Stave churches – medieval vikingry

Stave churches – medieval vikingry

Stave churches are curious buildings. They seem to try to mirror some viking age aesthetics, and in the process, produces their own visual premise. It has been suggested though, that the stave church is a translation of the architecture of bysantine basilikas – from stone to wood, with its closest architectual relations in Ireland. Maybe, ...
Theodor Kittelsen – a Norwegian bestiary

Theodor Kittelsen – a Norwegian bestiary

Theodor Kittelsen was a Norwegian painter and book illustrator (1857-1914). He illustrated the Scandinavian bestiary of legend and fairy tales, and his work has scared countless children (myself included). He drew and painted trolls, the black death, sea monsters, nøkken ("water spirit"), and anthropomorphised natural phenomena such as the echo. His work can be rather ...
Fimbulwinter: mythology meets climate science

Fimbulwinter: mythology meets climate science

I grew up with the stories from Norse mythology. The sagas, the pantheon of gods, their fights, petty arguments, and underhand murders. How to keep them happy by offerings, how the vikings saw themselves and ordered their society and solved conflicts – which was not as bloody and brutal as you might think. The mythology also ...
14 Meters of Aztec Codice

14 Meters of Aztec Codice

The Codex Borbonicus (or Codex Cihuacoatl) is a divinatory almanac inscribed in a single 14.2m long sheet of bark paper. A masterpiece of Aztec style, the codice is believed to have been made after the arrival of the Spanish. Its first section is an intricate divinatory calendar, one of the few surviving. Each page represents one of the 20 trecena or 13-day periods, ...
Blasphemous Theories About the First Americans

Blasphemous Theories About the First Americans

The ice bridge through which the first American settlers came from Asia was neither made of ice nor a bridge. And according to new evidence, it might have not been the only way in which the continent was populated. Previously dismissed blasphemous theories about the first Americans are enjoying a come-back, and it's finally time ...
The fabric of Africa

The fabric of Africa

In 2012, the New York times published an article called "Africa's fabric is Dutch". And although there is currently an intense relationship between African consumers and traders, the story of African textiles goes well beyond Vlisco's double-sided, wax-printed cotton fabric. This fantastic short article made me realize that the image of the "naked African" is one too common, ...
Here be Dragons

Here be Dragons

You have probably heard the expression, and most likely associate it with images of old maps covered in drawings of sea serpents and other mythological creatures. But what are exactly those creatures living on the margins, and how did they get there? Pack your bags and jump on board. But aware, though, for Here be Dragons. Despite its popularity, there ...
Islamic art and the patterns of the infinite

Islamic art and the patterns of the infinite

It's difficult, if not impossible, to determine what exactly encompasses Islamic art. The term is not specific to a religion, place, time or even a field, and instead spans over 1400 years and receives influences from Roman, early Christian, Byzantine and even Chinese art. Although some think Islamic art is a false concept, the similarities between pieces of the Islamic world ...
Medieval menagerie: the battle between knight and snail

Medieval menagerie: the battle between knight and snail

In a lot of medieval manuscripts, there are depictions of knights fighting snails. No one seems to know why this is. There are some theories, but so far nothing really conclusive. It might look like some sort of insider thing, maybe among scribes or illuminators. I love that sort of thing: mysteries in plain sight. Delightful ...
Illuminating letter D

Illuminating letter D

As mentioned in a previous post, I have dragged out some old tools and materials and started gilding again. In my previous life as a bookbinder, I bought a very old gilder's cushion that actually sits on top of a drawer. I have not seen this anywhere else; it seems a well spent USD30. Supposedly, ...
Voynich manuscript – secret knowledge or brilliant hoax?

Voynich manuscript – secret knowledge or brilliant hoax?

Since we are on a roll with old books and manuscripts, I give you the  240-page Voynich manuscript. It is an unsolved enigma: a manuscript found in Italy; the paper has been dated to between 1404-1438. It contains text in an unknown script, unknown language, and illustrations of non-existing plants, constellations and humans apparently doing inexplicable ...
1854: geographical distribution of indigenous vegetations

David Rumsey collection: mapping history I

David Rumsey's gigantic collection of historical and modern maps, schematics, timelines, data visualisations, diagrams, history, time, sciences, religion is a never-ending source of wonder and inspirations. It is a bit of a trap, as I can spend days wandering around in the magical world of visualisations of history, science, culture, religion. Looking at the older ...
Wilton dipthych

The colour blue – the devil, the virgin and the red dyers’ bribes

Today, blue is probably the most popular colour around. We associate good things with it, it represents all sorts of positive things: air, sea, freshness, calm, and a few not so; feeling blue, blue monday. At least in this day and age, blue get a good deal of attention. But it was not always so. Prehistory ...
Albrecht Dürer

Bow to the masters: learning from Albrecht Dürer

No better way than to learn from the masters. These are freehand drawings after the work of Albrecht Dürer: Dürer had apparently never seen a rhinoceros, so the drawing is what he did after having the animal described ...
Maps: the time and space of the Hereford cloth of the world

Maps: the time and space of the Hereford cloth of the world

Maps: the time and space of the Hereford cloth of the world The Hereford Mappa Mundi is one of the oldest know, complex map of the world (Mappa = cloth Mundi = world). It dates from about 1285, and are found in the Hereford cathedral. It depicts 420 towns, 15 Biblical events, 33 animals and ...
Multivariable visualisation: tracing 40 generations

Multivariable visualisation: tracing 40 generations

A while ago, on a whim, i did some digging into my grandmothers family tree. I found more than I bargained for, as described in the post Noble genealogy. And I decided to make a family tree... A family tree of more then five generations soon gets complicated and it becomes impossible to keep track ...