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Recently revealed, a rare William Caxton printed manuscript circa 1476
Image credit University of Reading

Sean Coughlan, Education correspondent for BBC News, reports today on the recently revealed rare William Caxton printed manuscript dating from around 1476 –

Pages printed more than 500 years ago by William Caxton, who brought printing to England, have been discovered by the University of Reading.

There are no other known surviving examples of these two pages anywhere in the world, from a book believed to have been printed in London in the 1470s. The pages had been “under their noses” unrecognised in the library’s archives.

Erika Delbecque, special collections librarian at the university, described the find as “incredibly rare”. The two pages, with religious texts in medieval Latin, were produced by Caxton at his pioneering printing works in Westminster – and are now going on public display for the first time since they were sold from his print shop in the 15th Century. They are believed to be from the earliest years of Caxton’s printing press, either 1476 or 1477, and are being hailed as a remarkable discovery.

The pages will go on public display from today to 30 May at the Museum of English Rural Life at the University of Reading, England.

More here.

 

 
Stonehenge by Henry Mark Anthony (1817-1886)
 
There will be a lecture by Sharon Soutar of English Heritage at Devizes Town Hall, Wiltshire, England from 2:30 pm on Saturday, 31 January 2015.
 
With the construction of the new Visitor Centre at Airman’s Corner it was vital that Stonehenge and its surrounding landscape were re-presented with the fullest and most up-to-date information available. Fantastic as it may seem very few of the monuments, not even Stonehenge itself, had been surveyed to modern standards. To rectify this English Heritage set up a project to significantly enhance the record and understanding of all upstanding archaeological monuments within the World Heritage Site. The fieldwork was conducted between 2009 and 2012 and the book is nearing publication, while a number of research reports on the different areas are available through the website here.
 
More here.
    

9781137357502

Heritage Crime: Progress, Prospects and Prevention

Heritage crime is an area of growing interest for scholars, but also for enforcement agencies and heritage managers, as well as the communities affected. Whether it is the looting of cultural objects, theft of lead from churches, or vandalism of historic monuments, this timely collection brings together debate and international examples to demonstrate the diversity but also commonality of heritage crime across the globe.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Mark Harrison FSA, National Policing and Crime Advisor, English Heritage and Honorary Research Fellow, University of Kent, Great Britain.

1. Introduction; Suzie Thomas and Louise Grove

Section I: Heritage Crime around the World
2. South African Perspective on Thefts from Museums and Galleries: 2006-2010; Bernadine Benson and Henri Fouché
3. Archaeological Heritage in Peru: Definitions, Perceptions and Imperceptions; Henry Tantaleán
4. Forestry as Heritage Crime: Finland; Vesa Laulumaa
5. Archaeological Heritage Crimes in Romania and Moldova: A Comparative view; Sergiu Musteata
6. Threats to Cultural Heritage in the Cyprus Conflict; Sam Hardy

Section II: Tackling Heritage Crime
7. A Situational Approach to Heritage Crime Prevention; Louise Grove and Ken Pease
8. Understanding and Preventing Lead Theft from Churches: A Script Analysis; Victoria Price, Aiden Sidebottom and Nick Tilley
9. Understanding and Attitudes – Heritage Crime in Norway; Brian Kristian Wennberg
10. Developing Policy on Heritage Crime in Southern Africa; Helene Vollgraaff
11. Improving the Treatment of Heritage Crime in Criminal Proceedings: Towards a Better Understanding of the Impact of Heritage Offences; Carolyn Shelbourn
12. The Global Trade in Illicit Antiquities: Some New Directions?; Kenneth Polk
13. Conclusion; What’s the Future for Heritage Crime Research?; Suzie Thomas and Louise Grove

Published this month by Palgrave Macmillan. Details here.

 

   

On Silbury Hill by Adam Thorpe

Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4 this week is Adam Thorpe’s On Silbury Hill (see our earlier feature here).

The novel pays personal tribute to the Neolithic monument. The base of Silbury Hill covers five acres of Wiltshire turf that has not seen the daylight for 4,300 years. Adam Thorpe has known the place since he was 13 years old. Abridged by Jill Waters. Read by Philip Franks. Broadcast daily from 9:45am – 10:00am.

 

Ancient Stones on Old Postcards by Jerry Bird

Victorian and Edwardian age postcards of Old Stone monuments and prehistoric remains in the English countryside presented for the first time. Every page has a full-size reproduction of an original card with an essay on the subject shown and map references and description of how to find the site arranged by areas. Written with enthusiasm and full of lively commentary, descriptions of both famous and little-known sites are enhanced with local mythology, superstitions and folklore. These are the best from Jerry Bird’s classic collection which he has spent a lifetime building. For the traveller to England this will be an ideal companion for the Antiquarian explorer, Pilgrim or Druid, as well as the everyday enthusiast.

A beautiful book based on a splendid idea: Ronald Hutton.
Will delight the intrepid antiquarian: Geoff Ward, author of Spirals.

Paperback. 226 pages. Published in 2011 by Green Magic. ISBN 9780956188632.

 
On Silbury Hill by Adam Thorpe
 
Her [Silbury] base covers five acres of Wiltshire turf, the equivalent of three football pitches. Five acres that have not seen sunlight or stars for some 4,300 years and will never see sunlight again until, possibly, the ice of the next Ice Age to extend as far as southern England scratches her away like a pimple. In her day she must have been almost unimaginably colossal, since nothing else man-made came anywhere near. She was probably as white, when completed, as the dome of the Taj Mahal – not with marble, but with ungrassed chalk. To visitors seeing her for the first time, she would have seemed otherworldly, miraculous, impossibly smooth and symmetrical…
 
Adam Thorpe
 
More here. See also the review by Paul Farley in the Guardian.
   
 
Trethevy Quoit shrouded in mist
©
Littlestone
 
Access to Trethevy Quoit (if travelling by car) is from a nearby off-road parking area, through a farm gate, followed by a two minute walk across a privately owned field. The parking area is big enough for four or five cars. The cromlech is poorly cared for and deliberate ground disturbance has occurred very close to it in the past (see video here). There are information boards close to the parking area but not by the monument itself, and there are no warning signs that it may be unsafe and not to climb on it.
 
Administrative authority: English Heritage. Managed by the Cornwall Heritage Trust.
 
The Heritage Trust Cared for Rating  *  (out of 5).
 
Suggested improvements: Extend the no ploughing area to at least five metres round the monument. Create and maintain a pathway from farm gate to monument. Install clear signs instructing visitors not to climb the monument. One or two benches where people could pause and reflect on the monument and its setting.
 
For more on Trethevy Quoit see Trethevy Quoit: Cornwall’s Megalithic Masterpiece by Roy Goutté.
 

Heritage of Wales News announces that –

On Wednesday, 9 April, there will be a rare opportunity to purchase a wide range of books, journals, maps and guidebooks, relating to archaeology, architecture and the built heritage. There will be over 1000 titles in this sale of surplus and duplicate stock from the Royal Commission’s library in Aberystwyth. Titles include a complete set of Archaeologia Cambrensis and other standard archaeology journals, numerous off-prints, books on pre-history, the Romans, industrial archaeology, Gwent and Glamorgan County Histories, and other historical and archaeological volumes and much more. There will also be a selection of O.S. 6-inch maps of various editions, a small collection of 1:10,000 and Landranger maps. Selected current Royal Commission publications will also be on offer with a discount of up to 30%. Information Services Manager, Penny Icke, said: “This is an excellent opportunity to acquire hard to find and often out-of-print historical and archaeological material.
 
More here.
   
 
The Art Lover’s Guide to Japanese Museums by Sophie Richard
 
The Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures invites you to join them for –
 
…a lecture by the author of The Art Lover’s Guide to Japanese Museums and get an insight into the collections, history and characteristics of some of the most distinctive and exciting museums in Japan. We will also have an opportunity to hear from Heidi Potter, Chief Executive of the Japan Society, who are the publishers of the book.
 
Venue: Wednesday, 5 March 2014 from 6:00 – 7:30pm at the Sainsbury Institute, 64 The Close, Norwich NR1 4DH. More here.
   
 
 
The excavation of Carchemish (1912-13) with Leonard Woolley (right) and T E Lawrence (left)
 
Noah Charney writes in The Arts Newspaper that –
 
With the release of George Clooney’s drama about the Monuments Men and their adventures in saving Europe’s art treasures during the Second World War, viewers get a glimpse of a true, dramatic, epic story of the race to rescue an estimated five million cultural heritage objects, from paintings and sculptures to rare books and valuable archival materials, that were looted by the Nazis and were threatened with complete destruction. The Clooney film is only loosely based on historical fact—it necessarily compresses, condenses and alters reality to fit the rules of a Hollywood feature. But one aspect of the Monuments Men that most American accounts skip past or exclude altogether is the fact that the Monuments Men began as a British operation—and was led by a very British brand of hero, Sir Leonard Woolley.
 
In anticipation of the film, much has been written about the Monuments Men, but what tends to go overlooked is the role of British scholar-soldiers in protecting the world’s cultural heritage. It was the British who first recognised, early in the war, the need for a division of officers trained in, and dedicated to, the protection of art and monuments in conflict zones. In January 1943, during a pause in the fighting near Tripoli in North Africa, Mortimer Wheeler, the director of the London Museum and a renowned archaeologist, grew concerned about the fate of three ruined ancient cities nearby along the coast of Libya: Sabratha, Leptis Magna, and Oea (the ancient city around which Tripoli grew).
 
   
 
Stonehenge, a temple restor’d to the British Druids by William Stukeley
Harvard University Library
 
Harvard University Library has made available a digitised copy of William Stukeley’s 1740 book, Stonehenge, a temple restor’d to the British Druids. Printed in London in 1740 the book includes more than 30 illustrations showing how Stonehenge appeared when Stukeley visited it in the early 18th century, along with his theories concerning the monument’s origins and use.
 
 
Prospect of STONEHENGE from the southwest from William Stukeley’s, Stonehenge, a temple restor’d to the British Druids
Harvard University Library
 
2617-635215932807411762
 
Star Carr: Life in Britain after the Ice Age by Nicky Milner, Barry Taylor, Chantal Conneller and Tim Schadla-Hall
 
An exciting new book on Star Carr, described by CBA Publications as being –
 
…one of the most famous and important prehistoric sites in Europe. Dating from the early Mesolithic period, over 10,000 years ago, the site has produced a unique range of artefacts and settlement evidence.
 
First excavated in 1949–51 by Professor Grahame Clark of Cambridge University, the site was buried in a deep layer of peat on the edge of prehistoric Lake Flixton. The peat has preserved an incredible collection of organic artefacts, including bone, wood and antler, as well as thousands of flint tools. This has allowed archaeologists to build up a detailed picture of life on the edge of the lake around 9000 BC. New excavations have now revealed the remains of what may be the earliest house ever found in Britain, and have shown that the settlement stretched for several hundred metres along the lake shore.
 
This book tells the story of the discovery of Star Carr, and brings it up-to-date with details of the current excavations. It also discusses other important Mesolithic sites in Britain and Europe and how these are transforming our view of life after the Ice Age.
 
Full details here.
  

 
The Folio Society of Great Britain has announced the publication of its book, The Tomb of Tutankhamun
 
‘Three thousand, four thousand years maybe, have passed and gone since human feet last trod the floor on which you stand, and yet, as you note the signs of recent life around you — the half-filled bowl of mortar for the door, the blackened lamp, the finger-mark upon the freshly painted surface, the farewell garland dropped upon the threshold — you feel it might have been but yesterday.’
 
There have been countless accounts of the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922, from the sober to the sensational, but none is as powerful as Howard Carter’s own firsthand testimony. He recalls the evidence that first drew him to the Valley of the Kings in 1914; the six seasons of patient, fruitless searching; moonlit encounters with would-be tomb-robbers; and the near-miraculous discovery at the eleventh hour, just as funding was about to run out, of the royal necropolis seal – the jackal and nine captives – which signalled a pharaoh’s resting-place. With admirable restraint, Carter cabled Lord Carnarvon, the excavation’s sponsor, and waited two weeks for him to arrive before breaking the sealed doorway. What they found was beyond imagining. Unlike most royal tombs, Tutankhamun’s had largely escaped plundering; with more than 5,000 artefacts, it remains the most complete Egyptian burial ever discovered.
 
This two-volume edition features an entire volume dedicated to magnificent colour photography of Tutankhamun’s treasures taken by Sandro Vannini. In recent years, Vannini has been given rare access by the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities to carry out photography at the Cairo Museum. He uses a digital sensor to create high-resolution enlargements that would be impossible with film alone, meaning that we can appreciate these artefacts in unprecedented detail as well as from new angles. In the other volume, we have reproduced the text together with the original photographs by Harry Burton, who worked with Carter at the exhibition site and was the first to photograph the tomb. Professor David P. Silverman of the University of Pennsylvania, a leading authority on Egyptology and curator of the major exhibition ‘Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs’, has contributed an introduction.
 
Details of the publication here.
 
The Secrets of Stonehenge by Mick Manning and Brita Granström
 
In a review of the book here, The Mole writes that –
 
Stonehenge has captured the imagination as long as man can remember – long after he can remember what it was built for. Throughout it [the book] talks in a positive, non-contradictory way but also without dogma and this subject is so controversial to so many that avoiding dogma is a big plus in this book’s favour. It also goes back in history to before the henge we see today and shows what excavations have revealed about the site before. Couple this history with cartoon like drawings and historical asides this book is a great asset for children to learn from.
 
With Christmas just around the corner, The Secrets of Stonehenge might be a stocking filler for kiddies with parents interested in ancient sites such as Stonehenge (or for people of any age who just like graphic books).
 
More information and more books by Frances Lincoln Publishers here.
 
 
Beowulf: A new translation by Seamus Heaney
 
Again this week, from 9:45am – 10:00am daily, BBC Radio 4 is paying tribute to Seamus Heaney, “Nobel Prize-winning poet, internationally recognised as one of the greatest contemporary voices who passed away [last] month at the age of 74.” by broadcasting a recording of the poet reading from his translation of Beowulf. More here and in our Sixth century Anglo-Saxon warrior and horse skeletons to go on display feature here. While listening to the programme last week one word caught our attention – torque.
 
After Grendel’s defeat, Beowulf is showered with gifts – among them, “…hrægl ond hringas, healsbeaga…” Michael Alexander, in his rendering of Beowulf, translates the passage as “…robes and rings, and the richest collar…” while Seamus Heaney in his rendering translates the passage as, “…a mail-shirt of rings, and the most resplendent torque of gold…”
 
Sweet’s Student’s Dictionary of Anglo-Saxon defines healsbeaga as a necklace; torque, (‘heals’ being ‘neck’ and ‘beaga’ a ‘ring’ – in other words a neck-ring). We can’t recall ever seeing a torque associated with any Anglo-Saxon hoard or burial (though there might be) and wonder if the idea of a torque in Beowulf harks back to an earlier time when there was more interaction between the Germanic tribes and the ‘Celts’. Beowulf, though written down in the eighth century, dates to an earlier oral version from the fifth century at least.
 
There’s something else that’s interesting about the neck-ring (torque) in Beowulf. The poet goes out of the way to emphasise that it was, “…the most resplendent torque of gold I ever heard tell of anywhere on earth or under heaven. (Heaney). Michael Alexander continues with, “Never under heaven have I heard of a finer prize among heroes – since Hama carried off the Brisling necklace to his bright city, that gold-cased jewel…”* Furthermore, the Beowulf poet goes into a sub-plot at this stage, summed up by Heaney when he says, “Gifts presented, including the torque: Beowulf will present in due course to King Hygelac, who will die wearing it.”
 
So there seems to be a bit of specialness associated with this gold gift to the Geats, which perhaps isn’t all that surprising when we remember that there were pieces of Roman glass and two, 1st century pierced (possibly Corieltavi) gold staters which were used as pendants and which were found in the 7th century Saxon Princess’ burial at Street House in North Yorkshire. The question is, was this a torque or a necklace? A torque does seem the more likely for a warrior to wear…
 
* The Brisling, or Brisingamen, necklace belonged to Freya, “…a magical necklace reputedly made of amber and rubies…”
 
 

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