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GiottoCircle

In a story that always strikes me as apocryphal the Pope sends a messenger to Florence to ask Giotto for a sample of his work. Giotto takes a brush, draws a circle in red paint so perfectly it could only have be done with a compass, hands it to the messenger, and the rest is history — or fiction. It's a nice story, published in 1550 by Vasari in his Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects. It has been endlessly repeated.

Giotto lived in the late 14th, early 15th centuries, so Vasari wrote from a distance of, give or take, one hundred fifty years. The red paint was a nice touch. What it means in this context is anyone's guess, but the circle is obvious. Circles symbolize perfection. No one, as the saying goes, has ever seen a perfect circle, or a perfectly straight line, yet everyone knows what they are. We've all tried to draw freehand circles at one time or another, so we all know how far we fall from perfection. Circles, like ourselves, are imperfect things in an imperfect world. Giotto's circle was and remains perfect because it was born and must live only in our imagination.
 
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We should remember, especially today, the day of his death, that Alexander Haig, Jr. was in charge, if only briefly, the day President Reagan was shot. He was much lampooned for his statements to the press that fateful day. He got things wrong according to the Presidential Succession Act of 1947. As Secretary of State, he was not next in line to be sworn in as President. But that was never the issue. The Vice President was in transit. Haig was next in line to take charge of the White House Situation Room. The country was in the midst of an unknown, potentially disastrous situation. The President had been shot. As he took charge, he became de facto President of the United States. He wielded the entire might and power of the United States Military. He took charge under standing directives, not under his own initiative. It was not the moment to explain how government really works. A few reporters understood. By the end of the day they were effectively drowned out. If a response was necessary, an immediate response, he was there to make that decision. He put potential enemies of the United States on notice that the Ship of State had a Captain. Our leadership was seamless.

When the Vice President arrived, he stepped down. The shooting, as everyone knows, was a random act. Bush went on to become President. Haig was eventually dismissed. He showed his military mettle when he took charge. A lesser man might have pondered the gravity of the situation. He might have called around for advice, formed an ad hoc committee, consulted with his legal advisors. He might have done a hundred things to avoid the inevitable. If the shooting of the President had been the first phase of a coordinated attack, and there was no reason to assume it was not, Alexander Haig, Jr. today would be considered a hero. Perhaps we should try to remember him as he was.
 
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The Wheel of Fortune was a common sight in the Middle Ages. It was depicted on the walls of churches and versions of it can be found in countless manuscripts. Its popularity was a byproduct of the immense popularity of The Consolation of Philosophy, the 6th century work of Boethius. It was written, so they say, while he awaited execution. In chapter 2 of H.R. James 1897 translation, available at Project Gutenberg, Fortune says, "This is my art, this the game I never cease to play. I turn the wheel that spins. I delight to see the high come down and the low ascend." The chapter is remarkably brief — excepting the short poem which accompanies it, it consists of a single paragraph. It leaves a great deal to the imagination. A description of the blind workings of Fate in an age that was supremely unfair obviously touched a nerve.

V-S WheelToday, the Wheel of Fortune seems primarily connected to a lowbrow television program, more popular, I imagine, even on a per capita basis, than The Consolation of Philosophy. But, it is also known, thanks to the New Age Movement and, to a lesser extent, T.S. Eliot, as a Tarot card. Besides that, it persists as an actual gambling game. At carnivals, we are invited to Spin the wheel and win a prize. Roulette is obviously based on it. While it may seem odd that something on the walls of churches is also closely connected with gambling and fortunetelling, we should remember that the wheel and its association with Fate greatly precedes Christianity. The Dharma Wheel, the well-known symbol of Buddhism, is one example, Neolithic stone circles are undoubtedly another.

I scanned this reduced copy of the Wheel from Michael Dummett's beautiful book The Visconti-Sforza Tarot Cards, George Braziller, Inc. (New York, 1986). The original card is in the Pierpont Morgan Library. The deck of 72 cards was hand painted with gilt backgrounds in about 1450. Obviously, this graphic does not do it justice.

Of this card, Gertrude Moakley, in The Tarot Cards Painted by Bonifacio Bembo, New York Public Library (1966) said,
Fortune is shown here in her most common form, with the revolving wheel and four human figures. According to a medieval epigram, the one on the way up is growing a pair of ass ears, and is saying "Regnabo" (I shall reign). The one on top has full-grown ass ears, holds the rod of a ruler, and is saying "Regno" (I reign). The figure on the way down has lost his ears, but acquired a tail. He is saying "Regnavi" (I reigned). The lowliest of the group, the man at the bottom, is the only fully human figure of the four. His words are "Sum sine regno" (I am without reign). Fortune herself has a pair of golden wings, and that expression of blissful unawareness of which Dante writes in his description of her:
   But she is blissful and she does not hear;
     She, with the other primal creatures, gay
     Tastes her own blessedness, and turns her sphere.
Dummet, who tends toward the literal, adds:
The figures on the left and at the top have asses' ears, to show the folly of human ambition, and that on the right has a tail, perhaps to show his degradation. This led, in the Tarot de Marseille, to their replacement by various beasts. This was purely a carmaker's misunderstanding of the symbolism: the figures are all human.
LaRueda2 To assume that the symbolism in the Marseille deck is the result of error, since he fails to understand it, seems a bit unimaginative. This rather odd example of the Marseille card is from the so-called Spanish Tarot, a deck based on a 1736 Italian version of a French original, or perhaps itself only a copy. It was produced by Heraclio Fournier of Vitoria, España. [A Christmas present from Amie a few years ago.] It should give some indication of what Dummett meant.

It is difficult to see the ears in the Visconti-Sforza card — they are worked into the card itself rather than painted — but perhaps you can make out one ear rising from the figure in profile on the left. The ears of the reigning king are much easier to see. The speech scrolls (called banderoles ) are also worked into the card. They contain, as already mentioned, Regnabo, Regno, Regnavi, and Sum sine regno. Even in Dummett's wonderful copy they are difficult to read.

Moakley does not say which medieval epigram is responsible for the asses' ears, and for good reason. It is much more probable that they are based on Greek Mythology. Paul Huston, in The Devil's Picturebook, G.P. Putnams' Sons (1971) credits them to the story of Midas and the musical contest between Apollo and Pan. It ties in nicely with the symbolism I will discuss further on. Midas awarded the victory to Pan, whose music was obviously inferior. Apollo was so incensed by this that he gave Midas asses' ears. Midas, of course, is the king who acquires the golden touch, much to his regret. Pan and Apollo are symbolic opposites. Apollo represents the light of the sun and, therefore, the vertical, the spiritual, the possibility of enlightenment. Pan represents the horizontal, the material, the great ex PAN se of the physical world. So, his golden touch with its disastrous consequences together with his decision to support Pan over Appolo represents, symbolically, a turning away from the eternal spiritual to embrace the mundane material. Of course, there are many other ways to express this. In The Myths of Greece & Rome: Their Stories, Signification and Origin, George G. Harrap & Company (London, 1912) H.A. Guerber quotes Swift as saying,
The god of wit, to show his grudge
Clapt asses' ears upon the judge;
A goodly pair, erect and wide,
Which he could neither gild nor hide.
[This book was a present from my employer twenty-some years ago.] But, there is no mention of a tail. Nor does the figure on the bottom have ears or tail.

As for the ears, I do not doubt their association with Greek Mythology — it seems rather obvious once you've been made aware of it — but I do think something more obvious is also at work. The ears protrude from the head, and from the ass end protrudes a tail. Coins are also symbols of Fate and Fortune. Like the wheel, they happen to be round. They also alternate. Heads I win, tails you lose. The painter worked a wealth of associations into this card. The coin required a tail. One association need not exclude another.

Disregarding Fortune, there are four figures associated with the Wheel. There are three in the Marseille card. In fact, there are endless variations on the Wheel involving the number of spokes, the number of people or animals, whether Fortune is present or not, whether the Wheel has a crank or not. Modern esoteric versions of the card present even more variables. Russian icons proceed from a strict canon. Much of the variation from one to the next has more to do with skill of execution than with choice of content. There is no canon associated with the Wheel of Fortune, there is only the brief reference in Boethius. Each artist is more or less on his own. What is difficult for those infected by Modern Art to understand is that each artist was on his own to present a range of symbols in the most economical, the most efficient way he could. Each artist told the same story large or small.

The Visconti-Sforza card is quite remarkable. It hints at a great many stories. The two figures on either side, except for the ears and tail, are almost identical. One faces up, the other down. They are in profile. The figure on top is seated on a throne and faces us directly. The figure on the bottom, dressed in white, advanced in age, faces ahead, but toward the ground. In fact, he does not cling to the wheel at all. If we consider this card carefully, we see that he actually supports the wheel. Of course, this could just be coincidence. It could be a way of emphasizing that he is on all fours — old men and babies are weak of limb. The old man without a reign is about to say, Regnabo. But there is more. The old man is dressed in white as if ready for burial. He looks toward his resting place.

If we translate this discussion into a larger context, the four seasons of the year, for example, the figure on top represents fruition and summer, the king on his thrown, and the figure opposite him, the one who has no reign, represents death and winter. His sepulcheral robe suggests a cold blanket of snow. Which leaves spring and fall, the equinoxes, the two points in the annual cycle where day and night are equal. These are pivot points in the year. Another way of imagining this is to place your fingers lightly on either side of a coin and with your thumb cause it carefully to spin — heads, tails, heads, tails. Summer alternates with winter by means of the horizontal axis of spring and fall. Notice that the figure on the left is in green — the color of springtime. The figure on the right is dressed in red — the color of dying leaves.

In an earlier post, Hain * 6867, Fortuna turns the Wheel of the Planets — intermediaries of Fate. Here she turns the Wheel of the Seasons, the great Wheel of the Year. There are four seasons and eight spokes, six of them visible. There are three living seasons and one that is death. It can also be divided into thirds, as it seems to be in the Marseille card — more clearly elsewhere. Or in half — light/dark, up/down, before/after. With or without ears. In fact, the year of twelve months does all these things at once.

WorldThe life of one man is like the life of the earth. In an even earlier post, What On Earth, I demonstrated how from the symbol for Earth, a circle with a cross, the symbols for the planets are derived. Jesus, who dies on the cross, has this to say about death. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." [King James Version] Death is the basis of the system. If we hoard grains of wheat, as Midas hoarded material wealth, eventually we have nothing. Next He says, "He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal." Die to the world as the corn of wheat dies and we have everything. At least the wheel continues to turn.

The second incarnation of Vishnu, following Matsya, the Fish, is Kurma, the Turtle. With his back he supports the great wheel of the earth. By now, that should be a familiar image. He dove into the depths of the ocean to give support, to raise the earth from the churning ocean. One of the divisions of the Wheel is water below, heaven or air above. It is the basis for baptism.

These stories weren't thrown together for Sunday School. They have been with us since the dawn of time. They are everywhere and in everything. They exist in the spectacle of the heavens, in the great motions of the earth, inside each and every one of us. Even on pasteboard playing cards.
 
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Anne Karpf's opinion piece in the Independent this Sunday, Anti-semitism is at the limits of irony, introduced me to an entirely unexpected, deeply insidious form of anti-Semitism where saying good things about Jews demeans them.
If anti-Semitism of this kind [the classical all Jews are rich, the Jews killed Jesus] seems to have disappeared altogether, we live in postmodern times where some of what looks like anti-Semitism isn't, but, conversely, some of what doesn't look like anti-Semitism in fact is. Consider the "philo-Semitism", for instance, of Michael Gove and Julie Burchill ("the Jews are my favourites"; "Jews do things so well"). Burchill's philo-Semitism is a form of anti-Semitism, I'd suggest, because it bunches all Jews together, as though we were a single, uniform entity. The idea that all Jews are wonderful is little different from all Jews being hateful: in both cases Jews are stripped of individual characteristics, and are nothing except Jewish — a view to which most racists happily subscribe. If Burchill, as is rumoured, converts to Judaism, she'll discover that some Jews are nice and others not — rather like the rest of the human race.
This is but one astonishing paragraph from a mid-sized commentary, yet it leaves us with much to contemplate. Michael Gove, by the way, is an MP, sometime journalist, currently Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families. Julie Burchill is a notorious journalist/novelist. I say notorious because she is said to write in the Internet version of all caps. Neither of them, obviously, is Jewish, both of them hold Jews in high regard. This, of course, is how anti-Semitism works.

Saying one likes Jews is bad because it bunches them together. It omits to mention that there are probably Jews one does not like. At least, it omits the possibility that there could be some as yet unknown Jews one would not like if given the chance. In some circles this is called the inability to accept a compliment. I believe it's a sign of deep-seated insecurity. Worst of all, "it strips Jews of individual characteristics" and suggests they are "nothing except Jewish."

Saying one likes Jews…

To me, this raises a number of questions. If it's unacceptable to refer to Jews as being Jewish — presumably, that's what lumps them together — for fear of reducing them to being nothing more than members of a group, do Jews themselves claim to be Jewish, and if so, on what grounds? I'm not attaching myself to any historical questions here, I'm just asking. Is there a group to which Jews belong? If it was the goal of Jews to shake off their Jewish identity, to ask with Shakespeare's Jew, "If you prick us, do we not bleed?" emphasizing their mere humanity, then they would surely be justified in considering the words "Jew" and "Jewish" in and of themselves to be slurs. If, on the other hand, Jews do belong to a group, and if to their own satisfaction they are Jewish, if they do not wish to entirely assimilate into the quasi-Christian mainstream, warts and all, but wish rather to maintain their distinct but unacknowledgeable identity, then we're caught in a paradox. Jews are and, at the same time, are not Jewish.

At this point I would very much like to say that I like Jews and always have. My first serious girlfriend was Jewish. Leonard Bernstein was Jewish. Leon Uris was Jewish. My best friend by far in high school was Jewish. My debate partner was Jewish. Gershom Scholem was Jewish. Henry Miller wanted to be Jewish. But the thrust of Karpf's argument insists that to say I like Jews is to secretly communicate that I hate them.

I remember only one Jew in elementary school. His name was David. He was frail, olive complected and wore a gold chain with a Star of David around his neck. I don't remember the names of all the children in elementary school, but I do remember his because it struck me as ironic, yes, even at that young age, that the name of the star, which we learned in some lesson or other, was also his name. So, there were three things that made us distinctly different. I was freckle-faced and therefore pale, chubby beyond control and never once thought to wear a gold chain around my neck. Anyway, even if I'd worn such a chain, I had nothing to advertise. There was also a fourth and more subtle difference related to this last fact. I could understand not being a Christian — almost everyone I knew wasn't one — David wasn't one either, which made him in that respect almost like everyone else. The difference was that David, in addition to not being a Christian, was in fact something else. That seemed very odd to me at the time.

Perhaps I'm missing the seriousness of this problem, but I'd like to conduct an experiment. What would happen if I said I like the English? What if I said, the English like fish 'n' chips, they're friendly, talkative, polite? Have I offended anyone? Have I revealed a subtle dislike, even hatred for the English? Obviously, I've overlooked the Smith lady who doesn't like fish or foreigners and doesn't mind saying so. But we go with that, don't we? If I say I like the English, we understand that I haven't said something perfectly worked out. It's not an absolute. It's a generality. The fact that we make general statements does not mean that our intent is to cover things up, just to cover as much ground as possible in the fewest number of words. The English are not "a single, uniform entity." I have not "stripped" anyone of his "individual characteristics." I have merely attempted a generality that any Englishman worth his salt in a pub fight could thoroughly disprove.

The truly insidious thing about this paragraph is the following. "If Burchill, as is rumoured, converts to Judaism, she'll discover that some Jews are nice and others not — rather like the rest of the human race."

Must she really convert to Judaism in order to see that there are nice Jews and not so nice? Can Jews only be judged by other Jews? This is the troublesome heart of the matter. This is the goal of Karpf's tortured logic. If only Jews can judge the nature and behavior of Jews, then only Jews can rightfully speak about Jews. Non-Jews can speak neither for nor against. It's a nice trick if you can manage it. It places Jews entirely above criticism. It damns all who speak one way or the other about them. It allows Jews to be just like everyone else, which seems reasonable, and yet profoundly special. I'd like that for myself sometimes.

I'm going to go out on a limb tonight. I'm going to say that I agree completely with Gove and Burchill where they indicate a liking for Jews. It's probable that I disagree with them on most other things. In deference to Anne Karpf, whose words prompted this post, I will also say there are some Jews I don't like. For example, those whose goal it is to limit my freedom of speech.
 
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Rahm Emanuel's remark this week about certain congressional Democrats has left me wondering. Yes, I'm a bit slow on the uptake. It's the weekend and this is officially old news, but it's increasingly difficult to tell if the news out of Washington is real or imaginary. Does it really warrant a click? What moron Republican could possibly take offense at calling a bunch of Democrats retarded? Had he referred to them as intellectually challenged or mentally disabled, would these same Republicans be equally incensed that he had likened the retarded to politicians? Can't we just call each othere liars like we used to and be done with it?
 
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Innes Wheel

I plan to say much more about this woodcut in the future. For the time being, it's my excuse for talking about computers, the Internet and the spirit of detective work.

I originally found these characters clinging to a wheel in Horoscopes, by Brian Innes. It was published by Macdonald & Co (Publishers) Ltd. in 1977. I found an omnibus edition containing Horoscopes and three other titles at Crown Books in 1989. It sold for $9.99. Crown Books wasn't full-service, but it was always fun to visit. Their attitude about ordering books was that since they already carried thousands of titles, more than anyone could read, you should be able to find something. Cervantes, after all, read scraps of paper from the ground. At least he says he did. I remember the day we walked through an almost empty Crown Books in Santa Barbara. We stopped at Pete's on the other side of the parking lot for coffee. They pulled the plug a few days later. It's a long story — and I'm going to skip almost all of it — but in 1989 when people visited I had to hide Fate and Fortune, the rather optimistic title of the book with Horoscopes in it. The boys and I lived in a house on my uncle's property in the hills east of Irvine. He was a Baptist by temperament, though he attended a Community Church, a good man who attracted the sorts of people who sometimes prophesied hell and damnation if I did not stop reading things besides the Bible. These were good people too, oftentimes unable to read the Bible on their own. It sometimes worked if I handed them a copy and ask them to show me where it says how to fix carburetors. The point being that the Bible is really good at what it does, but it's not all-inclusive. Of course, sometimes they'd say if I prayed more maybe the carburetor wouldn't need fixin. So, it was always easier if Astrology, Palm Reading, Tarot, and I-Ching (the four topics in the book) stayed well out of sight.

The illustration measures just under 6¾ by 9¼ inches and takes up an entire page. It's not exactly the frontispiece, it precedes the first page of text rather than the title page. Neither Innes nor his editor provides much information about it. The caption reads,
Fortune, in the guise of an angel in this fifteenth-century German woodcut, turns her wheel to exert the influence of the individual planets. From Mars in the meridian, the planets symbolised here are (in clockwise order) Jupiter, Saturn, Moon, Mercury, Venus and Sun[.]
The idea being that Fortune moves the planets and the planets move us, which is certainly poetic, but even a cursory glance at the print tells us this isn't quite what's going on. I'll save that discussion for another time.

Without realizing it, I acquired a second version of the woodcut as part of Robert Eisler's The Royal Art of Astrology. I tucked it under my arm immediately because it seemed scholarly — unusual for the Astrology section. It was published by Herbert Joseph Limited (London) in 1946. According to the flyleaf, I paid almost $15.00 for it at The Bookman in Orange. Through the years I bought and deposited a mountain of books there. They gave me the teacher's discount, knowing full well I was not a teacher. It gave me a start late one night when I turned to page 32 and recognized this inky version of the wheel.

Eisler Wheel

This time it measures just over 3 by 4¼ inches. In an appendix, Eisler provides the following.
Fig. 3, p. 32. THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE, a lottery wheel circulating the seven planets around the earth in the center by means of a system of hoops combined into a sort of armillary sphere, turned round by the goddess of Fortune.

Frontispiece to Wenceslas of Budovice  Judicium Lipsiense for the year of 1490, maily for use in Prag, printed without date or indication of place by Creussner, Nürenberg (Hain-6867). The nearest modern analogy to the world-model of Anaximander of Milet.
Since before Christmas I've been half-heartedly plugging things into Google hoping for a miracle or at least a fortuitous coincidence. I learned, or at least I convinced myself, that Václav, as in Václav Havel, is the modern equivalent of Wenceslas. I also learned that the things relating to Wenceslas are more numerous and more painfully uninteresting even than the lyrics to his song. I'll never forget Christmas Eve one year when I attended late night service mostly out of politeness and a temporary pastor — no pastor at all in truth — handed everyone a candle about twice the size of a birthday cake candle for what he brightly referred to as a Passing of the Light ceremony. As he lit the first candle the lights were dimmed. The church flickered one by one until it finally glowed. It was his one chance for greatness. He used that chance to say, "Let's sing "Good King Wenceslas." He must have read that "Jingle Bells" and songs about Santa Claus aren't Christian. Those are the ones everyone knows. The organist fumbled with sheet music. People clutched at hymnals. The candles began to drip. He called out, verse after dragging verse, "2nd verse…," "3rd verse…," until the organist, half-way through the 4th verse, stopped and yelled, "Final verse!" With only a few voices left, the church went completely dark.

I also discovered an interesting Astrological Clock in Prague a short distance from Wenceslas Square, which got my hopes up briefly. In the process I learned that Pivovar Budějovický Budvar is the largest brewery in the town of Ceske Budejovice (Budweis). In addition to producing a Budweiser of its own, it holds most of the European distribution rights for the red, white and blue American Budweiser. Clearly, my candle was guttering.

One depressingly isolated afternoon not long ago, I decided to use what I already had. I had two copies of the woodcut, a smattering of almost meaningless, even erroneous information, and a desire to know more. It occurred to me that although the two copies were significantly different in size and quality, I could always scan them and make them approximately the same size in PhotoShop. Why would I do that? Well… Because I could.

Innes/Eisler Wheel

The secret of good detective work — I'm making this up, of course — is to use what you have. Wait — to make good use of what you have. What I had was a large clean copy and a small second or third generation inky one. I was thinking in Xerox terms. Xerox and the 15th century aren't quite compatible. I put the good one on the bottom layer, the bad one on top, and then pinched and pulled until they were each the same size. To do this I made the top layer semi-transparent. What seemed at first like distant relatives now seemed like a case of inadequate reproduction. Almost every detail fell into place. The differences had nothing to do with generations or carving skills.

Doing this ten or fifteen years ago would have been prohibitively difficult. Shooting stats and transparencies and asking for the transparencies to be full and 60% and exactly the same size as the stat… With a cranky lab tech, even at bonus rates, such a project would have been problematic at best. All that and more now fits neatly on the corner of my desk.

What I discovered was the exact opposite of what I suspected. The poor Eisler copy is undoubtedly the older of the two. Engravings and woodcuts work differently. Engravings make tiny trenches, usually in metal plates, for ink to fill and then remain after the rest of the plate is wiped clean. Woodcuts remove everything where nothing should print. In actuality, woodcuts lower the surface of those areas. It's possible to add lines to an engraving after the plate's been used. It's possible to remove lines from a woodcut. But, without special glues and sealers, you can't do the reverse. Both Venus and the Moon have additional contour lines in the Eisler copy. Either the printer carefully removed those lines — only those lines — from his modern day printing plate or else the Innes copy is a later, or younger version. In all probability, at some point in the various 15th century print runs, the printer gouged out those contours because the wood was beginning to weaken and muddle the print. It's also possible, though seemingly improbable, owing to the quality of the final product, that the printer of the Eisler copy added them. I hope you're following this.

For my next act, I will try to explain why any of this makes the slightest bit of difference.

The thing about detective work, as I tried to explain, is that you go with what you've got until it no longer leads anywhere. I was terribly impressed with the conclusions I reached, utterly amazed that I had managed such complicated feats, all without leaving my desk, and I was also, once again, at a completely dead end. What was it that Edison said shortly before he discovered the light bulb? Something about I have discovered a thousand ways it can not be done? Yes, but that's only fun to recount after the great discovery. We scold the town drunk for screwing up repeatedly, but we praise Edison for his perseverance.

Last week I was thinking about miracles. (Remember, I was plugging things into Google hoping for a miracle.) It seemed like nothing amazing or noteworthy had happened for a long time. My life is sometimes brimming with miracles. People who make too much of miracles fail to see that they are prods, things to attract attention. They are not meant to be worshiped or enshrined. Jesus turned water into wine, which is a great story with an interesting astro-symbolic sense to it, but what did he do next? After he got their attention, what did he do next? The answer is, everything came next. He wasn't a one hit wonder. Those who deny miracles tend to be somewhat smug or depressingly disconnected. They just aren't ready for them. But, praying for a miracle is something like asking to be reminded to pray.

Anyway, I was making toast. It was one of those round loaves where only two thirds of the bread fits into the toaster. I was near the end of the second cycle. It occurred to me, as it often does, that expecting answers to be handed to me is a bit like expecting maid service. We hold out hope, but we still end up doing laundry. If the answer was there, and I suddenly had an inkling that it was, then the miracle of finding it would be the act and not the expectation of it. I stood there for the longest time after the toast popped up thinking that the answer wasn't in Google per se, but in England. Both publishers were in London. They had no Google. They had London. I buttered the toast that had lost its warmth and sat down with a purpose at the computer. I typed in british library.

In two cups of tea and four pieces of toast I figured out from a note in a list of incunabula — the word "incunabula" is like incubate, it refers to the earliest printed books — that Hain (of "Hain-6867" above) refers to the late 19th century bibliographer who compiled lists and locations of early books. At the British Library, inside the Incunabula Short Title Catalog, I searched wenceslas 6867 and narrowed the results to Faber de Budweis, Wenceslaus. In the references I found:
Hain, Ludwig. Repertorium Bibliographicum in quo libri omnes ab arte typographica inventa usque ad annum MD. typis expressi ordine alphabetico vel simpliciter enumerantur vel adcuratius recensentur. 2 vols. Stuttgartiae, Lutetiae, 1826-38. 6867* ; Schreiber, Wilhelm Ludwig. Manuel de l'amateur de la gravure sur bois et sur métal au XVe siècle. Tom. 5: Un catalogue des incunables à figures imprimés en Allemagne, en Suisse, en Autriche-Hongrie et Scandinavie. 2 parts. Leipzig, 1910-11. 3944 ; Klebs, Arnold C. Incunabula scientifica et medica: short title list. Bruges, 1938. (Reprinted from Osiris, vol.IV.) 387.11 ; Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Inkunabelkatalog. Bd. I [etc]. Wiesbaden, 1988- [in progress]. F-14 ; Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke. Bd. I [etc.] Stuttgart, etc., 1968- [in progress]. (Vols. 1-7 reproduced with additions and corrections from the original edition (Leipzig, etc., 1925-38)). 9595
Did you catch it? "Hain […] 6867*". This is the cryptic reference in Eisler's notes. Wenceslas of Budovice, who has also been Wenceslas Budovicensis is now Wenceslaus Faber de Budweis, author of Prognosticon für Leipzig, 1490.

I can read the Latin that looks like French and the German that sounds like English. I won't pretend to understand all that I am now reporting. The full record for this book contains an ISTC Number — International Standard… somthingorother — if00005440. Googling that number I found my way to the BSB (Bayerische StaatsBibliothek) Münchener DigitalisierungsZentrum Digitale Bibliothek and a downloadable
BSB-Ink F-14GW 9595
Iudicium Lipsense
[Nürnberg] [ca. 1489/90]
4 Inc.s.a.408 c

frontispiece

It sits digitized on a server in Germany. It can also be found in the pages of a book printed five hundred years ago, bound in blue, marked (Hain*6867) on the flyleaf, stamped as belonging to the Bibliotheca Regia Monacensis, about which I know absolutely nothing.

Will miracles never cease?
 
bottom rounder