Tag: History

Philip Pullman, Neil Gaiman, Tom Holland, and Others Stand Against Piracy

Everyone needs to stop pirating books. That’s means me – especially me – and you, and the person next to you, and the people who don’t read this article.


Creativity creates worlds

Image Via Medium

Creativity is meant to be experienced, but we live in a capitalist society, in which people need to make money, and sadly, by artists’ work being distributed for free, they lose out. And you know what happens if they lose money? All those books and other creative works we love will no longer we accessible.

Thankfully people are fighting back.

This isn’t the say that musicians and filmmakers aren’t fighting back, but on the literary side,  we have Philip Pullman.


Philip Pullman

Image Via The Guardian

Philip Pullman, author of the famed His Dark Materials trilogy, and president of the Society of Authors, sent a letter to Greg Clark, the UK’s Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy specifically about ebook piracy, and he’s not alone.

Others include novelists Neil Gaiman, author of The Sandman, Tom Holland, author of In The Shadow of the Sword, Joanna Trollope, author of A Village Affair, Malorie Blackman author of Black and White, and poet Wendy Cope (If I Don’t Know) and historian Antony Beevor (Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943), along with twenty-eight other authors.


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Image Via Marque Antony

That means THIRTY-FOUR authors wrote to the UK’s Secretary of State to talk about ebook piracy – specifically its growing relevancy and how it hurts the writing industry.


Holy cow Batman!

Image Via Meme Generator

That’s right Robin, Holy Cow.

What did they have to say? Well, it might scare you.

“We are concerned that websites offering illegal downloads of books are becoming increasingly prevalent,” the letter reads, “We do not want to give any of these sites publicity by naming them here, but they can easily be found”.

The letter goes on to cite its sources, kids, noting that that the growth of online book piracy could “make it even harder for authors to make a living from their work”. If that wasn’t scary enough, The Guardian wrote nine months ago how, “[b]ased on a standard thirty-five-hour week, the average full-time writer earns only £5.73 [$7.49] per hour, £2 [$2.61] less than the UK minimum wage for those over twenty-five.”

This is in thanks to ebooks. If publishers can’t get back their money by publishing books, then why give the authors the money they deserve? Why give them any money at all?

“This will harm writers and readers alike – if authors can no longer afford to write, the supply of new writing will inevitably dry up.”

This isn’t hyperbole, this is straight honest truth. It’s hard to listen to, we might not want to hear it, but we have to. There’s a reason all these authors, all thirty-four of them, wrote to the UK’s secretary of state, “calling on [him] to take action against the blight of online book piracy” because if creative people don’t get paid for their work, then they have to spend less time being creative. That means we get even less books, writings, and other creative works.


Creativity is leaving us

Gregg Clark hasn’t given a response, yet, but we sure hopes that after his words comes quick, decisive action because, even though we might not like it, creativity and business go hand in hand in our society. Ironically, piracy is so easy because creative works are all around us, but if piracy were to continue then there WILL NOT be anywhere near as many creative works around us.


Featured Image Via Good e-Reader

Check Out this Collection of 950 Ancient Miniature Books

The New York Times has reports that Patricia J. Pistner is the United States’ most prominent collector of small texts. What’s crazy (and fabulous, of course) is that she has 950 tiny books in her possession, now displayed at The Grolier Club, which is the nation’s oldest society of bibliophiles, based in Manhattan. The books range in value from from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars; the rarest of miniature antiquarian books can sell in the six or even seven figures.





Some books are between one and three inches high, while others are just a quarter of an inch. From historical texts to poetry, to novels, and picture books, miniaturization is a true art. One of the oldest texts in Pistner’s possession dates back to 2300 B.C. Can you imagine having this much worth in your possession? Because I can’t…




Display of miniature books







Pistner told the New York Times that she had always had a passion for miniature books, and used to create them herself using paper and a staple gun, and now she has come far with expressing her love for all things tiny and texts.

Check out some of photos of a few of Pistner’s favorites, taken by Tom Grill and Charlie Rubin- the descriptions were written and sourced by New York Times’s Sarah Lyall!




Image via new york times (photo: tom grill)



Here, in its original Latin, albeit smaller, is Galileo’s famous 1615 letter to Cosimo d’Medici’s mother, laying out his (heretical) reasoning for why the Bible should not be used as a basis for scientific belief. The fact that it is printed in 2 pt. “fly’s eye” type — by comparison, the type you are reading now (in the printed newspaper, at least) is 8.7 pt. — makes it all the more exciting. It is considered to be one of the most famous miniature books in the world, Pistner said, because of its size (the binding is 18 millimeters, or about 0.7 of an inch, high) and the quality of its craftsmanship.




Image via new york times (photo: tom grill)



One of two tiny eight-sided Qur’ans in the exhibit, this is a complete transcription of the Islamic holy book, probably from the 19th century. It measures in at a mere 50 x 45 x 12 mm and has fetching gold pigment on its cover and elaborate floral designs inside. “A miniature Qur’an permits a protective intimacy with the revealed word of God through wearing, carrying or close placement,” Pistner writes in the exhibit’s catalog. In the Ottoman era, mini Qur’ans were also placed on banners carried into battle.




Image via new york times (photo: Charlie Rubin)



This very small 2,300-odd-years-old solid-black object is replete with writing, much of it consisting of apparently indecipherable magic spells. But around its sides is a four-line invocation calling on the creator of the universe “to give strength, health and salvation and to protect the wearer from evil and harmful spirits.” Such objects were actually amulets often worn or carried by their owners during the Roman Empire.



Check out the rest of these images in the article on The New York Times !


Featured Image via new york times (photo: Charlie RUBIN)

Tom Hanks to Produce ‘In the Garden of Beasts’ Adaptation

The director of Darkest Hour, the film that earned Gary Oldman his first Academy Award, has sett his sights on another World War II story. The Hollywood Reporter confirmed that Joe Wright is in talks to direct an adaptation of Erik Larson’s In The Garden of Beasts, with Tom Hanks to produce.


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Image Via Amazon


This nonfiction book tells the story of William Dodd, who served as the United States Ambassador to Germany during Hitler’s rise in the 1930s. The book also examines Dodd’s family, particularly his daughter Martha who had an affair with Gestapo head Rudolf Diels. Larson chronicles the Dodd family as they slowly begin to realize the horrors and brutality of Nazi Germany.

An adaptation of this novel had been shopped around Hollywood for a while. Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman are set to produce the film through their Playtone production company. Though Hanks was rumored to star in the lead role at certain points, it is unknown if this will go ahead.

Some of Joe Wright’s other film hit adaptations include Pride and Prejudice, Atonement and Anna Karenina.



Featured Image Via Amazon and IMDb

Ancient Book Proves Connection Between Medieval Irish Doctors and Islamic Culture through Missing Binder

The Independent reports that an ancient text has revealed a surprising connection between medieval Irish doctors and ancient Persia (now Iran) during an important age of Islamic learning. Professor Pádraig Ó Macháin of University College Cork’s Irish Department discovered that doctors in the 1400s were exploiting medical knowledge from Persia. The famous medical text Canon of Medicine by the Persian physician Ibn Sena (980-1037), also known as Avicenna, was used to train doctors in Ireland during the medieval times.


Image Via Independent.ie


The spine of the book was found to contain an Irish translation based on a Latin translation of Ibn Sena’s work.  Prof Ó Macháin said “the discovery underlined just how much medical scholarship in medieval Ireland was on a par with that on the Continent.” Ó Macháin discovered that an Irish scholar must have travelled overseas to train, and was impressed by Ibn Sena. They decided to work together and used a Latin translation as the basis for an Irish translation.


Because of the importance of the manuscript fragment to the history of Irish learning and medicine, they agreed that the binding be removed from the book by John Gillis of Trinity College Dublin (TCD).


Prof Ó Macháin is quoted as saying, “The use of parchment cut from old manuscripts as a binding for later books is not unusual in European tradition. This is the first time that a case has come to light of such a clear example of the practice in a Gaelic context.”


“The discovery and digitisation of the text was a scholarly adventure,” he goes on. “One of those occasions when many people, not least the owners of the book, were working together towards a common purpose for the cause of pure learning. It was a pleasure to have been able to make it happen and to have been part of it.”






If you want to learn more about this discovery then read more of the article from Independent!


Featured Image via independent.ie
Rock of Gelt

Ancient Roman Phallic Graffiti To Be Digitally Immortalized

Picture this: you’re in school as a youngster—middle school, perhaps? And you’re enduring your teacher’s boring history lesson while you pretend to take notes in your marble notebook… but she’s not exactly supervising you very closely. Are you bullet-noting the reign of Henry VIII? Or are you doodling?

Doodles are by no means a modern invention. These carvings from ancient Roman quarry workers are reminiscent of our early journalling days—if you can consider chiseling a crude phallus into hard stone walls doodling.


Ancient Phallus



These relatable ancient drawings have brought fame to the ‘Written Rock of Gelt,’ which Historic England describes as “the rock face of a group of nine Roman inscriptions… cut into the sandstone rock face of a Roman Quarry about 9m above the river on the north side of the River Gelt [in England].” Archaeologists were able to date the inscriptions of the quarry using one particular inscription, which references the consulate of Aper and Maximus, two officials who were elected in 207 AD.





The inscriptions also include, among others, the phrase “VEX LI EG II AVG OF APR SVB AGRICOLA OPTIONE,” which translates roughly to, “A detachment of the Second Legion Augusta; the working face of Apr… under Agricola.” This tells us that the face (above) to the left side of the inscription is not an ancient predecessor of the moon emoji—but it could be, as many archaeologists think, a rough caricature of the quarry project manager. (Think of the pictures you drew of your elementary school teachers—not entirely flattering!)

There are two problems facing the quarry as it exists today. First, the trail that led to the Rock of Gelt collapsed in the 1980s, so the public has not been able to view the inscriptions in decades; archaeologists were only able to descend to the site using a system of ropes and pulleys (shown below).


Archaeologists Descend Wall



Second, the wall (which is made of soft Cumbrian sandstone)is undergoing a natural process of gradual erosion. For both of these reasons, Historic England will fund a project aimed at recording the inscriptions, partnering with Newcastle University and a 3D media platform called Sketchfab.

Ian Haynes, Professor of Archaeology at Newcastle University, explains that “these inscriptions are very vulnerable to further gradual decay. This is a great opportunity to record them as they are in 2019, using the best modern technology to safeguard the ability to study them into the future.”

The Rock of Gelt is significant for its status as one of the very few instances of ancient Roman rock-face inscription in England. In my opinion, at least, the rock’s historical status and comedic appeal are two insanely persuasive reasons to support its digital immortalization!