Yale.
Winston Churchill monkeyed around with lead during his childhood on a scale which would obviously appall today’s scientific experts. You can bet that he handled, fondled, ordered and re-ordered, and played with every single one of those 1500 lead soldiers. He undoubtedly was additionally equipped with molds for making more of them, and he doubtless, like most hobbyists of his ilk, poured melted lead and cast his own lead soldiers which he then trimmed, tidied up, and painted. The boy Churchill’s hands were, you can count on it, soiled with lead on many a day.
I fished with lead sinkers as a boy, and during some periods, I too used a lead pot, casting my own sinkers. I also learned to handload ammunition, and cast bullets. Amazingly Churchill lived to the age of 90, and I’ve made it into my sixth decade myself.
Elizabeth Wurtzel grew up in the New York projects, but got herself a scholarship to private school and went on to graduate from Harvard. She later attended Yale Law School, graduating at age 40, apparently having been admitted on the basis of her writing career, despite atrocious Law Board scores.
Wurtzel had earlier “made a career of her emotions” quite successfully, writing Rock criticism and publishing an autobiographical novel of addiction that became a bestseller and was made into a movie starring Christina Ricci. All that ought to get anybody into Yale Law.
2012 apparently did not go so well for the poor girl, and that bad year prompted her to pen this highly amusing rant about her own “one night stand of life.”
I had found myself vulnerable to the worst of New York City, because at 44 my life was not so different from the way it was at 24. Stubbornly and proudly, emphatically and pathetically, I had refused to grow up, and so I was becoming one of those people who refuses to grow up—one of the city’s Lost Boys. I was still subletting in Greenwich Village, instead of owning in Brooklyn Heights. I had loved everything about Yale Law School—especially the part where I graduated at 40—but I spent my life savings on an abiding interest, which is a lot to invest in curiosity. By never marrying, I ended up never divorcing, but I also failed to accumulate that brocade of civility and padlock of security—kids you do or don’t want, Tiffany silver you never use—that makes life complete. Convention serves a purpose: It gives life meaning, and without it, one is in a constant existential crisis. If you don’t have the imposition of family to remind you of what is at stake, something else will. I was alone in a lonely apartment with only a stalker to show for my accomplishments and my years.
I was amazed to discover that, according to The Atlantic, women still can’t have it all. Bah! Humbug! Women who have it all should try having nothing: I have no husband, no children, no real estate, no stocks, no bonds, no investments, no 401(k), no CDs, no IRAs, no emergency fund—I don’t even have a savings account. It’s not that I have not planned for the future; I have not planned for the present. I do have a royalty account, some decent skills, and, apparently, a lot of human capital. But because of choices I have made, wisely and idiotically, because I had principles or because I was crazy, I have no assets and no family. I have had the same friends since college, although as time has gone on, the daily nature of those relationships has changed, such that it is not daily at all. But then how many lost connections make up a life? There is my best friend from law school, too busy with her toddler; the people with whom I spent New Year’s in a Negril bungalow not so long ago, all lost to me now; every man who was the love of my life, just for today; roommates, officemates, classmates: For everyone who is near, there are others who are far gone.
Please understand: I live specifically, with intent. The intent is, I know now, not at all specific, except that I have no ability to compromise. Most people say that as a statement of principle, but in my case, it is about feeling trapped when I am doing something I don’t like, and it is probably more childish than anything else. I likely do the right things for the wrong reasons. But it has also meant that I have not disciplined myself into the kinds of commitments that make life beyond the wild of youth into a haven of calm. I am proud that I have never so much as kissed a man for any reason besides absolute desire, and I am more pleased that I only write what I feel like and it has been lucrative since I got out of college in 1989. I had the great and unexpected success of Prozac Nation in 1994, and that bought me freedom. And I have spent that freedom carelessly, and with great gratitude. Why would I do anything else? I did not expect, not ever, to be scared to death.
I was born with a mind that is compromised by preternatural unhappiness, and I might have died very young or done very little. Instead, I made a career out of my emotions. And now I am just quarreling with normal. I believe in true love and artistic integrity—the kinds of things that should be mentioned between quotation marks—as absolutely now as I did in ninth grade. But even I know that functional love includes a fair amount of falsity, or no one would get through morning coffee, and integrity is mostly a heroic excuse to avoid the negotiating table. But I can’t let go. I live in the chaos of adolescence, even wearing the same pair of 501s. As time goes by.
Read the whole thing.
Hat tip to Walter Olson (via Facebook).
An Cathach [“the Battler”] of St. Columba, the oldest surviving manuscript in Ireland, and the second oldest Latin psalter in the world, Royal Irish Academy.
Matt Rubinstein, in the Australian Book Review last Fall, prefaced a lengthy discussion of the impact of the arrival of the eBook and consequent issues concerning intellectual property and book piracy with a fascinating account of a 6th Century case of book piracy involving two saints which led to actual battle.
The most precious manuscript held by the Royal Irish Academy is RIA MS 12 R 33, a sixth-century book of psalms known as an Cathach (‘The Battler’), or the Psalter of St Columba. It is believed to be the oldest extant Irish psalter, the earliest example of Irish writing – and the world’s oldest pirate copy. According to tradition, St Columba secretly transcribed the manuscript from a psalter belonging to his teacher, St Finian. Finian discovered the subterfuge, demanded the copy, and brought the dispute before Diarmait, the last pagan king of Ireland. The king decreed that ‘to every cow belongs her calf’, and so the copy of a book belonged to the owner of the original. Columba appealed the decision on the battlefield, and defeated Finian in a bloody clash at Cúl Dreimhne. No trace remains of Finian’s original manuscript, if it ever existed. Only ‘The Battler’ survives.
Finian v Columba is difficult to reconcile with modern copyright law. The psalms in question were attributed to God, revealed to David, and translated by St Jerome in the fourth century, so Finian’s claim to copyright in the work is unclear. It may be that the pagan Diarmait simply free-associated his judgment from the calfskin of the Cathach’s pages. But any want of judicial rigour is surely redeemed by the king’s early intuition that there is something valuable about a book beyond its physical self, that it has spirit as well as flesh and a soul beyond its body – as well as by the delicious consequences of an actual military war being fought, at least in part, over a single illegal copy, and of that outlawed copy becoming a national treasure.
Tradition asserts that, sometime around 560, St. Columba became involved in a quarrel with Saint Finnian of Movilla Abbey over a psalter. Columba copied the manuscript at the scriptorium under Saint Finnian, intending to keep the copy. Saint Finnian disputed his right to keep the copy. The dispute eventually led to the pitched Battle of Cúl Dreimhne in 561, during which many men were killed. A synod of clerics and scholars threatened to excommunicate him for these deaths, but St. Brendan of Birr spoke on his behalf with the result that he was allowed to go into exile instead. Columba suggested that he would work as a missionary in Scotland to help convert as many people as had been killed in the battle. He exiled himself from Ireland, to return only once, many years later.
Columba’s copy of the psalter has been traditionally associated with the Cathach of St. Columba.
Suw Charman-Anderson, in Forbes, notes a watershed moment in the world of books and readers. For the first time, a book self-published by its author has broken through traditional barriers and gained the attention of important establishment book reviews.
[T]his week, the New York Times, one of the most important source of book reviews, published a long and enthusiastic review of a self-published book, Alan Sepinwall’s The Revolution Was Televised. Based on his TV criticism blog, What’s Alan Watching, Sepinwall’s book:
analyzes a dozen “great millennial dramas” that have forged a new golden age in TV: bold, innovative shows that have pushed the boundaries of storytelling, mixed high and low culture, and demonstrated that the small screen could be an ideal medium for writers and directors eager to create complex, challenging narratives with “moral shades of gray.”
But the New York Times’ Michiko Kakutani wasn’t the only mainstream book critic to write about Sepinwall’s book. USA Today carried an interview with Sepinwell at the end of November, Time published a review of its own, The Huffington Post carried a review, so did the New Yorker.
Sepinwall got the kind of coverage that most traditionally published authors can only dream of. To some extent, this might just be reviewers reviewing another reviewer, a little bit of moral support from your friends, except Sepinwall’s friends have very big megaphones. But at the same time, it illustrates that the idea of a division between ‘traditionally published’ and ‘self-published’ is becoming a ridiculous construct with no meaning whatsoever. ...
The reasons that self-published books don’t get reviewed boil down, I think, to the lack of infrastructure. A traditional publishing company can get to know different reviewers and send them the books that they think will go down best with that person. And the reviewer works on the assumption that what he or she is sent by the publisher has to be at least half-decent and thus worth opening. This whole process works because it’s mediated and because of the assumption that a third party stamp of approval for a book guarantees minimum levels of quality. ...
[R]eviewers depend on publishers acting as winnowers, sorting out the wheat from the chaff, and at least attempting to make sure that they are sent books they are actually interested in. It’s this weeding out process that’s missing in self-publishing.
This is bound to be only the first instance of what will before very long become normal.
Technology has made self publication and book distribution easy, inexpensive, and available to anyone.
Even successful and well-established popular authors like Barry Eisler as far back as 2011 have found the economics and creative control offered by self publishing to be irresistible. (Eisler was interviewed here about his at-the-time astonishing decision to dump his relatively prestigious print publisher and move off into the new frontier of electronic self publication.)
"Battlestar Gallactica" (2004), "Battlestar Gallactica: Blood & Chrome" (2012), Nerd News, Science Fiction
Released Friday as a podcast: Episode 1 of Battlestar Gallactica: Blood and Chrome. To be broadcast complete on the Sci Fi Channel in January.
Set in the tenth year of the First Cylon War, the story follows William Adama as a young man, with the call sign “Husker.”
William, being a recent Academy graduate, is assigned to the newest battlestar in the Colonial fleet: the Galactica. He is ordered to escort a young woman, who eventually turns out to have vital information that carries significant importance to certain Cylon secrets. ...The routine mission eventually turns dangerous and becomes a pivotal part in their story.
Most readers probably remember the Archimedes Palimpsest, the discovery of the survival of seven treatises by the Greek mathematician Archimedes, including his The Method which solved several problems using methods anticipating the Integral Calculus developed by Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibnitz in the 17th Century, in a palimpsest used to record a 13th century Byzantine prayerbook.
Palimpsests are pages of manuscripts or scrolls from which earlier writings have been scraped away, so that the parchment could be reused to record a different text. This medieval form of recycling inadvertently makes the recovery of the eliminated earlier texts possible when modern sophisticated methods of imaging are used.
The Washington Post recently reported that a team, headed by Michael Toth, a former DOD imaging expert, is working systematically on a project which is examining the very large collection of manuscripts preserved over the centuries in the Greek Orthodox monasteries of the Sinai.
The more prominent legible words are 1,200 years old and are interesting enough, but they are not what the scientists are here for. The team is really after the overwritten text from centuries earlier, last seen by the person who scraped it away to recycle the precious animal-skin parchment.
Such erased texts are known as palimpsests, and until their pages enter the imaging room, no one alive now or, in many cases for more than a millennium, can say for sure what has been hidden. The work is tedious, like carefully brushing away sand at a traditional archaeology dig, but the promise of what can be found is a powerful motivator.
This is Toth and his colleagues’ most ambitious project to date, and it is just one component of a major transformation under way in the desert. The team is working within the stone walls of the Sacred and Imperial Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount of Sinai — St. Catherine’s for short.
For 17 centuries, the Greek Orthodox Christian monks here have protected an unparalleled trove of manuscripts. Now the monastery is in a multimillion-dollar push to physically and digitally protect its treasures and make them easily accessible, in most cases for the first time, to scholars around the world.
In the process, the monks will establish a model for the preservation of irreplaceable ancient manuscripts in a world where more and more of them are threatened by the chaos of war and revolution.
Read the whole thing.
The possibilities are fascinating. We know of countless lost classical works which we moderns would love to get our hands on, poems by Sappho, plays by Aeschylus and Sophocles, the dialogues of Aristotle and the treatises of Plato, that might very possibly have seemed of indifferent interest to Eastern churchmen of the Dark Ages and which could easily have been selected to be scraped away and overwritten with some, at the time seemingly more pertinent, religious text.
[T]he only good Hell to be in right now is poet Mary Jo Bang’s innovative, new translation of Dante’s Inferno (Graywolf), illustrated with drawings by Henrik Drescher. Bang’s thrillingly contemporary translation of the first part (the juiciest part) of Alighieri’s 14th-century poem The Divine Comedy is indeed epic. While staying true to Alighieri’s interpretations of religious faith, the bounds of morality, and the soul’s journey toward God, Bang’s sin-soaked voyage through the circles of Hell teems with references to such latter-day personages as John Wayne Gacy, South Park’s Eric Cartman, Stephen Colbert, Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, and the Rolling Stones.
Bomb magazine has a not-very-exciting excerpt, consisting of Satan himself at the very bottom of Hell’s abyss. Only the usual Judas, Cassius, and Brutus appear, alas! I had been hoping to find the Archfiend this time munching on Andrew Sullivan, while making a mess of David Frum, Charles Johnson, and John Cole, but I suppose Mary Jo Bang doesn’t personally care about defectors from the political right, and all those guys are alive anyway.
If you want a serious translation of the Inferno, I would recommend the version by John Ciardi.
Via Andrew Sullivan.
At the urging of Valerie Jarrett, President Barack Obama canceled the operation to kill Osama bin Laden on three separate occasions before finally approving the May 2, 2011 Navy SEAL mission, according to an explosive new book scheduled for release August 21. ...
In Leading from Behind: The Reluctant President and the Advisors Who Decide for Him, Richard Miniter writes that Obama canceled the “kill” mission in January 2011, again in February, and a third time in March. Obama’s close adviser Valerie Jarrett persuaded him to hold off each time, according to the book.
Miniter, a two-time New York Times best-selling author, cites an unnamed source with Joint Special Operations Command who had direct knowledge of the operation and its planning.
Obama administration officials also said after the raid that the president had delayed giving the order to kill the arch-terrorist the day before the operation was carried out, in what turned out to be his fourth moment of indecision. At the time, the White House blamed the delay on unfavorable weather conditions near bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
But when Miniter obtained that day’s weather reports from the U.S. Air Force Combat Meteorological Center, he said, they showed ideal conditions for the SEALs to carry out their orders.
“President Obama’s greatest success was actually his greatest failure,” Miniter told The Daily Caller Friday. ”Leading From Behind,“ he said, traces the arc of six key Obama administration decisions, and shows how the president made them — and, often, failed to make them.
When I tried to open the Daily Caller link this morning, Firefox initially blocked access, warning that this site had been reported as a site distributing malware.
It is evident that someone on the left was sufficiently angry and alarmed by the Daily Caller’s scoop that a false malware complaint was filed to deter traffic.
David A. Bell, in the New Republic, describes how cataclysmic change is coming to libraries everywhere and discusses what all this is likely to mean.
For how long will providing access to physical books remain a central mission for libraries? Even as reading on screens becomes more and more common, the number of books easily available in electronic form seems likely to increase, and a consensus for allowing some form of free access to “library copies” of digital files seems likely to emerge. True, the legal wrangling over Google Books has shown worrisome signs of stretching out, Bleak House– fashion, toward the next century. But with the digital files of copyrighted books already in existence, and with money to be made from their distribution, it still seems probable that within twenty years or so, it will be possible to download virtually any book ever printed, anywhere, to any device. The chances will be better for readers with access to some sort of subscription service—most often through universities where they study, or have faculty positions. But even for those without this sort of privileged access, some form of free access may very well emerge. And then, what future for libraries?
One nightmare scenario is all too easy to imagine. The year is 2033, and the Third Great Recession has just struck. Although voters have finally turned the Tea Party out of office in Washington, the financial situation remains dire across the country. New York City in particular faces skyrocketing deficits as a result of the most recent Wall Street wipeout, and the bankruptcy of Goldman Chase. In City Hall, a newly elected mayor casts a covetous glance at the grand main branch of the New York Public Library. Think how much money the city could save by selling it, along with the thirty remaining branch libraries scattered throughout the five boroughs. After strenuous negotiations, the mayor announces a deal with Googlezon, under which the company will make fifty electronic copies of any book in its database available at any one time to city residents, for two-week free rentals on the reading device of their choice. Two years later, where the main branch library once stood, the mayor proudly cuts the ribbon at the opening of the Bryant Park Mall. As for the services once performed by actual librarians, these have now been replaced by a cloud software package, with customer service representatives standing by online in case of technical difficulties (most of them physically located in suburban Manila).
In truth, such a turn of events would hardly rank with the burning of the Great Library of Alexandria in the annals of cultural vandalism. If it came to pass, readers would still enjoy, between the new electronic “lending library” and the public domain titles accessible through the Digital Public Library of America, a larger and more complete library at their fingertips (literally!) than exists today in any single locality. It would not be the barbaric destruction of knowledge. It would be the democratization of knowledge on a scale unimaginable in the pre-Internet age. The benefits are not to be discounted.
Yet the sacrifices entailed—the loss of physical libraries, and of librarians—would still be massive and culturally tragic.
I don’t personally give a rat’s ass about those “library communities” of his, but I certainly agree that the transition is going to be revolutionary and not without losses and pain.
From my own viewpoint as a researcher and regular user of major libraries, I wonder if the experts and planners managing the Great Revolution transitioning us from printed paper to electronic files sufficiently appreciate the crucial importance of preserving and maintaining access to serial publications.
It is very common for enormously larger quantities and much more detailed information on many subjects to have been preserved in ephemeral articles and letters in newspapers and magazines than ever actually made it onward to be preserved between the covers of actual books.
Serial publications are additionally characteristically cheaply printed on rapidly deteriorating acid-filled paper and weekly publications are typically folio sized. Not only are serials prone to be overlooked as a relatively insignificant afterthought by professional librarians. Their preservation is more costly and more difficult than that of most books.
Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.
“How do you read a two-thousand-year-old manuscript that has been erased, cut up, written on and painted over [i.e., a palimpsest]? With a powerful particle accelerator, of course! Ancient books curator William Noel tells the fascinating story behind the Archimedes palimpsest, a Byzantine prayer book containing previously-unknown original writings from ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes and others.”
Archimedes Palimpsest website
Hat tip to Dot Porter.
Hip Hop artist Sky Blu of LMFAO claimed in 2010 that Mitt Romney applied “a Vulcan grip” to him during a territorial dispute over the rapper’s seat back on board a plane preparing to embark from Vancouver to Los Angeles. Air marshals removed Mr. Blu from the flight prior to departure.
Hat tip to Jim Geraughty.