e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Archive for the tag “British Library”

Events approaching

In April last year I reblogged Crimepieces post about the Petrona Award for Scandinavian crime novels. I failed to follow it up and find out who won. Never mind: the award has come around again (as they do) and the shortlist was published in March. As usual I want to read most of the books on the list, but I know I won’t have time. Would a life spent reading be good? or would I get tired of even the best books

This year the winner will be announced at Crimefest, which starts this coming Thursday. The announcement will apparently be made at the Gala dinner, so any attendees will have to do some serious eating as well as listening.

Another event I’ve stumbled across is run by the British Library and is dedicated to Golden Age crime fiction. It is Bodies From The Library which is a very suitable name. This event is only one day (17 June), but it has a very full programme.

I’m sure there are many other events that I’ve missed reading about. Literary festivals and conventions seem to be multiplying apace; soon we’ll be able to go to one every day of the summer and most of the winter too. But would the bank balance and stamina hold out?

Kinokophone, libraries of sound and new words

visualized sound

Visualisation of an elephant rumble. (Wikimedia. Authors Stoeger A, Heilmann G, Zeppelzauer M, Ganswindt A, Hensman S, Charlton B)

I came across the name Kinokophone by chance. It is a company dedicated to gathering sounds and using them artistically. They are supported by bodies like the Arts Council, and do some work with the British Library.

Apparently, they invented their name and the word kinokophonography – one of the great new words, a sort of slamming together of Japanese and Greek that rolls off the tongue (after some practice).

All over the world there are libraries of sounds and they’re working hard to preserve and save the various sound recordings – many of which are becoming unplayable. This is an important legacy to hand on to the future.

It’s sad that we can’t hear Shakespeare recite his own poems, but it’s unavoidable. We would have to hang our heads in shame if the same fate overtook today’s poets who are mostly well recorded.

A Conference focussed on The Golden Age of Detective Fiction Writers

Bodies logoI came across this event via CrimeFest. It sounds like a great day out for any fan of any golden age detective writer.

A Conference focussed on The Golden Age of Detective Fiction Writers.

A Greek New Testament Reunited – Medieval manuscripts blog

I love reading about ancient manuscripts. They have such fascinating histories – written by hand in obscure places, passed from owner to owner, altered, rebound, stolen, damaged – you name it, they’ve done it.

Often parts of their history remain mysterious.

This post about two manuscripts newly digitised is a case in point.

A Greek New Testament Reunited – Medieval manuscripts blog.

Your Favourite Manuscript: The Results – Medieval manuscripts blog

I’ve never thought of having a favourite manuscript, but apparently a lot of other people have.

It’s interesting to see what others pick out for special mention – I particularly liked the burnt royal manuscript. To me it looks like a ‘found’ work of art.

In some of them the writing looks to me more like decoration – but that is a measure of my ignorance. If I could read it, it would look like writing.

Your Favourite Manuscript: The Results – Medieval manuscripts blog.

Poetry in dark archives

Browsing through the British Library website, as I do from time to time, I came across an entry entitled A Page but not as We Know It and in it was the following wonderful phrase:

Analytical Access to the Domain Dark Archive

To me it sounded like a cross between the title of a fantasy novel and a line of Anglo-Saxon alliterative poetry. It also seems mysterious and enticing – I’d never heard of dark archives and I imagined  librarians creeping between long shelves of ancient books lit only by a guttering candles (too much Harry Potter here, perhaps).

Actually dark archives are, according to Webopedia, data stores not generally accessible. Access is either restricted to a few people or completely denied. Their main purpose is to act as a back up during disaster recovery. A sensible precaution for any organisation. The Analytical Access is a project of the British Library and several other academic organisations.

This common sense description doesn’t reduce their mysteries. I’d love to know how many there are, what’s in them, who has access to them, who created them.

I bet the CIA has a huge one. Ditto other security services. Then there are the digitisation programmes of major libraries. And don’t companies have them?

What will become of them in the long term if only a few people can care for them? Will they float forever in the electronic ether, lit only occasionally by the computer of a visiting historian? Or will they fade slowly into nothing? If their creators die without telling anyone the passwords, will armies of hackers have to work them out?

Or will they just be deleted?

‘The Gulshan Album’ and other Mughal treasures

bllogo100One of the e-newsletters I subscribe to is from the British Library. They remind their readers that there are only a couple of weeks left of their major exhibition on Mughal India.

To go with the exhibition they have a blog, and browsing through it I found this post about a famous album. The album (or at least most of it – apparently it’s been divided) lives in Tehran at the Gulistan Palace Library so I won’t be seeing it anytime soon, but I love the sound of it. Milo C Beach (the blog-post’s author) says:

The Gulshan Album (Muraqqa’-e Gulshan) described as one of the world’s greatest books, was originally assembled for Prince Salim, the future emperor Jahangir (r. 1605-27).

What could be more enticing? I love the idea of assembling rather than writing a book. A bit like blogging where one assembles pictures, videos and links to make a post.

Shakespeare as he really sounded

I’ve just read the news that The British Library is releasing a CD with excerpts from The Bard’s poems and plays in the original pronunciation. Apparently this is the first commercially available recording of Shakespeare as he really sounded.

Over the years there has been a lot of research and I suppose scholars are getting closer and closer to the true voice of the time. The article on the British Library website doesn’t mention how the research is done.

Years ago I attended a live reading of what was supposed to be Shakespearean pronunciation. It sounded odd but was understandable. The way the plays sound has undoubtedly changed several times over the centuries – what seems odd today may be common tomorrow.

We already have ‘authentic’ performances of old music. Perhaps in the future there’ll be a movement towards ‘authentic speech’ productions of plays.

I am definitely going to buy the CD (available from the British Library Shop); I’m a sucker for any unusual literary items.

The picture is a public domain one from Wikimedia Commons.

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