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“Who that goeth on Pilgrimage but would have one of these Maps about him, that he may look when he is at a stand, which is the way he must take?*…

 

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Carta Marina, by Olaus Magnus, 1539

 

Johannes Gutenberg printed his first Bible in 1455, and the first published sailing directions appeared thirty-five years later. Print media encouraged the divergence of navigational information from material discussing the commercial prospects of trade at various ports. Printing promoted the widespread distribution of geographic and hydrographic information, including maps, to readers throughout Europe at a time when literacy was on the rise and the spreading use of vernacular languages made such works available to non-scholars…

Europe’s explorers actively sought and exploited both academic knowledge and geographic experience in their systematic search for new trade routes. Use of the sea ultimately rested on reliable knowledge of the ocean. Fresh appreciation for empirical evidence fueled recognition of the value of experience, and the process of exploration included mechanisms for accumulating and disseminating new geographic knowledge to form the basis for future navigation.

At the outset of the discovery of the seas, portolan charts recorded actual experiences at sea. These navigational aids provided mariners with compass direction and estimated the distance between coastal landmarks or harbors. Utterly novel for their time, portolans were the first charts to attempt to depict scale. Portolans created by fourteenth- and fifteenth-century explorers document Portuguese and Spanish discovery of Atlantic islands and the African coast and helped subsequent mariners retrace their steps. Accuracy of portolans was best over shorter distances, and they became less useful when navigators steered offshore.

In contrast to creators of portolans, armchair cartographers compiled world maps of little use for actual navigation but which reflected shifting knowledge of oceans. While manuscript maps had been produced alongside written manuscripts since antiquity, the earliest known printed map was included in an encyclopedia of 1470. It represents the world schematically within a circle, in which the three continents of Asia, Europe, and Africa are surrounded by an ocean river and separated from each other by horizontal and vertical rivers that form a T shape—hence the name “T-O” to describe this kind of map. Other early maps were based on Ptolemy’s work, on biblical stories or other allegories, or occasionally on portolans…

Although the majority of medieval maps and nautical charts of the Age of Discovery did not include sea monsters, the ones that do reveal both a rise of general interest in marvels and wonders and a specific concern for maritime activities that took place at sea, including in far distant oceans. The more exotic creatures are often positioned on maps at the edge of the Earth, conveying a sense of mystery and danger and perhaps discouraging voyages in those areas. Images of octopuses or other monsters attacking ships would seem to be warning of dangers to navigation…

An excerpt from a fascinating essay on how cartographers saw the– mostly blue– world in the Age of Discovery; read it in full at  “Mapping the Oceans.”

* John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress

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As we find our way, we might light a birthday candle for Sir Francis Bacon– English Renaissance philosopher, lawyer, linguist, composer, mathematician, geometer, musician, poet, painter, astronomer, classicist, philosopher, historian, theologian, architect, father of modern science (The Baconian– aka The Scientific– Method), and patron of modern democracy, whom some allege was the illegitimate son of Queen Elizabeth I of England (and other’s, the actual author of Shakespeare’s plays)… He was in any event born on this date in 1561.

Bacon (whose Essays were, in a fashion, the first “management book” in English) was, in Alexander Pope’s words, “the greatest genius that England, or perhaps any country, ever produced.”  He probably did not actually write the plays attributed to Shakespeare (as a thin, but long, line of enthusiasts, including Mark Twain and Friedrich Nietzsche, believed).   But Bacon did observe, in a discussion of sedition that’s as timely today as ever, that “the remedy is worse than the disease.”

 source

 

Written by LW

January 22, 2019 at 1:01 am

“I don’t care what you think unless it is about me”*…

 

Louis XIV– the Sun King– ruled France for seventy-two years, a reign during which he oversaw construction of the palace of Versaille, and consolidated political power in an unprecedented fashion.  Still, he he sought constant assurances that His Highness was, in fact, the highest– assurances supplied by his counselors, staff, and consorts, all of whom showered the king with flattery to keep him content and to keep their own positions secure.

Louis de Rouvoy, duc de Saint-Simon, served the Sun King until they fell out over Saint-Simon’s opposition to one of the King’s power grabs.  From Saint-Simon’s memoir:

c. 1694 | Versaille
Base Flattery

Louis XIV’s ministers, his generals, his mistresses, his courtiers perceived, very soon after he became master, his foible, rather than his real taste for glory. They vied with each other in praising him, and they spoiled him. Praise, or to speak more truly, flattery pleased him to such a degree that the coarsest was well-received, the basest with most relish. It was only in this way that anyone ever reached him. It was this that gave such power to his ministers through the constant opportunities that they had to adulate him, especially by attributing to him whatever they did themselves and letting him think he inspired them. Suppleness, baseness, an admiring, cringing, and dependent air, above all, an air of nullity except through him, were the only means of pleasing him. Leaving that path, there was no recovery. Year by year the poison spread, till it reached an almost incredible height in a prince who was not without some intelligence, and who had experience. He, who had neither voice nor music in him, would sing in his private rooms the prologues of plays and operas that praised him; he was so bathed in that delight that sometimes at his public suppers, if the violins played the tune of those praises, he would hum the words between his teeth as an accompaniment.

[Via Lapham’s Quarterly]

* Kurt Cobain

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As we note, with Mark Twain, that while history may not repeat itself, it does in fact rhyme, we might recall that it was on this date in 1582 that Britain’s second-best-known magician, the necromancer Edward Kelley, first met the best-known: the  mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, occultist, navigator, and consultant to Queen Elizabeth I, John Dee.

While Dee’s most important legacy was his rich series of contributions to the development of modern science (and his coining of the word “Brittannia” and the phrase “British Empire”), Dee might also be remembered as the man who, while trading on his fame as a sage, served abroad as a spy for the Queen– and signed his reports “007”…  thus inspiring Ian Fleming’s trade-naming of James Bond.

Dee and Kelley

source

Written by LW

March 10, 2017 at 1:01 am

Life is a series of trade-offs…

 

via the always-enlightening Criggo.

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As we recall that we all have to go sometime, we might recall that it was on this date in 2003 that Queen Elizabeth II created Hellen Mirren a Dame of the Realm in the Queen’s Birthday Honours Roll (a list that included Roger Moore, David Beckham, and Sting).  Three years later Dame Helen returned the favor with her Academy Award-winning portrayal in The Queen.

The Queen eyes the Queen

 source

 

Written by LW

June 14, 2013 at 1:01 am

Where on the world…

 

From the not-altogether-vested-interest-free folks at Replogle, “How Old Is Your Globe?” : scan down the chronological list of country name changes (full list at link)…  “when you find a FORMER place name on your globe instead of the NEW name, you have determined the age of your globe…”

[TotH to Kottke.org]

 

As we reorient ourselves, we might recall that it was on this date in 1550 that William Cecil, later one of Queen Elizabeth’s closest advisors (a role for which he was rewarded with elevation to 1st Baron Burghley), was sworn in as King Edward VI’s Secretary of State– and then appointed himself Minister of Foreign Affairs.

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The pursuit of the hirsute…

From the doers…

…to the done…

… it’s all at The Hair Hall of Fame.

As we let it all go to our heads, we might wish a mystically happy birthday to mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, alchemist/occultist, navigator, and champion of English expansionism John Dee; he was born on this date in 1527.  Widely regarded as the smartest man and/or most powerful magician in the Europe of his time, Dee was an intimate advisor to Queen Elizabeth I and her closest ministers.  But Dee, a student of Copernicus and a friend of Tycho Brahe, was also a serious scholar (his library was the largest in England, perhaps in Europe) and  one of the most learned men of his day– a central figure in the development of modern science… and underneath that cap, he had a killer head of hair.

source

 

Top of the Pops…

After an author has been dead for some time, it becomes increasingly difficult for his publishers to get a new book out of him each year.
– Robert Benchley

source

From the always-amusing Mental Floss, a current read on The All-Time Best-Selling Books.  The top spots are held by volumes either instructional or devotional:

1. The Bible (6.7 billion copies)

2. Quotations from Chairman Mao, Mao Tse-Tung (900 million)

3. The Qur’an (800 million)

4. Xinhua Zidian (400 million — a Chinese dictionary, first published in 1953)

5. The Book of Common Prayer, Thomas Cranmer

6. Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan

7. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, John Foxe

8. The Book of Mormon, Joseph J. Smith, Jr.

But two works of fiction round out the Top Ten:

9. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling (107 million — UK title was …and the Philosopher’s Stone)

10. And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie (100 million)

Read the full list (and find links to top lists of videos, games, and albums) at  The All-Time Best-Selling Books… dive more deeply into the rankings at Wikipedia— which observes:  “This is an incomplete list, which may never be able to satisfy particular standards for completeness.”  To put it politely:  note, e.g., that Tale of Two Cities and Tolkein’s work probably belong in MF’s Top Ten… Still, it’s fun…

“Classic.” A book which people praise and don’t read.
– Mark Twain

As we turn the page, we might recall that it was on this date in 1593 that poet and playwright (Shakespeare’s nearest rival) Christopher Marlowe was killed in a tavern brawl.  Marlowe reputedly supplemented his income as a spy; in any case, he ran afoul of Queen Elizabeth’s government when, earlier in the month, his roommate, playwright Thomas Kyd was grilled by authorities.  Kyd  insisted that the “heretical” papers found in his room belonged to Marlowe, who was subsequently arrested, but was able to use his connections to arrange bail.  While out Marlowe became involved in a fight– ostensibly over a tavern bill, but believed by many to have been a set-up– and was stabbed to death.

The 1585 portrait discovered at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, in 1953, believed to be of the 21-year-old Christopher Marlowe.  The inscribed motto is “QVOD ME NVTRIT ME DESTRVIT,” “that which nourishes me destroys me.”  Indeed.  (source)

 

We might note too that (as the Library of Congress recalls) it was on this date in 1868 that Commander in Chief John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic issued General Order Number 11 designating May 30 as a day “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

The first national celebration of the holiday took place on that day at Arlington National Cemetery, where both Confederate and Union soldiers were buried. Originally known as Decoration Day, at the turn of the century it was designated “Memorial Day.”

Making it…

The San Mateo County Event Center (aka “behind where the old Bay Meadows was”) comes alive this weekend–whirls, clangs, roars, flame spouts…  It’s this year’s Maker Faire— an event that your correspondent heartily recommends.  Readers will see such delights as…

Playable Table-top Pong
“What would the classic game PONG be like, if it were liberated from the cathode ray tube? To find out, we constructed this ‘real world’ version that you can try.”
From Evil Mad Scientist Labs (whom readers will recall)

and…

The Power Tool Drag Races

(also known to readers) photo: Laughing Squid

and…

The Apocalypse Puppet Theater
“We shall perform “So I Married a Seamonster- The Sordid Tale of Capt. Smitty” upon our bicycle-drawn traveling puppet theater, The Apocalypse Stagecoach. This show features bunraku puppets, original songs, and our Sababtini column wave machine.”

And so much more! (Readers in other locales, check for events near you.)

As we prepare to be amazed, we might recall that it was on this date in 1536 that Ann Boleyn was beheaded, ostensibly for adultery, treason, and incest.  Historians doubt the charges: while Ann had borne Henry VIII the daughter who would become England’s Queen Elizabeth I, three subsequent attempts at producing a male heir had resulted in miscarriage; at the time of Ann’s arrest and execution, Henry had already moved on to Jane Seymour.

Ann Boleyn

Ironically (or, given the Tudor family karma, not), it was on this date 32 years later that Queen Elizabeth ordered the arrest of (her first cousin once removed) Mary, Queen of Scots.

Mary in captivity (1580)

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