Daily Archives: September 18, 2007

Scenes from the Life of a Vatican Librarian

“For the record, the Vatican Library has acquired a certain reputation for manuscripts it does not possess or that have never existed. Among the requests for information are questions about the decrees of the Roman Senate concerning the trial of Jesus (in fact these are Medieval remakes taken from an ancient apocryphal text, the Acta Pilati), or the Necronomicon, a sort of “book of the next world” that the American writer H.P. Lovecraft mentioned as the presumed source of his “Gothic” novels. The author of one modern apocryphal work even maintains that he “transcribed” it from a “Nestorian manuscript” that the Library has never possessed.”

From an article on the Bodmer Papyrus. You have to scroll all the way to the end for the Lovecraft thing.

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Lead Not Bookdealers into Temptation

Well, I can’t blame the bookseller for his business acumen. Certainly he had no particular business incentive to be nice, if they were going to sell off every old book they had and never buy any more until he was dead and gone; and if he was going to be able to retire wealthy off the profits.

But geez, this is sharp practice. And geez, the people who run Truro Cathedral must never had heard of selling books piecemeal. Even on E-Bay.

Umberto Eco wrote a novel about this, but I guess the Truro folks aren’t big on Eco.

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Smells Like Gooseberries, You English Kin-iggit!

The good news is that there’s an article about this nifty medieval French legal arrangement called affrèrement — “brotherment”. It allowed brothers, relatives, or even unrelated persons to pool their goods and share a household on an equal basis, instead of designating one person as the owner and master of the household and everybody else as a dependent. It was most helpful for several people inheriting a single house and farm, since it permitted them to get use of their inheritance without having to cut up the farm into smaller pieces or sell; and it preserved both wealth and the family homestead. But since several people can afford a bigger place than one, and since there are always economies of volume when several people live under one roof, you can definitely see the value of pooling resources with a friend or farming businesspartner to buy land and a single house. It even represents a sort of tiny corporate model, without having to worry about tangling with guilds. You might also compare it with founding a monastery, or writing out the terms of service on a ship or in a merchant venture company — particularly apropos to a custom which began in the 1500’s. (Except you get equal shares in the company — share and share alike! So affrerement was a pretty good deal.)

There was a certain danger. The worldly goods of everyone involved became joint goods, which none of them could dispose of without consent of all the others. They also became each others’ heirs, which guaranteed some fun when wives and children, or other relatives, came into the mix. (Did we mention that France had lots of lawyers and courts from fairly early in the Middle Ages?)

But is this what the article is interested in?

No, of course not. It wants to claim that this was used as a sort of homosexual civil union. Although they admit that there is absolutely no evidence for this interpretation, they claim this lack almost as a proof. Argumentum ex nihilo, I guess. They do note that affrèrement agreements shared similarities with marriage contracts; but they don’t mention that French marriage contracts even down to this century were a lot like corporate merger contracts. (Notoriously so. The English were always mocking this in novels, even though they had their own mysterious “settlements” that they were too refined to mention.)

One rolls one’s eyes and passes on.

(One also shudders to think of this gentleman’s persona story, did he join the SCA. No doubt he would have visited Tenochtitlan and there invented the Reese’s Cup. After all, they had peanuts in Mexico as well as chocolate, and besides, there’s no evidence that Reese’s Cups didn’t exist in period, right?)

Anyway, the other nifty thing is that the good frères, natural or adopted by choice, swore to share “one bread, one wine, and one purse”. Sounds like the Three Musketeers. :)

UPDATE: Sherman Logan saith, “A considerably more logical explanation is that, in a society structured by kin-groups, those without relatives did what they could to invent artificial kindred.”

Also, the Orthodox are bringing up adelphopoiesis (“brother-making”), which has also been described (stupidly) as a form of civil union, when in reality it’s more like blood-brotherhood or becoming someone’s anama-chara (mutual spiritual director or confessor, aka “soul-friend”). Apparently it still goes on today. One poster recalled knowing a businessman and monk who became such brothers; the businessman stayed in the world, donated money to the monastery to support his new “brother”, and came to visit him. You can also read this First Things article on adelphopoiesis, by a woman who was made a sister.

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Paging Roger Pearse….

Tertullian.org is down. I hope everything is okay.

UPDATE: Obviously, I didn’t find the man’s blog, where he announced that the site would be offline for the rest of the month to avoid further charges by Ye Olde ISP.

Thanks, Mike, for saving me from fretting. (I did run a search before posting, but obviously not a good enough one.)

Btw, Roger is not only responsible for perhaps the best patristics site on the Net, but has written a computer program called QuickLatin. (Which I probably need.) That site’s not down.

And the man needs money! So buy his program and send him money, quick! The Google cache and the Internet Archive just aren’t as good as the real thing. *snif*

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Keep Doing What Doesn’t Work

Publius Pundit lays out the horrifying waste of national potential that Russia has become.

Again. For the zillionth time in history.

It’s like watching a dysfunctional family saga that lasts hundreds of years.

Sigh. If there was ever a country that needed to reconsider its cultural assumptions about power, this is it.

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Mwahahaha! Books I Haven’t Read!

I know we’re all still mourning for Madeleine L’Engle and stuff, but apparently she wrote a whole trilogy of which I knew nothing — the Genesis Trilogy. (Unless book one is Many Waters, which I have read… No?)

*search engine fu*

And It Was Good, Stone for a Pillow, and Sold into Egypt. Apparently it’s some kind of Bible pondering nonfiction thing. Well, now that I know it exists, I will have to hie me to the library!

Via James’ elegiac blog entry.

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The Sound of Trumpets

Trumpets are associated with the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. Since horns have been with us humans since the most prehistoric days (mostly because critters have horns, and the rest is pretty simple), the Israelites probably had horns before they moved there. But Egypt had some really snazzy trumpets.

The silver trumpet of Tutankhamun is one beautiful example of the instruments of pharaonic Egypt. If just looking at it isn’t enough, this page offers a free downloadable program which allows you to “play” it.

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The Worm Returns

Sandy Berger is back in the news. You remember Sandy Burglar, don’t you? The thief of history? The scum-sucking bottom-feeding poltroon who stole from the National Archives, the American people, and the Muse Clio — and then destroyed what he stole?

Well, our shady little friend is back working with his unindicted co-conspirators. Yay.

Hillary Clinton is a fool to have hired Sandy Berger as a national security advisor for her campaign. If he’s a faithful minion, then he could be faithful in the background and be rewarded in some less public way. If he’s got the goods on Hillary, she should pay him off with money.

But this is a man whom even criminals could justifiably treat with disdain, and be ashamed to associate themselves with. This is a man whose hand should never be shaken, never be touched. This is a man who needs to be forced to work on repentance and reparation, not trusted with any part of the future of our great nation —  a nation whose very history he has done his best to erase.

If he only knew shame, there might be hope for him yet. But his shamelessness is as obvious as that of his friends. They can’t admit, even to themselves, that they feel sorry and ashamed about their considered pre-9/11 judgments. So instead of feeling sad or looking forward to the future with a steely determination to do better, they try for a cover-up while insisting that they are just protecting themselves against all the meanies persecuting them. It’s a new corollary to Santayana — “Those who refuse to admit to mistakes are doomed to make even worse ones.”

Sigh. It’s a shame that American politics has abandoned tar and feathers, much less riding miscreants out of town on a rail. Such an experience might even focus Berger’s mind on the error of his ways… but no. He’s probably too self-righteous for any experience to burst his mental bubble.

Here’s someone else disgusted with him. But with the dubious benefit of personal knowledge.

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