Sunday, July 13, 2014

Miniature Books

Following on from this article in the LA Times:

In 1829-30, Charlotte Brontë was 13 and her brother Branwell Brontë 12. Creating fantasy worlds they called Angria and Glass Town, the siblings made teeny tiny books. 

Measuring less than 1 inch by 2 inches,  the books were made from scraps of paper and constructed by hand. Despite their diminutive size, the books contained big adventures, written in ink in careful script. 

Twenty books, all by Charlotte and Branwell, remain. Similar books created by the other sisters, Anne and Emily, did not survive. Nine of the existing books, known as Bronte juvenalia, are in the collection at the Houghton Library at Harvard University.

Here are my miniature books that I have had since I was quite small - although the plastic case in which they originally came is now long lost, the books themselves are in very good condition.  All are beautifully illustrated, published by Merrimack Publishing Group and printed in Hong Kong - though no other details, including the year of printing, is available.

Women of the World

The following is part of a review by John Gallagher of the Telegraph of Helen McCarthy's book Women of the World: The Rise of the Female Diplomat.

Women’s involvement in global politics is nothing new. Elizabeth I’s ladies-in-waiting were adept in international intrigue; Mary Wortley Montagu penned dispatches from the 18th-century Ottoman harem; and one could even argue that the biblical Judith’s decapitation of Holofernes was early proof of women’s aptitude for cutthroat diplomacy.

But in Britain, women’s entry into the diplomatic service was approved only in 1946, 30 years after they had won the vote, and long after the rest of the civil service. In this carefully researched, stylishly written and highly entertaining history, Helen McCarthy traces the roles that women have played in British diplomacy from the 19th century onwards, and highlights the issues that bedevil their service into the present day.

The story is rich with female pioneers who proved in practice what the establishment could not accept in principle. Of course, the barriers to female progression did not fall away so quickly: in particular, the marriage bar introduced in 1946 meant that many young women had promising careers cut abruptly short. It would be 1987 before Britain named its first married female ambassador.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

July Additions to the Library

Well, as mentioned in my last post, the Library is well and truly open for business, and taking in new titles. Here are some that should be arriving this month:

The First Crusade: The Call From The East by Peter Frankopan
The First Crusade is one of the best-known and most written-about events in history. This book intends to address the history of the First Crusade from the perspective of the east, examining the role of the Byzantine Empire and its ruler, Emperor Alexios I Komnenos.
(have been promising myself to get this one for some time)

The Writings of Agnes of Harcourt: The "Life of Isabelle of France" and the "Letter" on Louis IX and Longchamp trans: Sean L Field
An abbess in the Franciscan abbey of Longchamp, Agnes of Harcourt wrote a biography of Isabelle of France and a letter detailing Louis IX's involvement with the abbey, both of which provide a window on 13th-century religious life. This translation also contains an introduction to her life and work.

The Murder, Betrayal, and Slaughter of the Glorious Charles, Count of Flanders by Galbert Of Bruges, translated by Jeff Rider
The craven murder of Glorious Charles, who had no progeny and had not yet named a successor, upset the fragile balance of power between England, France and the Holy Roman Empire, giving rise to a prolonged struggle for the countship and bloody civil war while impacting the commercial life of the most prosperous regions of medieval Europe.

William Marshal: The Flower of Chivalry by Georges Duby
Recreates the life of William Marshal, the Earl of Pembroke from a thirteenth century poem and describes medieval daily life
(another one that has spent way too long on the TBR list)

The Normans by Trevor Rowley
The Normans were a relatively short-lived cultural and political phenomenon. They emerged early in the tenth century and had disappeared off the map by the mid-thirteenth century. Drawing on the archaeological and historical evidence, this title examines how the Normans were able to conquer and dominate significant parts of Europe.

The Gesta Tancredi of Ralph of Caen trans Bernard S. Bachrach and David S Bachrach
Presents a narrative of the First Crusade and its immediate aftermath, covering the period 1096-1105, but is often neglected, due in no small part to the difficulties of its Latin.

Burgundians in the Mist by Marc Comtois
A historical work focusing on the Burgundians--a Germanic people of the Late Antique/Early Medieval period--and the role they played in the transition of Western Europe in the wake of the Fall of the Rome.

Strongbow: The Norman Invasion of Ireland by Conor Kostick
The coming of the Normans to Ireland from 1169 is a pivotal moment in the country's history. It is a period full of bloodthirsty battles, both between armies and individuals. With colourful personalities and sharp political twists and turns, Strongbow's story is a fascinating one. Combining the writing style of an award-winning novelist with expert scholarship, historian Conor Kostick has written a powerful and absorbing account of the stormy affairs of an extraordinary era.

Galloglas: Hebridean and West Highland Mercenary by John Marsden
This exciting new work offers a Scottish perspective on a particularly bloody chapter of Irish history. The Galloglas were a group of mercenary warriors from Western Scotland who settled in Ireland and achieved extraordinary prominence over the next 300 years. By the 15th century they had become Ireland's first professional warrior class.