Introducing WineTalk

Oinoglossia, or winetalk, doesn’t exist, so I had to create it. The Romans came close to it, in vino veritas, there is truth in wine, meaning not that the wine contains truth (they were wrong), but that the wine brings out true, unguarded talk in those who take it seriously, which is to say lightly,... Continue Reading →

The painted veil of lost words

DALL·E 2 trying to be imaginative (OpenAI©). Carved words. Painted words. Smudged. Incrusted. Dusted. Tattoos on the skin of sacred calves. The calves of culture, the vellum of civilization. Dormant. Rolling. Turning. All words are born lost, but only a handful get found in each generation. Language is not constructed, it is. The foundation of... Continue Reading →

Literal and literary beauty

Codex Aureus of Echternach, around 1030, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg For all their obsession with beauty, the ancient Greeks and Romans didn't care much about beautiful books. The papyrus rolls of the ancient world were objects of truth, of knowledge, of wisdom, of passion, but never of beauty. There is no evidence to suggest that readers... Continue Reading →

Blessed variety

Our books may be diverse and inclusive, but our book cultures are not. Book genres are exclusive, most books resemble each other in shape and form, and while we find a multitude of topics and ways to approach each one, every book seems closer to each other than their authors may claim. And certainly we're... Continue Reading →

Modern regulae

The refectory of Lewes Priory © Andy Gammon 2010 Chapter 38 of the monastic Rule of St Benedict stipulates: ‘Reading will always accompany the meals of the brothers’. Reading in medieval refectories or dining halls was very common, not to say it was the rule. While the monks dined, another used to read a passage... Continue Reading →

The halo effect of medieval cathedrals

The west porch of Metz Cathedral revealing its interiors © The Cathedral of St Stephen in Metz has one of the highest naves among churches built in the medieval period. Construction started in the 14th century and ended in the early 16th. It has stood there undamaged through revolutions and geopolitical upheavals. One of... Continue Reading →

Numbers, more than letters

Numerals have a long history behind them. The earliest numeral notation appeared about 6,000 years ago. But it is only recently that numbers have declared war on letters. Only recently have we, first in the West, and then nearly everywhere else in the world, started to replace letters with numbers. The ambiguity of the written... Continue Reading →

Zigzagging down the page

Heather Blanton, Abstract Skiers Downhill Reading has more in common with skiing that one might suppose. A fast reader is a slalom master, negotiating hard turns through the narrow gates of meaning. Not every adventure is a descent, as any cross-country skier knows. And the best experiences are not downward turns, but arduous ascents up... Continue Reading →

Finding the right route

Almost every other modern philosopher may be found to have said, like Emerson, that it’s not the destination, but the journey that matters. The logicians and rhetoricians of the ancient world wouldn’t have gone onboard with this. For them, it was the destination that mattered. Persuasion in rhetoric, conclusion in logic. Finding the right route... Continue Reading →


In most areas of social and cultural development, the advent of the modern world and the modern state means that things which used to look and feel differently in different parts of a country or across Europe slowly began to resemble each other. Weights and measures, regulation, law, even language, as national, official languages conquered... Continue Reading →

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