Categories
Research

Filed under “Amusing Diversion”

Working through a manuscript I came across this folio with a large diagram of the zodiac in the center. What caught my attention was the drawing in the upper right corner. The scribe seems to have thrown his arms up in confusion (?), exasperation (?), or simply resignation. Either that, or he’s being held up […]

Categories
Museums

Museums and the Future

In a recent opinion piece in the NY Times, Museums Need to Step Into the Future, Darren Walker calls for museums to embrace a new and more diverse society, to relinquish their role as “guardians of a fading social and demographic order.” Instead, he believes, “museums have the responsibility to hold a mirror up to […]

Categories
Exhibitions

Astrolabes & Navigation (redux, again)

A friend recently visited Philadelphia’s Please Touch Museum and came across the reference to the astrolabe in Muslim culture. Thinking of me, she snapped a photo and sent it to me: While I am delighted to see astrolabes in a children’s museum, I am disheartened to see a museum misrepresenting them. The myth that astrolabes […]

Categories
Press and Pop Culture

GoT Starbucks Cups and Astrolabes

Game of Thrones fans, and a disturbingly large part of the internet, erupted over an errant paper coffee cup, complete with plastic sippy lid that somehow found its way onto a table on set. For a few seconds during the feast celebrating the defeat of the Night King, on the table near Daenerys Stormborn of […]

Categories
Literature & Scholarship

Notes on West’s Textual Criticism

Random thoughts from M.L. West’s Textual Criticism and Editorial Technique. In one section West surveys “Various causes of textual discrepancy.” Notably, although many a “textual discrepancy” is an error, West is careful to allow for other types of variations and different causes. Under the category “semi-conscious and unconscious changes” West includes assimilation: There are several […]

Categories
History

Ghosts and the Society for Psychical Research

Sometime in the mid 1770s the German scholar Georg Christoph Lichtenberg predicted with a certain degree of optimism: Our world will yet become so intricate that it will be as ridiculous to believe in a god as it is nowadays to believe in ghosts.[1] Although Lichtenberg investigated electrical phenomena and is credited with discovering “Lichtenberg […]

Categories
Collections

Pre-Modern High Tech

Last month the Washington Post ran a short article by Erin Blakemore on medieval scientific instruments, “Think smartphones are astonishing? Discover the ‘high tech’ devices of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.” It was a little light on details, but nicely highlighted Epact, an on-line collection of pre-modern scientific instruments. It is easy while away […]

Categories
History

Chambers Full of Snakes

Thumbing through a couple early modern collections of secrets always turns up strange and fascinating techniques and recipes. Some seem obviously useful, such as how to make a candle burn under water or make one burn forever. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, recipes to treat wounds and restore health are common. We find numerous recipes about curing various […]

Categories
Exhibitions

Astronomy and Printing

The Printing Museum in Tokyo has what looks to be an amazing temporary exhibit right now on astronomy and print, aptly named “Astronomy and Printing. In search of new world vision.”[1] The exhibit brings together nearly 100 printed objects stretching from the 1450s to the 1870s.[2] In addition to showing an impressive range of items, […]

Categories
Press and Pop Culture

Feynman Relics

A pile of Richard Feynman detritus sold recently at Sotheby’s.1 In total, the 44 lots of Feynman’s stuff fetched $3,796,625, most of it paid for Feynman’s Nobel Prize.2 While I remain puzzled by the desire to own souvenirs from some famous scientist, I am truly baffled by the fact that somebody paid $60,000 for Feynman’s […]