Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I couldn't find a Latin word for "map"!

Next week, gentle readers, I will not be with you. I am going to the Continent for some time, so the next two blog entries will be written (no doubt with great humor) by the dependable Mr. Alan. In the meantime, I have been trying to get in some last-minute visits to Chicago's Festival of Maps, a really amazing citywide celebration of, well, maps. All of you should run -- not walk -- to the closest station on the Festival, for it is soon to close!

I mention this because it is from the Festival that I derived this week's Favorite:

One amazing map exhibit is at Hyde Park's own Oriental Institute: European Cartographers and the Ottoman World, 1500–1750 (click here for information). (I thought the exhibit was supposed to close on March 2, but the museum had a sign that said March 16, and the website reports it as both March 2 and March 16.) On display were, of course, many maps, as well as some truly fascinating observations about the development of mapmaking, and what historical maps indicate about the geographical and political consciousness of various eras. Also on display was a copy of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's letters from Turkey -- relevant as historical travel writing. The exhibit plaque quoted Lady Montagu (1689-1762) speaking so sarcastically of previous travel writers that I was intrigued. Who doesn't love sarcasm?

When I returned to the store, I couldn't help looking through this 1892 biography. Apparently Lady Montagu was quite a woman; two sentences found on the Internet demonstrate this admirably:

Constantinople was full of wonders which Lady Mary, unlike so many European wives, set out to explore and understand. She mastered the language, investigated mosques, and visited with the women of the harem, whom she came to admire.

And as this book notes, she wasn't only known as the "first Englishwoman to send back accounts of the mysterious and magnificent East", but "as the friend and then the enemy of Pope; as the courageous introducer of inoculation; as the strong-minded, independent, eccentric traveller. Alike to friends and enemies, she has ever stood out as a strong, original figure." I can't believe I've never heard of her before! And I can't tell you how tempted I am by this beautiful biography -- it's only $15.00. But I feel that I should seize the chance to tell you all about Lady Montagu, and since I'd like it if more people learned about her, I think I'll repress my acquisitive feelings and let a customer have this biography.

Also in a travel-relevant vein is this Affordable and Interesting tome:

The dust jacket tells us that,

The Royal Tour is a facsimile of an altogether unique, handwritten and illustrated account of the cruise of HMS Ophir in 1901, when the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George V and Queen Mary) toured almost the whole of the British Empire .... The whole trip took nearly nine months and was enormously popular with the countries visited. It was a time when the British Empire was immensely strong .... Harry Price wrote and illustrated his journal during the voyage itself, and produced a picture of the tour which has an immediate and spontaneous impact, far removed from the turgid official reports of the time.

To prove that this description is no exaggeration, I hereby present you with pictures of the facsimile's pages.


The whole book is like that! It's a steal at $12.50. Who doesn't love royalty?

I was attracted mainly by the cover of this week's Collector's Item:

"Hot Stuph"! Goodness! And a picture of a yellowjacket! What could be going on in this 1909 book? My interest only increased when Doug idly opened it to the front page and read aloud:

To the Misguided, Imbecile, Impotent and Senile Democratic Party and its Surviving Unfortunate Members -- Those Men who should Know Better and Act Better; Those Men who Have Opposed with Might and Main the Institutions Made Sacred by the Republican Party, this Volume is Respectfully and Reverently Dedicated, in the Sublime Hope that it may Cause Them to Live Anew; to Shed Their Slimy Skins; ... and that Finally, For their Soul's Salvation, they May Quit the Party of Intolerance and Bigotry and Get in the Procession of Intelligence and Progress ....

... et cetera. It seems that this is a compilation of editorial comments from the early years of the "Yellow Jacket", a North Carolina newspaper that began in 1895 and ran through the early 1950s. Clearly, the editor was a Republican of no little sarcasm (say it with me now: Who doesn't love sarcasm?), and the book is a great period piece -- demonstrating not only politics of the day, but popular Southern ideas and prejudices. Maybe I'll buy it (at $75.00) as a gift ... except that I'm not sure whether I would give it to a Democrat or a Republican friend. Which would be more entertained, I wonder?

Off I go to the Continent! I can't wait to see what Alan comes up with in my absence ... I'll doubtless check on the store blog from all the way across the pond. Don't forget the map festival, everyone, and I'm sure I'll talk all about European books when I return in two weeks.

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