jump to navigation
  • Zwanze in Wartime Brussels August 20, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Zwanze in Wartime Brussels

    Regular readers will remember previous posts in the jokes and practical jokes series: world war jokes, treasure hunting jokes, Derren Brown and spiders, the poor wife hunter and the classic of all classics, Brunelleschi’s cruelest scherzo, which sent a Florentine scurrying to the backwoods of Hungary. Today, we offer up a modest WW1 story from occupied […]

    The Last Shot at Waterloo August 18, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Last Shot at Waterloo

    Tomorrow Beach has an appointment to go through a Welsh text for six long hours, translating and puzzling. Today he thought he would post, then, this cute story from the early nineteenth century with a Welsh connection in partial celebration. It will be remembered that the Welsh had a long history of doing good service […]

    Review: The Adventures of Hergé August 6, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Review: The Adventures of Hergé

    Georges ‘Hergé’ Rémi (obit 1983) was an exceptional draughtsman who published, between 1930 and 1976, twenty three comic books that contained the essence of the short twentieth century. It was all there: continental totalitarianism, arms dealing, South American dictatorships, the death of colonialism, the Cold War, Arab nationalism, the internatonal drug trade and the battle […]

    The Great War Begins: The 10 Most Resonant Moments August 2, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Great War Begins: The 10 Most Resonant Moments

    Historical anniversaries are not normally to Beach’s taste. They vulgarise, they trivialise, they misstate…. Like an ardent monarchist who can’t stand royal weddings he would be anywhere but there when the minister appears with the scissors for a ribbon and a vapid speech. But this blogger has been filled with a sense of awe as […]

    11 Burning Libraries: Book Lovers Beware April 29, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    11 Burning Libraries: Book Lovers Beware

    This blog has pioneered a series of burning libraries: books that didn’t make it (23 to date)… But what about real burning libraries? Libraries that, at some point in Antiquity or the Middle Ages, were gutted by fire, accidental or deliberate. I have included here a list of eleven devastatingly bad ‘burning libraries’ or ‘burning […]

    The Dragon’s Tail! A Continent or a Ghost? January 24, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Dragon's Tail! A Continent or a Ghost?

    La cola del dragón (the Tail of the Dragon), was a book published in 1990 by Paul Gallez (obit 2007), a Belgian/Argentinean historian. In this book Gallez alleged that a map by Martellus (obit 1496), dating to 1489 showed South America. If you are trying to understand why this should matter read the last sentence again: […]

    Invisible Library from Belgium: the Fortsas Catalogue January 9, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Invisible Library from Belgium: the Fortsas Catalogue

    The Fortsas Catalogue, printed in 1840 has within its pages one of the greatest invisible libraries ever written: an invisible library being a collection of book that have never existed outside an author’s imagination. The catalogue itself is real enough: a few (very valuable) copies are still to be found, but the namesake of the […]

    Prussians in the Frame: Brownies Out August 22, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Prussians in the Frame: Brownies Out

    Beach often shows his students WW1 and WW2 photographs in class. He lets the effect wash over them and then breaks that effect by asking them why the photograph is staged. For most of the best shots from the world wars are the invention or, at very best, the ‘reconstruction’ of photographers who were far […]

    A Seventeenth-Century Icarus October 25, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    A Seventeenth-Century Icarus

    Another episode in early failed or imaginary flying exploits. The following extracts are from the letters of Marin Mersenne (obit 1648) and were translated (frustratingly Beach doesn’t have the originals to hand) by Hart [132-133]. Enjoy these rumours from Paris from around the middle of the seventeenth century. Here they are talking about a man […]

    Stealing Swords in the Congo April 26, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Stealing Swords in the Congo

      This post is dedicated to Ricardo R. whose father was there in Kinshasa on the day This famous image from the camera of Robert Lebeck is much anthologized as the ‘ African moment’. A gutsy young Congolese has jogged along the limousine of King Baudouin of Belgium and the Belgian Congo as then was. […]

    Capital Punishment and Prehistoric Burials March 19, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Prehistoric
    Capital Punishment and Prehistoric Burials

                You are a member of the minor nobility in some part of northern Europe found guilty of murder in the fifteenth century. After the capital sentence is passed you are thrown in the back of a cart and driven out to the local place of reckoning.  However, as you are […]

    Cat Music and Cat Organs February 27, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Cat Music and Cat Organs

    **This post is dedicated to the Mad Monk who has supplied Beach with several references over the months and who put Beach onto the precious secret of the Cat Organ.** Beachcombing has complained before about the strange absence of bizarrism in music and he has never been satisfactorily contradicted. This absence is particularly painful in ‘classical’ […]

    Cat Murder in Early Modern Ypres July 7, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Cat Murder in Early Modern Ypres

                    Beachcombing has a great interest in the barbarous customs of our ancestors that, rather against the canons of good taste, have survived into modern times. A fine example of this is the Kattenstoet festival in Ypres or, as an English-speaker might have it, the cat-killing festival. Traditionally […]