New Technology Used to Study Medieval Manuscripts

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As someone who has more than a passing interest in the Middle Ages, this article was an good read today. In Norway, there are scientists who are using high-tech tools to analyse medieval manuscripts. No, I don’t imagine the meaning of the text is being studied, so much as the physical details of its composition and what that means for the preservation of these books. With time exposure to sunlight and other environmental factors can degrade the contents of these artifacts, but through the use of hyperspectral imaging these risks are reduced. It also allows for quicker analysis. Interesting stuff.

Hyperspectral imaging has also been used to closely examine other forms of art, primarily paintings. In 2012, “The Scream” by Edvard Munch was analysed using this method. However, it has not been used to look at old manuscripts.

“The technique is quite effective for examining old manuscripts, and yields much better results than other methods. Whole pages can be scanned and analysed in a matter of minutes. Fragile documents are also protected from marks and rough handling,” says Catelli.

Afghan Women and Poetry

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There’s a fantastic article up at The New York Times about Afghan women and the need to compose and share poetry (note the use of the word need there). It’s refreshing to see the kind of passion about poetry that exists for some of these women, who actually run the risk of extreme violence or even death (love poetry in particular is dangerous as it is assumed automatically that any woman writing of love must be adulterous and therefore punished). The article details experiences of several women that have become part of a writing society, called Mirman Baheer, based out of Kabul. Some women who have joined this group from outlying regions must participate secretly, and often call in to a representative of the group when they are able without being seen or heard. Truly inspiring.

Meena lives in Gereshk, a town of 50,000 people in Helmand, the largest of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. Helmand has struggled with the double burden of being one of the world’s largest opium producers and an insurgent stronghold. Meena’s father pulled her out of school four years ago after gunmen kidnapped one of her classmates. Now she stays home, cooks, cleans and teaches herself to write poetry in secret. Poems are the only form of education to which she has access. She doesn’t meet outsiders face to face.

“I can’t say any poems in front of my brothers,” she said. Love poems would be seen by them as proof of an illicit relationship, for which Meena could be beaten or even killed. “I wish I had the opportunities that girls do in Kabul,” she went on. “I want to write about what’s wrong in my country.” Meena gulped. She was trying not to cry. On the other end of the line, Amail, who is prone to both compassion and drama, began to weep with her. Tears mixed with kohl dripped onto the page of the spiral notebook in which Amail was writing down Meena’s verses. Meena recited a Pashtun folk poem called a landai:

“My pains grow as my life dwindles,
I will die with a heart full of hope.”

Links: Jules Supervielle, Poetry Quiz, Digitizing of Medieval Texts, and More

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Here are a couple of links I’ve looked at over the last few days. Maybe something here is of interest to you:

  • The Times Literary Supplement has a featured poem by French poet Jules Supervielle (1884-1969) called “To Myself When Dead”. It’s short, but packs a bit of a punch.
  • CBC Books has a CanLit poetry quiz up at their site in celebration of Poetry Month. See how you do on the quiz (completing it enters you to win all seven books by this year’s Griffin nominees). Also, remember the CBC Poetry Prize deadline is May 1.
  • Our goal as readers is to, eventually, look like this guy (from Reddit).
  • The Malahat Review and The Fiddlehead are swapping regions for their next issue. The former is publishing Atlantic Canadian work, while the latter work from Canada’s West Coast. Guidelines here.
  • I’m a sucker for anything Medieval, making this joint project by the Bodleian and Vatican libraries quite excellent.
  • The Walrus has a great article by Richard Poplak about the Canadian Men’s National Soccer Team and the idea of soccer in this country (This is from the march issue).

That Smell We All Love

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You’ve probably been there: you’re discussing e-readers with a friend or family member, who’s quite an avid reader. At some point in the conversation, one of you will mention the experience of holding a physical book, turning pages, or even the smell of the book (especially if it’s an old one) as reasons why printed books are better than e-books. I’m not opening up this bag of worms right now, since it’s not the focus of this post, there will be plenty of opportunities later.

Books smell and there are reasons for it, ranging from heat and moisture levels of the area in which they are stored, to the effects of the chemicals (acids) used in their production. AbeBooks has a short video discussing just this topic and though the first few seconds are just a little bit creepy, it is worth the watch.

Kudos to Strombo for posting this link over at that site.