Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What's It All About?

If anybody out there is interested in the history and background to this project, there is an article in which I discuss it in the latest edition of the online journal The Heroic Age. That then links to an earlier article about the travails of my various medieval projects in this age of rapidly changing technology. (And no, I didn't have anything to do with the page design of this website!) It is wonderful to be able to do amazing things on the web. However, when your first computer used a cassette tape to save and load a couple of kilobytes of data and had a lurid green screen with monochrome graphics, there is an awful lot of material sitting as printouts in multiple little bottom drawers waiting for a complete overhaul before it can again see the light of day. Wonderful enigma, isn't it? Computers are this great aid to productivity, but steadily destroy their own products with obsolescence. We live in interesting times.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

1066 and All That

One thing leads to another. Having added a section on Special English Letters, I thought I had better put in an example that uses a few of them. There is now a script sample and paleography exercise for a set of manumissions of serfs from the 12th century. The only trouble is, it is in Old English, and I am totally pig ignorant about Old English.
As it is a pretty famous example, I thought it was bound to have been published in translation, but two major sources of published Anglo-Saxon documents that I consulted didn't have it because it dates from after the Norman Conquest. So there is no translation on the website, although the general sense of it can be muddled out, and you will just have to approach it as a letter reading exercise unless I find the Rosetta Stone for it somewhere. (Any suggestions gratefully received.)
Meanwhile, there is just something to ponder there about how we divide history into little chronological boxes and ascribe drastic points of change to the timeline. Yes, the Norman Conquest was a drastic point of change, but Anglo-Saxon language, writing and culture didn't just go POOF! off the map when Harold got that pesky little arrow in his eye. Just like the ancient Britons didn't all get massacred or go and hide in Wales centuries before. Sometimes I think the structures we build to help order our thoughts develop a life of their own. Then we trot off to conferences and seminars to debate the structures, rather than trying to understand the realities of life.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Special English Characters

In the process of filling up those little holes I keep finding, the History of Alphabet Letters section now has a subsection on Special English Letters. Might just be useful for people puzzling over those medieval ancestral wills that they have downloaded from the National Archives, hoping that some ancestor of theirs inherited a gilt saddle from John of Gaunt or suchlike.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Gothic Book Hands

The most recent addition to Medieval Writing is The History of Gothic Book Hands. Not exactly the most original of topics, and probably to be found in more detail in every paleography book ever written, but I guess it should be there. In fact, it should have been there a long time ago, and now it is. In the course of preparing that I kept finding lots of other things that should be there, so I guess I will have to get to work.