Thursday, October 23, 2014

Robert Cotton's Library Catches Fire

Damn strait. As a History Fan, THC still does get upset about the loss of the library of Alexandria.  Its fabled collection of classical Greek and Roman literature and learning disappeared and today we only have the precious  scraps in which are embedded references to thousands of other works lost forever.  The loss of the library is variously attributed to fire, Christian riots, Arab conquest or just plain neglect over the centuries but whatever the cause the loss is irretrievable.

While not as grave a loss as the Alexandria library we suffered another blow to our historical heritage  when Sir Robert Cotton's library burned on October 23, 1731.  Its origins lie in Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries during 1536-41 in the midst of his struggle to disestablish the Catholic Church in England and establish the Anglican Church under his direction.  In this process the wealth of the monasteries, built up over centuries, was transferred to the state and favorites of the King.  Among these were copies of Greek and Latin books, religious documents and a treasure trove of Old English books, poetry, charters and documents from Anglo-Saxon times before the Norman conquest, the largest collection of Anglo Saxon manuscripts in the world. Robert Cotton, British Museum)
In the early 17th century, Sir Robert Cotton (1571-1631), advisor to King James I, and an enthusiast of antiquity and literature began tracking down, purchasing and preserving the manuscripts and assembling them into his personal library located in London, near the Houses of Parliament.   Sir Robert, followed by his son and grandson eventually collected 958 manuscripts.  In 1701, upon his grandson's death the entire collection was given to Great Britain, a donation that led to the establishment of the British Library.

By 1731 the collection was being temporarily housed at Asburnham House, part of St Peters College near Parliament, when the fire broke out.  Approximately 1/4 of the collection was destroyed or severely damaged but the remained saved thanks to heroic efforts by people such as the librarian, Dr Bentley, who fled carrying the Codex Alexandrinus, a 5th century Greek Bible, one of the three oldest full, or near full, Bible manuscripts.

Among the books totally or mostly lost were the Battle of Maldon, an Anglo-Saxon poem, Asser's Life of Alfred (a contemporary biography of the Anglo-Saxon King who, during his reign from 871-99, defeated the Viking invaders and initiated the unification of England, written by Bishop Asser who knew Alfred well) and the Cotton Genesis, a 4th century Greek illustrated copy of the Book of Genesis.  Fortunately while the originals were lost, at least some of them survive in transcripts made under the Cotton's direction before their destruction.
(Surviving fragment from badly damaged Cotton Genesis)
Even more fortunately many originals did survive including:
The Lindisfarne Gospels 
Virtual books: images only - Lindisfarne Gospels: St Matthew  ff.26v - 27
(go here to view this beautiful book)

Beowulf (charred along the edges)
one of the few copies of the Magna Carta
The Venerable Bede's History of the English Church & People
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

Today most of the surviving manuscripts can be found at the British Museum.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Only The Lonely

No one ever sang a ballad better than Frank Sinatra.  This is Only The Lonely from a 1958 recording.  The song, written by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, has a very subtle melody requiring great vocal technique to pull it off effectively.  Sinatra's version features one of the many wonderful arrangements Nelson Riddle created for Frank.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Gift Idea

As always THC seeks to meet the needs of its readership.  With the holiday season approaching here's a great gift if you know a fan of King Leonidas and The 300 - the Sparta Knife Block.  Courtesy of  For more background see Go Tell The Spartans.
Better get your order in soon - they can't keep up with demand!

Sparta Knife Block - Maple & Walnut

Friday, October 17, 2014

Richman, Richman

A follow up to What? Richie Richman is a Democrat? 

The chart below is based on data from which has a large database on political contributions.  Notice something?  The top contributors send their money to support liberal causes.  Interestingly, once you get below the top 10 contributors on the second chart the contributions are almost 50/50.  In other words, the 1% of the wealthiest contribute heavily to Democrats and Democratic causes.

Really no surprise since, as the Associated Press recently reported, the six wealthiest Congressional Districts and eight of the top ten districts are represented by Democrats.

 Gee, why do you think that is?

The truth is both liberal and conservative candidates and causes get a lot of money from the wealthy. 

Big Money Donors Are Leaning to The Left

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Hey, Those Are My Soldiers!

THC had this exact set.  Must have been around 1960.  From Jon's Random Acts of Geekery.  Those were the days when a buck ninety eight really went far.  And the quality was just as good as it looked - every piece made from "pure molded plastic"!