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Posts Tagged ‘caxton

“There is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness in the proportion”*…

 

The ascent of the Prophet over the Ka’bah guided by Jibrā’īl and escorted by angels. (via the British Library)

The Miscellany of Iskandar Sultan is a book lover’s fantasy: a bespoke manuscript, hand-painted and hand-written by the greatest artists and calligraphers of its day. The patchwork book is pieced together from a wide range of texts, from epic poetry to learned disquisitions on astrology, medicine, and the interpretation of dreams. It is a fifteenth-century library distilled into a single volume and a relic of another world. In a time before copyright, texts could be borrowed, copied, and recycled into something new. In a time before mass-scale printing, a book could be a deeply personal affair, curated exactly to its patron’s unique set of interests. In a time before the internet, a pocket-sized library was the best way to carry a world of knowledge everywhere you went.

The Miscellany’s patron was Jalāl al-Dīn Iskandar Sultan ibn ‘Umar Shaykh, ruler of Shiraz and Isfahan and grandson of the world-famous conqueror Timur…

The remarkable story in full at “The ultimate bespoke manuscript“; browse the manuscript on the British Library’s Digital Viewer.

* Edgar Allan Poe

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As we contemplate comprehensiveness, we might recall that not too long after this exercise in collecting everything relevant to a single reader, there was a seminal move to make a single thing available to many, many readers: on this date in 1484, William Caxton, who introduced the printing press to England and was its first book publisher (see here and here), published his English translation of Aesop’s Fables.

The fable of the farmer and his sons from Caxton’s edition, 1484

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Oh yeah, I’ve read it…

The folks at the blog Book Riot surveyed over 800 of their readers, asking what books they pretend to have read.  The “winners”…

  1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (85 mentions)
  2. Ulysses by James Joyce
  3. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
  4. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  5. The Bible
  6. 1984 by George Orwell
  7. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  8. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  9. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  10. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  11. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
  12. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  13. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  14. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
  15. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  16. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  17. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  18. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  19. Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling
  20. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (21 mentions)

The full list does contain some (though not much) non-fiction; Critique of Pure Reason and The Communist Manifesto make the top 50.  Still, it’s a surprise not to see A Brief History of Time near the top…

Read the full story here— and enjoy the comparisons with their “best-loved” and “intended to read” lists.

[Image above sourced here.]

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As we rethink our Kindle queues, we might send elegantly-printed birthday greetings to William Caxton; he was born on this date in 1422… or so tradition holds; his actual birthday was surely around this time, but is unknown. Caxton worked as a  merchant, diplomat, writer, and translator; but is best remembered as a printer– the first English printer.  Caxton and the dissemination of his printed works are credited with helping to standardize the English language (to homogenize regional differences); he’s also credited with establishing the spelling of “ghost” with a silent h (a function of his familiarity with the Flemish spelling).

Daniel Maclise’s depiction of Caxton showing the first specimen of his printing to King Edward IV and Queen Elizabeth at the Almonry, Westminster

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Written by LW

August 13, 2013 at 1:01 am

Only two months to go!…

 

May 8, it’s right around the corner:  “Post horns, W.A.S.T.E. insignia, the novels of Thomas Pynchon read unashamedly on trains”– Pynchon in Public Day.

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As we prepare to take on Thurn und Taxis, we might recall that it was on this date in 1481 that England’s first printer, William Caxton completed his translation of  The Mirror of the World (a French encyclopedia probably written by Walter/Gossuin of Metz).  Printed later that year, it is generally believed to be the first illustrated book printed in English. (The other candidate is Caxton’s Cato, which appeared at about the same time).

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Written by LW

March 8, 2013 at 1:01 am

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