An offal story

Prometheus by Theodoor Rombouts (1597-1637), in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium The first thing Prometheus did after he stole fire from the gods was to cook meat for everyone on Earth. He then tricked Zeus who had demanded his fair share of all meats consumed by offering him only offal. Retaliation was... Continue Reading →

Fact is fiction: Black Bear reviewed

The crash limit of reality is where fiction begins. This seems to be the thesis of Lawrence Michael Levine's latest film Black Bear, a twin-speed story about the challenges of film-making, when the dividing lines between writer, director and actor suddenly evaporate, rendering life captive to fiction and fiction a hostage to reality. When a... Continue Reading →

The tipping point

One of the most widespread uses of artificial intelligence and machine learning nowadays is that of image recognition. Computers learn to recognise images by using artificial neural networks which help establish relationships between the members of a dataset. It is an approach that seeks to mimic the way the human brain works. More data, more... Continue Reading →

New ideas driving out the old

The medieval period was a period of forceful disputation. Ideas competed for adoption in the market place, careers were done and undone as thinkers experimented and speculated, often dangerously. Innovation was a frequent flyer. It is the privilege of novelty to displace what’s already there. The new generation replacing the old. One goes, the other... Continue Reading →

Imperceptible change

The classics were still classy in the MIddle Ages. An ancient portrait of Seneca the Younger standing high over a 9th century manuscript of the Apocolocyntosis, Seneca's satire on the Roman emperor Claudius, St. Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. Sang. 569 (arrangement by the British Museum) A textbook definition of Renaissance humanism is that of a period of... Continue Reading →

Medieval calculations

Recognising the difficulty of following an algorithm in prose using Latin numerals, some medieval scribes highlighted the numerals in red ink. From Boethius' De institutione arithmetica, one of the medieval 'textbooks' on algebra. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Latin 10251. There are many sad truths about medieval manuscripts. They took extremely long to write. Scribes' eyesight... Continue Reading →

The power of the unprinted word

Text is everywhere. Which is to say that printed text is everywhere. The Gutenberg revolution has been so successful that handwritten script is now a species on the brink of extinction. In the public sphere, the nonprinted word survives as graffiti and scribble. In private, it may grow to the stage of a draft, or... Continue Reading →

Opting out like a monk

Europe's two most productive groups of scribes that written culture depended on were the slaves of the ancient period and the monks of the Middle Ages. Other individuals wrote, copied and disseminated books, but these two groups of dedicated writers, filing papyrus membranes and parchment leaves day in, day out, were responsible for pushing the... Continue Reading →


Chained books have a story to tell, photo: There is a meme out there about the power of books which shows a little girl standing on top of a big pile of books peeking over a high wall. She's standing on the shoulder of giants not to see more and further, as Bernard de... Continue Reading →

Pages of stone

A great deal of medieval architecture was inspired by manuscript art. And a lot of medieval manuscript art began in building design. One of the earliest elements of Western medieval book design was the Roman column, which served to frame text and help the reader navigate the written page. In early-medieval Latin bible manuscripts, the... Continue Reading →

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