horses and horse furniture.jpg

A receipt from Lord Thomas Cawarden on receiving “horses and horse furniture” (in possibly the most incomprehensible handwriting ever). Now, I entirely understand getting horses, but what the hell is “horse furniture”? In real life I imagine that that means saddles and armor, but emotionally I choose to believe that means a tasteful chaise lounge and several tasseled ottomans.

“Horses and horse furniture”, 1559


This title page is the physical embodiment of starting off a sentence with a really great idea and then having the sudden realization that you’re a complete dumbass but instead of completely and abruptly abandoning all hope you try to slowly trail off and hope that nobody else notices what’s going on, change tracks, it still doesn’t work, so your words start skittering further and further into complete nonsense.

Also, the online metadata included the following tags: “poems, petitions, manuscripts, letters, Merlin, prophecies, England- foreign relations, legislative proceedings, Spain, Portugal, France”
I was following this logic all the way up to Merlin. waaat? 
Reading a bit after that, this includes “…several prophecies, including two by Merlin, telling of the coming of James I.
So, apparently Merlin is also a contributor to this book.

Collection of political and parliamentary documents, ca. 1550-ca. 1650

Earth or Outer Space? #5

Are these links photos of earth, or photos of outer space?

1. “A doctor once told me

2. I feel too much.

3. I said, so does god.

4. That’s why you can see

5. the grand canyon

6. from the moon.”

7. -Andrea Gibson

a letter from lady jane greys dad 1553.jpg

Can we just take a second to appreciate what a legitimate travesty it is that people find the all-compelling urge to constantly do whatever nonsense it is that they did in the upper lefthand corner of this letter? This is a letter written by Lady Jane Grey’s dad in 1553, and you’re really going to tell me that it’s critical that you pencil in four different archival markings AND AN INK STAMP? That Loseley ink stamp is the bane of my existence. Ugh.

Awful Archivists

Sommernachtstraum, Ouverture. Mendelssohn, 1829




This is Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s (most people know him as Mendelssohn, not that that’s any easier to spell) overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream: or, as he would call it in his native German, “Sommernachtstraum“.

You can also tell this from how he writes it on the title page: instead of titling the words as “Midsummer (space) Night’s (space) Dream”, he writes it all as one word in English: “Midsummernightsdream”.

Also because saying “Sommernachtstraum”, like everything else in German, sounds at least 79x more aggressive than “Midsummer Night’s Dream”.

16th century cryptography and the worst internship ever


This wavy document is what an “unpaid internship” looked like in the 1500s.

Legally, this is how Thomas Cawarden bound himself to Owen Hawkins for seven years to learn how to become a mercer. A mercer is a textile dealer (they sell and trade velvet, silk, fustian, and other fancy shit). The language of the document says, among other things, that Cawarden is forbidden to play chess or other “illicit games”. Because, Jesus. It’s also written in Latin, because it’s a legal document and we’ll be damned if we let you actually understand the terms of your indentured servitude.

In the 16th century there were very few ways to prevent forgeries. Many people were still illiterate outside of cities so they would still sign an “X” for their names, and nobody spelled things the same way even if they did (we only have seven written instances of Shakespeare’s last name, and almost all of them are spelled completely differently, but it’s fine). Here, the document has two of the most *sophisticated cryptographic advances* of its time.
First, it has a wax seal where Owen Hawkins signed in the presence of either the Lord Mayor of London or a similar magistrate, which is the same thing as how we would notarize a document at the post office today. We’re just going to ignore the fact that the wax is on a little dangly bit that conveniently hangs off of the actual document.
The second huge leap of technology here is the wavy header at the top. This document would have been written twice: once for Cawarden, and once for Hawkins. In order for both of them to be satisfied that the agreement was kept, each side would take one document to hold for themselves. It was cut between the two- you see where this is going- with a wavy line. This crazy feat of mechanical engineering could not possibly be replicated with any other sort of parchment where you cut similar lines, so this is foolproof.

Earth or Outer Space? #4

Are these links photos of earth, or photos of outer space?

Game of Thrones has nothing on Medieval Europe

So there is this book, called “Actes and monuments of matters most speciall and memorable, happening in the Church, with an uniuersall historie of the same.” (John Foxe, 1610). This book features literally over 70 separate carvings of people actively being burned at the stake. That’s right, this is NOT counting all the people who are being depicted as about to be set on fire (I stopped counting at 30 of those) and people who only have certain body parts on fire.


Like, look, John. I understand that your book’s critical mass lies in martyrdom and I understand that the most entertaining thing you have going on is to sketch out those deaths in gruesome detail. But, over seventy individual woodcuts of people being burned at the stake? You are averaging over one depiction of a firey death per every three pages. I know people in the 1600s were hurting for entertainment but even this, THIS is gratuitous. This is some actual Game of Thrones shit right here.

Earth or Outer Space? #3

Are these links photos or earth, or photos of outer space?

What can we gain by sailing to the moon

if we are not able to cross the abyss

that separates us

4 from ourselves?

This is the most important of all voyages of discovery,

and without it, all the rest are not only useless,

but disastrous. 


The earliest music printed in London (and thus, I’m assuming, all of England).

Note the lack of clefs. There are only half and whole notes.

Cantiones Sacrae, 1575

Strategematica 1495

This is a diagram of a military tactical formation, printed in the 1400s. Printers’ type was rearranged in patters to demonstrate the positioning of troops.

First of all, that’s awesome.

So I want us to appreciate the fact that in the 1400s they we basically already doing ASCII text art. I bet he also signed his name ~¤~Sextus Julius Frontinus~¤~

Strategematica, 1495

Earth or Outer Space? #2

Are these links photos or earth, or photos of outer space?

I would rather be

a superb meteor,

every atom of me

in magnificent glow,

than a sleepy

and permanent


When you have fully established everything that you have to say on a report and utterly exhausted the subject but you still have a couple lines to go before it looks like it’s totally finished:Chaucer, 1477, Beginning of the Merchants Tale.png

(Here endeth the prologue/And beginneth the Merchant’s Tale)

It even happens to Chaucer guys.

Canterbury Tales, 1477