1 Spaniard is worth 100 oranges

From SP 94/14 ff. 47-48, Cocks to Wilson as usual:

“the news is still confermed that the hollanders haue taken & Sunke all those Spanish gallions, & now is anexed that they haue Carid the Spaniards into Barberry, and Soulde them for Slaues, to say, on[e] Spaniard for 100 of orrenges & 4 or 5 for a bife / & 5 or 6 Spaniards in Exchange for on[e] ffleminge”

At this time (1607), not only were the English, Dutch, French and Spanish bickering with each other at sea, there were also pirates of all nations who would happily rob their own kinsmen. And this was a favourite sport: capture a ship and sail it to North Africa (“Barbary”), sell the captives for slaves, and take the loot home.

What I love about this above passage is the idea that the “Hollanders” have captured enough Spaniards to esteem them of little value – a man being worth only 100 oranges (!) sounds dirt cheap, as does 4 or 5 for “a beef”, or 5-6 in exchange for one Dutch or Flemish prisoner or slave kept in Barbary.

“French news”

Most of the time, Cocks (whose letters I’m working on) includes a disclaimer when he reports on news and rumours of, shall we say, less credibility:

“but I doe not beleeve that to be trew / for it is french news”
(SP 94/13 f.69r)

This made me think of national stereotypes and classic insults, but in fact it is not intended quite in that way, but rather:

“this is the comon report but most comonly french news proue false” (SP 94/12 f.89v)

..so instead of Cocks equating ‘French’ news as inherently false, he rather makes sure to underline that his sources come from France, and thus likely are street rumours, which more often than not prove not to be true, and therefore caveat lector:

“but this is french news / & therfore I refer both that and the rest vnto your better Consideration” (SP 94/13 f.19r)

But if he was perfectly aware that some of the news he relayed were ‘French’, why would he report them to England? In fact, he was directed to include such rumours in his reports. As Cocks himself acknowledged, his superiors at home were perfectly aware that:

“by the market fowlkes, a man may know how the market goeth”
(SP 94/14 f.126v)

Demonstration sign palaeography

I’ve been focussing on palaeography quite heavily recently, so naturally that was what attracted me in this image:
AlJazeera(AFP)
“Egyptian protesters gather for a demonstration at Tahrir Square in Cairo on the sixth day of angry revolt [AFP]”
(Taken from Al Jazeera, © AFP I guess..)

Anyway, so questions that interest me are things like “what bits do you need to make a letter/character?”, and “how can you tell a character is a certain character?”, and “what are characteristic (heh) features of characters?”.

In this light, it is interesting to see things like the banner in the above image. Features of interest:
– double “t” realized as majuscule letters, and ligatured
– “th” also ligatured, with the cross-stroke of “t” passing through the ascender of “h”
– “f” contains a loop – perhaps more usual in cursive scripts
– “g” raised above the line (descender and all) so that it is as high as letters with ascenders

Btw I do not intend this to be a comment on, say, the writing skill of those who native tongue is written in something else than the Roman alphabet (and in any case it is the native writers who do the oddest things – although I’ll have to come back to odd palaeographical details some other time). This post was obviously influenced by the ongoing events in Egypt, and is meant, in part, as a sign of solidarity. So glad to see very little violence and bloodshed. There’s too much of that in the world as is.

pig calligraphy

Not depicting pigs, I should say. Look at this example from a calligraphy manual from 1597:

pig-script

Looks like gibberish or code, but then your eye gets accustomed to the nudge in the middle of each letter, and it becomes readable. Voila, ig-pay alligraphy-cay.

(The above image was copied from the Digital Scriptorium of Columbia University Libraries / UC Berkeley (Google them. It’s an awesome site.) and is © Columbia University. I shouldn’t be using it like this, but look at it. Just look at it.)

Rant about code (“MS Office uses XML”)

The new .docx etc formats of the newer versions of Microsoft Office are done in XML. Hence the -x in the extension. The problem with this, however, is something we all know: all MS programs are bloated pieces of shit. Those of you who occasionally fiddle with HTML will probably have experimented with the oh-this-is-convenient “save as HTML” function in Word, only to look at the resulting code in stunned admiration of the amount of resulting crap MS has managed to program Office to include.

This is a different version of the same story (ie. a rant):

When I transcribe documents, I do this using plain text editors, and then save the resulting transcriptions as rtfs (ie. “rich text format”, plain text + moderate formatting). Mostly, I use the TextEdit program that comes in macs; occasionally I have used MS Word and saved as rtfs. The results look alike, but are different underneath the hood – and the fact that gives this away is the size of the text file, as the same document can be either 4KB or 49KB, depending on whether I’ve done it in TextEdit or MS Word.

Right, so here’s a clip of the text document in question – as you can see, there is very little formatting to deal with:

Looking at the code of this rtf file (I use a nifty little code editor called Smultron 😀 ), you can see that there’s not much code in there – as it should be:

But when I save it as rtf in MS Word, the difference is obvious and pronounced. This is the beginning of the resulting document viewed in Smultron:

..and this is the section of the text corresponding to those in images 1 and 2 above.

Check out and compare the stats at the bottom of images 2 and 4. Clearly MS Word is insane. The rtf saved from Word is twelve times the size it need be, and fifteen times the length in characters. The amount of code in the sane version is about 1,000 characters: in the MS Word version, it’s about 44,000 characters. Fourty-four thousand characters!!

So what’s my point? I guess this: Know Your Tools. At the very least, learn their failings, weaknesses and limitations.

NaTheWriMo Day 30 and then some

I meant to post this before Christmas – got derailed for a couple of weeks after my last post (did finish revising the article!), but then got in a week’s worth of NaTheWriMoing before Christmas, so let’s pretend I wrote this wrap-up message then.

Right. How did it go; how did I do? Let’s look at the figures.

NaTheWriMo November 2010
Day: 30
Word count: 4,200
Transcription word count: 45,850
Blog entries: 15

Plusses and minuses:

+ achieved 50k words!
– only 10% of it for thesis chapters

+ produced text nigh daily
– didn’t produce text daily

+ even this silly self-imposed deadline helped

I’d say that overall this was a positive experience, and I do intend to revisit it next year, probably in February.

Right, in the meanwhile, the year will change, and resolutions need be made. Maybe the odd blog post too, but we shall see..

NaTheWriMo Day 24: Wrong month

This is really the wrong month for me to be doing a NaTheWriMo. What I’m doing atm is fiddling around with the specs of my edition – this includes lots of thinking about little things, namely how to represent manuscript feature X in my finished digital edition, and thus it involves less of the Writing Out Stuff At Length. But never mind, I’ll wrap it up having done more than nil, and that’s something. I hope to finish editorial fiddling about – as well as the edition itself (for the most part) (inshallah) – by the end of the year, so I think I’ll come back to having a NaTheWriMo in January.

..actually, the last couple days have been spent in going over my latest article. I do hate revision so. It’s a good article, but I’ve got A Problem which needs Solving, and it’s bloody hard to do without a) breaking the flow, b) seriously increasing the word count, or c) spending several days on it. Bah. I think I’ll ditch it for now and return to it come next month.


NaTheWriMo November 2010
Day: 24
Word count: 4,135
Transcription word count: 26,000
Blog entries: 14

NaTheWriMo Day 16

Not all bad: my word tally remains painfully low, but then I was tweaking code all evening, and that went quite well, I think. TEI XML is a bugger to be sure, but on the other hand when you have a set of restrictions it is comfortably easy going – unlike writing, where the blank page can take you anywhere..

Haven’t really played around with code much at all over the last 18 months or so, except for the occasional html or wiki document, and I’d forgotten that I quite enjoy it. (Pays to be geeky and obsessive, huh.) This is a good thing, since I have another 120+ documents to encode and correct and proofread and debug and proofread and tweak – I’m sure I’ll be sick of it by next summer. But for now, it’s going ok.


NaTheWriMo November 2010
Day: 16
Word count: 3,485
Transcription word count: 20,400
Blog entries: 12

NaTheWriMo Day 15: Pep talk needed

This is Neil’s pep talk to NaNoWriMoists. He’s right, of course. A journey of 50,000 words may start with a small step, but the point is that every step along the way is a small one: one little word at a time. Which is a relief of sorts.

My word count, while quite a lot better than 0, is not anything to break out the champagne for, alas. But one word at a time does it.

So: focus. Breathe. Head down; type, type type. Blink. Take a walk. Stretch. Start typing again to get that thought down before it’s gone. Type, type, type.

The following image seems appropriate (I wish I could remember where I found this, years back, so I could give the creator due credit):

working for lawyers


NaTheWriMo November 2010
Day: 15
Word count: 2,775
Transcription word count: 20,400
Blog entries: 11