The Franks Casket is an exceptionally curious object. Made probably in Northumbria in the 8th century, it offers an eclectic collection of images: The front (shown above) features both the Adoration of the Magi and that unpleasantly weird figure from Norse-Germanic legend, Wayland the Smith, and elsewhere presents scenes from Roman history. The text is sometimes in Old English and sometimes in Latin and sometimes runic. It’s nuts.
Here, have some more medieval – a glorious silver pendant cross, with chain:
From the Galloway Hoard, about which Tom Shippey writes wonderfully here.
I may have shared this before, but it’s good enough to see again: a meticulously accurate re-enactment of William Blake’s printing process.
Many decades ago I came to love Ry Cooder’s covers of hymns and Gospel songs that had been arranged for guitar by the wonderfully eccentric Bahamian musician Joseph Spence. Now some long-lost recordings by Spence have been rediscovered.
I have a special secret love for the writings of that great brilliant oddball of English literature, Sir Thomas Browne. My favorite among his books is Hydriotaphia, or Urn Burial (1658), which begins with the discovery of some burial urns near Browne’s home in Norfolk, and gradually makes its way to a contemplation of mortality, and our vain attempts to ensure that the world remember us:
Oblivion is not to be hired. The greater part must be content to be as though they had not been, to be found in the register of God, not in the record of man. Twenty-seven names make up the first story and the recorded names ever since contain not one living century. The number of the dead long exceedeth all that shall live. The night of time far surpasseth the day, and who knows when was the equinox? Every hour adds unto that current arithmetick, which scarce stands one moment. And since death must be the Lucina of life, and even Pagans could doubt, whether thus to live were to die; since our longest sun sets at right descensions, and makes but winter arches, and therefore it cannot be long before we lie down in darkness, and have our light in ashes; since the brother of death daily haunts us with dying mementoes, and time that grows old in itself, bids us hope no long duration; – diuturnity is a dream and folly of expectation.
That passage never fails to give me a chill.
Browne was an inveterate coiner of words. Here are a few words he introduced into the English language: electricity, medical, indigenous, ferocious, migrant, coma, anomalous, prairie, ascetic, carnivorous, ambidextrous.