Monday 30 March 2015

Contemporary Chinese Seals

 Copyright Li Lanqing

From an exhibition at the British Museum (now closed) on Contemporary Chinese Seals (HERE)

Sunday 29 March 2015


A piece HERE on Robert Bringhurst and Mythology.

A myth is a theorem about the nature of reality expressed not in algebraic symbols or inanimate abstractions but in animate narrative form.... It is a means of understanding and elucidating the nature of the world.

Mythology. Robert Bringhurst p 791

Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada 2002
Edited William H. New
University Toronto Press

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Henry Ospovat

Henry Ospovat (1877-1909) was a little known painter and illustrator of Russian extraction. He died at 31. He was noted for his illustrations of the poems of Matthew Arnold and Shakespeare's Sonnets and Songs.  

From Shakespeare's Songs 1901.  HERE

Sunday 22 March 2015

The Nature & Art of Workmanship

From David Pye. The Nature and Art of Workmanship. CUP 1968.
If I must ascribe a meaning to the word craftsmanship, I shall say as a first approximation that it means simply workmanship using any kind of technique or apparatus, in which the quality of the result is not pre-determined, but depends on the judgment, dexterity and care which the maker exercises as he works. The essential idea is that the quality of the result is continually at risk during the process of making; and so I shall call this kind of workmanship 'The workmanship of risk': an uncouth phrase, but at least descriptive.

More on Pye HERE  and HERE

Photo:  David Pye/ Crafts Council 

Saturday 14 March 2015

The Scythe and the Rabbit

Just got a copy of The Scythe and the Rabbit (Simon de Colines and the Culture of the Book in Renaissance Paris) by Kay Amert, with an introduction by Robert Bringhurst (HERE). In addition to the great introduction, essays and details analysis, the book is beautifully designed and typeset in DF Rialto, designed by Giovanni di Faccio & Lui Karner in 1999 (HERE).

Below the frontispeice of Horae in laudem beatiss. semper virginis Mariae, published by Simon de Colines in Paris in 1525 from HERE


Tuesday 10 March 2015

Rue de la Sardine

 From Steinbeck, on writing.

In writing, habit seems to be a much stronger force than either willpower or inspiration. Consequently there must be some little quality of fierceness until the habit pattern of a certain number of words is established. There is no possibility, in me at least, of saying, “I’ll do it if I feel like it.” One never feels like awaking day after day. In fact, given the smallest excuse, one will not work at all. The rest is nonsense. Perhaps there are people who can work that way, but I cannot. I must get my words down every day whether they are any good or not.

John Steinbeck, Journals of the Grapes of Wrath

Below, cover of translation of Cannery Row.

Image from HERE

Interference Pattern 1958

Berenice Abbot (1898-1991) was an American photographer from Ohio, who was famous for her cityscapes (Penn Station, Manhattan Bridge, th Flatiron Building). In the 1950's she spent two years at MIT creating beautiful black and white photographs of basic physics experiments. Her images were displayed at MIT in 2012 in an exhibition HERE.

Also a write up in the Guardian HERE.

The image below is an interference pattern from 1958.

Friday 6 March 2015

Seven Ravens (2)

Wednesday 4 March 2015

The Phylogeny of Little Red Riding Hood

Folklorists have a complex and internationally recognised system for classifying different folk tales - the ATU type index. This index has behind it the assumption that there are a discrete number of motifs from which different tales are constructed. For example, there are numerous folk tales based around the motif of brothers who were turned into birds (type 451).
Although there are commonalities between tales, a particular tale must begin somewhere. Told for the first time by someone. Because these tales are oral and have moved, diffused, changed, we will never know who. Or when. Or where.

The following paper uses advanced phylogenetic analysis, developed to analyse evolutionary relationships between species from molecular biology data, to analyse Little Red Riding Hood.

Researchers have long been fascinated by the strong continuities evident in the oral traditions associated with different cultures. According to the ‘historic-geographic’ school, it is possible to classify similar tales into “international types” and trace them back to their original archetypes. However, critics argue that folktale traditions are fundamentally fluid, and that most international types are artificial constructs. Here, these issues are addressed using phylogenetic methods that were originally developed to reconstruct evolutionary relationships among biological species, and which have been recently applied to a range of cultural phenomena. The study focuses on one of the most debated international types in the literature: ATU 333, ‘Little Red Riding Hood’. A number of variants of ATU 333 have been recorded in European oral traditions, and it has been suggested that the group may include tales from other regions, including Africa and East Asia. However, in many of these cases, it is difficult to differentiate ATU 333 from another widespread international folktale, ATU 123, ‘The Wolf and the Kids’. To shed more light on these relationships, data on 58 folktales were analysed using cladistic, Bayesian and phylogenetic network-based methods. The results demonstrate that, contrary to the claims made by critics of the historic-geographic approach, it is possible to identify ATU 333 and ATU 123 as distinct international types. They further suggest that most of the African tales can be classified as variants of ATU 123, while the East Asian tales probably evolved by blending together elements of both ATU 333 and ATU 123. These findings demonstrate that phylogenetic methods provide a powerful set of tools for testing hypotheses about cross-cultural relationships among folktales, and point towards exciting new directions for research into the transmission and evolution of oral narratives.