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A Missing History of the Kings of the Franks in Cairo! March 9, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
A Missing History of the Kings of the Franks in Cairo!

Our latest contribution to the burning library series is glimpsed, painfully briefly, in a tenth-century Arabic source. In the year 947, by the Christian calendar, the Islamic scholar Al-Mas’udi (obit 956) was rifling the shelves of a library in Cairo when he came across a suprising work. He had stumbled upon A History of the […]

Evans-Wentz and a Missing Thesis July 16, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Evans-Wentz and a Missing Thesis

Walter Evans-Wentz (obit 1965) was an American mystic who wrote, as a young man, before his interests went eastwards, the most important twentieth-century book about fairies: The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries, published at Oxford in 1911. That book, available in many places on the web, can be broken down into three parts. The first […]

Lord Acton’s Lost Work March 23, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Lord Acton's Lost Work

Lord Acton is often reckoned one of the great historians of nineteenth-century England. Yet he published all too little despite tens of thousands of hours of study: a handful of essays and talks… His great book was to be have been a whig classic, a discussion of the growth of modern liberty. But that book […]

The Lost Zen Letters: A Cautionary Tale about Children and Archives February 15, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
The Lost Zen Letters: A Cautionary Tale about Children and Archives

***Dedicated to KR who pointed Zenwards*** The story (as always) is a simple one, perhaps deceptively, perhaps dishonestly so. In 1558 in Dello scoprimento dell’ isole Frislanda, Eslanda, Engrouelanda, Estotilanda e Icaria fatto sotto il Polo artico da’ due fratelli Zeni, M. Nicolo il K. e M. Antonio (Of the Discovery of Frisolanda, Eslanda, Engrouelanda, Estotilanda and Icara […]

Burning Libraries: Episode Four of the Lost Planet January 19, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Burning Libraries: Episode Four of the Lost Planet

Dr Who, which began being aired in 1963, was Britain’s attempt to join the science fiction race. Though less famous than Star Trek, which it preceded by three years, a comparison tells you a lot about the differences between the two countries in the 1960s: the gung ho US and demoralised post-war Britain. Star Trek […]

The Inventio Fortunata: A Lost Medieval Journey to the Arctic North November 20, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
The Inventio Fortunata: A Lost Medieval Journey to the Arctic North

The Inventio Fortunata sometimes written the Inventio Fortunae (likely a mistaken amendment by an over anxious sixteenth-century author) is one of the most extraordinary documents NOT to come down to us from posterity. It was written in the fourteenth century, either at sea or in England, by a friar for the King of England, Edward […]

The Missing Autobiography of Mario Esposito October 28, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
The Missing Autobiography of Mario Esposito

Mario Esposito (obit 1975) was a talented medievalist born to an Italian family in that glittering Dublin of Joyce, Yeats and Beckett. ME got involved with the struggle for Irish independence, was a keen mountaineer, but above all published on Irish manuscripts. His first academic article was written when he was 18, a rather misinformed […]

The Postures: A Missing Erotic Classic May 22, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
The Postures: A Missing Erotic Classic

Beachcombing has often celebrated in this place lost books and burning libraries. Today he wants to celebrate a book that while not lost (it can be found in a modern edition on the top shelves of academic institutions around the world) got through to us by the skin of its erotic teeth. Beach refers, of course, to  I […]

The Gospel of the Witches: Missing or Faked? April 6, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
The Gospel of the Witches: Missing or Faked?

Beach is not waving but drowning in the flood of work, but the summer is coming closer and – oh wonderful – closer. Soon he’ll be able to settle down to four months of light teaching and heavy research. Most of the cherry-blossom time will be given over to fairies. However, Beach has also been […]

Burning Libraries! Two Lost Folklore Collections January 20, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Burning Libraries! Two Lost Folklore Collections

Historical blindspots: every age has them. Take the relative lack of interest in folklore prior to the eighteenth century. When folklore heats up in the later nineteenth century you cannot walk across the parlour without tripping over a book on fairies or witches. This means that anything written before say 1860 is particularly precious and any loss all […]

Hearts, Genies and Gnosticism at Nag Hammadi October 14, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary
Hearts, Genies and Gnosticism at Nag Hammadi

Howard Carter whispering ‘wonderful things’, Leslie Alcock finding Dark Age timber at Cadbury (‘that was Camelot’), Bedouin shepherds investigating a complex of caves at the Dead Sea… All wonderful, of course. But for Beachcombing none of these quite match the thrill of the discovery at Nag Hammadi in 1945. In that year, possibly in December, […]

Boethius’s Astronomy: Did it Exist? October 4, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Boethius's Astronomy: Did it Exist?

Beach has always had a thing about Boethius (obit 525). Boethius penned the great Consolation of Philosophy, a strangely affecting study of human priorities, while waiting for his execution. Boethius hovers between Neo-Platonism and Christianity: he is, in some senses, the missing link between the two religions. Then Boethius also  wrote books that do not […]

Google Burns the Library at Alexandria May 28, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
Google Burns the Library at Alexandria

Imagine a visit to the universal library: a building in which all books, manuscripts, scrolls, rolls and tablets from all civilisations and all ages have been placed next to each other on shelves running for tens and tens of miles. When Borges and others wrote about this fabulous place in generations past theirs was only […]

Misplacing Masterpieces at Railway Stations April 29, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Misplacing Masterpieces at Railway Stations

Beachcombing heard today that his father – pater Beachcombing – will soon be coming for a visit to the Beachcombing house in Little Snoring – the first time in a couple of years, so a cause of celebration. Beachcombing’s favourite story about his father is that once while travelling by train to his publisher in […]

Iambulus’s Island March 3, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
Iambulus's Island

**Beachcombing dedicates this post to author and Diodorus scholar Ed Murphy (After the Funeral) who inspired the following** Ancient historian, Diodorus Siculus (obit 1st cent BC) has appeared before on this blog for his description of a mysterious island out in the Atlantic. However, Diodorus, at the end of his second book, also wrote about an […]

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