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“I left the fairy tales lying on the floor of the nursery, and I have not found any books so sensible since”*…

 

Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book, published in 1744 and now in the collection of the British Library, is the oldest surviving published collection in the genre.  Some of its rhymes are still familiar; others, like  “Piss a Bed” (above), have faded away.

While the mid-18th-century Tommy Thumb’s represents the oldest collection of nursery rhymes on paper, the oral tradition is, of course, much older. In a preface to his 1843 collection of English nursery rhymes, scholar James Halliwell-Phillips could pinpoint the origins of some verses in his collection to the 16th century but believed that some could be “ancient.” Later studies have dated most of today’s familiar rhymes to the 16th through 18th centuries, with some earlier outliers coming from the medieval period.

Tommy Thumb’s is a milestone for another reason; as the British Library writes, it “represents one of the very first attempts to make books in which children would delight.” It’s small—3 by 1 ¾ inches—and has an engraved illustration on every page; the library suggests that the scheme of alternating ink colors (red, black, red, black) may have been intended to add even more interest for young readers…

* G.K. Chesterton

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As we count to three bags full, we might recall that this date each year is UNESCO’s “World Book and Copyright Day.”

23 April is a symbolic date for world literature. It is on this date in 1616 that Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died. It is also the date of birth or death of other prominent authors, such as Maurice Druon, Haldor K.Laxness, Vladimir Nabokov, Josep Pla, and Manuel Mejía Vallejo.

It was a natural choice for UNESCO’s General Conference, held in Paris in 1995, to pay a world-wide tribute to books and authors on this date, encouraging everyone, and in particular young people, to discover the pleasure of reading and gain a renewed respect for the irreplaceable contributions of those, who have furthered the social and cultural progress of humanity. In this regard, UNESCO created the World Book and Copyright Day.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

April 23, 2016 at 1:01 am

Named virtues…

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, is charged with administering “the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage“– a duty they discharge by convening a committee once a year to select from member nations’ nominations those traditions that are needy of conservation.

Consider, for example:

Castells are human towers built by members of amateur groups, usually as part of annual festivities in Catalonian towns and cities… The human towers are formed by castellers standing on the shoulders of one another in a succession of stages (between six and ten). Each level of the tronc, the name given to the second level upwards, generally comprises two to five heavier built men supporting younger, lighter-weight boys or girls. The pom de dalt – the three uppermost levels of the tower – comprises young children. Anyone is welcome to form the pinya, the throng that supports the base of the tower… The knowledge required for raising castells is traditionally passed down from generation to generation within a group, and can only be learned by practice.

 

On consideration, the committee ruled that Castells satisfied the criteria for inscription on the Representative List:

R1: Human towers are recognized by Catalan people as an integral part of their cultural identity, transmitted from generation from generation and providing community members a sense of continuity, social cohesion and solidarity;
R2: Their inscription on the Representative List could promote intangible cultural heritage as a means of reinforcing social cohesion, while encouraging respect for cultural dialogue and human creativity;
R3: The safeguarding measures being implemented and those planned are carefully described, and the commitments of both the State and the communities are well demonstrated, all aiming at ensuring the viability of the element;
R4: The nomination was elaborated through a process of consultation and cooperation with the bearers of the tradition who have provided their free, prior and informed consent;
R5: Human towers are registered in the Inventory of the Ethnological Heritage of Catalonia, maintained and updated by the Department of Culture and Media.

For a peek at 2010’s newly-anointed treasures, announced last week, readers can visit this Foreign Policy roster of “10 Traditions You Never Thought Needed Protecting.”

As we wonder if the castellers are now required to wear blue helmets, we might recall that it was on this date in 1993 that Hollywood’s homage to the Anglo-Saxon tradition of cross-dressing– Mrs. Doubtfire— premiered.

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