The Billingford Hutch is an oaken chest in the Parker Library at Corpus Christ College, Cambridge, which was used to store collateral for student loans in the 14th C. It has three locks, each decorated with a motif that was inexplicable to the curators until a chance visitor identified it as moonwort—an herb which according to folklore can unlock locks and unshoe horses and which also figures in alchemy. Isn't all of a rich potential for inspiring stories?
Picturing a World
Hidden garden emerges
Post alert: The drought in England has revealed many features in the landscape, including the bones of a 1699 garden built for the 1st Duke of Devonshire. The BBC story, Chatsworth's hidden 17th Century garden revealed in drone footage shows intricacies that have become visible. Many people are attune to the layers of time in a landscape. How suggestive these haunting emergences may prove!
Iron age bread stamp
What a find! An early iron age concave clay stamp turned up recently during a highway excavation in Bavaria. It's just the right size for impressing a pattern on bread rolls. What I crave now is a dough stamp with a maze or a labyrinth. In fiction, it could be part of women's magic, or its discovery could figure into an archeological tale. This one was found with a mysterious clay figurine, which could offer further prompts for the story. Any ideas?
Via the History Blog.
I don't need to write a blog post about what fantasy I read as a child and how it affected me because Theodora Goss's post, Deep Magic, does it for us both. I discovered her work through a narrative poem, "The Dragons" in The Book of Dragons (2020), in which a lawyer is rescued from a life of tedium by a clutch of baby dragons left on her porch. Now I'm reading Goss's Snow White Learns Witchcraft, twists on traditional fairy tales (love the idea of the princess who herself turns into a frog when she kisses one). Coming next? The Collected Enchantments. My advice? Dive in anywhere.
Peaceful scene in Ukraine
Blog post alert: Eye Candy for Today: River Gnilitsa by Volodymyr (akaVladimir) Orlovsky offers us a peaceful view of land in what is now the tragically occupied part of eastern Ukraine. The post at Charley Parker's Lines and Colors provides enlarged details and links. Orlovksy was a leading proponent of Ukrainian landscape art.
Bounded in a nutshell
Hamlet muses, "I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space—were it not that I have bad dreams." But what about good dreams? A History Blog post on a 16th C prayer bead prompts the question, How could a two-inch sphere that opens to an intricately carved interior be used in a story?
Blog alert: Heinrich Lefler and Joseph Urban are illustrators who are totally new to me, although their work certainly fits into late19th C, early 20th modes. Worth pursuing!
Image via Nick Louras
When I looked up the word bewilderment in the OED to see when it was first used, I was startled by an 1884 citation to a novel by Willian Black called Judith Shakespeare. Yep, there really is one about William Shakespeare's daughter. It was first serialized in Harper's Magazine, vol. LXVIII, with illustrations by Edwin Austin Abbey. I took a look at the text and decided its Prithee style of historical fiction wasn't for me (nor its likely Victorian attitude toward women). Nevertheless, I'm still amused that it exists and enjoy Abbey's illustrations. For two more pictures from Judith Shakespeare, click here and here. For more of Abbey's work, including paintings, click here.
In light of the ghastly recent rulings by the Supreme Court that toss the nation into a future of restricted lives and poorer health for women, more guns, and an accelerating race to utter climate disaster, it's hard to feel much but disgust and sorrow on the Fourth of July. A copy of this poster from Bill Clinton's first inauguration, signed by artist Carroll Cloar, hangs in my living-room. It fits because my husband and I live in a converted one-room schoolhouse (and voted for Clinton), yet I've always thought it was a bit ambiguous. Yes, to schools. Unease at a Southern legacy of white male supremacy. Yes, to subversive white dress to honor the suffragists. Cloar once said that he was influenced by Southern writers like Eudora Welty. We're all going to need wry perspectives in days to come. May a younger generation of activists show us the way forward to make things better!