Friday, February 25, 2011

Atlas Shrugged Should Not Be Filmed with 2011 Cars

I'm with Tyler Cowen on this. It needs a Sky Captain dieselpunk paleofuture treatment that recognizes how thoroughly the work is rooted in the middle of the twentieth century, a world in which steam locomotives are still common on main line railroads, the U.S. economy is dominated by smokestack industries, labor unions wield immense power, no-fault divorce doesn't exist, news media are monolithic and radio is the dominant news broadcast medium. Blacks are invisible and women are housewives, socialites, secretaries or Dagny Taggart. Rational people of the mind chain-smoke cigarettes, and why shouldn't they?

On top of this, Atlas Shrugged is set in an industrialist swashbuckler nerd revenge porn alternate reality that's disconnected from both the time it was written and the real world history that followed. In the Randiverse, all of Europe, India and South America have been taken over by communist people's states that teeter on the brink of impotent collapse shortly after the middle of the 20th century. In the Randiverse, leftists are simultaneously evil and incompetent, like the Nazis in Hogan's Heroes. It's not like they could actually do something dangerous while Rand's heroes are throwing the United States into economic collapse. Like building an enormous thermonuclear arsenal with ICBMs to launch it.

In the Randiverse, industrialists proudly treat the companies they manage as their personal fief, and stockholders be damned. If the industrialist wants to burn the enterprise to the ground and sow the ground with salt, so much the worse for the stockholders. They should have read the prospectus more carefully.

In the Randiverse, a philosophy-major pirate roams the Atlantic and Caribbean, immune to the sort of air search that eliminated surface commerce raiders by the middle of WWII. As a reverse Robin Hood, he redistributes wealth from the poor to the rich, using his throbbing enormous Objectivist brain to correct the obvious errors of the democratic process and determine who is actually truly deserving of a tax refund.

Tuckers. They should be driving CGI 1960 Tuckers.

Monday, February 21, 2011


This site seems to be aimed at Freemasons and Templars, but offers what looks like some pretty decent reproductions of medieval buckles and other items, along with a lot of cheesy dreck. Worth a look if you know what you want.

The Portable Antiquities Scheme Database

An enormous searchable database of artefacts and coins.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Bodleian Image Library

A collaboration between ARTstor and the Bodleian Library to produce 25,000 images from 35mm filmstrip negatives and positive slides. Material includes medieval and Renaissance illuminated manuscripts.

Collapsing Tents at Marquison

The Encampment of Henry at Marquison
18th c. copy of a 16th c. painting of Henry VIII's Boulogne campaign of 1544. Details.

The Pavilion of Heraclius

Agnolo Gaddi: The Dream of Emperor Heraclius
ca. 1385-87

This large fresco shows some useful details. Note how the upper part of the valence is a smooth cylinder in contrast to the the fringe and walls below it, which hang in visible folds.

The stabilizing ropes exit the tent just below the bottom of the upper part of the valence, and descend far too steeply to spread the roof. The shape of the valence and location and angle of the ropes strongly suggest a rigid internal hoop. The central pole is very thick: perhaps it is sunk into the ground and expected to take a bigger share of the tent's lateral stresses than usual.

A detail of the valence decoration.

Here is a detail of a horizontal band of gold decoration on the tent wall.

Here the gold leaf has flaked away from the ground of the band of decoration allowing you to more easily see the pattern. You can also see the pattern on the emperor's coverlet

A rectangular tent with a vertical end wall is visible behind the emperor's pavilion. As the angel appears to Heraclius, the banner atop his tent blows away from the angel, contrary to the wind direction shown by the other banners.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Pandolfo Malatesta III's Doublet

Here is an article on Pandolfo's doublet, in which he was buried in 1427. Here are additional photographs of the doublet and a reconstruction. Here is an additional picture of the doublet, and here are more details and a pattern. Here is another photo of the reconstruction, giving a clearer view of the pattern of quilting.

Here is an article in Italian.

Here's a book on the restoration:

Title: Redire 1427-2009 : Ritorno alla luce : Il restauro del Farsetto di Pandolfo III Malatesti [Back to the light. The restoration of the doublet of Pandolfo III Malatesta]
Author: Kusch, Claudia ; Patrizia Mignani ; Raffaella Pozzi (eds)
Price: $48.95
Description: Fano: Museo Civico, 2009. 24cm., pbk., 107pp. illus., most in color. Exhibition catalogue. (I quaderni del Museo, n. 2, 2009)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Towards Better Revolutionary Slogans

Steve Muhlberger observes of democracy in the Middle East:
Its prospects will be much brighter when the chant "Death to so-and-so" is no longer the routine display of opposition.

So I was pretty happy to see what I thought was a witty and satirical take on the 2008 Obama "Hope" poster.

Egyptians, I salute you! Well played!

Prices in England: 1259-1582

A History of Agriculture and Prices in England from the year after the Oxford Parliament (1259) to the commencement of the Continental War (1793)

More than just wheat and cattle! Textiles, locks and keys, carts, and sundry articles and services, from hammer and pincers to clocks to 11 quires of Bacon's Mathematics to gelding four pigs (price, one farthing).

Saturday, February 12, 2011

John of Gaunt in Galicia 1386-1387

John of Gaunt went to Galicia in 1386-7 to press his claim to the throne of Castile, in alliance with the King of Portugal. He went with his wife and daughters, and his claim was based on his rights through his wife Constanza. His captains John Holland and Thomas Moreaux also went with their wives. After Santiago yielded to Gaunt all of them went on pilgrimage to the shrine.

There was at least one arranged deed of arms connected with the campaign, at Entenza or Entenca in 1387, just north of the Portuguese border on the road between Santiago and Oporto, between Sir John Holland and Sir Reginald de Roye of France.

John of Guant:
king of Castile and Leon, duke of Aquitaine and Lancaster, earl of Derby, Lincoln, and Leicester, seneschal of England

English leave Plymouth, July 9, 1386
En route, they relieve the English garrison of Brest, under attack by the French.

English land at Corunna: July 25, 1386

Soon after, they went to Santiago, which surrendered on terms.

The army was advancing gaily in battle array towards the town of St. Jago: when about two French leagues from the place, they were met by a long procession of the clergy, bearing relics, crosses and streamers, and crowds of men women and children, and the principal inhabitants carrying the keys of the town, which they presented on their knees, with much seeming good will, to the duke and duchess, (but whether it was feigned or not, I cannot say) and acknowledged them for their king and queen. Thus they entered the town of St. Jago, and rode directly to the church of St. James, where the duke, duchess, their children and attendants, kneeling, offered up their prayers to the holy body of St. James, and made rich gifts at the altar. It was told me that the duke, duchess, and the ladies, Constance and Philippa, were lodged in the Abbey, and there held their court. Sir John Holland and Sir Thomas Moreaux, with their ladies, were lodged in the town: the other barons and knights as they could, and the men at arms on the plains round the town. Those who could not find houses, built themselves huts covered with boughs, of which there were plenty in the country, and made themselves comfortable with what they could get. Meat and strong wines were in abundance; of which the archers drank so much that they were for the greater part of their time in bed drunk; and very often, by drinking too much new wine, they had fevers, and in the morning such headaches as to prevent them from doing anything the remainder of the day; for it was now the vintage.

(Froissart, Johnes tr.)

The marriage of the King of Portugal and Philippa, daughter of the Duke of Lancaster February 14, 1387

A deed of arms between Sir John Holland and Sir Reginald de Roye: Enten├ža,  after March, 1387

A strategem leads to the fall of Ferrol in Galicia

A battle at the barriers at Noya

After the beginning of April, 1387, Anglo-Portuguese army invades Leon

There had not fallen any rain or dew since the beginning of April, so that the whole country was burnt up. The English ate plentifully of grapes wherever they found them; and, to quench their thirst, drank of the strong wines of Castille and Portugal: but the more they drank the more they were heated; for this new beverage inflamed their livers, lungs, and bowels, and was in its effect totally different from their usual liquors. The English, when at home, feed on fresh meats and good rich ale, which is a diet to keep their bodies wholesome; but now they were forced to drink hard and hot wines, of which they were not sparing, to drown their cares. The early part of the night is warm, from the great heat of the day, but, toward sun-rise, it is very cold, which afflicted them sorely; for they slept without covering, and quite naked, from the heat of the weather, and the wine, so that when morning came they were chilled by the change of air, which checked all perspiration, and flung them into fevers and fluxes, so as to carry them off instantly to their graves. Thus died very many of the barons and knights, as well as of the lower ranks; for these disorders spared none.

(Froissart, Johnes tr.)

Between June and July of 1387, John of Gaunt negotiated a preliminary exit strategy, the Treaty of Trancoso. This was finalized as the Treaty of Bayonne in July of 1388.

Gaunt played a weak hand well. He and Constanza gave up their claims to the throne of Castile in return for a large lumps sum payment, a generous annuity, and marriage of their daughter Catherine to the heir of the throne of Castile.

Tent Poles Sunk into Holes at Pavia

Wolf Huber, The Battle of Pavia 1525, Drawing c. 1530. Detail

This detail of the overrun French camp at Pavia shows tent posts remaining upright event though two have snapped off several feet above the ground and the others' guy ropes are unstaked and hanging loose. Evidently they were sunk into holes and fixed straight upright by driving in stakes around the base.

This helps explain the very thick pavilion poles seen in many Italian paintings.

My thanks to Robert MacPherson for spotting this.

The Death of du Guesclin in his Tent

Grandes Chroniques de France, illumination by Jean Fouquet, ca 1455-1460 BnF, Fran├žais 6465, fol. 456

A hexagonal pavilion with no visible guy ropes. The walls have been detached from most of one segment of the roof and spread back to make a wider opening, with the ends somehow secured beneath the valence. The great captain lies on a simple pallet and bolster on the ground, although it is covered with rich blue cloth.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The Weight and Measure of Pollaxes

Most of the following data comes from this excellent article, where the pollaxes are illustrated. I’ve linked to the exceptions. Weapons with a cutting edge are noted.

Approximately in chronological order:

From the Wallace Collection (A925)
Possibly French, 1400-1450. Blade length: 6 inches. Top spike: 9 inches. Total weight: 6 pounds, 10 ounces. Bladed.

From The Higgins Armory Museum (HAM # 2005.01)
German pollaxe of about 1440. Top spike length: 4 inches. Total length: 41 1/2 inches (possibly shortened). Weight: 3 pounds 8 ounces. No spike on haft. Much more, including the balance point, 4.5" from the bottom of the head, here.

From the Wallace Collection (A926)
Possibly French, about 1470. Blade length: 7 1/2 inches. Top spike: 7 5/8 inches. Total weight: 5 pounds, 8 ounces. Bladed.

From the Tower of London
European pollaxe, about 1500 Total length 70” Total weight: 6 pounds, 7 ounces

Located in a private collection
Western Europe, circa 1500. Blade length: 8 7/8 inches. Overall length: 81 7/8 inches. Weight: 5 pounds, 7 ounces. Bladed.

From the Wallace Collection (A927)
Italian, about 1530. Blade length: 9 1/4 inches. Top spike: 10 3/4 inches. Total weight: 5 pounds, 2 ounces. Bladed.

From the Wallace Collection (A928)
German, early 16th century. Blade length including socket and top spike: 17 3/8 inches. Total weight: 2 pounds, 11 ounces., but this is probably for the head without a haft. I would describe this as a halberd because the spike, langets, blade and fluke are welded into a single unit, and the Wallace Collection currently agrees. Bladed.

From the Royal Armouries, Leeds (VII.1510)
First half of 16th century. Head length: 11 1/4 inches. Overall length: 93 1/5 inches. Weight: 7 pounds, 11 ounces. Has buttspike.

Unsurprisingly, longer pollaxes weigh more, all other things being equal. The two outliers on weight are the shortest and longest.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Hangings in Tents and Canopies of State

It's fairly common to see pictures of tents where the walls are lined with fabric of a different color, revealed when the walls are turned back to create an opening. Pictures of hangings are much rarer. I've only been able to find one.

Here and here are two pictures of hangings at the back of curtained canopies of state.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Taxonomy of Tents

Here is a taxonomy I have been developing for medieval tents. For brevity there are some default assumptions, so only differences from the default need to be mentioned.

1) Floor plan:
Round or Regular Polygon, Oval, Rectangular, Other. Medieval terminology distinguished between pavilions and tents, and where it's possible to tell, every reference to pavilions that I have read referred to tents with a single pole and a round or regular polygon floor plan.

2) Roof and shoulders:
The default assumption is that the roof spreads to a shoulder and the walls drop more steeply from that point. Shoulderless tents can go from the peak straight to the ground, like a modern pup tent, and some tents had a second shoulder. The default assumption is that the slope of the roof is straight or slightly concave, but a few tents had a convex or dome shaped roof.

The shoulder was typically a bit over six feet high, but a few were high enough that a man at arms could mount his horse within the pavilion and then ride out. Another fairly uncommon type of round tent had a very high shoulder of modest diameter. For the same height and footprint this type would have had less useable internal volume than a conventional tent, but internal structure to spread the shoulder could have been small enough to transport without disassembly.

3) Walls:
The default assumption is that tent walls will have significant slope. Some had vertical walls, and it was not uncommon for rectangular tents to have shoulderless vertical walls at the short end.

4) Primary support:
The default assumption is that round and polygonal tents have a single central pole, and that oval and rectangular plans have two upright poles. Two pole tents are assumed to have poles close enough to the center of the tent that the roofs of the short ends have significant slope. I believe that most if not all two pole tents had a ridgepole. Some rectangular tents had posts at the ends so the short ends were vertical. Others were supported by A frames.

Some pavilions had their pole sunk into the ground to keep it upright.

5) Secondary support:
Although some tents look like they got their shape from the poles, rope and fabric alone, others had additional structure. We have documentary evidence of hoops and wall battens. We have visual evidence of rigid frames at the shoulders of rectangular tents, and some oval tents probably had them as well. The collapsing rectangular tents from Henry VIII's camp during the Boulogne campaign look very much like they have an internal rigid A frame in addition to a frame at the eaves and ridgepole.

Tents with convex domed roofs must have had some sort of internal structure, probably radial ribs like a parasol or yurt.

6) Primary ropes:
Some tents are shown with ropes that continue the direction of the roofline and could spread the canopy without additional structure. I call these spreading ropes. Others have ropes that descend much more steeply than the roofline. I call them stabilizing ropes. Some show no ropes at all or only storm guys.

A related detail is where the roops attach to the tent. Rope that meet the tent at the shoulder can spread the canopy at that point. Ropes that meet the tent below the shoulder or beneath a vertical valence are strong evidence that some internal structure is giving the shoulder its shape.

7) Slope
The slope of the ceiling and walls can be either a straight line or a catenary arc.

8) Valance
Valences are typical and the default assumption, but some tents had none and some had an internal valence as well.

9) Lining
Some tents are shown with the inside of the wall a different color, and the Carlos V tent is lined.

An inverted V formed by pulling the walls back on both sides from a vertical closure without detaching them from the roof is typical. Alternatives include:

Detaching a section of the walls from the roof and pulling them back on both sides to create a flat-topped opening;

A panel of the wall that can be rolled up to the bottom of the roof to create a rectangular opening, and;

A rectangular or arched doorway in the wall that can be closed by an internal flap.

Calendar of the Patent Rolls

1216-1452. A searchable database

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Art Project

Explore museums from around the world, discover and view hundreds of artworks at incredible zoom levels, and even create and share your own collection of masterpieces.

Sweet. I do wish there was a more obvious and intuitive way to search for particular artists and paintings.