Friday, December 2, 2016

Rohonc Codex

Rohonc Codex

Hungarian Academy of Sciences (only monochrome available to public)

Anybody familiar with the Voynich Manuscript will find the Rohonc Codex a similar story - book of unknown origin, unidentified script, uncertain language, cryptic illustrations and suspicions of forgery.  But the Rohonc Codex remains fairly obscure, not even attracting much kook attention (so far anyway).

One reason may be that it seems to have been little known outside Hungary until recently.  Nearly everything in English that I can find draws almost exclusively from Wikipedia which in turn draws from extensive sources, all in Hungarian except two (in English and German).  Almost the only other writing in English with original research appears to be the Passing Strangeness blog and a brief mention in a piece on the possible forger in Janos Bak's Manufacturing a Past for the Present.  (This view may be skewed by my use of English-language databases.  For all I know there's extensive literature in Europe but I doubt that.)

The Rohonc Codex also just isn't as interesting as the Voynich.  Look at the images below and you'll see that it appears more clumsy and the illustrations more crude.  Though the images mix religious traditions there's nothing like the unidentified (or invented) ones in the Voynich.

A quick recap in case you don't want to follow the links.  The Rohonc Codex was part of a count's library donated to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 1838 - there are no records about where he acquired it.  The codex was studied periodically during the 19th century until one scholar suggested it was actually the work of Sámuel Literáti Nemes, an antiquarian of the time who did in fact create several known forgeries.  Since nobody has come up with a plausible explanation for the text opinion has remained divided whether it is in fact a forgery.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Naughty Puppies

Naughty Puppies (1870) direct link 
Open Library main page

The blog will return in December.  Until then here are some puppies.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Halloween reading

Ghost story posts

The blog is taking a brief break but for Halloween that link goes to a month's worth of posts from a couple of years ago.  Mostly ghost stories but a few other weird tales of various kinds.  (I've just noticed the covers don't always appear so will have to look into that.)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates

Howard Pyle - Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates (1921) direct link 
Open Library main page

A collection of Pyle's various pirate stories with his famous illustrations (he's often credited with creating our current image of how pirates looked).  There are fights, captured ships, buried treasure, adventure on the high seas and even a little romance and a Christmas tale (though probably far less drink than in reality given the general younger age of the intended readership).

Sunday, September 18, 2016


McKenzie Wark - Dispositions (2002)

Direct link

Though not public domain the book has been shared by the author. Wark is a media theorist and writer possibly best known for The Hacker Manifesto (with two books on the Situationists for Verso). In Dispositions Wark travels to places using his GPS then records observations and thoughts. It's an unusual mix of psychogeography, prose poem and criticism.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Women and Film

Women and Film

Direct link

Running from 1972 to 1975, Women and Film was a groundbreaking scholarly journal with a publication method that grew out of the underground press and looked forward to the zine movement.  It's an interesting look at the time with its focus on European filmmakers (lots of Godard), acknowledged auteurs, re-evaluation of Hollywood and collecting information about women filmmakers. Still, it's not dated and much of the material is still worth reading.  All the issues are hosted at the Jump Cut site and can be downloaded as pdfs.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Epistolae obscurorum virorum / Letters of Obscure Men

Francis Griffin Stokes (ed) - Epistolae obscurorum virorum (1519, edition of 1909) direct link
Open Library main page

"A text that contains intentional blunders, and in which grammar is a law unto itself, seems to call for exceptional treatment."  That's the conclusion of editor and translator Stokes when introducing this now-little-known curiosity.  Epistolae obscurorum virorum is a series of satirical letters that appeared in Germany from 1515-1519.  The letters were a humanist attack on scholasticism and employed overstatement, clumsily pretentious writing, illogical leaps, wayward references - basically the same things that would be used to parody academic writing today.  (I will now start my emails with "Cordial greeting and homage beyond belief".)

This satire, though, is credited with helping push the Reformation, particularly in its support of Johannes Reuchlin who was fending off charges of heresy as he attempted to prevent destruction of Hebrew religious materials (which were considered anti-Christian).  (See David H. Price's 2011 Johannes Reuchlin and the Campaign to Destroy Jewish Books.)  One recent reprint of Epistolae obscurorum virorum was done under the title On the Eve of the Reformation.

Let's just go with one sample (that's actually one of the more simple): "As I have ofttimes told you, I chafe bitterly because that vile raff, to wit the Faculty of Poets, groweth and extendeth throughout every province and region. In my time there was only one poet--and his name was Samuel--but now in a single burg a good score may be found, to harass us who cling to the ancients. Just now I sharply snibbed one who said that 'scholaris' did not mean a person who went to school to learn, for, quote I, 'Thou ass! Wouldst though correct the Holy Doctor who useth that word?'  But forthwith he wrote a lampoon against me, with many scurrilities therein, and vowed that I was no sound grammarian, in that I had not rightly expounded certain words when I treated of Alexander, his First Part, and of the book De modis significandi."

This appears to have been the first English translation.