The Life of Edward the Confessor

February 17, 2013
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The Life of Edward the Confessor

The only known illustrated copy of the Life of St. Edward the Confessor (1003-05 – 1066), written in England c1230-1240, is held by Cambridge University. Considered a masterpiece of mid-13th-century English illumination, the text is a hagiography describing Edward’s life, visions and miracles, his patronage of Westminster Abbey, how his rule benefited the people of…

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John Dee’s Mirror

February 8, 2013
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John Dee’s Mirror

Made from obsidian and used by him for what he called “angelic communications”, John Dee’s mirror did no small amount of damage to the reputation of a man who, in his day, was celebrated across Europe for his scientific knowledge. Said to have been the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Prospero and JK Rowling’s Professor Dumbledore, English…

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The most expensive photos in the world…

January 29, 2013
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The most expensive photos in the world…

It’s amazing to think that one of the most expensive photographs ever sold should be of the inside of an ultra-cheapo 99c store, but life’s funny like that. Andreas Gursky’s “99 cent II Diptychon” sold for the not-insignificant sum of $3,346,456 at Sotheby’s in London back in February 2007. A second print sold for $2.5…

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The Voynich Manuscript

January 28, 2013
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The Voynich Manuscript

Since its re-discovery 1912, the early 15th century ‘Voynich Manuscript’ has defied the best efforts of cryptographers, linguists, anthropologists, mathematicians and code-breakers…Nobody knows what any of it means. Or even if it means anything at all. Filled with botanical, anatomical, scientific and astronomical illustrations – most of which have no known matches – the book…

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The world’s oldest pot plant

January 25, 2013
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The world’s oldest pot plant

When Francis Masson brought this giant cycad from South Africa to Kew Gardens in 1775, it didn’t get to shrivel up in a small pot on the windowsill next to the sink. On the contrary, when the world-famous gardens opened its Palm House in 1848, it was one of the first plants to be moved…

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First photograph of a human being c.1838

January 25, 2013
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First photograph of a human being c.1838

Boulevard du Temple was taken in Paris in 1838/1839 by Louis Daguerre, inventor of the daguerrotype process – the first commercially successful photographic process. The picture’s of a street scene, but the 10+ mins exposure time captured the man getting his boots polished in the bottom left of the shot – the only thing (other…

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Chaunacops colaratus

January 25, 2013
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Chaunacops colaratus

First described from a dead specimen in 1899, Chaunacops colaratus was not seen alive in its natural habitat until August 2002, when researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarian Research Institute caught it on video… A member of the angler fish family, the fish attracts prey using a mop-like lure (called an ‘esca’) dangling from its…

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The Mechanical Galleon

January 24, 2013
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The Mechanical Galleon

Dating from c1585, Hans Schlottheim’s mechanical galleon was a clock with a difference… Designed to ‘sail’ down a long banqueting table, it had model sailors hammering bells from the crow’s nest, a small organ for added musicality and, just in case it hadn’t caught your attention, a drum skin stretched across the base of the…

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The Manchester Moth

January 24, 2013
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One of only three known examples of a Manchester Moth

                  A scientific conundrum that survives to this day…

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