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Inuit as an Unlikely Source for Medieval Charts January 29, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
Inuit as an Unlikely Source for Medieval Charts

Could you draw a perfect, to scale map of the area that you live? Close your eyes, consider the fields, the rivers and streets and then give it a go. After you’ve spent ten minutes with some coloured crayons compare your effort with a professionally produced map, contours and all. The chances are that you […]

The Mysterious End of the Western Settlement January 18, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
The Mysterious End of the Western Settlement

Imagine a Mary Celeste incident – an empty apparently abandoned ship – but extended instead to an entire land. At least one such account comes down to us and that is the abandonment of the Western Settlement in Greenland, one of the most mysterious events in European – or is it North American? – history. […]

Love Goddess #5: Agnes ‘Madonna’ Sorel January 12, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Love Goddess #5: Agnes ‘Madonna’ Sorel

Jean Fouquet was the greatest French painter of the fifteenth century. He is of special interest in this blog because JF created the fifth love goddess in our series: the notorious, terrifying Madonna from the Melun Diptych, c. 1450. Thanks to Invisible for the tip. Let’s start by remembering that madonnas were everywhere in the […]

King Arthur’s Last Men: Stranded in the Arctic North? December 15, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
King Arthur's Last Men: Stranded in the Arctic North?

*** Sorry I’m an idiot, I accidentally published two posts yesterday, one was left and one was withdrawn: this was the second that should have come out today** The Inventio Fortunata is a lost English text describing Arctic exploration that survives only in an emended form in a copy of a copy of a copy. […]

Wynne’s Madonna at Ely: Love Goddess 2# November 26, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
Wynne's Madonna at Ely: Love Goddess 2#

Ely Cathedral is one of the great works of English civilisation. Approached by car or on foot over the flatlands of East Anglia it surges above the landscape. In fact, ‘the ship of the Fens’ is one of the few churches that can be enjoyed from a distance: so often we are reduced to glancing […]

Giant Caterpillar Outside Manchester, 1850! November 16, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Giant Caterpillar Outside Manchester, 1850!

This appeared in a northern British newspaper in 1850 relating to the Manchester area. The monster, so long the object of such contradictory reports, is now proved beyond doubt to be a real living creature. He has been seen on shore by hundreds of spectators, having originally, it is supposed, come up the Bridgewater Canal. […]

The Greatest Heist in History? The Captain of Kopenick November 7, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
The Greatest Heist in History? The Captain of Kopenick

Much has Beach travelled in the realms of criminal gold. But rarely has he come across a villain of the quality of Wilhelm  Voigt (obit 1922): the Captain of Kopenick. Let’s begin with the shocked aftermath and then follow Voigt back through one of the most daring robberies in history. 17 October 1906 the German […]

Madame Tussaud Meets the Guillotine November 6, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Madame Tussaud Meets the Guillotine

***Dedicated to Laura: for an excellent background to Madame Tussaud follow this link (and look out particularly for Brad Pitt’s knickers)*** Anna Maria Tussaud (obit 1850) came to Britain in 1802 to show her famous wax impressions as an entrepreneur, but she remained in the country as an exile once the Napoleonic Wars had begun. […]

Welsh Candles and a Ghost October 30, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Welsh Candles and a Ghost

A couple of weeks ago we travelled to the Church Porch at midnight to see who would die in the coming year. Here is a Welsh equivalent (kind of). Down to the last hundred years it was usual in many a district in Wales to burn candles in the parish church on the eve of […]

Majorana’s Mysterious Disappearance October 11, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Majorana's Mysterious Disappearance

***Dedicated to Cristiano and Mau*** Ettore Majorana (obit ?), a Sicilian who mysteriously disappeared in 1938, was an almost-genius in the field of theoretical physics: many of his ideas proved so insightful that they are still being explored today. The reminiscences of those who  worked with Majorana show that he was not only a remarkable […]

The Origins of One-Foot September 30, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
The Origins of One-Foot

***Dedicated to Leif*** Humanity has the habit of peopling the edges of its maps with unusual creatures: the ‘there-be-dragons’ phenomenon. We have previously on this blog looked at dog-heads, for example, both in relation to India and Ethiopia. Dog-heads can be explained, as perhaps can unicorns and even dragons and cyclops. But how do you […]

Negosanu and the Countess September 7, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
 Negosanu and the Countess

The following story relates to events in the late nineteenth century. It is about a place that Beach has visited from time to time; though no one, he is sad to report, has ever asked to feel his muscles there. The hero is a huge gypsy from Romania: Negosanu. Let’s hope that the tale is […]

African Pygmies and European Fairies September 5, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
African Pygmies and European Fairies

We have sometimes visited in the past the early modern and very popular late Victorian theory that fairies were nothing more than a pygmy people who dwelt on the fringes of society. By the early twentieth century Empire sorts were so keen on this theory that they were proving it with reference to the customs […]

Accidental Hanky Panky in Late Nineteenth-Century Ireland August 31, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
Accidental Hanky Panky in Late Nineteenth-Century Ireland

This was a cute little story that turns up in a late nineteenth-century folklore collection from Ireland. A visitor is out and about looking for the ‘bed’ of ‘Dermot and Grania’, the mossy bower where a mythical couple from Irish legend escape to love and live away from society. Dermot for those who have never […]

Prolific Souvestre and Allain August 24, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Prolific Souvestre and Allain

Beachcombing is back from his time at the top of the mountain. His ‘restful’ reading material there included Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain’s Fantômas, the first in a series of French pulp novels from the teens of the last century. For those who have not been initiated Fantômas is a master criminal who works without […]

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