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Picturing a World

Medieval mice take the castle!

The solid black silhouette startled me first when I saw a stick figure in a 14th C bas-de-page illustration. I can't remember ever seeing anything like it in a medieval manuscript. Then I realized it was a mouse. A mouse with a catapult! A mouse attacking a castle! A castle held by a cat? Turn the page and there's more. It's really like a cartoon strip running along the bottom of eight pages of this 14th Book of Hours. The sense of humor is recognizable from the period; so is a narrative sequence in these decorations. But those black mice! Something for fantasy or historical fiction, for doggerel verse or a children's book (provided, I suppose, that you brought the cat back to life), or, for that matter, a little serious historical research.
 

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Essential Vermeer

Website alert: Attention art lovers and historical novelists: Essential Vermeer has links to all sorts of illustrated articles about topics such as Vermeer's palette, his paintings in their frames, music during his time, sources on the web of high-resolution images of his works, and much, much more. If you want to learn about the artist, his family, and his society, start here!

Image via Wikipedia.

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Ancient ghost

Blog post alert: Alert, alert! Ancient ghost discovered on Assyrian exorcist's cuneiform tablet! That it was found it at all is marvellous. That there were magicians and exorcists with libraries 3,500 years ago –well, how's that for inspiring historical fantasy?

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Women of Troy

I admit I've been reading more than writing in the last few weeks, so here's another recommendation. Last night I finished Pat Barker's new novel, The Women of Troy, a sequel to The Silence of the Girls (2019). I read each compulsively in big gulps. Troy ends full of possibilities for another installment. I hope she writes it!

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Sweetness of Water

Wow, is Nathan Harris's debut novel, The Sweetness of Water, ever impressive! You can read an excerpt (with a delightful map as decoration) here and find many reviews on line. What I want to focus on is three main points which Harris makes in an interview at Literary Ashland.

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Carte-de-visite albums

A cousin recently turned up a family carte-de-visite album among her mother's things. I knew about the little photographic calling cards that people used to collect and exchange. They were invented—and patented—by a Paris photographer, Andre Adolphe Eugene Disdéri, and I had looked at individual examples of famous people when I was researching Where the Light Falls. What I didn't know was that soon after Disdéri's invention, someone invented albums with framed pockets into which you could slip your collection and keep adding. Old albums with annotations, like those in the Sturgis-Codman album, would be a wonderful resource for seeing the relations among friends and family or the interests of a collector. Historical fiction writers and family historians, happy hunting!

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Faiyum face

Having finished a rough draft of my time-travel story, I've decided to press on with another idea in a genre new to me, set in a dystopian near future. At this stage, while I'm trying to bring my main characters into focus. Suddenly, in a blog post on a Gold necklace found in Roman baths in Bulgaria, up comes this face, a Faiyum portrait in the collection of the National Museum of Scotland.

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Rachael Robinson Elmer

In my work-in-slow-progress, "Anonymity," I have given my main character, Mattie, an apartment near 110th Street in New York and sent her walking through Morningside and Central Parks. In order to do so, I've looked at lots of historic photographs of the area, which was being built up in the first decades of the 20th C. It looked raw. By contrast, this postcard by Rachael Robinson Elmer makes it look lush and glamorous in a very urban way.

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Bog Child

Somewhere recently, I saw Patrick Ness quoted as saying something along the lines of, "If you haven't read Siobhan Dowd, do yourself a favor and remedy the lack at once." So I went to the website of the Siobhan Dowd Trust and chose Bog Child for starters. Do yourself a favor!

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Confectionary

One of those serendipitous finds during a search for something else. Forget whatever allegory the artist had in mind:—just try to feel between your fingers the rough texture of the crystallized sugar on the fruits and comfits in the bowl! And, of course, the taste—add anise?


Via Web Gallery of Art.

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