Sunday, September 30, 2007

Giant Squid (Architeuthis sp.)

Colossal (Giant) Squid (Architeuthis sp.) Source: NASA

Colossal (Giant) Squid (Architeuthis sp.) Source: NASA

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Giant squid From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Giant squid, once believed to be mythical creatures, are squid of the Architeuthidae family, represented by as many as eight species of the genus Architeuthis. They are deep-ocean dwelling animals that can grow to a tremendous size: recent estimates put the maximum size at 13 m (43 ft) for females and 10 m (33 ft) for males from caudal fin to the tip of the two long tentacles (second only to the colossal squid at an estimated 14 m (46 ft), one of the largest living organisms). The mantle is only about 2 m (7 ft) long (more for females, less for males), and the length of the squid excluding its tentacles is about 5 m (16 ft). There have been claims reported of specimens of up to 20 m (66 ft), but no animals of such size have been scientifically documented.

On September 30, 2004, researchers from the National Science Museum of Japan and the Ogasawara Whale Watching Association took the first images of a live giant squid in its natural habitat.[1] Several of the 556 photographs were released a year later. The same team successfully filmed a live giant squid for the first time on December 4, 2006.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article, Giant squid

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La Divina Commedia

e me rapisse suso infino

dentro dal monte

e il capo tronco tenea

ed io vidi un centauro

Gli arroncigliò le impegolate

nell'aer d'ogni parte

graffia gli spiriti

lo imperador del doloroso regno

Lì veggio d'ogni parte

questa e megera dal sinistro canto

S'avventò un serpente

un punto vidi che raggiava

vider beatrice volta

vidi di costa a lei dritto

If you had it in mind to inspire a seven or eight year old child to develop an interest in latin or classical literature, you could do worse than to offer the neoclassical minimalism of John Flaxman's line drawings as colouring-in exercises. After all, the illustration series Flaxman produced in 1792 and 1793 for the Iliad, the Odyssey, Dante's Divine Comedy and Aeschylus, served to inspire an entire world of art.

Flaxman (1755–1826) came from humble beginnings in England without much in the way of formal education. He began to draw and make models in his father's plaster moulding workshop and he read translations of the classics for a better understanding of the casting designs. His efforts attracted influential admirers who introduced him to other artists (including life-long close friend William Blake) and led to his enrolling in the Royal Academy at the age of fifteen where he received many awards, particularly for his sculptures.

Four years later, the great Josiah Wedgwood hired Flaxman as a modeller of medallions, portraits, friezes, vases and ornamental figurines that were being made from the newly fashionable jasperware and basaltware (which remain highly desirable objets d'art today). In his spare time Flaxman conducted a sideline business sculpting funerary monuments, a craft in which he excelled throughout his life. [His memorials grace the likes of Westminster Abbey, Chichester and St Paul's Cathedrals and culminated in his being appointed Professor of Sculpture at the Royal Academy in 1810.]

By 1787 Flaxman had established a modest reputation as a designer and sculptor and he went to Rome both to broaden his artistic education (vicariously shared with Blake, who was never able to make the trip) and to direct the local Wedgwood operation. His monumental sculpting continued unabated and indeed, generated sufficient commissions that he delayed returning to England for seven years.

Surviving sketchbooks attest to Flaxman's brilliance as a reductionist, with a great appetite for a wide range of stylistic influences which he drafted into simplistic classical forms. The Dante images above derive most specifically from ancient Greek vase motifs but beyond the antiquities, Flaxman was able to absorb elements from the Renaissance, Gothic art and Northern European schools, which were all equally refined and synthesised into his economical and delicate line drawings.
"For him this was the essence of formal as well as moral purity - a host of totally different works of art, gathered en route and transposed almost casually into identical sterile patterns - from prototype into stereotype." ('John Flaxman and Francisco Goya: Infernos Transcribed' by Sarah Symmons IN: The Burlington Magazine, 1971. V.113 No.82)
The ninety-nine illustrations produced by Flaxman for Dante's 'La Divina Commedia' (The Divine Comedy) equate to a drawing for each Canto in each of the three sections of the epic poem - Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso - and were first released in book form in 1793. [The great majority of the example images above are from the Inferno (of course!) - mouseover for titles]

The illustration series (engraved by Tommaso Piroli) brought Flaxman widespread fame and transformed him into the leading British neoclassical artist of the day. The influence upon the European artistic community was immediate and profound. There was an enthusiasm for the classical form - (Blake expressed it this way: "the purpose for which alone I live, which is ... to renew the lost Art of the Greeks") - and Flaxman's spare graphic approach was new and innovative and widely respected. Artists such as Fuseli, Philip Otto Runge, Girodet-Trioson, David and Ingres, Blake (of course) and Goya all found inspiration and many were moved to emulate (Goya virtually copied one scene*) the Flaxman style.

A longer lasting effect among young and developing artists came about because Flaxman's illustration book(s) were both affordable (as opposed to the classical pattern books recommended by the purists) and proved popular because "[t]heir bland, non-committal simplicity made them a series of formal exercises suggesting endless possibility."

It took me a while before I decided I liked this illustration series. As occasionally happens, delving into the background and becoming intrigued by the contemporary significance made me return to look at the images a bit more closely. I'm not necessarily a great fan of clipart neoclassical art but I can still appreciate its impact and role in art history. I also appreciate the monsters.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Halloween Pumpkins

Pumpkins, taken at the Hancock Shaker village.Pumpkins, taken at the Hancock Shaker village.

I, the copyright holder (Eranb) of these works, hereby release them into the public domain. This applies worldwide. In case this is not legally possible: I grant anyone the right to use this work for any purpose,
without any conditions, unless such conditions are required by law. High Resolution Image (1152 × 864 pixel, file size: 180 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg)
Pumpkins, taken at the Hancock Shaker villageMore pumpkins, taken at the Hancock Shaker village High Resolution Image (1152 × 864 pixel, file size: 272 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg),Category: Pumpkin
Pumpkin From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A pumpkin is a squash fruit that grows as a gourd from a trailing vine of certain species in the genus Cucurbita. Although native to the Western hemisphere, pumpkins are cultivated in North America, continental Europe, Australia, New Zealand, India and some other countries. Cucurbita species referred to as pumpkins include Curcurbita pepo, Cucurbita maxima, Cucurbita mixta, and Cucurbita moschata.

The pumpkin varies greatly in form, being sometimes nearly globular, but more generally oblong or ovoid in shape. The rind is smooth and varies in color between cultivars. Although orange is the most common color, some fruits are dark green, pale green, orange-yellow, white, red and gray. Large specimens acquire a weight of 40 to 80 lb (18 to 36 kg), but smaller fruits are more frequently encountered.

Although the pumpkin is botanically classified as a fruit (the ripened ovary of a flowering plant), it is widely regarded culinarily as a vegetable. Their insides are commonly eaten cooked and served in dishes such as pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin soup; the seeds can be roasted as a snack. Pumpkins are traditionally used to carve Jack-o'-lanterns for use in Halloween celebrations.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article, Pumpkin

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Friday, September 28, 2007

Line And Dot Photoshop Pattern Set

Searching for new patterns for texturizing an element in a composition of mine I found a great resource in Deviantart You can download the set from here . The patterns are for Adobe Photoshop CS and higher versions. The pack contains 17 assorted patterns, most of them are vertical lines in diferent colors. Also created in Photoshop heare is the link to the authors profile. Enjoy :)

Western Wall Wailing Wall

Western Wall Wailing Wall, Credit Line: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [reproduction number, LC-DIG-matpc-05899]Digital ID: matpc 05899 Source: digital file from original photo Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-matpc-05899 (digital file from original photo) Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA Retrieve higher resolution JPEG version (198 kilobytes) .
TITLE: The Temple area. Jerusalem. The western wall of the Temple area. (The Jews' Wailing Wall). CALL NUMBER: LC-M32- P-46[P&P] REPRODUCTION NUMBER: LC-DIG-matpc-05899 (digital file from original photo) RIGHTS INFORMATION: No known restrictions on publication. MEDIUM: 1 negative : glass, dry plate ; 5 x 7 in.

CREATED, PUBLISHED: [between 1898 and 1946] NOTES: Title from: list, Photographic subjects of Bible Lands. Taken either by the American Colony Photo Department or its successor the Matson Photo Service. Gift; Episcopal Home; 1978.

PART OF: G. Eric and Edith Matson Photograph Collection. REPOSITORY: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. DIGITAL ID: (digital file from original photo) matpc 05899 CONTROL #: mpc2004005789/PP

Credit Line: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [reproduction number, LC-DIG-matpc-05899]

MARC Record Line 540 - No known restrictions on publication.
Western Wall Wailing Wall, wikipedia User:Bachrach44I, the copyright holder (Bachrach44) of this work, hereby release it into the public domain. This applies worldwide. In case this is not legally possible: I grant anyone the right to use this work for any purpose, without any conditions, unless such conditions are required by law.
birkhat cohanim at the Western Wall during Passover 2004 High Resolution Image (1280 × 960 pixel, file size: 313 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg)

Western Wall From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Western Wall (Hebrew: הכותל המערבי, translit.: HaKotel HaMa'aravi), or simply The Kotel, is a retaining wall in Jerusalem that dates from the time of the Jewish Second Temple (516 BCE - 70 CE). It is sometimes referred to as the Wailing Wall (Arabic: il-Mabka), referring to Jews mourning the destruction of the Temple. The Western Wall is part of the bigger religious site in the Old City of Jerusalem called Har ha-Bayit (the Temple Mount) to Jews and Christians, or Al-Haram al-Qudsi al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) to Muslims.

The Western Wall is revered for its proximity to the sacred Holy of Holies on the Temple Mount, which is the Most Holy Place in Judaism. This means that for Jews the Western Wall is the holiest location that is currently generally accessible to the Jewish people for prayer. There is a small area below ground level, called "The Cave", in the Western Wall Tunnel, that is closest to the site of the Holy of Holies. However, as this area is not amenable to the large groups that frequent the wall, most people limit their visits to the outdoor plaza.

At any hour, Jewish men and women can be found praying at the wall, which is actually a large outdoor synagogue. As is traditional in Jewish synagogues, there are a number of holy arks containing Torah scrolls, tables for reading of the law and a mechitza, or divider, separating the men's and women's sections of the wall.

Bar mitzvah celebrations are frequently held here, and people of various ages travel from all over the world to have their ceremonies at the Kotel. It is also a tradition to deposit slips of paper with wishes or prayers on them in the crevices and crannies of the wall. Looking closely, one can see hundreds of tiny, folded papers stuffed inside every space that will hold them.

The Temple in Jerusalem was the most sacred building in Judaism. Herod the Great built vast retaining walls around Mount Moriah, expanding the small, quasi-natural plateau on which the First and Second Temples stood into the wide open spaces of the Temple Mount seen today.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article, Western Wall

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Mac Conner... in Context

A couple of people this week have suggested that perhaps the illustrators of the 50's who tried some interesting graphic experiments were looking at old Japanese woodblock prints and finding inspiration there. No doubt they were.

Could they have also been looking at comic book art?

Consider this: a comic book artist working in 1950 would have had to draw many dozens of panels over 20 or 30 pages to earn a few hundred dollars. If such an artist had been working on a romance story, any one of those panels might have come out looking very much like this illustration Mac Conner created for the August 1950 issue of Woman's Home Companion. But because Conner was a highly respected illustrator working in a far more "legitimate" wing of the commercial art business, he was paid many hundreds of dollars for just this one panel.

I'm not trying to disparage Conner - far from it - but isn't it interesting that for many people the merit of artwork depends on the context in which it is presented? Many talented comic artists spent their careers toiling in sweatshop conditions, their work beneath notice - beneath contempt - to many people in the broader public. Yet flip open an old comic of the day and scrutinize any single panel and you'll likely find many a composition every bit as accomplished and lovely as the Mac Conner illustration above.

Fast forward another decade and Roy Lichtenstein's super-enlarged comic book panel paintings were selling out at the Leo Castelli gallery in New York before his first one-man show even opened. Ironically, the fine art collectors that paid dearly for Lichtenstein's paintings would have turned their noses up at the thought of framing Mac Conner's original and hanging it on their wall.

It was, after all, just an illustration.

Both of these pieces and a few others can be seen at full size in my Mac Conner Flickr set.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter's Basilica in Rome seen from the roof of Castel Sant'AngeloI, the copyright holder (WolfgangStuck) of this work, hereby release it into the public domain. This applies worldwide. In case this is not legally possible: I grant anyone the right to use this work for any purpose, without any conditions, unless such conditions are required by law.
High Resolution Image (1600 × 1200 pixel, file size: 579 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg)

St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican is the largest church in the world. The square in front of the facade of St. Peter's is called St. Peter's square.

Vatican City From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Vatican City, officially State of the Vatican City (Latin: Status Civitatis Vaticanae; Italian: Stato della Città del Vaticano), is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome. At approximately 44 hectares (108.7 acres), it is the smallest independent state in the world.

The state came into existence by virtue of the Lateran Treaty in 1929, which speaks of it as a new creation (Preamble and Article III), not as a vestige of the much larger Papal States (756 to 1870) that had previously encompassed central Italy, most of which was absorbed into the Kingdom of Italy in 1860, and the final part, the city of Rome and a small area close to it, ten years later.

Vatican City is a non-hereditary, elected monarchy that is ruled by the Bishop of Rome — the Pope. The highest state functionaries are all clergymen of the Catholic Church. It is the sovereign territory of the Holy See (Latin:Sancta Sedes) and the location of the Apostolic Palace — the Pope's official residence — and of much of the Roman Curia.

For almost 1000 years (324-1309) the Popes lived at the Lateran Palace on the Caelian Hill in the east of Rome. Only because the Lateran building was out of repair on their return from 68 years in Avignon have they since 1377 lived in the Vatican or, for a while, at the Quirinal, now the residence of the president of Italy. The Lateran Treaty by which the Vatican City State was set up is so called because it was signed in the restored Lateran building, which is now the residence of the Pope's Cardinal Vicar for the City of Rome. There have been two Vatican Councils, but five Lateran Councils. The Basilica of St. John Lateran, not the St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, remains the Pope's cathedral.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article, Vatican City

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Walter... Mondrian?

I'm fudging some numbers today in the interest of reinforcing a point. I've been focusing this week on the graphic experiments made by a number of illustrators in issues of Woman's Home Companion during 1950. But the piece Walter Skor contributed to the November 1950 issue, while beautifully realized, really looks rather classical.

His illustration for the May '52 issue of WHC, however, is another story all together.

By riffing on Piet Mondrian for a background motif, Skor provides us with a perfect example of a number of major changes taking place in illustration at that time: the "big head and hands" element, the elimination of traditional background environment, the reduction of props to only those essential to the story, an emphasis toward flat, graphic areas of colour.

Perhaps most importantly, Skor plainly shows us that illustrators were not oblivious to the world of fine art - and the radical new experiments in abstraction taking place there. Skor could hardly have picked a more ideal fine artist to incorporate into his illustration to evoke a sense of modernity for the WHC reader. Mondrian's bright, bold, angular art seems to have been co-opted in all aspects of popular culture of the day, from packaging to architectural design.

And to return to yesterday's point... Al Parker beat Walter Skor to the idea of incorporating modern art into his illustration by two years.

These images can be seen at full size in my Walter Skor Flickr set.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Artsy spider for Leah

Watercolor & acrylic ink on paper (8 x 11 inches)
This is a commissioned piece made for Leah.
I hope she likes it :)

Dome of the Rock

I, the copyright holder (משתמש:Arielhorowitz) of this work, hereby release it into the public domain. This applies worldwide. In case this is not legally possible: I grant anyone the right to use this work for any purpose, without any conditions, unless such conditions are required by law.
Dome of the Rock, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Dome of the Rock (Arabic: مسجد قبة الصخرة, translit.: Masjid Qubbat As-Sakhrah, Hebrew: כיפת הסלע, translit.: Kipat Hasela, Turkish: Kubbetüs Sahra) is an Islamic shrine in what Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary (al-Haram al-Qudsi al-Sharif, Arabic: الحرم القدسي الشريف) — which Jews and Christians call Har ha-Bayit (Hebrew: הר הבית) or the Temple Mount — it remains one of the best known landmarks of Jerusalem. It was built between 687 and 691 by the 9th Caliph, Abd al-Malik, making it the oldest extant Islamic building in the world.

The rock in the center of the dome is the spot from which, according to Islamic tradition, Muhammad (Peace be upon him) ascended for a night-long journey to Heaven in AD 621, accompanied by the angel Gabriel. There he met many prophets like Abraham and Moses and was given the (now obligatory) Islamic prayers before returning to Earth. A Qur'anic verse says that Muhammad (Peace be upon him) took an instantaneous night journey on Buraq from al-Masjid al-Haram ("the sacred mosque", interpreted as being in Mecca) to al-Masjid al-Aqsa ("the farthest mosque", interpreted as being in Jerusalem)

In Judaism the stone is the site where Abraham fulfilled God's test to see if he would be willing to sacrifice his son Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19). (Muslims believe that this event involved Abraham's other son Ishmael and occurred in the desert of Mina where millions of Muslims offer pilgrimage every year).

There is some controversy among secular scholars about equating Mount Moriah (where Isaac's binding occurred according to the Biblical narrative), the Temple Mount, and the rock where Jacob dreamed about angels ascending and descending on a ladder to heaven (Genesis 28:10-19); but for Orthodox Jews, there is no doubt that all these events occurred on this spot.

Situated inside the Holy of Holies, this was the rock upon which the Ark of the Covenant was placed in the First Temple. During the Second Temple, the stone was used by High Priest who offered up the incense and sprinkled the blood of the sacrifices on it during the Yom Kippur Service. Rabbinic legend also alleges that the entire world was created from this stone, hence the name אבן השתייה, Foundation Stone.

In Christianity, in addition to Jesus's actions in the temple, it is believed that during the time of the Byzantine Empire, the spot where the Dome was later constructed was where Constantine's mother built a small church, calling it the Church of St. Cyrus and St. John, later on enlarged and called the Church of the Holy Wisdom.

On the walls of the Dome of the Rock is an inscription in a mosaic frieze that includes the following words:

"Bless your envoy and your servant Jesus son of Mary and peace upon him on the day of birth and on the day of death and on the day he is raised up again. It is a word of truth in which they doubt. It is not for God to take a son. Glory be to him when he decrees a thing he only says be and it is."
This appears to be the earliest extant citation from the Qur'an, with the date recorded as 72 after the Hijra (or 691-692 AD), which historians view as the year of the Dome's construction.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article, Dome of the Rock
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States Federal Government under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code. High Resolution Image, (482 × 709 pixel, file size: 234 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg).

El Sakhra (a.k.a el Sakhra, the Rock, and the rock beneath the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem).
Rock Moriah, from the Dome of the Rock. High Res
This is half of a stereoscopic image in the Matson Collection of the Library of Congress. Originally, The Library of Congress horizontally flipped this online image (leading to multiple erroneous Wikipedia entries). The image has now been corrected.

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The Graphic Frederic Varady

Frederic Varady's June 1950 contribution to Woman's Home Companion really knocks me out! You need to look at the full size version to truly appreciate this gorgeous example of Varady's line art style.

Varady did quite a bit of line art (some of my favourite Vardays are these pieces done for Cosmopolitan magazine) but that doesn't diminish the fact that, once combined with the bold, modern, almost "plastic" colour palette, his illustration above is another great example of the exciting visual experimentation going on at the magazine during that year.

By contrast, the August 1950 illustration below, though still very modern looking for the times, looks rather more dated due to Varady falling back on his more popular painting style.

So why was at least one illustrator in each 1950 issue of Woman's Home Companion trying some sort of experimental graphic approach? There were probably many reasons... and I'll bet one of those reasons was that Al Parker had already done it.

As far back as the mid 40's, when everyone else was still firmly entrenched in the Old School style of picturemaking, Parker was incorporating unusual graphic elements like this into his illustrations. Its often been said that Al Parker was constantly reinventing his style, staying 6 months ahead of his competition, who would invariably imitate the "most popular illustrator in America". Looking at this 1948 piece and this 1949 piece by Parker from Ladies Home Journal, surely Woman's Home Companion's most immediate competition, one has to wonder if the art director at WHC didn't ask his illustrators to try some Al Parker-style graphic experimentation.

You'll find today's pieces at full size in my Frederic Varady Flickr set.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


You can tell a lot about an artist by whether they see forests or trees.

Some view a forest as a lot of individual trees. Others think that increasing the quantity of trees changes the quality of their appearance as well.

It's kind of like boiling water. You increase the temperature of water one degree at a time, until suddenly it changes from a liquid to a gas. Quantitative change turns into a qualitative change.

When artists draw a crowd, some choose to draw a lot of individuals:

Others don't draw every individual--but they like to imply every individual. Here, Frazetta puts a few representative figures out front, then uses stray arms and legs to suggest the balance of the crowd:

Here, Noel Sickles uses highlighting to carve individuals from the dark masses of crowd on either side of this painting. He is such a brilliant draftsman, he did not compromise on the individual characters the way Frazetta did, nor did he overwork the picture the way that maniac in the Renault ad (above) did.

Then all the way over on the "forest" side of the spectrum we have this lovely painting by Bernie Fuchs. He didn't even try to capture the individual personalities within the crowd.

He viewed the aesthetics of a crowd as totally different from a collection of individuals.

There's a point at which a bouquet of flowers is so large, it becomes a garden. Some artists persist in seeing the individual flower petals. Some create the illusion of painting every petal, using time saving techniques. Others step back and say, "my subject has now changed, from flowers to a garden."

Cabalistic Talismans


cabalistic symbols

3 esoteric symbols from Agrippa

triangle with hebrew script

astrology/magic symbol

Magick Talisman - man in square and eye in border

Kabbala talisman

Cabbala talisman

magickal symbol

astrological talisman

palm with planet symbols

text and symbols of Kabbala

Magick symbols and text

[These cropped details are linked to go through to the large format images of the original complete pages (there are even larger versions available)]
"One of the more unusual and exotic treasures of The University of Newcastle is a French magical manuscript entitled 'Talismans Cabalistiques Magiques, grands secretes des Planettes'. The manuscript from an unknown scribe bears the date 1704 in the reign of the Sun King Louis XIV, le Grand Monarque and le Roi Soleil (1638-1715).

The book is a compendium of information relating to the manufacture of celestial talismans [...][and] consists of an eclectic re-arrangement of chapters from Henry Cornelius Agrippa’s 'De Occulta Philosophia' (Three Books of Occult Philosophy) originally published in full in 1533."

'Talismans Cabalistiques Magiques' was uploaded in two sets by the staff of Auchmuty Library (Newcastle University, Australia): The first is the complete 456 page manuscript in 260 images. The second (where most of the above images were obtained) contains the artistic details in closeup.

The Archivist at the University of Newcastle, Gionni Di Gravio, gave a radio talk about the manuscript in July 2007 and a summary (and much more information) is available from the University of Newcastle Cultural Collections weblog. The talk can be dowloaded from the ABC website. [via]


Just on that general subject of library/repository blogs reviewing their own collections, two other worthy sites have commenced in recent times...