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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Poodles, dodos and historiographers

It's been a while since my last Guardian piece, but here's one today, on armchairs, poodles, and military "strikes".

Also today, in the FT: my review of Simon Winder's Danubia, an entertaining history of Habsburg Central Europe, starring, among others, the weird and not-always-wonderful Rudolf II of Prague.  Together with the lions, tigers, dodos and other wild beasts in his castle, Rudolf kept a pet "historiographer": Joannes Sambucus (or János Zsámboky), of whom I am especially fond.  I tried to squeeze him into the review but soon realised that he wouldn't fit and that it was pure self-indulgence.

Sambucus was a great Hungarian manuscript collector and editor of classical texts, best remembered for his Emblemata (1564), an emblem book (and what a strange fashion that was).   I compiled a Sambucus bibliography for my librarianship dissertation years ago, an over-ambitious and quite pointless project for a single summer.  I could no doubt have carried on working on it for years, travelling over Europe and America, comparing editions down to their tiniest detail, and might still be at it today - but fortunately I had neither time nor money for the job. 

Sambucus himself spent all his money and time chasing manuscripts, buying them up, piling them up, poring over them.  He was one of the great Renaissance bibliomaniacs and humanists.  Towards the end of his life, he ran into debt, and had to sell his collection again. 

Here is a picture, taken by Michal Maňas, of the memorial on his house in Vienna.

1 comment:

poetiquejustis said...

The "useless" academic projects that we would like to see last forever are the ones that really matter.
Well done.