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Publisher wins rights to Voynich manuscript, a book no one can read [Aug. 21st, 2016|02:45 pm]
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It’s one of the world’s most mysterious books, a centuries-old manuscript written in an unknown or coded language that no one has cracked.

Scholars have spent their lives puzzling over the Voynich manuscript, whose intriguing mix of elegant writing and drawings of strange plants and naked women has some believing it holds magical powers.

The weathered book is locked away in a vault at Yale university’s Beinecke library, emerging only occasionally.

The manuscript is named after antiquarian Wilfrid Voynich who bought it in about 1912 from a collection of books belonging to the Jesuits in Italy, and eventually propelled it into the public eye.

Theories abound about who wrote it and what it means.

For a long time, it was believed to be the work of 13th century English Franciscan friar Roger Bacon whose interest in alchemy and magic landed him in jail.

But that theory was discarded when the manuscript was carbon dated and found to have originated between 1404 and 1438.

Others point to a young Leonardo da Vinci, someone who wrote in code to escape the Inquisition, an elaborate joke or even an alien who left the book behind when leaving Earth.

The plants drawn have never been identified, the astronomical charts don’t reveal much. The women also offer few clues.

Scores have tried to decode the Voynich, including top cryptologists such as William Friedman who helped break Japan’s “Purple” cipher during the second world war.

The only person to have made any headway is Indiana Jones. The fictitious archeologist manages to crack it in a novel.

Fiction aside, the Beinecke library gets thousands of emails every month from people claiming to have decoded it, says Rene Zandbergen, a space engineer who runs a recognised blog on the manuscript, which he has consulted several times.

“More than 90% of all the access to their digital library is only for the Voynich manuscript,” he said.

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Hidden codex reveals secrets of life in Mexico before Spanish conquest [Aug. 21st, 2016|02:00 pm]
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Part of the front of Codex Selden, the manuscript that concealed the newly discovered images for almost 500 years. Photograph: Bodleian (larger image here)

One of the rarest manuscripts in the world has been revealed hidden beneath the pages of an equally rare but later Mexican codex, thanks to hi-tech imaging techniques.

The Codex Selden, a book of concertina-folded pages made out of a five-metre strip of deerhide, is one of a handful of illustrated books of history and mythology that survived wholesale destruction by Spanish conquerors and missionaries in the 16th century.

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Nothing would get in the way of victory for ancient Greek boxers, not even a nosebleed [Aug. 21st, 2016|01:53 pm]
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The killer flood made of molasses [Aug. 21st, 2016|01:48 pm]
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North End was going about their business as usual. Then, at 12:40pm, there was a sound like machine gun fire and a terrible wrenching groan. “The explosion came without the slightest warning,” the Boston Globe reported the next day. “Once the low, rumbling sound was heard no one had a chance to escape.” A wall of molasses reported to be 25-feet-high (7.5 metres) came heaving away from the collapsing tank.

The wave flattened buildings. It picked people up and slammed into the elevated rail tracks nearby with such force that the metal crumpled. “The buildings seemed to cringe up as though they were made of pasteboard,” the Globe wrote. The curving sheets of steel that had made up the tank were borne along on the tsunami of viscous liquid sugar, crashing through everything that stood in their way.

“Anthony di Stasio, walking homeward with his sisters from the Michelangelo School, was picked up by the wave and carried, tumbling on its crest, almost as though he were surfing,” wrote Eric Postpischil in a 1983 Smithsonian feature on the disaster. “He heard his mother call his name and couldn’t answer, his throat was so clogged with the smothering goo. He passed out, then opened his eyes to find three of his sisters staring at him... They had found little Anthony stretched under a sheet on the ‘dead’ side of a body-littered floor.”

The aftermath was unspeakable. Waist-deep molasses settled and thickened over the neighborhood, and animals and people struggled to free themselves. When the bodies were recovered, the death count was 21, including Maria di Stasio, Anthony’s 10-year-old sister, and a 65-year-old housewife who had died as her house collapsed around her. More than 150 others were injured.

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Baby Stroller, 1880s England [Aug. 21st, 2016|12:55 am]
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sardonyx cameo (ca. 27 BCE) [Aug. 14th, 2016|08:51 pm]
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Octavian as Neptune riding on a hippocamp quadriga

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Girl in Red Dress with Cat and Dog (or the Mona Lisa of American folk art) [Aug. 11th, 2016|06:46 pm]
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Ammi Phillips (1788-1865)


There's a Twitter account called #Portrait Challenge where artists take the challenge to create their version of a portrait.  Here's my favorite.

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Stunning 4th century mosaic floor unearthed in Cyprus [Aug. 11th, 2016|01:27 pm]
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illustrates scenes of ancient Roman chariot races in the hippodrome

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Art Nouveau Style Dresser, 1897-1899 by Gustave Serrurier-Bovy [Aug. 10th, 2016|10:07 pm]
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Extraordinary Photos From A 1972 Rothschild Surrealist Dinner Party [Aug. 8th, 2016|11:14 pm]
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more pictures
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