(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Christopher Columbus

“As long as the world is turning and spinning, we’re gonna be dizzy and we’re gonna make mistakes”*…

Observant fans of HG Wells have questioned how a new coin from the Royal Mint commemorating The War of the Worlds author could be released with multiple errors, including giving his “monstrous tripod” four legs.

The £2 coin is intended to mark 75 years since the death of Wells, and includes imagery inspired by The War of the Worlds and The Invisible Man.

Unfortunately, it strays from Wells’s vision of his creations. “As someone who particularly likes one of his very famous stories, can I just note that the big walking machine on the coin has four legs? Four legs. The man famous for creating the Martian TRIpod,” wrote artist Holly Humphries. “How many people did this have to go through? Did they know how to count?”

Science fiction novelist and professor of 19th-century literature Adam Roberts, who is author of a biography of Wells and vice president of the HG Wells Society, also criticised the depiction of the Invisible Man, shown in a top hat; in the book he arrives at Iping under a “wide-brimmed hat”.

“It’s nice to see Wells memorialised, but it would have been nicer for them to get things right,” Roberts said. “A tripod with four legs is hard to comprehend (tri: the clue is in the name), and Wells’s (distinctly ungentlemanly) invisible man, Griffin, never wore a top hat … I’d say Wells would be annoyed by this carelessness: he took immense pains to get things right in his own work – inviting translators of his book to stay with him to help the process and minimise errors and so on.”…

The Wells slip-up is not the first mistake immortalised in legal tender. In 2013, Ireland’s Central Bank misquoted James Joyce on a commemorative coin intended to honour the author. While Joyce wrote in Ulysses: “Ineluctable modality of the visible: at least that if no more, thought through my eyes. Signatures of all things I am here to read …”, the Central Bank included an extra “that” in the final sentence, with its coin reading: “Signatures of all things that I am here to read.” The bank later claimed the coin was intended to be “an artistic representation of the author and text and not intended as a literal representation”.

Later that year, a new £10 note featured Jane Austen with the quote “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!” However, the line is spoken by Caroline Bingley, described by academic John Mullan as “a woman who has no interest in books at all”. “You can imagine being the Bank of England employee given the task of finding the telling Austen quotation. Something about reading, perhaps? A quick text search in Pride and Prejudice turns up just the thing,” wrote Mullan at the time…

Memorializing mistakes in metal: “HG Wells fans spot numerous errors on Royal Mint’s new £2 coin.

* Mel Brooks

###

As we cast with care, we might recall that it was on this date in 1493 that Christopher Columbus, having sailed from Spain six months earlier and arrived in the Caribbean, off the shores of (what we now know as) the Dominican Republic, saw three “mermaids,” described in his diary as “not half as beautiful as they are painted.” Mermaids, mythical half-female, half-fish creatures, had persistently been reported in seafaring cultures at least since the time of the ancient Greeks. Mermaid sightings by sailors, when they weren’t made up, were most likely manatees (sea cows), dugongs or Steller’s sea cows (which became extinct by the 1760s due to over-hunting).

“Geographers never get lost. They just do accidental field work.”*…

 

maps

An image from The Catalan Atlas, 1375

 

When Christopher Columbus first set foot in what’s now the Bahamas, it was the lucky sum of a 1,400-year-old cartographical error and Columbus’s own miscalculations of the globe. The Genoese explorer believed the Eurasian landmass to cover nearly 2/3 of the earth’s circumference—the actual distance from Spain eastward to his target of eastern Asia was closer to 1/3 of the circumference.

Columbus’s image of the world was based on ancient maps that greatly overestimated the size of the Eurasian continent and depicted the planet’s circumference some 25 percent smaller than it actually was—a misjudgment compounded by his own wishful thinking and erroneous math. By his calculation, India lay within a 2,500-mile voyage west of Spain. He was off by about 8,000 miles.

Columbus’s errors are only a chapter in a series of discoveries, theories, and mistakes that tell the story of maps and mapmaking. Maps are a 10,000-year journey of humans trying to understand Earth. In 1492, most people had no idea what the world looked like; even some impressively accurate maps were full of myths and mistakes, from fantastical monsters to entire missing continents to swaths of terra incognita, or “unknown territory.”

Over time, errors were corrected and empty spaces were filled in, and today, much of the population walks around with a map of the entire Earth in their pocket that’s so detailed you can see your own front door…

Eight maps, from antiquity to today, that changed how we see the world: “Why Maps Are Civilization’s Greatest Tool.”

* Nicholas Chrisman

###

As we find our way, we might might recall that it was on this date in 1415 that Henry the Navigator led Portuguese forces to victory over the Marinids at the Battle of Ceuta, the Muslim port on the North African coast across the Straits of Gibraltar from the Iberian Peninsula– which marked the beginning of the Portuguese Empire in Africa.  Henry remained a central figure in the early days of the Portuguese Empire and was a key driver of the 15th-century European maritime discoveries and maritime expansion. Through his administrative direction– including his patronage of cartographers– he is regarded as the main initiator of what would be known as the Age of Discovery.

220px-Henry_the_Navigator1 source

 

“Christopher Columbus, as everyone knows, is honored by posterity because he was the last to discover America”*…

 

the_mali_empire

The Mali Empire in 1337

 

Abubakari II was a Malian who ascended to the throne in 1310. He controlled most of western Africa and an incredibly wealthy state with more than one million subjects. He (his navy) may have sailed to the Americas in 1311:

More than a hundred years before the Portuguese had cleared Cape Bojador in the Western Sahara, and almost two hundred before Columbus ‘discovered’ the Americas, there is some evidence to suggest that Abubakari II, Emperor of Mali, crossed the Atlantic and visited the Americas. The idea even received support from Columbus himself, who wrote in his journal about African journeys from the Guinea coast to the Americas and supposed this was how the South Americans had learned techniques of alloying gold.

At the time, the Malian empire was arguably the richest state on earth. Founded in 1235, by 1310 when Abubakari II came to the throes it had control of most of western Africa, form the inland trading cities of Timbuktu and Gao on the fringes of the Sahara to the Guinea coast. The empire ruled millions of subjects, its three gold mines were responsible for producing more than half of the Old World’s gold and it also profited from the extremely lucrative salt trade. …

[It is from] Inslamic historian al-Umari’s conversations with Mansa Musa [Abubakari II’s successor] that we have our best account of Abubakari’s mission. Apparently, when Abubakari came to the throne in 1310, he ordered two hundred boats to set out to check whether, like the Niger River, the Atlantic Ocean had a far bank. Inorder to maximise the chances of success, a variety of boats was constructed.

Some of them would have been pirogues, which resembled a canoe, while others were probably based on Arab boats such as the dhow. Each of the two hundred vessels had a supply barge attached, with enough dried meat grain and preserved fruit in ceramic jars to last for two years, as well as cotton goods and gold for trade.

Of the two hundred vessels that departed only one returned. The captain reported to the mansa that:

we sailed for a long time, up to the moment when we encountered in mid-ocean something like a river with a violent current. My ship was lost. The others sailed on, and gradually each of them entered this place, the disappeared and did not come back. We did not know what had happened to them. As for me, I returned to where I was and did not enter the current.

It seems that most of the fleet was destroyed in a giant whirlpool. Yet Abubakari II’s curiosity was not diminished by this tale of natural disaster. He determined to make the voyage himself. In 1311 he abdicated, leaving matters of state in the hands of his younger half-brother Musa, and set off at the head of an expedition whose two thousand ships and their supply barges made it ten times as large as the previous one. They sailed off into the Atlantic from where The Gambia is today and were never heard from again.

Powerful but inconclusive arguments have been made to suggest that at least some of the fleet landed in America. The locations usually suggested are Recife in Brazil, or the Caribbean, where the Garifuna, a tribe known to the Europeans as Black Caribs, claimed pre-Columbian African ancestry. Arguments for a pre-Columbian Malian presence in the Americas include the prevalence of the bottle gourd, a native African plant, in South American cultures; the composition of spearheads, indicating the use of Malian gold; linguistic traces of Mandinka languages in the regions where the fleet may have landed; and Columbus’s assertion that he saw black traders working in the Americas when he arrived…

An excerpt from Ed Wright’s The Lost Explorers: Adventurers Who Disappeared Off the Face of the Earth, via the ever-illuminating Delanceyplace.com.

* James Joyce

###

As we investigate the initial, we might note that this leap-day (like every “last day in February”) is Rare Disease Day— an occasion devoted to raising awareness of and encouraging action on the too-often horrifying ailments that fall outside the spotlight, but that cumulatively are all-too-common.  It’s a great day to adopt an orphan (disease).

logo-rare-disease-day source

 

Written by LW

February 29, 2020 at 1:01 am

Columbus sailed the prairie green…

Today is Columbus Day in the United States, the day that we celebrate Columbus, Indiana.*

Among its many other virtues, Columbus– a town of just under 40,000– ranks 6th in the nation for architectural innovation and design (as assessed by the American Institute of Architects) on a list that includes the likes of Chicago, New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.

Smithsonian Magazine has called Columbus a “veritable museum of modern architecture.”  Visitors to Columbus can see more than 70 buildings and pieces of public art by internationally noted architects and artists, including I.M. Pei, Eliel Saarinen, Eero Saarinen, Richard Meier, Harry Weese, Dale Chihuly and Henry Moore.  For example,

Home of the leader of Columbus’ architectural accomplishment, “The Medici of the Midwest,” J. Irwin Miller.  Designed by Eero Saarinen

* The day once commemorated a Renaissance representative of Spain, who mistook the Caribbean Islands for the South China Sea (to wit, the name “West Indies”); on consideration of his crimes and misdemeanors (see almanac entry here), it was decided to shift the celebratory focus to the rather-less-mitigatedly delightful gem of Indiana.

As we book our visits, we might recall that, on this date in 1609, Thomas Ravenscroft, still a teenager at the time, published Deuteromelia or The Seconde part of Musicks melodie — which included the words to “Three Blind Mice” (to be set to a traditional tune), probably the first song lyrics to be published in English.  Ravenscroft was the editor of the book, and the likely author of the rhyme.

Three Blinde Mice,
Three Blinde Mice,
Dame Iulian,
Dame Iulian,
the Miller and his merry olde Wife,
shee scrapte her tripe licke thou the knife

source

Non-Sequiturs from Around the World, Part 42…

From the good folks at Blogadilla (“the Tijuana of the Internet”), a list a handy phrases to interject just as a new member is joining a conversation:

Best ‘Out of Context’ phrases to disturb people who have just joined the conversation:

• And that’s why you should never eat movie theater hot dogs.
• Because it was technically “art,” they had to drop the charges.
• So they named the medical condition after me.
• And that’s why I am no longer welcome in Turkey.
• So I’ve been out of prison for 2 years and I still like to do it.
• And so my childhood best friend will soon be my step-son.
• Because I didn’t know that the restraining order applied to the entire cemetery.
• So we were disqualified from the Iditarod because they weren’t technically dogs.
• And I still have it in a jar of formaldehyde in my closet.
• And the residents of Nukumanu Island still regard me as a god.
• Because she was my second cousin, the State of Arkansas had no case against us.
• Because ‘Baby Fighting’ is technically legal in Guatemala.
• And now the security at Disneyland has the right to shoot me on sight.
• Because we thought ‘Nursing School’ meant something totally different.

As we choose our words and wait for our openings, we might recall that it was on this date in 1500 that Christopher Columbus was arrested (by the co-Governor recently arrived from Spain) for crimes against the people of Haiti; Columbus and his two brothers were returned to Spain in chains on October 1 of that same year.

Christopher Columbus

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Written by LW

August 23, 2008 at 1:01 am

%d bloggers like this: