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.

 

Marking World Heritage Day today we are focusing on the ancient Japanese art of picture conservation and mounting known as Hyōgu.

1923 woodblock print after the earliest known image of a hyōgushi priest and his assistant Original by the 14th century Japanese painter Fujiwara Takakane
Private collection Great Britain

Hyōgu and the hyōgushi

The art of restoring and mounting works of art on paper and silk has been practiced in the Far East for nearly two millennia. Originating first in China at the beginning of the Christian era, conservation techniques and materials then spread to Japan where they developed into the refined art that we now know as Hyōgu.

The word Hyōgu means a picture or piece of calligraphy lined with paper and mounted as a hanging scroll. The words hyōgushi, hyōguya and kyōji refer to the mounter/conservators of Japan who not only repair and mount hanging scrolls but also conserve other forms of pictorial art such as the handscroll, screens, sliding doors, murals etc.

The hyōgushi of today is required to undergo a long and strict period of training. During this time he or she learns not only the skills which will enable him to conserve scrolls, screens etc, but also the knowledge and sensitivity required to present them in their correct context. He must know the appropriate style of mount used for any subject and be aware, for example, of the meanings associated with the patterned silks used with such mounts. He or she must also know how and where an object will be used as this will often dictate the materials and techniques employed in its conservation.

Like the Western bookbinder, the hyōgushi is responsible for objects which must be both functional and aesthetically pleasing. The objects he is conserving are made to be opened and closed, rolled and unrolled and, apart from the demands of conservation and aesthetics, the hyōgushi must always bear in mind that they are to be constantly handled and not merely viewed.

 
St Andrew’s Church, Normanby, North Yorkshire, England
 
The Heritage Trust is fortunate to have our HQ in a little village in North Yorkshire, England that boasts a thriving pub and a pretty little Norman church. This morning we saw an elderly gentleman take some faltering steps towards the church. He’s a frequent visitor to the village and makes a daily pilgrimage to the church when no-one else is there. He went there this morning before the Easter Service. Why does he go alone you may ask. It’s because the church here is Church of England and he is a Roman Catholic. But he does go, daily when visiting, unlike the majority of those in the village and surrounding area. As the church bells rang out this morning, calling its ever dwindling congregation to attend, the words of Simon Jenkins came to mind; “ I don’t go to church, but I do go to churches.”
 
There are some 16,000 churches in England, many of them architectural gems and places of sanctity and peace. The majority however are poorly attended. The church here has two services a month, with a regular congregation of a dozen or so (most in their seventies and eighties). The rest of the time, other than the occasional wedding, funereal or coffee morning) the church stands open but unused. So what is to be done? Simon Jenkins, in his Guardian article here writes –
 
England’s biggest, most plentiful, most beautiful buildings are its churches. They are also its emptiest. There are some 16,000 churches in total, and every now and then their owner and janitor, the Church of England, utters a howl of pain. This month a church report points out that more than a quarter of churches have fewer than 20 worshippers on a Sunday – fewer than 10 in rural areas. Help, it cries, opening its mind (at last) to a future for local churches as everything from farmers’ markets to digital hubs, and even to naves as “champing” sites.
 
Every few years the church gets itself into a mess over how to use its churches. Like millions of people, I don’t go to church, but I do go to churches – 85% of the public visits a church every year. We regard them as the community’s ritual forum, its museum, its art gallery, its concert hall, its occasional retreat for peace, consolation and meditation. Many in the church view us as freeloaders (though I always leave money) and cannot see why they should give us such delight when their proper business is prayer, not heritage custody.
 
As long as parish churches are seen as shrines belonging to a tiny minority of the community, any hope of wider commitment is pie in the sky. Struggling local churches must be secularised, desanctified. They must be vested in an endowed local trust or parish council that literally owns them, so they become community assets, for whose upkeep local rates can be levied, as with public parks and gardens. There will be many spills along the way. But these buildings cannot be demolished or nationalised. There is simply no alternative.
 
In a nutshell then, our lovely little parish churches must embrace the wider community. They should become places of worship or meditation for people of all faiths as well as for those of none. Places where concerts are performed, exhibitions held, talks on all matters delivered. Most of all they should be places where all are made welcome and do not feel it necessary, like our elderly gentleman above, to feel excluded.
 
Happy Easter to all our readers.
 
 
Detail of the 450 year-old Thomas Tallis’s motet Gaude gloriosa manuscript
Oxford Corpus Christi College MS 566. Image credit DIAMM.ac.uk
 
Writing for the Rhinegold Group, News Editor Katy Wright, reports on this evening’s performance of Thomas Tallis’s motet Gaude gloriosa. The manuscript on which the motet is written was found behind plasterwork in the walls of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, England in 1978. This evening’s performance will be the first time it has been heard for 450 years. What makes it even more interesting is that although the music is by Thomas Tallis the text is thought to be by Henry VIII’s sixth and last queen, Katherine Parr.
 
Alamire is to perform a work by Thomas Tallis which has not been heard for over 450 years as part of its concert at St John’s Smith Square on 14 April. The words are from Parr’s psalm paraphrase ‘Against Enemies’ in her first publication Psalms or Prayers, published in London in 1544, and were set as a contrafact of Tallis’s Gaude gloriosa Dei mater.
 
[Conductor David Skinner…] discovered that See, Lord, and behold (Parr’s text, set to music by Tallis) and the composer’s five-part Litany (using text by Thomas Cranmer, which was the first departure from the Roman rite in Henry’s reign) were first performed following an elaborately orchestrated series of events at St Paul’s Cathedral, London, which culminated on 23 May 1544 with a procession and sermon.
 
More here.
A thought… by Moss.
 
 
 
Stonehenge by Hesketh David Bell (1849 – 1872)
 
Can one ever imagine  Stonehenge as peaceful and open as this painting, the clawed hand of industrial farming is still not to be seen, as are also the trees. Sometimes romantic versions of what we want and not what we have are just flights of fancy, as I am sure this painting is, though obviously painted when the dreaded car was yet to be seen.  I have seen elsewhere discussion about the rocks in the foreground, not to be seen today, but I think a certain artistic licence is granted to  artists, and Bell’s other work features dramatic rocky landscapes.  Strangely it reminds me of the North York moors, featureless except for the open space but coloured by the vegetation of its underlying stone. Subject matter contrasts our lowly ‘peasant’ with his two cows and smattering of sheep against the far off prehistoric stones. Judge against the ‘horror’ of the traffic laden road which is the subject of  controversy today and weep.
 
 
 
Stonehenge today. Image credit BBC News

 

See also Mike Pitts’ feature, What did the world heritage site mean to people who built Stonehenge? Nothing, here.
 

French President François Hollande officially launches the Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas on the 20 March 2017 at the Louvre in Paris
Image credit Élysée

A new global fund for endangered heritage sites has been launched by France and the United Arab Emirates. Writing in The Art Newspaper, Vincent Noce, reports that –

A new global fund to protect cultural heritage in war zones, spearheaded by France and the United Arab Emirates, has so far raised $75m of a planned $100m. The fund was officially launched [yesterday], 20 March, at the Louvre in Paris by the French President François Hollande and the vice premier minister of the Emirates, Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

More here.

 

 
The 4,000 year-old decorated dolmen discovered in Israel
Image credit Gonen Sharon, Tel Hai College
 
Ginger Perales, writing in the New Historian, reports on the discovery of a decorated dolmen in the Galilee area of Israel –
 
Archaeologists working in upper Galilee, near Kibbutz Shamir, have unearthed an unusual dolmen believed to be over 4,000-years-old. A type of megalithic tomb with a single chamber, a dolmen is typically comprised of at least two large vertical stones that support a flat capstone which lies horizontally on top of them (like a table).
 
Discovered in a large field of over 400 dolmens dating back to the Intermediate Bronze Age, several factors cause this structure to stand out, including its large size, the structure that surrounds it, and most intriguingly, the artistic decorations that are etched into its ceiling.
 
More here.
 
 
 
A bird-shaped gold pin from the Galloway Viking Hoard
 
The heraldscotland reports that –
 
A campaign has been launched to ensure a 1,000-year-old Viking hoard found buried in a Dumfries and Galloway field stays in the local area. The objects were found inside a pot unearthed in 2014 and include rare items such as a gold bird-shaped pin, an enamelled Christian cross and silk from modern-day Istanbul as well as silver and crystal. The items date from the ninth and 10th centuries and are part of a wider hoard of about 100 pieces, which experts say is the most important Viking discovery in Scotland for more than a century.
 
The Hoard was discovered at an undisclosed location in the region by a metal detectorist. More here.
   
 
 
Side view of the south-eastern chamber looking south-west
 
The University of Bristol News reports on the complex prehistoric patterns discovered around the site of ancient Welsh burial chamber –
 
A team of archaeologists, led by a researcher from the University of Bristol, has uncovered the remains of a possible Stonehenge-type prehistoric earthwork monument in a field in Pembrokeshire.
 
Members of the Welsh Rock art Organisation have been investigating the area around the Neolithic burial chamber known as Trellyffaint – one of a handful of sites in western Britain that has examples of prehistoric rock art.
 
The site of Trellyffaint dates back at least 6,000 years and has been designated a Scheduled Monument. It is in the care of Welsh heritage agency Cadw. The site comprises two stone chambers – one of which is relatively intact. Each chamber is set within the remains of an earthen cairn or mound which, due to ploughing regimes over the centuries, have been slowly uncovered.
 
More here.
 
As it’s Women’s International Day today here are some outstanding examples of women archaeologists.
 

 

Maria Reiche (1903-1998)

Maria Reiche was a German mathematician, which came in handy when she began researching Peru’s Nazca Lines in 1940. After demonstrating their sophisticated mathematical accuracy, she published the theory that they related to astronomy. And she didn’t just bring them to Western scholarly attention – Maria helped protect them by getting them preserved and communicating their significance to people all around the world.

 

The most complete range of archaeological objects unearthed by Crossrail, Europe’s largest infrastructure project, is now on display alongside the story of this great feat of engineering in a free major exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands. The exhibition will run until 3 September 2017.

More here.

 

Trevethy Quoit, Cornwall, by Charles Knight (circa 1845)

At the beginning of November the [Cornwall Heritage] Trust were informed that the field in which Trethevy Quoit is located was for sale. While the quoit itself was gifted to the Government in the 1930s, the field was in separate ownership and a potential buyer was keen to use it for grazing horses. The Trust was most concerned about this as some years ago there had been many problems with the public accessing the quoit because of grazing horses.

In consultation with the Government Agencies, Historic England and English Heritage, it was decided that Cornwall Heritage Trust should bid to acquire the field thus protecting this magnificent monument. The Trust are indebted to David Attwell, the Trustee that manages the East Cornwall sites, who successfully negotiated the purchase as well as a grant from Historic England to help pay for the land.

More here. And for more of our features on Trevethy Quoit type Trevethy Quoit in the Search Box above.

 

A 12th century toy boat with a hole in the middle where a mast could have been stepped
Image credit Åge Hojem, NTNU University Museum

A thousand years ago, for reasons we will never know, the residents of a tiny farmstead on the coast of central Norway filled an old well with dirt. Maybe the water dried up, or maybe it became foul. But when archaeologists found the old well and dug it up in the summer of 2016, they discovered an unexpected surprise: a carefully carved toy, a wooden boat with a raised prow like a proud Viking ship, and a hole in the middle where a mast could have been stepped.

More here. 

 

Twilight at Stonehenge (circa 1840). Watercolour by William Turner of Oxford
Image credit Wikimedia Commons

 

A guest feature by Littlestone.

The Rudston Monolith
©
Littlestone

To quote Wikipedia, “The Rudston Monolith at over 7.6 metres (25 ft) is the tallest megalith (standing stone) in the United Kingdom. It is situated in the churchyard in the village of Rudston (grid reference TA098678) in the East Riding of Yorkshire.”

So, to mark this year’s St Valentine’s Day, Moss and I decided to make the 30 mile drive over from where we live in North Yorkshire to Rudston village to see for ourselves the ‘real thing’. Nothing quite prepares you for this ‘real thing’. Photos of the monolith we’d seen before but first sight, and first touch, of this towering Neolithic edifice left us both speechless. If there’s ever a stone that puts its neighbouring church into a shadow this is it. And the fact that it’s stood there for some 4,000 years makes it even more awe-inspiring. As ever, the similarity with other subsumed (Christianised) sites in Britain, seems the same. The Rudson Monolith stands close to a water source. A Roman villa once stood close by and there are Roman tiles in the church walls. There are also the remains of a Roman sarcophagus in the graveyard.

Outlier stone and the remains of a Roman sarcophagus behind it
©
Littlestone

Googling ‘Rudston Monolith’ will throw up all sorts of info but what intrigued me most, being actually there on site, was the smaller outlier stone in one corner of the graveyard. The stone is of the same composition as the monolith itself and evidently was once situated close to it. Could it be the missing top of the Rudsone Monolith? Did it fall away naturally or was it cut off because it offended past norms of acceptability? Who knows, but here’s an interesting comparison from Brittany in France.

The Plonéour-Lanvern megalith in Brittany, France circa 1900
Collection Abbaey de la Source, Paris
 

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