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Posts Tagged ‘history’

Outside the Paris Pavilion

April 22, 2013 | by

On this day in 1964, the New York World’s Fair kicked off in Flushing Meadows, Queens. And we were there! Below, the brochure for the fair’s smallest pavilion.

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William Wordsworth’s “Resolution and Independence”

April 16, 2013 | by

leechesIt was Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, so the bazaars in Istanbul were closed. We walked along the silent streets, wondering how thirteen million city dwellers could go so quiet and how we were going to spend our leftover lira before our departing flights in a few hours. Toward the Galata Bridge, we found a commotion of doves and pigeons by the Yeni Cami.

Birds of a feather do flock together: leading from Eminönü Square was an avenue lined with animal stalls. A menagerie of birds—cranes, ducks, fancy chickens, peacocks, and pheasants—called from their cages. In other wire cages, puppies, kittens, and rabbits formed furry masses. Another set of aquatic stalls had turtle hatchlings and goldfish. Bags full of seed, dry food, and wood shavings spilled into one another—supplies for every sort of pet.

We stopped before a collection of three-gallon drums. “Prof. Dr. Sülük,” read placards at the top of all the drums, each of which was two-thirds full of cerulean-tinted water. A man stood beside the drums, resting his weight on one of them, shifting his baseball cap with the other hand, gray hair falling from underneath.

“I saw a Man before me unawares: / The oldest man he seemed that ever wore grey hairs.” This was not the Lake District, but in this busy market I thought of William Wordsworth’s “Resolution and Independence.” Facing these tiny barrels of leeches and their keeper, all I could think of was the Romantic’s leech gatherer.

Several hundred leeches writhed. They gathered like a black belt round the middle of each container, near the water’s surface. A few ambitious leeches left the waistband, inching their way toward the lid; a few fell from those curving heights to the bottom of the barrels. Read More »

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One Ring to Rule Them All

April 3, 2013 | by

Satellite

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

Such is the object that starts Bilbo Baggins’s quest and, later, marks the glowing center of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. And some speculate that it was based on a real Roman ring, currently on display at a Hampshire mansion. 

Originally discovered by a farmer in the late eighteenth century in what the Guardian terms “one of the most enigmatic Roman sites in the country,” the ring was presumably sold to the family who owned the great house the Vyne.

It was a strikingly odd object, 12g of gold so large that it would only fit on a gloved thumb, ornamented with a peculiar spiky head wearing a diadem, and a Latin inscription reading: “Senicianus live well in God.” A few decades later and 100 miles away, more of the story turned up: at Lydney in Gloucestershire, a Roman site known locally as the Dwarfs Hill, a tablet with an inscribed curse was found. A Roman called Silvianus informs the god Nodens that his ring has been stolen. He knows the villain responsible, and he wants the god to sort them out: “Among those who bear the name of Senicianus to none grant health until he bring back the ring to the temple of Nodens.”

Here’s where Tolkien comes in. When archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler reexcavated Lydney in 1929, he consulted Professor Tolkien about the god’s unusual name; both men were apparently struck by the fact that the name appeared on both ring and curse.

Whether or not you believe this to be the inspiration for the One Ring, you can judge for yourself: it is on view, along with a copy of the curse and a first edition of The Hobbit, at the Vyne.

 

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Papal Abdication: A Potpourri of Popery

March 8, 2013 | by

Mike Duncan is studying public history at Southwest Texas State, in Austin, and is currently at work on an historical marker for Warner Brothers cartoonist Tex Avery.

Jason Novak works at a grocery store in Berkeley, California, and changes diapers in his spare time.

 

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Happy Birthday, Telephone Book

February 21, 2013 | by

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On this day in 1878, the world saw the first telephone directory. The twenty-page book, which listed the numbers of phones in New Haven, Connecticut, instructed users not to “use the wire more than three minutes at a time, or more than twice an hour.”

 

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The Daughter of Time

February 5, 2013 | by

The skeleton of Richard III, which was discovered at the Grey Friars excavation site in Leicester, central England, is seen in this photograph provided by the University of Leicester and received in London

“It’s an odd thing but when you tell someone the true facts of a mythical tale they are indignant not with the teller but with you. They don’t want to have their ideas upset. It rouses some vague uneasiness in them, I think, and they resent it. So they reject it and refuse to think about it. If they were merely indifferent it would be natural and understandable. But it is much stronger than that, much more positive. They are annoyed. Very odd, isn’t it.”

With the discovery of Richard III’s bones—and what some are calling the monarch’s redemption—we imagine that somewhere, Josephine Tey is smiling.

 

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