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Not much change

A Happy and Prosperous New Year to all of my readers!

At this time of year, it is traditional in the media to review the previous year and comment on what lies ahead in the new year.  However, not much has changed in my blog during 2017: I wrote and published 52 posts that attracted about 20,000 views through the WordPress site, which is pretty much the same as 2016.  Although, there was a growth in readers via LinkedIn, Tumblr and Twitter.  This is not enough traffic to achieve a place in the UK’s Top 50 Blogs according to Vuelio, but then neither the title nor the content of this blog is designed to attract the mass-markets to which most of these high-volume sites appeal.  Instead, I suspect that I am writing for a small bubble of like-minded people [see my post ‘You’re all weird‘ on February 8th, 2017]; nevertheless, it would be nice to feel that the bubble will continue to expand.  Maybe the small face-lift will help though the Latin verse below will likely not help!

It is tempting at this point to ramble on further about the lack of interest in scholarship in modern society; however, to do so would be to follow a tradition that is at least 800 years old.  In the thirteenth century manuscript, Carmina Burana there is a poem called ‘Florebat olim studium’.  Its first lines are

Florebat olim studium

nunc vertitude in tedium,

iam scire diu viguit,

sed ludere prevaluit.


These translate as ‘Scholarship once flourished, now it is turned into boredom; for a long time knowledge was esteemed, but now playing is preferred.’  This seems to have been echoed by generations of professors and, as my editor says, is part of the human condition.

I read about the Carmina Burana in a beautiful book: ‘Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts‘ by Christopher de Hamel who takes the reader on a series of visits to twelve of the most important medieval manuscripts starting with the sixth century Gospels of Saint Augustine in the library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and finishing with the sixteenth century Spinola Hours in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.  It is part history book tracing the advent of literacy in Western Europe from the sixth century, when only the clergy could read and write, through to start of printing when 30,000 titles were issued in the last fifty years of the fifteen century; and part travelogue as de Hamel describes his visits to the museums and libraries where the twelve manuscripts are preserved.  Book reviews are not a regular feature of this blog but this is a book worth reading that might not otherwise be on your list.

Image: from front cover of Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts by Christopher de Hamel showing detail from the Morgan Beatus M644, folio 252v © The Morgan Library & Museum/Art Resource, NY/Scala, Florence.


Reading offline

138-3816_IMGDavid Mikics, writing in the New York Times, reports recent research suggests that reading books is an important aspect of coming to know who we are.  It is a private experience that is best done without distractions, i.e. all of your attention capacity is employed on the book [see my post entitled ‘Silence is golden‘ on January 14th, 2014 for more on attention capacity].  Our brains can achieve a much deeper level of thought and engagement when they are focussed on a single task without distractions.  This just does not happen when reading on-line because there are too many distractions.  Some research has shown that office-workers are distracted every three minutes and that it takes about 20 minutes to achieve a high level of engagement in a task.  So it is easy to see the attraction for bosses of replacing white-collar workers by smart machines [see my post entitled ‘Smart Machines‘ on February 26th, 2014].

But David Mikics suggests that reading a novel is important for deeper reasons associated with learning lessons about humanity that are not available elsewhere.  Novels take us on a journey with another self and allow us to look into people’s inner lives.  None of this can be achieved reading short blogs or watching short videos on-line and is perhaps why reading a good novel on holiday is such a cathartic and popular activity.

But don’t stop reading my blog instead click the ‘follow’ button if you have not already and then you can be distracted every Wednesday!