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Le Bateleur. The Magician.
I just finished Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. It was a beautiful book, putting me constantly into a black, white, and grey, yet vibrant dreamworld. As I wondered in and out of different tents, one to which I always returned was the Fortune Teller. She used cards for her readings, specifically the Tarot de Marseille. This little episodes as she read provide a little foreshadowing for those that know meanings, or spent time looking them up. As a card player and enthusiast, and the owner of three decks of tarot, I wondered how (if at all) the Tarot de Marseille differed from my own.
The earliest inventors of paper and printing with wood blocks, the Chinese, “played cards” as early as the 9th century (first recorded references of playing cards, although it has been speculated that since there was paper, there were paper card games). Cards were widespread in Asia by the 11th century. In the 14th century, Mamluk Egypt introduced Europe to their playing cards, a deck consisting of 4 suits (swords, staves, cups, and coins) of either 13 or 14 cards (numbered 1 through 10 [pips], with either 3 or 4 “court” cards [a king, first and second duties, and an assistant—all designed and faceless keeping an Islamic tradition]). The Spanish were most likely the first European card players owing to connections in the Islamic world, but card playing by the elite of European was widespread by early 15th century. Card playing exploded with the invention of the printing press, in conjunction with and challenging the myriad religious prints.
Types of design also mushroomed in the different cultures and regions of Europe. Germany played with suits of hearts, bells, leaves, and acorns, and these suits probably influenced the French suits of hearts, diamonds, spades (from leaves), and clubs (from acorns). The Tarot de Marseille continues to use the swords, staves, cups, and coins, but changes the court cards to king, queen, knight, and knave (or “page” and “jack” as well).
With news games being made and played in the 14th century, Northern Italians created a supplement to the traditional four-suited set. These cards, often numbered 1 though 21 (and a no numbered or zero car), depicted allegorical persons and situations, called carte de trionfi (shortened to trionfi) or triumph cards. The French called these stouts (roughly translated as “assets”) and the English shortened “triumph” to “trump” (side ramble: This makes me wonder if the meaning of “trump” is taken from the cards—I may need a trip to the OED!!).
The Tarot de Marseille includes the trump cards, as well as the 4 suits, 14 cards of swords, staves, cups, and coins. The swords are curved and crossed and the staves crossed as lattice work, echoing the origins in the Mamluk cards with the curved scimitar and the long, straight polo mallets. The Tarot de Marseille is certainly the fore bearer of the most common divinatory tarot decks. The 22 trump cards and the four sets of four court cards influence the titles and pictorials in the modern Rider deck, created in 1909. However this modern deck differs from the Tarot de Marseille, in that the pip cards (1 through 10) also include an allegorical pictorial.
Other things of interest:
Abbreviation of Knave to Kn too much like the K for King. Went low class with Jack.
Euchre. Joker relationship and sound. The best bower. Relation to the “zero” card—the Fool.
Timing. 13 cards in each suite — 13 lunar month calendar and 364 days or 52 card deck to 52 week year. Four suits four seasons.
Papess. Female Pope controversy. Sometimes called the Priestess. Pope also become Priest or Hierophant.
13 not numbered or named. Death.
Corner and edge idices — so one doesn’t have to spread hand — 17th to 18th century
Redesign of court cards so reversible. Less telling to opponents what’s in one’s hand. 18th century
French Revolution. “Ace high” because of the rise of the Third Estate. Or three court cards became Liberté, Egalité, and Fraternité.
“Shameless slatterns, half-naked women, who kindled course and breathed life into arson…” —on the “women incendiaries”, unknown
While the working class revolutions of 1848 across Europe were largely unsuccessful, they led to a series of consequences that were dramatically important. They increased the insistence in both German lands and Italian lands for unification. The new working class continued to grow in their political education and awareness, making them a group no longer to be ignored in the resolution of conflicts or the creation or recreation of governments. In France the revolution of 1848 was an indication that the Revolutionary ideals of 1789 had not been forgotten. Enlightenment ideals of liberté, egalité, and fraternité grew ever stronger in the minds of this new working class. But fifty years, two unsuccessful revolts, and the Industrial Revolution had changed those ideas.
Internal divisions led to weaknesses of the new political theories. These divisions had become more defined—often running along class divisions. Socialists and communists claimed that liberal theories didn’t adequately represent the working class, whose labor was used and abused by a bourgeoise or capitalist system…
This is not the post that I want to write, but felt like it was important to give background to the Paris Commune, a short-lived (two months!) worker or proletariate controlled government during the spring of 1871…
It’s not even the Paris Commune that I want to write about. It’s the women of this revolution. The pétroleuses. The fire-starters of the the Paris Commune. The largely imaginary women, who used what would later become the Molotov Cocktail, to burn down “much of Paris” during the extremely violent retaking of Paris by the regular army.
They represent something an important tension that had been steadily growing since early Enlightenment (oh, and we could argue further back… but I’m not going to here…) about women’s roles in an educated, republican society, and in the nineteenth-century women’s role in the new working class, the highly-politicized socialist and communists movements.
There have been a few times throughout history when women have asked for and philosophy has conceded an equal existence for both men and women. Some early Greek philosophers (Plato and Epicurus, not mind you, Aristotle) contended women’s mental acuity and ability in society to be on par with their male counterparts. Jesus’ acceptance and the role of women in early Christian congregations was another. Women were often leaders in this early movement, while at the same time male bishops met and decided the “women’s question.” Women working during the so-called Scientific Revolution (like, Cavendish, Bassi, Winkelmann and others), if not literally, contextually argued in favor of women’s equality in the intellectual or in a public sphere. By the Enlightenment, Mary Wollstonecraft and Olympe de Gouges are writing Enlightenment-styled, revolutionary-supporting treatises on the inclusion of women in a new world centered centered on the Enlightenment, Liberté, and Egalité.
“Fraternité”, here, takes us back to the problem. The society was (is) one deeply entrenched in patriarchy, and our favorite male philosophers while beautifully breaking the boundaries of tradition, often excruciatingly chose a continued tradition of patriarchy when it came to their revolutionary sisters. It was not liberté, egalité, and HUMANITÉ, it was a brotherhood.
Socialists and communists had a similar choice throughout the nineteenth century. In fact many of these radical thinkers believed that a socialist society could only be fully formed with the help of and inclusion of women (like Saint-Simon).
Stories of women and children protesting in front of cannons, as the regular army came to take the munitions from the National Guarde, bought time for the Paris Commune and forced the regular army back out of the city. Women helped to defend their districts as Paris and their Commune help to the regulars. These were working women, mothers, unable to feed their children from the salary they earned. These were women born during the Enlightenment.
The Pétroleuses were the women, about whom fathers warned their sons. Breaking out of their domestic and private spheres (if at all these women ever existed in a domestic or private sphere), these women were “unnatural” and “barbaric”. The implication was that when women are unnatural and wild, society itself will be destroyed by their barbaric ways.
While the pétroleuse didn’t exist, the ideals of the pétroleuse lives on in women across time, as they ask to be treated with the respect and equality that ALL people of ALL kinds deserve in an enlightened and democratic society.
Japanese artist Takahiro Iwasaki transforms rolls of duct tape into complicated topographical maps and stray threads into tiny, astonishingly intricate sculptures. Carnival rides that might just be big enough for a flea emerge from sheets and towels while itty-bitty electrical towers rise up out of toothbrush bristles.
Because it’s awesome. Not history. But awesome.
Google front page: February 19, 2013 - Copernicus’ 540th Birthday
I wanted to do a birthday post this month, one about Lincoln (and my awesome mom!) or one about Washington (who occupies my other part-time life). But those days came and went, and Nicolaus Copernicus was a serendipitous choice for a history of science nerdling.
A quick one though, on the things that Google didn’t tell you about Copernicus when you clicked on his spiraling heliocentric model.
1) Copernicus wasn’t the first guy to come up with a heliocentric model. Historians point to Aristarchus of Samos for that. That doesn’t mean Copernicus wasn’t awesome for bringing the heliocentric sexy back.
2) Copernicus’ model was a MODEL, not a theory or a system. He liked it, because the math made more sense. Sometimes Kepler and Galileo are considered the first true Copernicans, believing that the model, was in the fact what the cosmos looked like — something to which Copernicus doesn’t actually admit (Hey! It was a dangerous idea! It went against the Church!) In fact, he delayed publication of his book until on his deathbed, supposedly dying with the newly printed De revolutionibus orbium coelestium having just reached his hands. (Historians still argue about whether he believed his MODEL was a SYSTEM, whether he delayed publication for mathematical or philosophical decisions, or if it was because of fear of religious backlash).
3) Copernicus’ neat little circles shown here didn’t fully explain all of the data. It needed to be combined with Kepler’s elliptical paths for the math to come out nicely.
4). The Ptolemaic Model (or geocentric model) still mathematically predicts where the heavenly bodies will be, and so can be (and still is) used for navigational purposes.
Copernicus died in 1543. Galileo wouldn’t be born for another twenty-one years and Kepler not for another twenty-eight. What Google did tell you was that Copernicus was a starting point, an amazing thinker, who influenced the minds of future generations. He is man that we put on a deserved pedestal as an outside-the-box thinker. Google did tell you that Copernicus should be celebrated. And I whole heartedly agree.
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This week I looked at a list of digital history, websites dedicated to historical topics, some of which were created in the early days of the interwebs.
The list in a some-what chronological order of creation; the links; and a brief commentary of each follow.
The Valley of the Shadow, 1993-2007 —
A website investigates one Northern and one Southern community Civil War Era. It’s a little difficult to find things on the site, and I’d also like to see digital images of the files like newspapers themselves. What I think is a neat idea is the little interactive “museum maps” taking the “visitor” to the archival sources.
Dickinson Electronic Archives, 1994 —
A cool collection of Emily Dickinson related primary sources. So it looks like they are revamping the site using a standard blog. This blog is a little awkward as the front page. I actually preferred the front page of the archived site.
Hawthorne in Salem, 2002 —
Made available in 2002. But this site looks even older than the Valley of the Shadow and the Dickinson Electronic Archive. That maybe be related to it’s simplicity in nature. I didn’t explore enough to see if there were primary sources here, or how well the information was cited.
Amiens Cathedral Project, ??? —
Interesting project trying to “walk” the visitor through the restoration (maybe a restoration?) of the Amiens Cathedral. This could be a cool way to present info/images, if you’re not funded and if you have a lot of pictures of a particular place. This technology-wise is somewhere in the middle. Check out the Lascaux project for the modern, way awesome version of this being done.
Romantic Circles, 2007 (???) —
Primary sources relating to the Romantic Era. It seems to me like they continue to add to the documents up there. But it is still a little work to find articles and what you are looking for. I love the idea of putting out online journals with articles available for free.
Persepolis: A Virtual reconstruction, (???) —
A step forward from the Amiens Cathedral Project. It was hard to find who is working on it or the dates created, making me skeptical. I like that this is for a city structure that no longer exists. I feel a little spoiled in this digital age—I want these virtual reconstructions to look like movies. That’s probably not fair to ask poor, literally poor little historians. Consumers are not dumping hundreds of millions into these projects.
The Avalon Project, 2008 —
Site dedicated to primary sources in diplomacy and law throughout time. This site is really a vast collection of primary sources that looks, constantly updated and its simplicity is really its greatest strength. While it is a relatively new site, its appearance gives it the look of an older site, the difference is really in maneuverability and clean, easy interface.
Digital Karnak, 2008 —
This also looks VERY good. I love the time map. What a great idea. This is another one of those sites that allows the visitor to “walkthrough” a historical site that no longer exists. But it doesn’t just do that, it aggregates other information on Karnak.
Jeff Gates creations:
In Our Path, 1983-2009 — History of LA driving?
Life Outta Context, 2001-2010 — The personal blog of same guy.
Eye Level, 2005-2012 — Website of Smithsonian American Art Museum
This is a hard one to find a date on it. But it is constantly updated, as one would hope and expect from the US Library of Congress. My suspicion is that it took quite sometime for the LOC to catch onto this digital age. Actually I think I prefer to use from the home page of the Library of Congress.
Hurricane Digital Memory Bank, 2005-2012 —
This may be an unpopular opinion, and don’t mistake, I’m not making any sort of negative statement about Hurricane Katrina (or others) or the shootings at Virginia Tech. I don’t know how if feel about these memory banks, like a lot of the “new media” it’s soooo much stuff. I find these banks incredibly overwhelming. Maybe they are doing EXACTLY what they are setting out to do, but continuing to connect its users to the emotion of the historical events. How does a historian sort through it and use it?
Oyez Today, 2011 —
Audio recordings of the Supreme Court since the time that started recording in the Supreme Court. This is an interesting use of a different kind of primary source—a digital media dedicated to a digital medium.
I don’t know when this made, but it’s got to be recent. And it is BAD. ASS. It is a walkthrough of the Lascaux cave paintings in southern France. If you don’t look at any other site you should DEFINITELY check this one out. It is beautiful and eerie. I tried to link to the english version, but you can get it in other languages. (Mom! You should especially look at this one! This almost makes Land of the Painted Caves palatable.)
Here’s one of my own. I am really looking for cool sites related to European History, World Civilizations, History of Science. This is one that I’ve used before, and it’s got a cool interactive timeline, that links you to interacting with the objects themselves. BBC also did a podcast series, each episode about 5 minutes talking about the objects.
How has the level of sophistication has changed on these digital websites? Rather obviously moving through a 3D space has improved dramatically as seen by the Lascaux project. Also the GUI (graphical user interface) has become more simple, user friendly. It’s not just about simplicity, some of those early sites were simple, but the usability wasn’t necessarily logical. Simple i think is key, but also easy to use, find, and search.
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Hunting for information and research on the difference between page reading and screen reading, was in and of itself an example of both the brilliant advantages of the internet as well as its labyrinthine experience.
Many of the studies that I easily found were for the early to mid 1990s, as people were just beginning to work off their computer monitors, and the internet was still somewhat a place that you could get to the end of. Twenty year later, with the advent of the tablet devices and e-readers the question is still a relevant one, but the focused has shifted from whether it’s a good idea to read on the screen to how this electronic reading is changing the way we think, and to what we comprehend.
The best article I found on the topic was an editorial piece from the New York Times. There were five contributors, all with incredibly difference backgrounds, education, current research, and each with a different focus on the issue of electronic reading. I want to highlight on a couple and then show the neural roads-less-traveled that I went on as the reader of this article.
Alan Liu, a professor of English and head of Transliteracies, a research group on the nature of online reading, information culture, and literature, focuses on the social aspect that reading online produces. While it can be considered “distracting,” he writes that
“Initially, any new information medium seems to degrade reading because it disturbs the balance between focal and peripheral attention. This was true as early as the invention of writing, which Plato complained hollowed out focal memory. Similarly, William Wordsworth’s sister complained that he wasted his mind in the newspapers of the day. It takes time and adaptation before a balance can be restored, not just in the “mentality” of the reader, as historians of the book like to say, but in the social systems that complete the reading environment.”
I love this idea that Plato thought that writing was going to be bad for the study of philosophy, and that the invention of the newspaper was another doomsday device to the human’s intellectual capacity. That’s not to say that those inventions didn’t change the way that humans interacted with one another, because that is SURELY the case. I find that I actually get my news similarly online, as how I got my news through a paper. I hadn’t really thought explicitly about how the newspaper is an entirely different medium of information than a book, and that I get information from it differently (topical, scattered, thesis-sentence only, etc).
Davide Gelernter doesn’t focus on the social interaction that Web 2.0 can have on the book, but rather that a book can now be changed in a meaningful way to help the individual reader.
“I assume that technology will soon start moving in the natural direction: integrating chips into books, not vice versa. I might like to make a book beep when I can’t find it, search its text online, download updates and keep an eye on reviews and discussion. This would all be easily handled by electronics worked into the binding. Such upgraded books acquire some of the bad traits of computer text — but at least, if the circuitry breaks or the battery runs out, I’ve still got a book.
“Of course, onscreen text will change and improve. But the physical side of reading depends not on the bad aspects of computer screens but on the brilliance of the traditional book — sheets bound on end, the “codex” — which remains the most brilliant design of the last several thousand years.”
I found a great article on the invention/creation of Gutenberg’s printing press, because I love to use the analogy of the printing press and the mass production of codices to the invention of the internet itself. Certainly, just because the printing press had been invented didn’t mean that printers abandoned the earlier technology of writing, or the manuscript, but transformed those tools into something new. The dream that I share with Gelernter is that the book will continue to exist, but perhaps it will be a “Codex 2.0.”
As a child, I was obsessed with Penny’s, Inspector Gadget’s daughter, “computer book.” I often carried around the “H” or the “U” Encyclopedia Brittanica. How do those two things relate, you might ask. Rightly so, the answer is not obvious. In the “H” encyclopedia, one could find the entry “Human Anatomy” and the “U” Encyclopedia include the entry on the “United States.” Clever book designers had used a handful of transparent sheets in each entry. For anatomy, there was a skeleton sheet, arteries and veins, organs, musculature, and a skin sheet. The “United States” transparencies included the land purchases and development of North America to the present size/state of the United States. I’m still not seeing the connection, you say. Oh right, still not apparent, is it? To an eight year old, these encyclopedias were Penny’s computer book. The transparencies allowed me to change and enter “data,” while my “screen” constantly updated to reflect my queries. It was the best!
Why don’t I have one of those yet?! That was 1988!! No, I’m not buying that my iPad is that thing. I want a tangible book. That I open up. And has pages. A durable, leather cover, lovingly created. Maybe if I tied to iPads together that would get me closer. I love books. I don’t know how many times I’ve said that I want to buy the book, but get a digital copy of the book at the same time. Put a code or a chip in the back! I don’t get why it’s not done. That’s probably not fair. I know that there are authors who do offer that as an option. Maybe the technology is on the way. There is a flexible phone/flexible display! There’s still a chance for me to be Penny!
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