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Posts Tagged ‘Oliver Cromwell

“I’ve always lived by signs”*…

185. CENTRAL SAANICH – honestly if you’re gonna make it this small why bother – would you actually be able to read this while driving? would it be safe? – in conclusion and summary: no

Justin McElroy, Municipal Affairs Reporter for CBC Vancouver, has taken to Twitter to perform an important public service…

I’ve identified 185 communities in the province of British Columbia that have welcome signs.

And in this thread, I’m going to rank every single one.

You can follow the thread, which is underway now: Rating the Welcome Signs of British Columbia, from @j_mcelroy. Via @broderick.

* Iris Murdoch, Henry and Cato


As we contemplate connoisseurship, we might might send significant birthday greetings to a master of a different kind of sign, William Lilly; he was born on this date in 1602 (O.S.). Described as a genius at something “that modern mainstream opinion has since decided cannot be done at all,” he was an astrologer who was powerfully influential in his own time and hugely impactful on the future course of Western astrological tradition.

Lilly’s autobiography, published towards the end of his life in 1681, at the request of his patron Elias Ashmole, gives candid accounts of the political events of his era, and biographical details of contemporaries that are unavailable elsewhere. It was described, in the late 18th century, as “one of the most entertaining narratives in our language”, in particular for the historical portrayal it leaves of men like John Dee, Simon Forman, John Booker, Edward Kelley, including a whimsical first meeting of John Napier and Henry Briggs, respective co-inventors of the logarithm and Briggsian logarithms, and for its curious tales about the effects of crystals and the appearance of Queen Mab. In it, Lilly describes the friendly support of Oliver Cromwell during a period in which he faced prosecution for issuing political astrological predictions. He also writes about the 1666 Great Fire of London, and how he was brought before the committee investigating the cause of the fire, being suspected of involvement because of his publication of images, 15 years earlier, which depicted a city in flames surrounded by coffins… To his supporters he was an “English Merlin”; to his detractors he was a “juggling wizard and imposter.”…

Portrait of Lilly, aged 45, now housed in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford


“The best-laid plans”*…

… can be turned to unexpected use:

In an eighteenth century book, Johann Steingruber designed a type set made of architectural drawings. Via our buddies at Boing Boing: “An alphabet made of architectural plans, from 1773.”

* paraphrased from Robert Burns’ poem “To a Mouse”: “the best laid plans of mice and men / Often go awry” (or on the Scots, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley”)


As we spell it out, we might recall that it was on this date in 1661 that Oliver Cromwell, who had been Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland after leading rebel troops against the Crown in the English Civil War, was exhumed from his crypt in Westminster Abbey, and ritually “executed”; it was the 12th anniversary of the execution of Charles I, whose death warrant Cromwell had signed. Cromwell had died (most likely of blood poisoning following a urinary infection) in 1658. Charles II had returned from exile to become King in a restored monarchy in 1860.

Cromwell’s death mask at Warwick Castle


Written by (Roughly) Daily

January 30, 2021 at 1:01 am

Patently ridiculous…

From Donna Kossy and her Hysterical Patents, a selection of “unusual patents from the collection of a deceased patent attorney”; e.g.,

Inventor: Bernard H. Nichols, Ravenna, Ohio
Date: May 20, 1913
U.S. Patent Number: 1,062,025

Description: Hat to prevent premature baldness. The hat is “adapted to fit upon the head in such a manner as not to interfere with the free circulation of blood to the scalp, and at the same time so constructed as to be worn without discomfort, and without causing a temporary unseemly marking on the forehead or scalp of the wearer where it comes in contact therewith, when the hat is removed.”

More human ingenuity at its most unrestrained at Hysterical Patents.  (Thanks to reader SS for the lead!)

As we muse on the “intellectual” in “intellectual property,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1661 that the body of Oliver Cromwell– leader of the Roundhead “New Model Army” that defeated Royalist forces in the English Civil War, and subsequently the Lord Protector of the short-lived Commonwealth of England– was exhumed (he’d died of natural causes two years earlier) and ritually beheaded– on the anniversary of the 1649 execution and beheading of the king, Charles I, he’d overthrown.

Cromwell’s death mask (source)

Ground Control to Major John…


Centuries before Neil Armstrong and crew made it– and indeed several years before a falling apple set Isaac Newton to the description of gravity– John Wilkins, a founder of The Royal Society (and a brother-in-law of Oliver Cromwell) drafted plans for an expedition to the moon.

Wilkins believed that we are held on Earth by a form of magnetism. His observations of clouds suggested to him that if man could reach an altitude of just 20 miles, he could be free of this force and be able to fly through space.  So he drafted plans for a real “spaceship,” a flying machine designed like a ship but with a powerful spring, clockwork gears, and a set of wings (covered with feathers from high-flying birds such as swans or geese). He planned to use gunpowder as a primitive form of internal combustion engine.

His plan was materially less costly than NASA’s.  He reckoned that ten or 20 men could club together, spending 20 guineas each, to employ a good blacksmith to assemble such a flying machine from his plans.  Another area of economy was food:  Wilkins was convinced by suggestions that people could go long periods without eating, and imagined that in space, free of Earth’s “magnetism”, there would be no pull on travellers’ digestive organs to make them hungry.

Similarly, breathing presented no problem. It was known that mountaineers suffered breathlessness at high altitude. Wilkins said this was because their lungs were not used to breathing the pure air breathed by angels. In time his astronauts would get used to it and so be able to breathe on their voyage to the Moon.

Records show that Wilkins did in fact experiment in building flying machines with another leading scientist of the age, Robert Hooke, in the gardens of Wadham College, Oxford, around 1654. But by the 1660s, he began to realize that space travel was not as straightforward as he had imagined.

Readers can find the whole story at SkyMania.com

As we raise our sights, we might we might smile to recall that this is the birthday (1844) of another notable Oxonian, William Archibald Spooner, an Anglican clergyman who became Warden of New College, Oxford…  Spooner, the personification of the addled, absent-minded professor, gave us the concept of “Spoonerisms”– the reversal of the opening sounds of words on a phrase– as he  (allegedly) uttered such immortals as:

(In a sermon)  “The Lord is a shoving leopard”

(To a callow student) “You have hissed all my mystery lectures, and were caught fighting a liar in the quad. Having tasted two worms, you will leave by the next town drain”

(At a high table dinner) “Let us raise our glasses to the queer old Dean”

(On preparations for a patriotic occasion) “We’ll have the hags flung out”

Spooner (again, supposedly) once invited a faculty member to tea “to welcome our new archaeology Fellow.”  “But, sir,” the man replied, “I am our new archaeology Fellow.”  “Never mind,” Spooner said, “Come all the same.”

Spooner (by Leslie Hart, for Spy); source: Art.com

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