Saturday, January 31, 2015

Apparently I know nothing about Medieval history

Just starting to actually learn about the ostsiedlung and ostkolonisation.

Actually, I did know about them already (actually, I predicted their existence before I discovered them in a book, based on common personalities found in recently-settled areas,) but still, the fact that I know about things like The Clearances (the migration of people out of the Scottish Highlands in the 17 and 1800s, about which much writing also strikes me as propaganda,) and the migrations of Turkic-speaking people into central Hungary and the movements of "barbarian" tribes through Europe in the Classical and pre-Classical period, but have only recently and by chance discovered a major movement of people and government in the midst of the Middle Ages in the midst of Europe suggests that something more than my mere ignorance is going on.

The answer is obvious: The whole subject got contaminated by Nazis (mis)using it to justify attacking the rest of Europe. (This would be like, IDK, Australia using the fact that it and the US both have a bunch of British Immigrants in it as an excuse to try to conquer the US.

One of the mysteries I was trying to figure out yesterday was that I knew the cities of Eastern Germany were settled relatively late (after the cities of Western Germany and within the past thousand years or so--compare to London and Paris, which I believe pre-dated the presence of the Romans in their areas,) and during the Eastward Migration, but the Wikipedia pages on bronze and stone-age peoples of Europe show plenty of Germans in the area. How could they be there and not be there?

The obvious now-solution is that they were different groups of Germans.

I'm still not clear on all of the details, like whether the old groups of Germans were still there when the new groups showed up, and if so, what the relationships between them were like.

It is quite obvious, though, that much of what we know as modern "Germany" and central Europe was shaped by these migrations (Berlin, for example, is among the cities founded relatively late, rather than by the Classical-era Germans described by the Romans), and that the Jews arrived at virtually the same time, often (if not generally) by explicit invitation by civic leaders who believed a Jewish population would be to their city's glory and benefit.

EG, from Wikipedia, "The actual history of the Jews in Speyer started in 1084*, when Jews fleeing from pogroms in Mainz and Worms ignited by the crusades took refuge with their relatives in Speyer. They possibly came at the instigation of bishop Rüdiger Huzmann (1073–1090), who invited a larger number of Jews to live in his town with the expressed approval of emperor Henry IV. In his notes the bishop wrote:

'In the name of the holy and undivided trinity, I, Rüdiger, with the surname of Huozmann, bishop of Speyer, in my endeavor to turn the village of Speyer into a city, believed to multiply its image a thousand times by also inviting Jews...' "< *Note that Speyer's Cathedral was only begun in 1032. This was a very new city.

And none of this was ever pointed out in any of my history classes. (Even, OMG, the one explicitly titled "Medieval Economics.")

Makin' History

To avoid unduly honoring any country over any other country, the EU put generic, made-up bridges on its banknotes.

So an architect in the Netherlands went and built the bridges.

So if you happen to be in Europe, and you want to see the famous bridges on the European banknotes, now you know: they're in the Netherlands.

By the way, the bridges are tiny and adorable.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

While falling down the rabbit hole, Alice wonders if she will emerge in the "antipathies."

I think I have been mispronouncing "antipodes."

Also, octopodes.

I wonder if the average British child of Carroll's day got the joke?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Clips from the Cutting Room Floor

"What about Bess? And Sarah? What's happening to them?"

He stared at his gloves. Moonlight spilling through a window cast his horns in sharp relief, in contrast to the rest of him. "Were they friends of yours?"

"No." Lyta stamped her feet for warmth. She could just imagine what Bess would say about her muddy dress. "We take lessons together. They're... sometimes nice. I wouldn't wish harm on them."

"I'm sorry." Demon turned away from the window and began to pace.

Dahala Khagrabari #51

The boundary between India and Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan, as on this map,) is really, really complicated.

Notice the enclaves within enclaves.

At one point, it even does this:

Yes, that is a piece of India, that is inside a piece of Bangladesh, that is inside a piece of India, that is inside Bangladesh, known as Dahala Khagrabari #51.

Do they even bother with customs and border guards?


Coffin Fragment Bearing Cervantes’ Initials Found in Madrid.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Endless Amusement, 1820

I am now reading Endless Amusement, "a collection of nearly 400 entertaining experiments in various branches of science, including acoustics, arithmetic, chemistry, electricity, hydraulics, hydrostatics, magnetism, mechanics, optics, wonders of the air pump, all the popular tricks and changes of the cards, &c., &c., &c.; 1820; Thorp and Burch, and Thomas Boys, London."

It is, in fact, very amusing! I do not know how many of these experiments the average person could repeat today, (nor do I know how many would be wise to repeat, as I do not particularly recommend, say, creating giant indoor fireballs, but any author looking to amuse, delight, or horrify their early 19th century characters may find it a very useful source indeed!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Trogdor Was a Dragon-Pope

From the Prophecy of the Popes.

Geographies that never were

The Universalior Cogniti Orbis Tabula Ex Recentibus Confecta Obsevationibus (Universe known world map from recently made observations, I think), by Johannes Ruysch, 1507, is hands-down one of my favorite maps.

Just look at it! First, note that there is no large region that has been left out of the top--this is a conic projection that has been "slit" down the side to flatten it into a map, my second favorite projection after pure polar projection. And when you realize that no big chunk has been left out, then you realize, oooh, that the coast of North America and coast of Asia are one and the same on this map. If you look closely, you can find "Tebet", and north of that, the land of "Gog and Magog." To the east of that, "Nova Terra" looks rather like Massachusetts (or perhaps Nova Scotia), and north of that Greenaland merges into North America. Between Greenland and Iceland lies a tiny dot, most likely Frisland--an island that appears on many old maps, often complete with cities and towns, but never existed. Between Greenland and Massachusetts, if you look closely, lie two half-moon-shaped islands, close together. These are the islands of Hy-Brazil, also mythical, whose name was later given to the country of Brazil.

Further south, we have "Spagnola" (thought to represent Japan,) part of the coast of Cuba, and a good chunk of the South American coastline.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Anyone here read Latin?

From The Prophecy of the Popes, a 15th century manuscript based on 12th century Byzantine prophecies.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Art Deco Byzantium

I believe these pages came from Byzantium, Europe's great forgotten empire. These miniatures remind me of Erte's art deco illustrations and costume designs.


Also from the Ethiopian (I think) manuscript.

What do you suppose the birds on top of the church are?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Lines and more lines

I think this is from a very old Ethiopian manuscript, but I ran across it rather a long while ago, and now my memory is fuzzy.

The style reminds me of encaustic wax-printing techniques.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Snake Monk

The monk seems to have a snake's tail, the fiddler is a dragon, and that horn-player really shouldn't let themselves get distracted.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Angels Playing

Post-holiday cleanup

Handy way to get candle stubs out of a menorah, discovered via some trial and error:
If your menorah can be safely put in the oven or toaster oven, prop it at an angle on a pan lined with aluminum foil and turn the oven to a low temperature for about ten minutes. The wax should melt and run out, though some of it will probably make puddles around the tops of the menorah that you may need to wipe or chip off.

Remember that it will be hot, so be careful when removing it from the oven.

Would probably work for removing any kind of candle stubs from any kind of oven-safe candle holder.

Friday, January 16, 2015


I thought I'd posted this one already, but it looks like I didn't? Forgive me if there's been a double-post.

What I find interesting about these pages isn't the paintings, but the little sketches that surround them. Are they unfinished? Were they supposed to be painted someday, too? And what are those folks up to?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Is that the original blue?

Really good blue pigments are difficult to make without modern chemistry (blue is far less naturally abundant than shades like green and brown, and a lot of the blues in nature are actually created by structural patterns that reflect light in specific ways but are destroyed by attempts to powder them and then apply them to parchment. The iridescence of a soap bubble or a butterfly's wing are both due to their structure, for example.)

As a result, blue pigment was historically used very sparingly, reserved for the most important characters in a painting (the Virgin Mary was often depicted in blue, for example.)

All of which makes me wonder if these brilliant blues were really painted back in the Middle Ages, or if the image has been digitally altered in some way to enhance the colors.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Mik Um Wess

Jasper's people have been here.

From The Algonquin legends of New England : or, Myths and folk lore of the Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot tribes, by Charels G. Leland; 1884 (Click here for more information)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Garden of Eden

Les Très Riches Heures of John, duc de Berry, painted by the Limbourg brothers, c. 1412-1414.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Swirls

The dead burst forth from their graves, from the Morgan copy of the Beatus (located in the Morgan Library in NY.)

Friday, January 9, 2015

Bad Doggie

Book of Hours, St. Margaret, Walters Manuscript--fifteenth century. Parts of this book were painted by the Masters of Zweder van Culemborg, and parts (probably) by the workshop of Willem Vrelant

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Monday, January 5, 2015

Bird puppets? Ostritch men?

True to form, this page of the Beatus manuscript offers us a panoply of delights: Medieval fractions, an exploding sun-like thing, blocks of rich color with wavy lines, and mysterious bird-puppet things. The whole affair seems worthy of Picasso.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Castle with Still Life

Beatus de Facundus, 1047, painted for Ferdinand I and Queen Sancha of, I believe, Spain. (Which makes the doorway reminiscent of Islamic architecture quite sensible.)

I rather like the design of this little castle with still life of pitchers and cups.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

English Dissenters

Why are there so many English Dissenters? What was so special about the 15, 16, and 1700s that they produced so many different religious groups in Britain at the time?

Some of the more interesting groups:

Adamites--supposedly went around naked.

Diggers--religious communists who tried to farm on common lands, hence the name.

Enthusiasts--a dirty word for anyone with strong feelings about religion. Or politics.

Family of Love--kind of like modern hippies (see previous post.)

Fifth Monarchists--wanted to turn the English government into a new Sanhedrin to usher in the Apocalypse. Actually convinced Cromwell to try the idea. No apocalypse happened.

Muggletonians--named Muggletonians. What else do you need?

And of course, there were some famous groups you've probably already heard of, like the Puritans and the Quakers.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Family of Love

If the "Family of Love" were a modern religious group, they'd inevitably end up infamous for some sort of sex-related scandal. But since they're a branch of English religious dissenters from the 1500s, they're more like proto Quakers.

Familists were pacifists, believed that the world was governed by the laws of nature rather than divine intervention, and denied the trinity.

Unsurprisingly, just like modern movements of this nature, Familists were primarily students, scholars, and artists, and the faith was concentrated near the University of Cambridge.

Familists managed to escape execution and persecution by not generally telling anyone outside of the Family about their beliefs, ("The first rule of Family Club is don't talk about Family Club,") and proper respectable members of other, respected churches. They believed it was important to at least act outwardly like everyone else.

Nevertheless, we do know of a few Familists who've come to historical attention, including Phillip II of Spain's printer (he printed Catholic documents by day, and Familist ones by night,) and some of the Yeomen of Elizabeth I's guards.

Familists seem to have disappeared in the early 1700s--their low-key approach to spreading their theology had always made the group's long-term survival unlikely.