technologies of writing

The Staffordshire Hoard

"This is going to alter our perceptions of Anglo-Saxon England… as radically, if not more so, as the Sutton Hoo discoveries. Absolutely the equivalent of finding a new Lindisfarne Gospels or Book of Kells." - Leslie Webster, Former Keeper, Department of Prehistory and Europe, British Museum

The UK's largest haul of Anglo-Saxon treasure has been discovered buried beneath a field in Staffordshire by an amateur metal detector enthusiast. The Staffordshire Hoard comprises of more than 1,500 individual items and most objects appear to date around the 7th century. You can read the entire press statement here.

I am incredibly excited by this hoard. One of the items which really intrigues is a strip of gold bearing a Biblical inscription. I'm excited because we don't often see examples of handwriting from this age as most writing would have been done on (easily perishable) wax tablets. The Lindisfarne Gospels date from around the same period, of course, but seeing writing employed outside a manuscript page is just really, really fantastic - particularly as you are seeing a religious inscription on an arguably secular item.

You can see beautifully detailed photos of the hoard on Flickr and while the Staffordshire Hoard website is currently struggling to cope with the number of visitors, I encourage you to seek it out.

For the Love of Old Books

I like many things, but there are not many things that I love. I definitely love incunabula (books printed between 1455 and 1500) and early modern period printed books. Yesterday I went to Edinburgh to look at some very old printed books from Scotland. I was not disappointed. I have long been interested in and worked on the shift from (handwritten) manuscripts to the (printed) books. The shift is not as abrupt and clear as many people assume; post-Gutenberg handwritten manuscripts were still produced and printers arguably sought to make their product look as much like handwritten manuscripts as possible. Although The Scottish National Library do not hold any incunabula (as far as I know), I was pleased to see some early 16th century books which still displayed evidence of this urge to mimic handwritten manuscripts: typefaces designed to resemble handwriting, woodcuts trying to look like hand-drawn illustrations and rubrication (emphasising parts of the text using red ink). Gorgeous, fascinating stuff.

And Edinburgh was her usual, gloomy, beautiful, fantastical self. I like visiting the city but I couldn't live there, I think.

Webs We Weave


How badly do I want this uppercase scarf? Pretty badly, I tell you. The scarf led me on a typographic journey of the net which yielded new interesting sites: the & Blog, Bembo's Zoo which is seriously cool, FontStruct which lets you design your own (very basic) typefaces, and, er, The Swedish Furniture Name Generator.

Hey, I can't be all arty and intellectual all the time!

How about A.S. Byatt on textiles, textures and texts, then? It marries all my loves: books, texts, literary theory and, ahem, yarn.

Sleeping Beauty pricks her finger on a spindle, the Lady of Shalott is entwined in thread, Silas Marner is enclosed in his loom - why have spinning and sewing so often been associated with danger and isolation? (..) We think of our lives - and of stories - as spun threads, extended and knitted or interwoven with others into the fabric of communities, or history, or texts.


Stephen Moffat does write the best Doctor Who episodes. A planet which is one giant library? Yes, please! And that is all I will say as I do not want to give away any spoilers.. Now, as some longterm readers/friends may know, I'm absolutely obsessed by paratexts and paratextuality: tables of content, indices, illustrations, prefaces, typefaces, paper textures etc. Everything that makes a text a book, basically. I have found an absolute gem: A Book of Tables of Content. You can see a slideshow at the site and there is even a Flickr group where you can upload your own favourite Table of Content. Personally I have a thing about the ToC in Iain Banks' The Bridge (my favourite Banks novel, by the way). The novel takes place on the Firth of Forth Bridge and if you turn the ToC ninety degrees, it actually takes on the shape of that particular bridge. Nifty.

Finally, a very, very cool/scary photo of when volcanoes spew lightning.

PS. I have finished my first sweater and I'm very proud

They Used Wine Presses, You Know

Me mam's apparently doing a bit better. It's slightly strange to be in another country and not being able to rush to the hospital.

Somebody at BBC is my new friend. Stephen Fry & the Gutenberg Press is showing on BBC4 tonight so whoever greenlighted that show gets to be my friend. Yes I'll sit there with popcorn shouting at the telly whenever they say something vaguely incorrect (or get too carried away with the entire 'cultural revolution' - too Eisenstein and not enough Johns for my taste. I just know they'll fly on the wings of the "printing press as agent for change" thing and there are so many problems with that idea..). Oh, my heart be still.

Related-ish: two ways of debasing/defacing/recycling books (delete as appropriate):
+ Nicholas Jones - Book Sculptor
+ How to make a handbag out of a book

I'm not sure I approve.


We went to the hospital today. I am going to have my brain-waves measured next week which is terribly exciting. I hope I do emit brain-waves and that they'll be interesting enough to result in a diagnosis. Right, let's move on to something a bit more interesting: + Fun Facts about the QWERTY Keyboard + The QWERTY keyboard and how it was adapted in Russia/The Soviet Union + Why the QWERTY keyboard got its layout + The QWERTY Myth