Friday, December 30, 2016

30 Medieval Texts Translated in 2016

From Medievalists.net comes a list of 30 medieval texts translated in 2016. 

From biographies of the leading warriors to the grumbling of a government official, here are thirty medieval texts that have been translated in 2016. Chronicles, law books, letter collections, religious and literary works were among those edited and translated this year, many for the first time. 

I have already added about four of these to my wish list - how many have you added to yours??

Modern Fight Over Ancient Library

It was filthy, cramped and in major disarray, but when art historian Eva Lindqvist Sandgren entered the library in Altomuenster Abbey, off-limits to all but the German monastery’s nuns for more than five centuries, she immediately knew she was looking at a major treasure. 

The dusty shelves held at least 500 books, by her estimate, including precious illuminated manuscripts from the 16th century, chants used by the uniquely women-led Bridgettine Order and processionals bursting with colorful religious and ornamental decoration in their margins. 

Unlike most Bridgettine libraries, the tomes had survived the Protestant Reformation, the 30 Years War and Germany’s “secularization,” when the state took most church property. It represents the most complete collection of the order known today.

“I had entered a time capsule,” said Lindqvist Sandgren, a senior lecturer at Sweden’s Uppsala University. 

Surprised by the spontaneous decision by Altomuenster’s last remaining nun, Sister Apollonia Buchinger, to open the library, 20 scholars including Sandgren made plans to return and meticulously catalog the remarkable collection. 

But before they could, the Vatican ordered the abbey in the Bavarian town of 7,500 closed and locked up the library, which also contains some 2,300 statues, paintings and other works of art.

If plans go ahead to close it down, all of the abbey’s property – the books, the artworks, the city-block-sized abbey, and the acres of forests and fields that make up the monastery grounds – would be turned over to the dioceses of Munich and Freising. 

Read More Here @ The Journal Gazette

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Book

Whilst listing his top history books for 2016, Stephen Carter of Bloomberg View posits this review:
Keith Houston, “The Book: A Cover-to-Cover Exploration of the Most Powerful Object of Our Time”“Find the biggest, grandest hardback you can,” advises the author in the introduction. “Hold it in your hands. Open it and hear the rustle of paper and the crackle of glue.” Exactly. Exactly. If you love books you will love this book, and not only because it is beautifully and almost reverentially put together, standing physically for the argument it makes. Books are not like anything else in human history. They have filled houses of worship and toppled empires. But we rarely pause to think about where they came from.
There are other fine volumes in recent years about the history of the book, including outstanding contributions by veteran bibliophiles Robert Darnton and Nicholas Basbanes. But Houston’s wonderful history of the science of the book is irresistible. We all know that Gutenberg and his contemporaries printed with movable type, but how did they make the molds for the letters? Houston investigates. I particularly loved the bit about the debate -- yes, the debate -- about how papyrus books were made and why they survived the ages. He is also fascinating in tracking the mystery behind the St Cuthbert’s Bible, the oldest surviving bound book.

Reading Is Not Dead

Reading, contrary to previous reports, is not dead. In fact, it's very far from it. 

How do you get to be a blockbuster author? Typing is not enough, though some of these novels certainly read that way. The writing quality and storytelling vary tremendously, but there are some similarities among hit writers.

The big writers rarely take their popularity for granted. They go where the readers are and continue to make appearances long after they've become established - and wildly wealthy - superstars. 

Most of all, though, the top sellers deliver a terrific story. In their novels, especially thrillers and science fiction, plot is paramount. The heroes tend to be relatable - shy, clumsy, anxious, myopic, in recovery, short-tempered, middle-class, broke - but their stories are fantastic, over-the-top, a wild ride and a welcome escape from a reader's quotidian life. In romance, the love is for the ages, destined, the opposite of casual. The story does not bog down with the challenge of dirty dishes or tax audits.

Read the full article by Karen Heller here @ The Independent




Review: Ellin Carsta - The Draper's Daughter


For me, the tale started slowly, and at one stage I did consider leaving it there as there was no immediate connection with the subject and subject matter - but I persevered. 

The story, set in Cologne 1351, is of a remarkable young woman, who defies the conventions of the times by wanting to continue in her father's cloth trade. Family set backs, and a truly odious brother, ensure that the reader is constantly on the side of the underdog - in this case, our heroine Elizabeth.


What is remarkable was the depiction of Elizabeth's determination to overcome convention and stride out on her own - and author Ellin Carsta conveys this struggle well. However, being not over familiar with 14th Century Germany, and especially the pogroms against the Jews, a little (not a lot) more background would have assisted since this period is referenced.

The language is simple and not overly complex, and the author makes no attempt write in any Germanic dialect or accent, or use words a reader may not fully grasp (as other writers do and which nearly always comes off sounding phoney and contrived) - so the narrative flowed smoothly.

Overall, despite a slow start and thoughts to the contrary, I could not set the book aside until I reached its climatic conclusion.


Review @ Goodreads

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Review: Mark Toscano - Accused

This review appears on Goodreads.

The 4-star rating is a clue that I loved this book. I have been getting into crime noir (with a touch of humour) with the likes of Maria Angelica Bosco, Frederic Dard, Augustus de Angelus and even Caimh McDonnell - and to this group I would add Mark Toscano.


"Accused" is flavoured with local references and language, is both hard-hitting and at times, slightly humourous; is addictive and highly readable. Told in the first person (alternating) narrative by two brothers, we are taken on a roller-coaster ride where a seemingly innocuous act sends one of the brothers headlong down the path of no return, leaving the other to solve the puzzle before them.

"Accused" is a tome I would gladly welcome to my crime shelf in my own personal library.

In summing up, author Mark Toscano lets slip that this may not be the first outing of the Corsaro brothers ....... I look forward to tracking down their earlier exploits.


Mark Toscano on Facebook
Mark Toscano on Aria Fiction
Mark Toscano - Amazon

Sunday, December 18, 2016

14 Historical Fiction Books About Anne Boleyn

14 Historical Fiction Books About Anne Boleyn 
Anne Boleyn by trickd
Anne Boleyn’s tragic death and dramatic life — including her marriages, sibling relationships, alleged crimes, and subsequent martyrdom — have cemented her place as a notorious historical figure. From biographies to movie adaptations, Boleyn’s life still fascinates us to this day. If you’re someone who loves to read about this controversial queen, check out the novels HERE, complete with publishers’ descriptions.
To which I will add these older editions:
  •  The Lady In The Tower - Jean Plaidy
  • Anne of a Thousand Days - Edward Fenton
  • The Tudors: King takes Queen - Michael Hirst & Elizabeth Massie
  • Anne Boleyn: A Tragedy - George Henry Boker
  • The Star of the Court - S. Bunbury
  • Anne Boleyn: A Dramatic Poem - Rev. H.H. Milman
  • Anne Boleyn: A Tragedy - Francis A.H. Terrell
  • A lady Raised High: A Novel of Anne Boleyn - Laurien Gardner
  • Anne Boleyn: A Tragedy In Six Acts - M.L. Tyler
  • Had The Queen Lived: An Alternate History of Anne Boleyn - Raven A. Nuckols
  • Anne Boleyn's Ghost - Liam Archer
  • In Bed With Anne Boleyn: A Novel - Lacey Baldwin Smith
  • My Story -Anne Boleyn & Me: A Tudor Girl's Diary 1525 - 1536 - Alison Prince
  • The Curse of Anne Boleyn: A Novel - C.C. Humphreys
  • The Boleyn Inheritance - Alison Weir
  • To Die For: A Novel of Anney Boleyn - Sandra Byrd
  • In the Shadows of Lions: A Novel of Anne Boleyn - Ginger Garrett
  • The Boleyn Wife - Brandy Purdy
  • I Diced With God - The Life of Henry VIII as seen by His Majesty - Dorthy Davies
  • The French Executioner - The Story of Jean Rombaud & Anne Boleyn - C.C. Humphreys



Saturday, December 17, 2016

Bibliomania, the Dark Desire For Books

Bibliomania, the Dark Desire For Books That Infected Europe in the 1800s | Atlas Obscura 
Dr. Alois Pichler was almost always surrounded by books. In 1869, Pichler, originally from Bavaria, became the so-called “extraordinary librarian” of the Imperial Public Library in St. Petersburg, Russia, a prestigious position that gave him a salary three times higher than the average librarian: 3,000 rubles. 
While many librarians have a deep appreciation for books, Pichler was afflicted with a specific irrepressible illness. A few months after Pichler took his position at the library, the staff discovered that an alarming number of books were disappearing from the collection. They suspected theft. Guards noticed that Pichler had been acting strangely—dropping books by the exit and hurriedly returning them to the shelves, refusing to remove his large overcoat, leaving the library several times within a day—and started paying close attention to him. 
On March, 1871, over 4,500 stolen library books on everything from perfume making to theology were found in his possession, Pichler committing the largest known library theft on record.

Pichler, who was found guilty and exiled to Siberia, was a victim of “bibliomania,” a dark pseudo-psychological illness that swept through the upper classes in Europe and England during the 1800s. Symptoms included a frenzy for culling and hunting down first editions, rare copies, books of certain sizes or printed on specific paper.
Read more here --->> Atlas Obscura

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Canberra writer LJM Owen devises intermillennial forensic crime series

Canberra writer LJM Owen devises intermillennial forensic crime series 
Canberra replaces Somerset. There are complicated family feuds, long-buried secrets, fireside chats, purring cats and comfort food. The cases are cold – really cold – cases connected to archaeological finds from the sites of the world's greatest ancient civilisations and Owen's young sleuth, Dr Elizabeth Pimms, must use her skills as an archaeologist and working librarian to find answers. 
The first in the series, Olmec Obituary, features the discovery of a royal Olmec cemetery deep in the Mexican jungle and a 3000-year-old sculpture of a female ball player. 
The second, Mayan Mendacity, introduces readers to the court of Lady Six Sky, a long-forgotten leader of the Mayan Empire. 
Warned by friends of the long odds of finding a publisher in the sub-genre of cosy crime, she self-published, raising $10,000 by crowdfunding. Five days into last year's Kickstarter campaign she was contacted by Angela Meyer of Echo Publishing, which has now published both books back-to-back.


Read more here @ the Sydney Morning Herald.


I am currently reading the Olmec Obituary and will follow it with the Mayan Mendacity.


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

11 Non-Fiction Books About Famous Women to Add to Your Reading List

From Culturess:
Hedy Lamarr
Sometimes, the truth really can be stranger than fiction, especially when it comes to famous women around the world. Besides, a good non-fiction book not only teaches you about its subject, it makes you want to read more of the book and hopefully more about that person!
That’s why we’ve put together this starting list. Books featured here cover history stretching all the way back to ancient Egypt and coming all the way here to today with a Nobel Prize winner and a rather notorious judge. Each book features one — or more — real women.
Some books are autobiographies. Others instead put together several shorter entries about plenty of different women, gathered around a theme. Many of these entries have plenty of pages to consume, but some shrink it down to about the length of a normal novel.
We’ll also include more books about famous women as additional recommended reading on each slide.
Together, they represent a very short introduction to women in history around the world, and how to find them in the world of non-fiction, all presented in no particular order. All that said, let’s get started.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Thomas Cromwell - A Life In Print

Aside from the famous six wives, Henry VIII's "faithful servant" Thomas Cromwell has recently come to the fore with both the reading and viewing public alike. There are now more "modern" accounts (both factual and fictional) of the life of this dogged Tudor statesman than you can poke a stick at - and I will share a few with you.

The most current rendition of the life of Thomas Cromwell is Tracey Borman's "Thomas Cromwell: The Untold Story of Henry VIII's Most Faithful Servant" (a copy which sits on my own library shelves). A review by The Independent says: " ...  Tracy Borman shows in this excellent, scrupulous biography, Anne’s shockingly fast fall from grace was largely engineered by Thomas Cromwell, a rather plain and overweight Putney-born man in his fifties whose intelligence and daring had made him the king’s closest advisor." The articles goes on further to say that "Borman has scoured the sources to explore the life and personality of the man who in effect created the break from the Church of Rome and her book is an impressive investigation into one of our most elusive characters in history."

This was in comparison to Hilary Mantle's "Wolf Hall" (2009) and "Bring Up The Bodies" (2012) (and the third, soon to be released book in the trilogy - "The Mirror & The Light") whom the same article says "Hilary Mantel’s crafting of Cromwell in her bestselling novels has been a triumph: sensitive, intellectual, brutal, strong. "

For many, however, Thomas Cromwell was not particularly well-known until Hilary Mantel’s best-selling novels (and the series based upon them) brought this protagonist to wider public attention. The Independent article goes further to say: "But the publishers have given Tracy Borman’s biography of Thomas Cromwell an unfortunate subtitle: “The untold story of Henry VIII’s most faithful servant.” It is no such thing. Besides Ms. Mantel’s fictional versions, Ms. Borman lists 10 previous lives of Cromwell in her bibliography."

And well she may - and here are a few worthy tomes to consider:
  • "Thomas Cromwell: Servant to Henry VIII (2013) by David Loades
  • "Thomas Cromwell: The Rise And Fall Of Henry VIII's Most Notorious Minister" (2012) by Robert Hutchinson
  • "The Rise and Fall of Thomas Cromwell: Henry VIII's Most Faithful Servant" (2011) by John Schofield
  • "Thomas Cromwell" (2013) by J Patrick Coby
  • "The Rise of Thomas Cromwell: Power and Politics in the Reign of Henry VIII, 1485-1534" (2015) by Michael Everette
  • "Life and Letters of Thomas Cromwell" - 6vols (2000) by Roger Bigelow Merriman
  • "The Crown and the Cross: A Biography of Thomas Cromwell" (1950) by Theodore Maynard
  • "Thomas Cromwell: Tudor Minister" by B. W. Beckingsale (1978)
  • "The Character and Times of Thomas Cromwell: A Sixteenth Century Criticism" (1887) by Arthur Howard Galton
  • "Thomas Cromwell" (1991) by Geoffrey Rudolph Elton
  • "Policy and Police: The Enforcement of the Reformation in the Age of Thomas Cromwell" (1985) by G. R. Elton 

There are indeed numerous books on the English Reformation, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and the Reign of Henry VIII in which Thomas Cromwell plays a role not consigned to the shadows.

Further readings & reviews:




Thursday, October 27, 2016

10 Worldwide Rad Women Writers You Should Know

10 Worldwide Rad Women Writers You Should Know

The first known author was an ancient Sumerian priestess named Enheduanna. The first novel was written by Murasaki Shikibu, a lady-in-waiting at the Imperial Court in Japan. Women wrote plays in ancient Greece, poems in ancient Persia. Fast forward some centuries, and five of the world’s top ten bestselling authors are women. Women from all over the world have been creating, influencing, and contributing to literature since its inception. 
Kate Schatz puts forth her list of writers from this last century that we should all read.


1066 and all that: a Hong Kong novelist’s alternative history

Author Justin Hill recounts his quest to reimagine the events of 1066 and retrace the life of a legendary warrior who could have become England’s king instead of William the Conqueror.
Harald Hardrada was one of the most fabulous adventurers of medieval times. His career has served as a template for fantasy char­acters such as Conan the Barbarian and even for the tumultuous turns of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. Harald was a child exile, like Arya Stark; as clever as Tyrion Lannister; as accomplished a warrior as Jaime Lannister; and travelled into the exotic east, like Daenerys Targaryen. His story is the archetype of the barbarian who rose to the heights of power and made himself king.
Shieldwall (2011), the first of a series of books examining the narratives and context of the 1066 Battle of Hastings, was a Sunday Times book of the year. Viking Fire is the second in this series and follows the adventures of Norwegian king Harald Hardrada.
Continue reading article here at Post Magazine

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Shirley Jackson: the US Queen of Gothic Horror

Shirley Jackson: the US queen of gothic horror claims her literary crown | Books | The Guardian
She has been cited as an inspiration by Stephen King, Donna Tartt, Neil Gaiman and Joanne Harris. Now the American author Shirley Jackson, once memorably described as writing “not with a pen but a broomstick”, is set for a long overdue reappraisal on this side of the Atlantic.
This week sees the release of a new biography, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, swiftly followed by a graphic novel version of her most famous short story, The Lottery, illustrated by her grandson, Miles Hyman, and the publication of Dark Tales, a collection of her most chilling short stories. And the revival does not stop there: next year will see a film of her book We Have Always Lived In The Castle, with rising stars Taissa Farmiga and Alexandra Daddario, alongside Sebastian Stan and Crispin Glover.
In an era when domestic noir reigns at the publishing houses and our thirst for dark tales of women under threat rages unabated, Jackson’s ability to unnerve strikes a chord. “There’s a whole new appreciation today of what it means to be a mother and a writer and how to reconcile those two things,” says Franklin. “We’re also more interested in the lives of women and that in turn has led to a revival of interest in Jackson’s work. I honestly feel as though she’s one of those authors who’s been in the background for a long time, yet has a huge influence on American fiction, and it’s only now that we’re beginning to see how important she is.” 

Read More Here >>>>> Guardian Fiction

Bernicia Chronicles: The Northern Queen


This month in the "What I Learnt..." series, Matthew Harffy talks to author Kelly Evans about her new novel "The Northern Queen" and researching for her novels.

Born in Canada of Scottish extraction, Kelly graduated in History and English from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. After graduating Kelly moved to the UK where she continued her studies in history, focusing on Medieval England and the Icelandic Sagas (with a smattering of Old Norse and Old English). Her first novel, The Northern Queen, was released in 2015 and she is currently working on the second book in her Anglo-Saxon series, set in the years prior to the Norman invasion.


Read rest of the blog article here at Matthew Harffy's Bernicia Chronicles

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

June & October 2016 Additions to the Library

I have been doing a bit of a stock-take in the Library and have discovered that quite a few books have not made it on the stock list. So, after spending an afternoon (or two) reviewing what I have on the shelves, I have discovered I have, on occasion, six occasions to be exact, have duplicated books. Okay, a couple of times it has mean both a hardback and paperback copy of the same book; however, in the other instances it has mean that, because of my own poor record-keeping, I have made multiple purchases. Never mind, one can never have too many books.

So, here are the latest additions:

  • Foxe's Book of Martyrs - John Foxe
  • Hawkwood - Jack Ludlow
  • The Nevills of Middleham - K. L. Clark
  • King Rufus - Emma Mason
  • Richard, Duke of York - Matthew Lewis
  • Joan of Kent - Penny Lawne
  • The Mythology of Richard III - John Ashdown-Hill
  • The Demon's Brood - Desmond Seward
  • God's Wolf - Jeffrey Lee
  • The War on Heresy - R. I. Moore
  • The French in the Kingdom of Sicily, 1266-1305 - Jean Dunbabin
  • John of Brienne - Guy Perry
  • The Bigod Earls of Norfolk in the Thirteenth Century - Marc Morris
  • The Norman Campaigns in the Balkans, 1081-1108 - Georgios Theotokis
  • Lady Macbeth - Susan Fraser King
  • The Borders - Alistair Moffat
In addition, I have also added: these ones in "The Witcher" series by Andrzej Sapkowski:
  • The Last Wish
  • Blood of Elves
  • The Time of Contempt
  • Baptism of Fire
  • The Tower of Swallows
  • Sword of Destiny

Jezebel: Princess of Sidon, Queen of Israel


Article by Joshua J. Mark published on 18 January 2012
Jezebel was the Phoenician Princess of Sidon (9th century BCE) whose story is told in the Hebrew Tanakh (the Christian Old Testament) in I and II Kings where she is portrayed unfavorably as a conniving harlot who corrupts Israel and flaunts the commandments of God. Recent scholarship, which has led to a better understanding of the civilization of Phoenicia, the role of women, and the struggle of the adherents of the Hebrew god Yahweh for dominance over the worship of the Canaanite deities Astarte and Baal, suggest a different, and more favorable, picture of Jezebel as a woman ahead of her time married into a culture whose religious class saw her as a formidable threat (phoenicia.org). The historian and biblical scholar Janet Howe Gaines notes this new interpretation in scholarship, writing: 
For more than two thousand years, Jezebel has been saddled with a reputation as the bad girl of the Bible, the wickedest of women. This ancient queen has been denounced as a murderer, prostitute and enemy of God, and her name has been adopted for lingerie lines and World War II missiles alike. But just how depraved was Jezebel? In recent years, scholars have tried to reclaim the shadowy female figures whose tales are often only partially told in the Bible. 
Read rest of article at Ancient History Encyclopedia

Monday, October 10, 2016

“I have the temperament of a harlot": on the life of Steven Runciman

“I have the temperament of a harlot": on the life of Steven Runciman
In the mid-1970s, when Steven Runciman was in his own eighth decade, he became a frequent house guest of the archaeologist (and husband of Agatha Christie) Max Mallowan. Like all who met him, the Mallowans were impressed by this charming and intellectually brilliant man, who was one of the best-known historians in the country. But one evening Mallowan confided to a friend that he had been shocked by his last conversation with Runciman, who told him “that he felt his life had been a failure because of his gayness”. Mallowan was dismayed not only because such soul-baring was startlingly out of character. As the friend later said, “I remember Max saying with huge indignation how tragic and wrong it was that Steven should feel this way.”
Tragic and wrong indeed. People differ in how they measure their own success or failure, but by almost any standards Runciman had led a successful life. His many books on Byzantine and medieval history had been acclaimed by specialists and avidly consumed by general readers; he had received a knighthood and became a Companion of Honour in 1984; he was an honorary whirling dervish and was appointed Grand Orator of the Greek Orthodox Church. At the age of 97 he complained that “the only friend I now have who is older than me is the Queen Mother”; yet one would need to analyse the guest list for his 90th birthday party, to which he invited 400 friends, to be sure of the accuracy of that remark.
Continue reading Noel Malcolm's review of Minoo Dinshaw’s Outlandish Knight at the New Statesman

126 remarkable Agatha Christie facts

126 remarkable Agatha Christie facts
With Poirot-like diligence, expert John Curran has gathered 126 facts about the Queen of Crime .... and as a huge Agatha fan, thank you John Curran for this list.

Here's a little tempter ....
Although her name is shorthand for “murder mystery” and she is the most translated and biggest-selling writer in history, Agatha Christie shunned publicity. She rarely gave print interviews and steadfastly refused to appear on television or radio. Surviving radio documentaries feature mainly other people talking about her and her work. Authorised biographies appeared only long after her death and her own Autobiography is maddeningly offhand about her writing. With Poirot-like diligence I have gathered together these 126 facts about the Queen of Crime to mark what would have been her 126th birthday last month.
1. Christie has been outsold only by Shakespeare and the Bible.
2. It was never Christie’s intention to become a writer, but she was determined to rise to the challenge set by her sister Madge who had dared her to write a detective story.

Continue reading the rest of John's list via The Irish Times.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Hortus Deliciarum of Herrad of Landsberg

The First Encyclopedia by a Woman Contains The First Image of a Pretzel | Atlas Obscura
An illuminated encyclopedia that dates back to the 12th century, the tome, the title of which is Latin for “Garden of Delights,” covered a wide range of topics, from a retelling of the Biblical history of the world to the scientific interests of the day. Meant to serve as a primer for young nuns and abbesses entering the service of the Hohenburg Abbey, a convent perched atop an Alsatian peak, much of the knowledge and writing contained in the text was reprinted from preexisting religious and philosophical manuscripts.
However, the author/compiler of the Hortus Deliciarum, an abbess named Herrad of Landsberg, added much more to the text. Herrad joined the convent in her youth, coming from a wealthy royal family. Hohenburg Abbey was a well-funded and respected convent that had the blessing (both spiritual and financial) of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa I, allowing the education of its nuns to flourish. Herrad likely received the best possible education a woman of her time could have received, learning about music, sciences, theology, and the arts.
The Hortus Deliciarum is probably best remembered by its vivid illustrations. The 300-plus images cover subjects ranging from historical vignettes to religious scenes including one particularly striking vision of a fiery hellscape. (Sorry, sinners.) While Herrad is thought to have directed the creation of the illustrations in the text, which were rich in telling detail, “The artists of the Hortus Deliciarum, likely the canonesses living at Hohenbourg in the late 12th century,” says Joyner, “gave a great deal of attention to details like luxurious clothing, the plow and a mill, and apparently the pretzel!”

Read rest of article at the Atlas Obscura


Saturday, October 1, 2016

Jennifer Worth: Shadows of the Workhouse

Workhouse of horrors: How this medieval hell of beatings and sack cloth exists within living memory | Daily Mail Online
In a new book by Jennifer Worth, Shadows Of The Workhouse, the former nurse and midwife recounts stories told to her by inmates of a 20th century workhouse in London's East End.
Worth's generation grew up in the shadow of the workhouse. Thousands of people lived in constant dread that some accident or illness would overtake them, leading to destitution and to that place where husbands were separated from their wives, and mothers from their children. People who witnessed neighbours going into the workhouse never forgot what they saw.
The workhouse, in its heyday, was intended to be a form of social welfare for those with nothing. In practice, it was seen as a dark and terrible fate. Not only the destitute were confined in them: workhouses were used as a dump for the mentally and chronically ill, and the disabled.
The workhouses were officially closed in 1930. But since there was nowhere else to house thousands of institutionalised people who could not be expected to adjust to the outside world, they continued under other names well into the second half of the 20th century.
Inmates were allowed out; creature comforts were provided and families were kept together. But they continued to be run as institutions, by masters and officers whose attitudes were often set still in the 1900s.
Read full article here - Workhouse of Horrors
See list of Jennifer's books here: Jennifer Worth on Amazon
Biography of Jennifer Worth (author: Call The Midwife) on wikipedia


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Life Lessons from the Roman Empire

Ancient Greek manuscripts reveal life lessons from the Roman empire | Books | The Guardian
Ever been unsure about how to deal with a drunken family member returning from an orgy? A collection of newly translated textbooks aimed at Greek speakers learning Latin in the ancient world might hold the solution.
Professor Eleanor Dickey travelled around Europe to view the scraps of material that remain from ancient Latin school textbooks, or colloquia, which would have been used by young Greek speakers in the Roman empire learning Latin between the second and sixth centuries AD. The manuscripts, which Dickey has brought together and translated into English for the first time in her forthcoming book Learning Latin the Ancient Way: Latin Textbooks in the Ancient World, lay out everyday scenarios to help their readers get to grips with life in Latin. Subjects range from visiting the public baths to arriving at school late – and dealing with a sozzled close relative.
The oldest versions of the texts exist as fragments on papyri in Egypt, where the climate meant they survived. Due to the size of these fragments, Dickey had to refer to medieval manuscripts from across Europe. “They have been copied and copied over many centuries, with everyone introducing more mistakes, so they’re not that readable. As an editor, I had to find all the different manuscripts and try to work out what the mistakes were, so I could get to the original text.”
Dickey shows how the students had glossaries to help them get to grips with the new language, collecting together lists of words on useful subjects such as sacrifices (“exta” means entrails, “victimator” is a calf-slaughterer and “hariolus” is a soothsayer) and entertainment. “They’re definitely not the same sorts of words as we’d need,” said Dickey.

Read more here at The Guardian

The Ancient Book of Deer

The Ancient Book of Deer, Oldest Known Gaelic Text in Existence | Ancient Origins
Currently housed at the University of Cambridge Library, the historic Book of Deer is said to have been discovered by the University's librarian, Henry Bradshaw, around 1860. It is said to be the only pre-Norman manuscript revealing tenth century northeastern Scottish culture's society and religious traditions, and is the earliest known Gaelic document in existence.
Although fascinating to historians for multiple reasons, the greatest intrigue for those drawn to this ancient text lies within the handwritten notations made in its margins and other blank areas, and not necessarily within the text itself. The notations, also referred to as 'notitiae', are written in the type of Gaelic typically spoken by the upper classes in the early twelfth century region of Buchan at a time later than the original text, indicated land grants or 'charters' and represented the legal rights to land believed to have belonged to the original Deer monastery of Aberdeenshire in Scotland, thus presenting a clear connection to the Deer region.
Read more of article at Ancient Origins


Voynich Manuscript

Spanish publisher to release copies of Voynich Manuscript, a book no living person can understand - The Washington Post
If manuscripts that come with cheeky insanity warnings are your cup of tea, a select few of you are in luck. A small Spanish publisher has obtained the rights to, in essence, clone the document, down to the holes in the parchment and tears on the pages. (If you prefer your unreadable tomes digitized, Yale has made pages from the book available online.) Holding the manuscript, the publisher argues, provokes a feeling that images on the Internet cannot capture.
Read more on publication via Washington Post


Lost In Translation: Sydney Morning Herald
The Voynich – currently under lock and key at Yale University – is a 240-page, lavishly illustrated book that dates from the early part of the 15th century. It has been studied intensively for decades by historians, linguists and cryptologists – including some very smart boffins who successfully cracked codes during two world wars – and still no one has figured out its language, much less its meaning.

Read more about ancient incomprehensible texts here

Jewish life in ancient Afghanistan and Persia

Ynetnews Jewish Scene - Rare documents shed light on Jewish life in ancient Afghanistan and Persia
A rare collection of 250 documents from the 11th to the 15th century was purchased by the National Library and reveals for the first time the main trade routes of the Silk Road, which stretched from the Far East to Europe. The collection, dubbed the Second Afghan Genizah, was found several years ago in caves in the city of Bamyan in central Afghanistan. The find is considered an ancient and rare treasure from which scholars can learn much about life in ancient Jewish and Muslim communities in Persia and Afghanistan before the Mongol conquest.
Most of the texts were written by Jewish and Muslim merchants who lived in the period preceding the destruction the Mongol armies wreaked from 1258-1260, when they were led by the grandson of Genghis Khan.

Read article here at Ynet News

The Fierce, Forgotten Library Wars of the Ancient World

The Fierce, Forgotten Library Wars of the Ancient World | Atlas Obscura
In the Hellenistic Era—that's 323 BC to 31 BC, for all you numbers fans—the Library of Alexandria, Egypt was a research hub of high prestige. But while certainly the largest of its time and the most famous, the Library of Alexandria wasn’t the only institution of its kind. Libraries throughout the ancient world competed to be the best Greek library, in rivalries that proved as dangerous and unscrupulous as actual wars.
Perhaps the most vicious rivalry of all was between the libraries of Alexandria and Pergamum in the city of Pergamon—present-day Bergama, Turkey. In this conflict, the ego-driven kings of both cities enforced various sneaky maneuvers to stunt the growth of the opposing collections.

Continue reading article by Lauren Young


Book on Sargon II, King of Assyria

University Professor Publishes Book on Ancient Assyrian King

Clarkson University Associate Professor of Ancient History Sarah Melville has just published a book examining military and political struggles in the ancient the Near East.
Sarah Melville "The Campaigns of Sargon II, King of Assyria, 721-705 B.C." is the first in-depth military study of an Assyrian king. Melville's book demonstrates how Sargon changed the geopolitical dynamics in the Near East, inspired a period of cultural florescence, established long-lasting Assyrian supremacy, and became one of the ancient world's most successful kings.
Sargon reigned in what is now northern Iraq, the area where ISIS recently destroyed Assyrian ruins at Nineveh (modern Mosul) and Nimrud. By contrast, Sargon II aimed to improve the territory he took.
Continue reading article via Assyrian International News Agency

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Who Really Wrote the Book of Job?

Who Really Wrote the Book of Job? - Jewish World - Haaretz - Israel News Haaretz.com
The Book of Job is quite possibly the strangest book in the Hebrew Bible, and is notoriously difficult to date.
In essence, Job is an essay on the problem of evil. The book starts with God and Satan discussing Job, a “perfect and upright” man who “feared God and eschewed evil” (1:1). Satan tells God that Job is only virtuous because he is well off; were he to suffer, he would surely “curse thee to thy face” (1:11). God accepts the challenge and gives Satan permission to destroy Job’s life.
Since the story lacks any historical context and no historic individuals are mentioned, it is very hard to date.
There's a snag, though. The language in Job is unlike any other found in the Bible, or outside it. True, the book is written in Hebrew, but it is very strange Hebrew indeed. It has more unique words than any other book of the Hebrew Bible. The language is archaic, which would indicate that it was very ancient: but it is also heavily influenced by Aramaic, which would make it relatively late.
Read more: Haaretz News


Books of Jasov Monastery

Books of Jasov - spectator.sme.sk
Courtesy: Slovakia Travel
Books were also important in the Premonstratensian monastery at Jasov, south of Košice. Its library comprises about 45,000 titles, and the whole monastery possesses an impressive 100,000 books. A visitor to the library can admire books stored along all its walls, arrayed along the shelves of tall cabinets. The oldest of these date from the 16th century.
Read rest of short article here at The Slovak Spectator

Mayan Grolier Codex Is Genuine


Grolier Codex
In a rare reversal, archaeologists have determined that a Maya book written almost 900 years ago is genuine—after decades of believing it was fake. The Grolier Codex was so named because it was first displayed in 1971 at the book lovers' Grolier Club in New York City. Archaeologist Michael Coe, who arranged the 1971 showing, later described its rather questionable history in a book.
It was acquired in a spectacularly scammy way in 1966 by a Mexican collector named Josué Sáenz. Coe says that Sáenz told him that a group of unknown men offered to sell the book to him, along with a few other items found "in a dry cave" near the foothills of the Sierra de Chiapas. They would only sell it if Sáenz agreed never to tell anyone or show the book. The collector, intrigued, took a plane to a remote airstrip with two experts, who declared the codex fake. But Sáenz went with his gut and bought the codex. After allowing Coe to display it in New York, he gave it to the Mexican government.



In the 1960s, what is said to be one of the rarest books in the world was discovered: an ancient Maya book called the Grolier Codex. While the physical book itself — meaning the actual pages — were quickly dated back to the 13th century, researchers have long speculated that the drawings contained in the book were forgeries, something sellers would have made to try and get more money for the product. That’s not true, it turns out. Researchers with Brown University have announced that the Grolier Codex is genuine in every way, making it the oldest known manuscript found in America.



Since it was reportedly unearthed in the 1960s, the 13th century Grolier Codex – one of the rarest books in the world – has been regarded with scepticism. Some people have questioned the authenticity of the book, suggesting that it was forged by modern writers. However, a new study has reviewed all known research on the manuscript, and suggests that the Grolier Codex is both genuine, and likely the oldest of all surviving manuscripts from ancient America.



Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Jonathan Riley-Smith


It is with heavy heart that we relate the sad loss of noted Crusader and Knights Hospitaller historian and author, Jonathan Riley-Smith.  News came via the web - so more details will no doubt be forthcoming I am sure.





I have a number of his books in my own collection of crusades literature. A full list of his academic credits can be found on the above links.



Sunday, September 4, 2016

Les Parisiennes: The Women in WWII Paris

The women in WWII Paris who 'did what they had to' for survival | The Times of Israel
The testimony of Arlette Reiman, now Arlette Testyler, is just one of scores of agonizing stories, many of them Jewish, in a remarkable new book, “Les Parisiennes,” by the journalist and historian Anne Sebba. It seeks to recast wartime France — and, specifically, Paris — as a time when women were in the ascendant as never before.
“Paris was a feminine city,” says Sebba. Its men had either been called up and imprisoned or killed as France fell in 1940, or — if they were Jews — they had been deported to camps from which few returned. The only men in Paris were those too young or too old to serve, or they were the German occupiers.
So the women, as Sebba shows in a meticulously researched series of sweeping vignettes, were faced with the most difficult of choices.
The choices ranged from full-on collaboration — resulting, said Sebba, in the birth of between 100,000 and 200,000 Franco-German babies from illicit love affairs — to tiny compromises, such as buying black market food for children. And there was also out-and-out heroism, displayed by the women of Paris and the women of the SOE, or Special Operations Executive, parachuted into France from Britain, for extraordinarily dangerous missions that nearly always ended in capture, torture and death.


Read rest of article here at The Times of Israel