A tale of two writing supports

As Ireland publishes its last fully paper census since 1841, it has become increasingly clear that paper might just turn out to be the most short-lived writing support in history. Stone, clay, papyrus, parchment have had a longer shelf-life than paper. It's been roughly six hundred years since the slow paper revolution ignited in the... Continue Reading →

Tackling the information challenge

It's difficult for us to understand the information scarcity of previous ages, even as we seem to have unlimited access to information and evidence about the past. Between networks and nodes, we tend to forget the importance the ancients placed on reliable info. Military and cultural wars have long been fought because of suboptimal knowledge.... Continue Reading →

Book of mercy

Between songs like Hallelujah, Anthem and Tower of Song, one tends to pass over the Leonard Cohen of existential and sacramental poetry. And Good Friday seems to be the best time to remember a little book, a very little book indeed, of psalmic beauty. Cohen's Book of Mercy is one of his most underrated. Described... Continue Reading →

Barking up the wrong tree

In his book What's Your Problem, Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg argued that in order to enhance our problem-solving skills, we must develop a reframing mindset. This means learning to look at a problem from a different angle. Not just to adopt a new perspective, but a new way to frame the issue. Not only a new frame,... Continue Reading →

Leadership styles

To read Thucydides, Xenophon, Caesar or Plutarch is not just to learn about the social, political, military and cultural developments and upheavals of the ancient past, but also to understand the various leadership styles that allowed the political and military leaders of the time to earn historiographical recognition. The visionary style of Augustus, the participative... Continue Reading →

Cave canem

As Boston Dynamics’ robot dog named Spot begins to patrol the ruins of Pompeii, we are reminded that there is hardly an inch of ancient history which is not without its snarling companion. Cerberus may win the Most Famous Canine Unit competition, but he is not the only dog figure to dog the ancient imagination.... Continue Reading →

The ancients in exile

For most of the medieval period, to copy books was a sacred duty. Whether in reading or in writing, the word was seen as a divine vehicle, bringing the Kingdom of God closer to humanity and the humanity closer to God. Secular books were not excluded as a matter of principle, as they furthered the... Continue Reading →

Off-the-shelf solutions

A reader visiting the Sorbonne faculty of the University of Paris in the 14th century would've been amazed, wherever in Europe they would've come from, at the richness of its collections. By the late 1320s, the library owned just under 1,800 volumes, the largest in Western Europe. A rich collection that was also easy to... Continue Reading →

Window of opportunity

What if the Greeks had lost against the Persians? Or Sparta against Athens? Or what if Caesar hadn't been killed and the civil war had fizzled like an undetonated bomb over another century? What if the Western monks of the late antique and early middle ages hadn't taken writing seriously and had settled for a... Continue Reading →

The libraries of the modern midnight

Libraries are popular. Not only brick and mortar ones, which are being expanded and enhanced every year almost everywhere. But also fictional libraries. Literary temples of the book. There have been at least two different novels published under the same title, The Library of the Dead. Matt Haig's Midnight Library was a Sunday Times Number... Continue Reading →

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