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Rabu, 17 Desember 2014
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Senin, 29 September 2014
Vikings, Emojis and Michaelmas: Medieval News Round-up

This week's news from the medievalverse has Anders Winroth talking about his new book The Age of the Vikings, funding for Newport's medieval ship, and Buzzfeed talking another look at medieval images.



Today (September 29th) is also Michaelmas, the Christian feast of St. Michael the Archangel. During the Middle Ages it was an important feastday.

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Senin, 22 September 2014
Secret Passageways and Trebuchet Trick Shots: Medieval News Roundup

This week's news for medievalists features the mystery of how books were being stolen from a medieval monastery's library, and the plans to build an Anglo-Saxon house.



Finally, check out our Instagram page, where you can see some of the photos we have been taking, such as this fun picture from Southwark Cathedral:

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Senin, 15 September 2014
Byzantium on Scotland, Hospital Food and the 1970s: Medieval News Roundup

For our fellow medievalists, here are some of the news and interesting posts that we came across in the last week:

Finally, this image, created in 1512, shows the first mention of the phrase: "Throw out the baby with the bath water".


Found in Narrenbeschwörung (Appeal to Fools) by Thomas Murner.
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Selasa, 09 September 2014
Rabu, 20 Agustus 2014
Minggu, 27 Juli 2014
Medieval News Roundup: The Viking Facebook, drunken archaeologists, competitive jousting in Australia and ranting about Lancelot

The Verge takes a look at some of the interesting work being done by statistical physicists Ralph Kenna and Pádraig Mac Carron on medieval sources. Using their background in understanding connections, they examined works such as the Táin Bó Cúailnge to learn more about the relationships between the characters found in its pages.
What Kenna and Mac Carron found was that the epics fell between the real networks and the fictional ones. The network in The Iliad is relatively realistic, and Beowulf's also has realistic aspects, with the exception of the connections to Beowulf himself. That chimed with the idea from the humanities that he, unlike some others in the story, may not have existed. The Táin's network was more artificial. Interestingly, however, they found that a lot of the Táin's unreality was concentrated in just a few, grotesquely over-connected characters. When they theorized that some of those characters might actually be amalgams — for instance, that some of the times the queen of Connacht is said to speak to someone, it might be a messenger speaking for her instead — the network began to look more realistic. At least from a social network perspective, perhaps the Táin is not as fantastical as its reputation would suggest, the researchers proposed. That doesn't mean the events really happened, or that the people are real. But it raises the question of why the network looks the way it does. 
You can read the article The Viking Facebook here.

In First Things, Dale M. Coulter takes a look at the life and influence of Jacques le Goff, who passed away earlier this year. He notes that:
Le Goff sought to help Europeans recognize themselves as still connected by the cultural fabric of a common medieval civilization. Along with his fellow members of the Annales school, he also strengthened the case for the long Middle Ages, extending them all the way to the mid-nineteenth century. Le Goff’s body of work, then, stands as a challenge to historians who argue for the Italian Renaissance and Reformation as a break that unleashed a series of forces, intended or not, ultimately leading to the current social imaginary.
Click here to read the article The Good Historian Resembles an Ogre

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Radio National network offers a look at the world of competitive jousting at an event taking place just outside Sydney. One of the competitors, L. Dale Walter explains how dangerous this sport can be:
"I broke my back in 2011 jumping off my horse when he was slipping in the mud and falling at the end of a list. We came in, I went to pull him up, it was slippery, he started to fall, and I had two pictures in my head: one him falling across my leg, which would shatter my leg, and more scary to me, him falling with his legs crossed, which would shatter his leg."
You can read the article and listen to their broadcast at Competitive jousters take medieval re-enactment seriously

In an article about the upcoming changes to the comic book character Thor, Russell Smith of The Globe and Mail shows that he knows a few things about medieval literature:
I say the original King Arthur rules, and I have no tolerance for a politically correct “modernization” of the story. Everybody knows there was no Sir Lancelot or Holy Grail in the original King Arthur story, as told by Geoffrey of Monmouth in Historia Regum Britanniae in the early 12th century. Lancelot and the Grail were rudely added by Chrétien de Troyes 50 or 60 years later, around 1180. Are we really going to tolerate some French upstart turning King Arthur from a warrior into some kind of romantic soap-opera star just because it suited the spirit of the times?
You can read the full article - Hero mythbusters have gone too far - here

What else should you also check out:

Five Tips for Sieging your Favourite Medieval Castle - the good people at Battle Castle have the pictorial evidence of what the really watch out for when going castle-hopping!

The first episode of the new podcast Drunk Archaeology:



The medieval band Vagarem has just released their new album "Codex Bricolia". You can hear some of their sounds in this YouTube video:



Please visit their Facebook page for details.
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Rabu, 23 Juli 2014
An interview with Deborah Harkness, author of The Book of Life

Deborah Harkness, professor of history at the University of Southern California, has just published the final novel in her All Souls Trilogy. It follows the story of Diana Bishop, a historian and modern-day witch, Matthew Clairmont, a 1500-year-old vampire, and an enchanted manuscript at Oxford University's Bodleian Library.

Click here to read DuJour’s executive editor, Nancy Bilyeau, interview Deborah about The Book of Life

See also Deborah reading an excerpt from her novel:

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Kamis, 17 Juli 2014
Vikings: Lives Beyond the Legends - exhibition now underway at Royal BC Museum

For those living in North America who were envious of the British Museum's recent exhibition on Vikings, there is now an exhibition under way at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria, British Columbia. Vikings: Lives Beyond the Legends features over 500 artifacts. It will be on display until November 11th.

You can see this preview of the exhibition:



 For more details, please visit the Royal BC Museum website


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Selasa, 01 Juli 2014
Is this how the Bayeux Tapestry would have ended?

The Alderney Bayeux Tapestry

The famous Bayeux Tapestry ends with the defeat of King Harold's army and the flight of the Anglo-Saxon soldiers. However, most scholars believe that the original tapestry would have ended with the coronation of William the Conqueror. 

Now, a community project from the British island of Alderney has recreated the missing piece of the Bayeux Tapestry. It depicts several scenes that they believe would have been in the original tapestry, including a scene where William is crowned on Christmas Day, 1066. 

Professor Robert Bartlett of the University of St.Andrews tells the BBC: "It has often been pointed out that the opening of the tapestry has a figure of King Edward the Confessor enthroned, and that around the middle point of the tapestry there is an image of William's enemy Harold enthroned.

"It would be a neat symmetry and make perfect sense of the story if the end of the tapestry had showed the victorious William enthroned, which is what the Alderney team have chosen to do. The other 'new' scenes are more speculative, but they are modelled on scenes earlier in the tapestry so look convincing."

The recreation is now being displayed next to the original at the Bayeux Tapestry Museum in France - the exhibition will run until August 31st.

For the full story, please visit the BBC or the Daily Mail.



Here is a video report about the project from last year:

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Kamis, 22 Mei 2014
Norse Power! Deodorant that makes you smell like a Viking

"A team of scent scientists" have developed a new body spray deodorant that promises to give you that medieval warrior smell! Norse Power is an actual product, created by Visit York and the Jorvik Viking Centre and it helps recreate what a Viking probably smelled like.

Photo courtesy Visit York
What do you get in a bottle of Norse Power Deodorant For Men?

  • Mead (imbibed generously by Viking warriors after a hard day’s raiding)
  • Blood and gore (spilled on the battlefields as the marauding Vikings conquered all in their path)
  • Smoke (from the settlements razed by Vikings during raids)
  • Seawater (From the journey by longship to British shores)
  • Mud (Vikings often travelled by foot over the sodden terrain)
  • Human sweat (which would have been deep soaked into a warrior’s clothes after a hard day’s raiding)
  • Animal meat, fruits and nuts (the essential ingredients of a hearty Viking feast)
  • Fresh pine (from traversing the many forests of Britain in search of places to conquer)

Michelle Brown, Marketing Manager of Visit York, explains, "Historical research indicates that the Vikings were quite particular about personal hygiene, especially when compared to the Anglo Saxons. But even so, this only meant washing once a week, which by today’s standards isn’t exactly the height of cleanliness! And for a Viking raider, who’d travelled hundreds of miles over land and sea, and spent their days fighting bloody skirmishes, it’s fair to say they wouldn’t always have carried the most alluring aromas around with them.

"With Norse Power we wanted to try and capture the sort of smells that would have been part and parcel of the lives of Viking warriors around the time that York was the Norse capital of England. But more than that, with all of the bath products, deodorants, perfumes and aftershaves available today, we wanted to give male visitors to York the unique chance to cast aside their allegiance to modern aromas and instead embrace the smells from an era of true warriors!"

There might be a few bottles of Norse Power still left at the Visit York Visitor Centre - go to http://www.visityork.org/ for more information.
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Jumat, 16 Mei 2014
Selasa, 06 Mei 2014
Medieval Combat World Championships

Poland's Marcin Waszkielis and Suzanne Elleraas of the United States took first prize in the male and female divisions of the Medieval Combat World Championships, which was held this week in Belmonte Castle in Spain.

The four-day event began on May 1st, with dozens of men and women competing in combat with the medieval longsword.

"The sport is based on the traditional 14th and 15th century tournaments, mostly the rules have been developed from a book by a guy called King René of Anjou and he wrote the seminal book of the tournament in the early 1400s," Martin Cazey explained to the NTD.TV.

Both the BBC and Ukraine News One were on hand to report on the tournament:





You can also see this slideshow of pictures from the Medieval Combat World Championships from Reuters.
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Kamis, 10 April 2014
Rabu, 02 April 2014
Bruce Holsinger and Nancy Bilyeau talk about historical fiction


Bruce Holsinger and Nancy Bilyeau, two of the leading medieval novelists, had the chance to meet up in New York City and have a conversation about writing historical fiction, how they went about researching their novels, and what stories and styles influenced their writing.

For example, Bruce says to Nancy "you flesh out those aspects of daily life with remarkable skill, without a lot of hand waving or showing off of historical details. I actually struggled a bit with this at first. I knew the medieval period in terms of its literary history, but in terms of the details of everyday life, that was a brand new learning experience. I had to go back and relearn a lot of what I thought I knew. There are so many passages in the literature that will tell you about, say, the food at a feast, but I never really paid attention to those until I had to figure out what people ate in a scene I was writing."

Nancy replies, "Exactly! I was never happier than when a curator at the Tower of London scanned in a diet sheet of an aristocratic prisoner in the 1540s and sent me a PDF. I had every detail down to how many pigeons eaten a week."

You can read their conversation from The Daily Beast.

Nancy Bilyeau's latest book is called The Chalice - we will have a review about it on Medievalists.net very soon! Bruce Holsinger's novel is called A Burnable Book.
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Jumat, 21 Maret 2014
Medieval Barbie!

Kickstarter Campaigns seem to be very popular for medievalists! The latest one has Jim Rodda trying to raise $5000 to develop a Medieval Barbie outfit. He has already raised about $4000 for his project, which you can read more about here.



The campaign has attracted a lot of media attention, including this video report:

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Selasa, 18 Maret 2014
Jacques de Molay, Templar, died on this day in 1314

Today marks the 700th anniversary of the execution of Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of the Knights Templar. For many historians this day marks the unofficial end of the Templars, the military monastic order that for about two hundred years defended Jerusalem and the Holy Land for Roman Catholics. 

Dominic Selwood, the resident historian at The Telegraph, has penned a good account of the story of the fall of the Grand Master and his brethren. He writes:

To draw down the final curtain, on the 18th of March 1314 the four most senior living Templars were hauled to Paris. On a rostrum erected on the parvis before the great cathedral of Notre-Dame, they were publicly condemned to perpetual imprisonment. Hugues de Pairaud and Geoffroi de Gonneville accepted the sentences in silence. But Jacques de Molay and Geoffroi de Charney stunned the crowd by talking over the cardinals and professing their innocence and that of the Temple.

The electrifying news was rushed across the city to King Philip at the Louvre. Desperate to crush this dangerous new defiance, he abandoned all legal procedures and ordered the two old Templars to be burned without delay.
Click here to read his full article

While the Knights Templar was destroyed in the fourteenth-century, their notoriety and story would continue on to the present day. In his article, Your Conspiracy Theories Began 700 Years Ago Today, Paul Fain notes that their mantle would be taken up by many others. For example:
The early Freemasons claimed ties to the Templars, despite a gap of a few hundred years between their creation and de Molay’s death. A dubious link to the old-school warriors apparently gave them some street cred.
He adds:
The Templars also made an appearance in the news last week. Mexican police killed Nazario Moreno, the leader of a drug cartel that used the name Knights Templar. According to Time, Moreno’s followers wore white robes and kept statues of him wearing medieval armor. It’s unclear where he hid the Holy Grail. 
You can find a lot of information on the Templars - books, video games, even cheesy documentaries like this one:


You can find some articles about the Knights Templar on Medievalists.net. Check out also these accounts about the founding of Templars from De Re Militari: The Society for Medieval Military History.
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Senin, 10 Maret 2014
Angry Birds goes medieval?



Has the ridiculously popular game Angry Birds gone to the Middle Ages? From this teaser video it looks like we might soon see a new version of the game in which Red, Chuck, Bomb, Terrance and other feathery friends are hurled at the bad piggies who have stolen their eggs.

Since it was first released in 2009, Angry Birds and its various spinoffs, which includes versions based on Star Wars and a Go-Kart racing game, have been downloaded more than two billion times. A feature film based on the game is in production and is scheduled to be released in 2016.

It seems this game will be first released in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. We will keep you up-to-date on when it comes out.
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Rabu, 26 Februari 2014
Interview with Michael Hirst, creator of Vikings

This month's issue of DUJOUR has a feature interview with Michael Hirst, the creator and writer of the hit TV series Vikings, by Nancy Bilyeau:

If you walk outside your office for three blocks, you’ll pass at least 70 Vikings.” That was the pitch that award-winning writer Michael Hirst made to the History Channel—and it worked. Executives took the chance that a dramatic series on the lives of people who fought and loved more than 1,000 years ago would hook us today. 
Vikings, back for Season Two on February 27, became the No. 1 new cable series of the year in its first season, averaging 4.3 million viewers. The fan base proved rabid about the series’ stars Travis Fimmel, Katheryn Winnick, Clive Standen, Jessalyn Gilsig and George Blagden. 
What makes Vikings stand out in the throng of historical films and television series is the simple yet compelling storytelling of Hirst, its creator and sole writer. This is far from his first foray into the past. Hirst wrote the screenplays for Elizabeth and its sequel Elizabeth: The Golden Age, both starring Cate Blanchett, and then went on to create the very popular Showtime series The Tudors, which ran for four seasons. 
We caught up with Hirst to find out what fuels his passion for authenticity, whether it’s a chaotic battlefield or quiet moments between husband and wife.
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Rabu, 19 Februari 2014
It's Ragnarok this Saturday! Try not to worry too much



The Jorvik Viking Festival in York, England is billing this Saturday as Ragnarok, the Norse-version of the apocalypse. They calculate that February 22nd will be the date when the Norse gods - Odin, Thor, Loki et al.- fight an epic battle that will leave the world destroyed.

The festival organizers are apparently not too serious about the events. The York Press reports that during the day they will be hosting combat training sessions for the younger kids, and the "finale will see about 300 warriors gather in Dean’s Park for a march through the city from 1.30pm, before massing at the Eye of York at 6.45pm for the climactic battle."

NPR has sent this radio report back on what to expect:



If you are still worried, check out Judith Jesch's article on the University of Nottingham's website, where she talks about the meaning of Ragnarok, which may be more peaceful than is seen in popular imagination.  By looking at the meaning of the term ragnarok, the events foretold can be seen more as a  ‘renewal of the divine powers’.

Jesch adds:

If this meaning goes back to the pre-Christian period, as seems likely, then it sheds a whole new light on those gloomy old Vikings. Their mythology envisaged Ragnarok as a cleansing process, through which the gods could be reborn. This more positive view of Ragnarok would also have suited their Christian descendants (Iceland was converted around the year 1000 AD), who could interpret the renewal as being a rebirth into a whole new dispensation with a whole new kind of divine power. This attractive solution not only revises our understanding of the Viking world-view, but also explains how the story could successfully be reinterpreted by Christians, such as the newly-converted Vikings who in the tenth century erected a cross (depicted here) with scenes from both Ragnarok and Christian myth at Gosforth, in Cumbria.

Enjoy the day!

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Selasa, 18 Februari 2014
Is this a Viking Magic Wand?


For decades the experts at the British Museum believed that this item, discovered at a woman's grave from Norway was just a hook used in fishing. However, new research suggests that it was her 'magic wand' and that it was deliberately bent to destroy its power.

The Times newspaper reported that this item, a 90 cm long iron rod, was first brought to the British Museum in 1894. British Museum curator Sue Branning believes that it was probably a magical staff used to perform 'seithr', a form of Viking sorcery predominantly practiced by women.

She told The Times: "These are magical practices, which we don't fully understand. It involves divination, prophecy, communication with the dead and making people do things. Our rod fits, in terms of its form, with a number of these rods that turn up in the 9th and 10th century in female burials. They normally take the form of these long iron rods with knobs attached to them."

The rod would have been 'ritually' destroyed in order to prevent the sorceress from rising from the dead, or to stop anyone else from using it. Branning adds, "When we hear about the Vikings we hear all about the powerful warriors, but now we know there were also powerful women. These women were very well respected, but they were quite feared as well. They may have been on the margins of society. You might not want to get close to them because they have this power. The sources we have describe them as wearing blue and black cloaks with gems attached."

Visitors to the British Museum will be able to see the artifact when the new Early Medieval Gallery reopens on March 27th. Click here to visit the British Museum website.
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Senin, 10 Februari 2014
New Minor in Medieval Studies programs offered at U.S. universities

Don't worry - medieval studies is a little more gender balanced!
The University of Arizona and the University of Connecticut have both added a Minor in Medieval Studies to their program offerings for undergraduate students. The Daily Wildcat that the University of Arizona approved of the minor last December, after it was proposed by professors Fabian Alfie and Albrecht Classen. They were inspired by the creation of a minor in Hip-Hop Studies at the university to go ahead with their own.

Professor Classen tells the newspaper, "“[The minor is] trying to give students a sense of a certain cultural period. [This] allows [students] to combine — in a unique way ­— philosophy, religion, art history, literature and economics. There is a lot of flexibility, yet with a concrete focus on a cultural period.”

Click here to read the article from the Daily Wildcat

Meanwhile, the University of Connecticut will offer their students to gain a minor in Medieval Studies by taking courses from over 11 departments. The Daily Campus reports that the program is designed so that students take a wide variety of subjects.

Graduate student Brandon Hawk explains, “It encourages people to take classes in music, art history and other subjects. It provides a greater spectrum of a liberal arts education.”

Professor Fiona Somerset, who is one co-head of the program, finds that it will appeal to many types of students. “For aspiring novelists, it’s a great way to get an edge,” she said. “Much of the basis of our pop culture is in the middle ages. If you read fantasy, that’s medieval based.”

Click here to read the article from the Daily Campus

Click here to see our page on Medieval Studies programs in the United States
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Kamis, 06 Februari 2014
Sea Monsters, Bones, and Textbooks: Medieval News Roundup

The Bones of Charlemagne

Swiss researchers believe they have confirmed that the 94 bones and bone fragments kept at Aachen Cathedral belong to the first Holy Roman Emperor. Professor Frank Rühli of the University of Zurich explains, "Thanks to the results from 1988 up until today, we can say with great likelihood that we are dealing with the skeleton of Charlemagne."

The remains of Charlemagne were taken out of his grave in the 12th century and put into various reliquaries. The researchers took various measurements of the remaining bones, and conclude that he was about six feet tall and thinly built.

You can read more details from Medieval Histories

Medieval Sea Monsters

The Public Domain Review website has a posted an article about the drawings of the sea creatures made by the 16th century writer Olaus Magnus and his influence on sea lore. They note:

The northern seas of the marine and terrestrial map teem with fantastic sea monsters either drawn or approved by Olaus. The most dramatic of those, off the busy coast of Norway, below the dreaded Maelström, is the great serpent, coiling around a ship’s mast and lunging with bared teeth at a sailor on the deck.

You can see more images and the full article from the Public Domain Review

What's wrong with History Textbooks

David Cutler, writing in The Atlantic, is finding that high-school history textbooks in the U.S. are not very useful for teaching history. His reasons for this include:

  1. Textbooks present history as unchanging, but as time passes, our understanding and interpretation of the past constantly evolves. 
  2. Textbooks are one-sided, offering a top-down, often white-male-centric view of history. 
  3.  Without a thesis or any semblance or argument, textbooks don’t accurately reflect how most scholars (at least good ones) write and present history. Teachers should assign readings that model effective historical writing. 
  4. Most importantly—and this merits repeating—textbooks are boring and intimidating. 
  5. Textbooks can serve as a crutch for teachers who don’t know history or the historian’s craft.

While this article is aimed at teaching American history in High School, some of the observations might also be apt for the use of textbooks in college or first year university history courses too.

Click here to read this article from The Atlantic
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Senin, 03 Februari 2014
Answering the questions 'May a Man Marry a Man?' and 'Who am I?' in the Middle Ages

May a Man Marry a Man? A Medieval Debate 

Charles J. Reid, a Professor at the University of St.Thomas and writer on religious issues for the Huffington Post, recently posted May a Man Marry a Man? A Medieval Debate, which takes look at how medieval writers approached the issue of same-sex marriage. The surprising thing, notes Professor Reid, is that they actually talked about this issue. He begins by referencing the work of Henry of Segusio, better known as Hostiensis, a 13th century canon law expert, who penned the question: "May a man marry a man?"

The answer was an emphatic no, and would remain so throughout the Middle Ages. Reid does it find interesting that many of the arguments against same-sex marriage that were first written over 800 years ago remain prominent today.

Click here to read his article.

Thomas Aquinas – Toward a Deeper Sense of Self

Therese Scarpelli Cory has written a very insightful piece on the Cambridge University Press blog on Thomas Aquinas – Toward a Deeper Sense of Self. It explores how St. Thomas Aquinas might approach the question 'Who am I?' and introduces us to Cory's new book Aquinas on Human Self-Knowledge. She writes:

"It’s a common scholarly myth that early modern philosophers (starting with Descartes) invented the idea of the human being as a “self” or “subject.” My book tries to dispel that myth, showing that like philosophers and neuroscientists today, medieval thinkers were just as curious about why the mind is so intimately familiar, and yet so inaccessible, to itself. (In fact, long before Freud, medieval Latin and Islamic thinkers were speculating about a subconscious, inaccessible realm in the mind.) The more we study the medieval period, the clearer it becomes that inquiry into the self does not start with Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am.” Rather, Descartes was taking sides in a debate about self-knowledge that had already begun in the thirteenth century and earlier."

Click here to read her blog post
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Senin, 27 Januari 2014
no image

It looks like I'm not the only one who disliked having to carry around a lot of books. Back in the mid-16th century a German publisher created this six books in a book, where you can open it up in different ways to read the different texts.

This particular book is owned by the National Library of Sweden, and it contains religious texts including one by Martin Luther. You can see more images of it from the Flikr page of the National Library of Sweden, but if you want to see it in action, check out Erik Kwakkel's Tumblr! You can also follow him on Twitter @erik_kwakkel
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Senin, 20 Januari 2014
A Kangaroo in a 16th century manuscript?

An image from a 16th century Portuguese manuscript may indicate that Europeans visited Australia earlier than previously thought.



A drawing that appears to show a kangaroo has been found in the manuscript belonging to a Portuguese nun. The small manuscript, which dates from between 1580 and 1620, has recently been acquired by Les Enluminures Gallery of New York.

Laura Light, a researcher from Les Enluminures Gallery, told the Sydney Morning Herald, "A kangaroo or a wallaby in a manuscript dated this early is proof that the artist of this manuscript had either been in Australia, or even more interestingly, that travellers' reports and drawings of the interesting animals found in this new world were already available in Portugal."

While it is commonly believed that the first Europeans to reach Australia in 1606 were Dutch, some historians suggest that the Portuguese visited the continent as early as 1521.

Click here to read the full article from the Sydney Morning Herald


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