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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 also interested in history […]

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 […]