Tag Archives: TYWKIWDBI (“Tai-Wiki-Widbee”)

Surprising translation skills of Queen Elizabeth I

The BBC reports that Queen Elizabeth I translated Tacitus from Latin to English:

A manuscript written by Queen Elizabeth I has been discovered after lying unnoticed for more than a century.The work is a translation of a book in which the Roman historian Tacitus wrote of the benefits of monarchical rule…

He established it was written on a very specific kind of paper, which had “gained special prominence” in the Tudor Court in the 1590s.” There was, however, only one translator at the Tudor court to whom a translation of Tacitus was ascribed by a contemporary, and who was using the same paper in her translations and private correspondence – the queen herself,” added Dr Philo. 

A further clue was the presence of three watermarks – a rampant lion and the initials G.B with a crossbow countermark – which are also found on the paper Elizabeth I used in her personal correspondence.

But the clinching argument was the handwriting. The translation was copied by one of her secretaries but it is covered in corrections and additions which match the queen’s highly distinctive, indeed rather messy, hand.

Unrelated:  Queen Elizabeth does not lay 2,000 eggs a day.


Giant books

Late medieval choir books

From medievalfragments:

While most medieval manuscripts are of a size that could be easily picked up and carried, there are some books that are so large and so heavy that it would take two (or more) people to move them…

There are a number of potential explanations on offer. In the first place, size tends to reflect importance. Because large-format manuscripts often contain the Word of God, it is very possible that some bookmakers wished to reflect the importance of the text with a suitably impressive material format. Alternatively (or perhaps additionally), some have suggested that these books were meant to reflect the power and prestige of the donors who paid for their commission — a wealthy bishop or nobleman perhaps, who wished to memorialize his name in the production of a massive and showy pandect. Others have provided more pragmatic reasoning, suggesting that these books were designed big in order to rest on a lectern for public reading — their large size making it easier for readers in a church to see the page.


This skull was extensively trepanned. For scruples.

Explained at io9:

Researchers at the University of Pisa, Italy, have solved a longstanding mystery around the honeycombed skull of one of the Italian martyrs beheaded by 15th century Ottoman Turk invaders when they refused to give up their Christian faith…

The skull was later drilled, most likely to obtain bone powder to treat diseases such as paralysis, stroke, and epilepsy, which were believed to arise from magical or demonic influences…

“The perfectly cupped shape of the incomplete perforations leads(us) to hypothesize the use of a particular type of trepan, with semi-lunar shaped blade or rounded bit; a tool of this type could not produce bone discs, but only bone powder,” Fornaciari said…

This would make the Otranto skull a unique piece of evidence supporting historical accounts on the use of skull bone powder as an ingredient in pharmacological preparations

Indeed, in his Pharmacopée universelle, a comprehensive work on pharmaceutical composition, French chemist Nicolas Lémery (1645 –1715) detailed how powdered human skull drunk in water was effective to treat “paralysis, stroke, epilepsy and other illness of the brain.”


Printable “Battleship” game

One might argue that the paper-based version of the classic “Battleship” game has been rendered obsolete by electronic versions, but this archaic technology could come in handy on long camping trips and other special situations.

But that’s only marginally relevant; I’m posting this to introduce a useful website.  Printable Paper has an extensive set of free-to-print paper products – particularly graph papers (I remember once searching fruitlessly for basic log-linear graph paper).  Dozens of different graphing formats are available at the link, along with music paper, quilting and cross-stitch papers, sports score sheets, and even blank templates for comics.

By: TYWKIWDBI (“Tai-Wiki-Widbee”)

Where is Ukraine?

It’s truly embarassing how abysmal the average American’s knowledge of geography is.  The map above accompanied an article in the Washington Post:

On March 28-31, 2014, we asked a national sample of 2,066 Americans (fielded via Survey Sampling International Inc. (SSI)), what action they wanted the U.S. to take in Ukraine, but with a twist: In addition to measuring standard demographic characteristics and general foreign policy attitudes, we also asked our survey respondents to locate Ukraine on a map as part of a larger, ongoing project to study foreign policy knowledge. We wanted to see where Americans think Ukraine is and to learn if this knowledge (or lack thereof) is related to their foreign policy views. We found that only one out of six Americans can find Ukraine on a map, and that this lack of knowledge is related to preferences: The farther their guesses were from Ukraine’s actual location, the more they wanted the U.S.  to intervene with military force.

More at the link.  I’ll grant that some of the respondents may have been trolling the interviewers by pointing to Kansas or Canada, but I’m not surprised by the general pattern. I believe it was George Carlin who asked us to think of how stupid the average American is and then to remember that half of them are more stupid than that.


A Manhattan Project medal

Individuals who worked with the Manhattan Engineer District for more than one year were awarded a silver medal. Those with less than one year’s service received a bronze medal.  I could find no record of anyone receiving gold medals.

More information at Oak Ridge Associated Universities (whence the photo) and at the Atomic Heritage Foundation, which is “dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the Manhattan Project and the Atomic Age and its legacy.”

By: TYWKIWDBI (“Tai-Wiki-Widbee”)
Via: Feedbin Starred Entries
Source: http://tywkiwdbi.blogspot.com/2014/02/a-manhattan-project-medal.html

“Lion-headed figurine”

This carved mammoth tusk, from Hohlenstein-Stadel in Germany, was crafted 32,000 years ago. It is presently among the holdings of the Ulmer Museum, with copies in four other museums in Europe and the U.S.

[It is] the oldest known zoomorphic (animal-shaped) sculpture in the world and one of the oldest known sculptures in general. The sculpture has also been interpreted as anthropomorphic, giving human characteristics to an animal, although it may have represented a deity…

Originally, the figure was classified as male by Joachim Hahn. From examination of some additional parts of the sculpture found later, Elisabeth Schmid decided that the figure was a woman with the head of a “Höhlenlöwin” (female cave lion). Both interpretations lack scientific evidence. European cave lions, male and female, lacked the distinctive manes of the African male lion, and so its absence here cannot lead to an interpretation as a ‘lioness’. Recently the ancient figurine has more often been called a lion-headed figurine, rather than a ‘lion man’. The name currently used in German, Löwenmensch—meaning “lion-human”—similarly, is neutral.

I’m wondering what kind of tool would have been used 32,000 years ago to craft such fine detail in the face.

Image cropped from a photo by Graeme Robertson in The Guardian.