manuscripts

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 –

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. []
My workstation at the Cambridge University Library
April 8, 2013

#DayofDH: A Day in the Life of a Digital Medievalist

‘Day of DH’ is an annual online event celebrating the projects, work, groups and people involved in digital humanities (DH). Members, for the most part, tweet and blog about their daily activities as digital humanists, which provides insight in the DH field, elicits discussions among researchers, and creates a sense of community. If you are wondering what ‘Digital Humanities’ is, the term is difficult to define and responses vary widely among researchers. This ambiguity, I believe, adds to the appeal of the event since you can explore various ideas, responses, and definitions from every member here. This year the event is hosted by MSU’s own DH center: MATRIX: The Center for the Digital Humanities & Social Sciences.

You can also follow along today by visiting dayofdh2013.matrix.msu.edu or through Twitter with the hashtag #dayofdh.

I’ve been following the ‘Day of DH’ for a few years now, but was always a bit shy to participate. This year I decided to send in my post (now that my life is a little more interesting!) I’ve written the original post here, and have copied it below for your reading pleasure. I am not usually the sort of person to write about what I had for lunch (etc), but it seems relevant to discuss these types of things in a post about one’s daily activities. So here goes:

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March 28, 2013

The Beauty of Chess: Medieval and Modern

Chess problems have been around for about as long as the game itself. Murray documents over three hundred chess problems (or, Shatranj problems) in various Persian and Islamic manuscripts dating from the sixth century.

The beauty of the game lies not only in its material properties—such as golden chessmen or ornately jeweled gaming boards—but also in the game’s complexity. With over 10^120 possible chess game variations, the game’s elegance also lies in its logic, geometry, and computation. For chess problems, the most aesthetic are also sometimes the most deceptive: a simple-looking problem can prove to be the most difficult, as in the case of Richard Réti’s famous end-game problem first published in 1921:

Richard Réti's Famous Endgame Problem

Richard Réti’s Famous Endgame Problem

 

Sometimes called “The Hunt of Two Hares,” this problem presents a chase scenario, where a king can make multiple threats and move in a variety of ways.1

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  1. This problem has been published numerous times in problem book and is, arguably, the most famous chess problem. []
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