May 2013

May 20, 2013

Medieval Puzzle of the Week #1

A few people expressed interest at solving ‘medieval puzzles of the week,’ so this post is a trial run. Similar to the game puzzles you find in a newspaper, I would post a new premodern game puzzle each week (e.g. chess, nine-man morris, alquerque, recreational math problems, etc) and provide historical, manuscript, and practical information about – Read More –

Temple Bar, Dublin
May 19, 2013

Colourful Dublin: A Tour in Pictures

I adore Dublin. I’m not sure whether it is the excellent food, large selection of Irish trad sessions to attend, or the gregarious Irish nature, but I have always felt comfortable here (I also look/am Irish by ancestry, so I can easily fit right into the crowd). One cannot walk along Dame Street, Grafton Street, or Temple Bar without encountering the smell of delicious pastries wafting down the street,1 a busker attempting to make a few bucks on a tinwhistle or fiddle, or the sound of Irish trad music (i.e. “The Wild Irish Rover”) seeping out from the many pubs, cafés, and other venues.

My week was packed with work at the Old Library in Trinity College Dublin (where they also house the Book of Kells) and exploration of this lovely city. I visited a few of the tourist spots, including the amazing Chester Beatty Library, the National Library of Ireland, and the Dublin Zoo, but otherwise spent much of my time wandering the streets of Dublin or playing my whistle at a real Irish trad session (if you are interested in listening to a true session, go to Cobblestone Pub, Hughes, or O’Donoghues, which are all located within walking distance in the city centre). I believe meandering is one of the best ways to truly experience a city and Dublin is no exception. While walking the many streets and attractions, I realized just how colourful Dublin is, and perhaps this vibrancy acts as a way to mitigate Dublin’s typically cold, rainy weather. Buildings and Georgian doors, as you will see, are often painted bright pinks, yellows, and red. The graffiti littering the many buildings could be considered highly skilled works of art. The parks, gardens, and greenery juxtapose the cobbled medieval streets, and the city centre illuminates at night. Paris may be called the “City of Lights,” but Dublin also seems to come alive at dusk in a spectacle of lights, sounds, and tastes. This post is a tribute to Dublin. I’ve snapped fifty photographs that attempt to capture the moods and colours of this fair city— its heart, people, weather, and history. I really enjoyed photographing and putting this collection together and hope to return to Dublin soon.

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  1. If you are in Dublin, be sure to check out The Queen of Tarts for some delectable pastries. []
Magdalen College Library
May 17, 2013

Oxford from the Archives: A Tale of Two Colleges

As I said goodbye to the old streets of Oxford last week, I dismayed that I had not had the opportunity to fully explore the lovely little university city. Indeed, I barely took any photographs at all—many potential shots seemed to have waves of tourists, trucks, garbage bags, traffic, pylons, construction, and other everyday objects that reduce the quality of a picturesque landscape photograph (though Oxford is quite lovely). Nevertheless, here are a few photographs I was fortunate to snap:

Hollywell Street, Oxford

Hollywell Street, Oxford

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Medieval Labyrinth, MS Trinity College O. 2.45
May 10, 2013

Meditations on a Medieval Labyrinth

Last Saturday, May 4th, marked the 5th annual World Labyrinth Day. People from all over the world walked labyrinths together in celebration of this cultural construction, “Walk[ing] as One at 1”.1  Labyrinths have existed for over 4000 years across multiple cultures and settings, including classical, Roman, medieval, and contemporary. Today, the medieval labyrinth has endured as one of the most popular styles of labyrinth construction. In one manuscript I studied a few weeks ago, I came across a labyrinth image among a collection of other game problems.

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  1. The Labyrinth Locator lists over 4000 labyrinths worldwide. []
Exploring Asquiths Teddy Bear Shop
May 4, 2013

Bearly Medieval: The World’s 1st Teddy Bear Shop

When I had arrived in Henley-on-Thames during my long walk along the River Thames, it was late and I was starving so I was not able to do much exploring that evening. Last Sunday I decided to return to Henley (via rail) for a relaxing afternoon of discovery.1

As I made my way around the little city centre, I happened upon a most unusual site: situated in a fifteenth century building—one of the oldest buildings in Henley2 —was a teddy bear shop. A real teddy bear shop, complete with elaborate window displays of antique, brand name, and handmade teddy bears.

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  1. For anyone thinking of going to Henley-on-Thames on Sundays, be aware that the trains do not run as often, so it can take upwards of one hour to reach Henley from Reading. []
  2. The oldest bulding in town is The Old Bell is a traditional pub situated right in the centre of Henley. The building has been dated by experts at 1325. []
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