Saturday, January 31, 2015

Nine Men's and Thee Men's Morris

On how nine men's morris is played without dice

This nine men's morris is played in another way, without dice by skill. The players take all their pieces in their hands and they roll to determine who plays first. And he that is to play first has an advantage because in placing the pieces he always takes the first space he likes, the quicker to make a mill as we said and take one piece from his opponent each time or prepare how to trap him so that he does not have anywhere to go with any of his pieces.

And if perchance the first player should err in placing his pieces well, he is defeated because one piece remains to the other player and puts it wherever he can cause hindrance to the other and line up his pieces just as we said and thereby wins the game

And this game they call nine men's morris because the pieces with which it is played with are nine of each color. And this is the diagram of the millboard and of its pieces, and this is its explanation.

This is another alquerque of three

There is another alquerque game and they call it that of the three and they call it thus because it is played with six pieces, three of one color and three of another. In this one dice do not have a part and he who plays first wins if he should know how to play it well.

And the play of it is this: he who should more quickly place his pieces in a row wins.

And since the one who plays first should place his piece in the center of the millboard, and the other player will place his wherever he should wish.

And he who played first should place his second piece in such a manner that the other player is perforce to place his in a row he has placed. Then the first to play will have to play perforce lined up with those two enemy pieces and all his pieces will be placed. And if in this way he should have placed them so that wherever the other player puts his remaining piece he loses. And if the one how  (sic) plays first should not play it like this, the other will be able to tie the game or defeat him.

And because of the tie and the markings where the pieces are placed tables and chess have a part there, because of the pieces with which it is played that resemble its pawns. And this is the diagram of the board and of the pieces.

Musser Golladay, Sonja. 2007. Los libros de acedrex dados e tablas: historical, artistic and metaphysical dimensions of Alfonso X's Book of Games. Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA: UMI Dissertation Services, from ProQuest Co. 

Alphonso's alquerque of three differs from Three Men's Morris  in that in the latter game players may continue to move pieces after all have been played.

"This document combines Sonja Musser Golladay's translation of the original text and Charles Knutson's facsimile copies of the original images. I originally prepared it as a teaching document to help me write a class on medieval games, but I have now posted it online for any and all who are interested to peruse and study as they wish."

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Of evil orders or customs in our English Fence schools, & of the old or ancient teaching of weapons, & things very necessary to be continued for the avoiding of errors, and reviving and continuance of our ancient weapons, and most victorious fight again.

There is in my opinion in our fence schools an evil order or custom in these days used, the which, if it might stand with the liking of our Masters of Defence, I think it necessary to be left. For as long as it is used, it shall be hard to make a good scholar. That is this, at the single sword, sword and dagger, & sword and buckler, they forbid the thrust, & at the single rapier, and rapier & dagger, they forbid the blow. Either they are both together best, or the thrust altogether best, or the blow altogether best. If the thrust is best, why do we not use it at the single sword, sword & dagger, & sword & buckler? If the blow is best, why do we not use it at the single rapier, rapier & poniard? But knowing by the art of arms, that no fight is perfect without both blow and thrust, why do we not use and teach both blow and thrust?

But however this we daily see, that when two met in fight, whether they have skill or none, unless such as have tied themselves to that boyish, Italian, weak, imperfect fight, they both strike and thrust, and how shall he then do, that being much taught in school, that never learned to strike, nor how to defend a strong blow? And how shall he then do, that being brought up in a fencing school, that never learned to thrust with the single sword, sword and dagger, and sword and buckler, nor how at these weapons to break a thrust? Surely, I think a down right fellow, that never came in school, using such skill as nature yielded out of his courage, strength, and agility, with good downright blows and thrust among, as shall best frame in his hands, should put one of these imperfect scholars greatly to his shifts.

Besides, there are now in these days no grips, closes, wrestlings, striking with the hilts, daggers, or bucklers, used in fencing schools. Our plowmen will by nature will do these things with great strength & agility. But the schoolmen is altogether unacquainted with these things. He being fast tied to such school-play as he has learned, has lost thereby the benefit of nature, and the plowman is now by nature without art a far better man than he. Therefore in my opinion as long as we bar any manner of play in school, we shall hardly make a good scholar. There is no manner of teaching comparable to the old ancient teaching, that is, first their quarters, then their wards, blows, thrusts, and breaking of thrusts, then their closes and grips, striking with the hilts, daggers, bucklers, wrestlings, striking with the foot or knee in the cods, and all these are safely defended in learning perfectly of the grips(1). And this is the ancient teaching, and without this teaching, there shall never scholar be made able, do his uttermost, nor fight safe.

Again their swords in schools are too long by almost half a foot to uncross, without going back with the feet, within distance or perfectly to strike or thrust within the half or quarter sword. And in serving of the prince, when men do meet together in public fight, are utterly naught and unserviceable. The best length for perfect teaching of the true fight to be used and continued in fence schools, to accord with the true statures of all men, are these. The blade to be a yard and an inch for men of mean stature, and for men of tall statures, a yard and three or four inches, and no more(2). And I would have the rapier continued in schools, always ready for such as shall think themselves cunning, or shall have delight to play with that imperfect weapon. Provided always, that the schoolmaster or usher play with him with his short sword, plying him with all manner of fight according to the true art. This being continued the truth shall flourish, the lie shall be beaten down, and all nations not having the true science, shall come with all gladness to the valiant and most brave English masters of defence to learn the true fight for their defence.

Side notes:
1 In the wars there is no observation of Stocatas, Imbrocatas, times, nor answers.
2 Long weapons imperfect.

Paragraph breaks added.

Silver, George, and Cyril G. R. Matthey. 1898. The works of George Silver: comprising "Paradoxes of defence" [printed in 1599 and now reprinted] and "Bref instructions vpo my paradoxes of defence" [printed for the first time from the ms. in the British Museum]. London: G. Bell.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


Credo in Deum Patrem Omnipotentem
Creatorem coeli et terrae
Et in Jesum Christum Filium eius unicum, dominum Nostrum
Qui conceptus est de Spiritu Sancto
Natus ex Maria Virgine
Passus sub Pontio Pilato,
Crucifixus Mortuus, et sepultus
Descendit ad inferna
Tertia die resurrexit a mortuis
Ascendit ad coelos
Sedet ad dexteram Dei Patris omnipotentis
Inde venturur judicare
Vivos et mortuos
Credo in Spiritum Sanctum,
Sanctam Ecclesiam Catholicam,
Sanctorum communionem
Remissionem peccatorum
Carnis ressurectionem
Et vitam aeternam.

I beleve in God, Fader almyghty,
Makere of heven and erthe,
And in Ihesu Crist, his onely sone oure Lorde
That is concyved by the Holy Gost,
Born of the Mayden Marye
Suffred under Pounce Pylate,
Crucifyed, Ded, and beryed;
Descended to helle;
The thridde day he aros fro dethes
Styed [rose] up to hevene
Sitte on his Fader half [side]
Schal come to deme [judge] The quick and dede. I
 beleue in the Holy Gost,
Holy Chirche, That is alle that schulle be saved,
And in communion of hem,
Remissioun of synnes,
Risyng of flesch,
And everlastynge lyf.

Translation from Book to a Mother, ed. Adrian James McCarthy, Elizabethan and Renaissance Studies 92 (Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, 1981), 1.

Ave Maria

Ave Maria, gratia plena
Dominus tecum
Benedicta tu in mulieribus
Et benedictus fructus ventris tui.

Heil Marye, ful of grace
God is with the [thee]
Of alle wymmen thou art most blessed
And blessid be the fruyt of thi wombe, Ihesu.
So mote it be.

Translation from Book to a Mother, ed. Adrian James McCarthy, Elizabethan and Renaissance Studies 92 (Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, 1981), 1.

Pater Noster

Pater noster, qui es in caelis:
sanctificetur Nomen Tuum;
adveniat Regnum Tuum;
fiat voluntas Tua,
sicut in caelo, et in terra.
Panem nostrum cotidianum da nobis hodie;
et dimitte nobis debita nostra,
sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris;
et ne nos inducas in tentationem;
sed libera nos a Malo. Amen

Fader oure that art in hevene
halwed be thi name,
thi Kyngdom come to,
thi wille be doon
in erthe as in hevene,
oure eche daies bred gif us to day
and forgive us our dettes,
as we forgive to our detoures
and lede us nought into temptacion
bote delivere us from yvel, Amen.

English translation from MS. G. 24, ,of about AD. 1400, in St. John’s College, Cambridge:

The Month. 1882. London: Simpkin, Marshall, and Co. p.281

George Silver and John Smythe Did Not Like Rapiers at All

In his Paradoxes of Defence, George Silver wrote:
…when the battles are joined, and come to the charge, there is no room for them to draw their bird-spits, and when they have them, what can they do with them? Can they pierce his corselet with the point? Can they unlace his helmet, unbuckle his armour, hew asunder their pikes with a stocata, a riversa, a dritta, a stramason, or other such tempestuous terms? No, these toys are fit for children, not for men, for stragling boys of the camp, to murder poultry, not for men of honour to try battle with their foes.
Sir John Smythe, in his Certain Discourses Military of 1590, didn't care for them either:
 … our such men of war, contrary to the ancient order and use military, do nowadays prefer and allow that armed men pikers should rather wear rapiers of a yard and a quarter long the blades or more than strong, short, arming swords… a squadron of armed men in the field, being ready to encounter with another squadron, their enemies…being in their ranks so close one to another by flanks, cannot draw their swords if the blades of them be above the length of three quarters of a yard or little more. Besides that, swords being so long do work in a manner no effect, neither with blows nor thrusts, where the press is so great as in such actions it is. And rapier blades, being so narrow and of so small substance, and made of a very hard temper to fight in private frays, in lighting with any blow upon armour do presently break and so become unprofitable.
Of course, Smythe was something of a crank, an unreliable ranter overly quick to dismiss changes in military technology since the 15th c. It's just as well he couldn't post on the internet.

Say what you will, Mr. Silver had a gift for invective.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Shooting Speed of Longbow and Crossbow

This video suggests that with a belt hook, the disparity in shooting speed was not as great as commonly supposed: four shots in 30 seconds for the crossbow vs. nine for the longbow. Of course, a windlass crossbow would be much slower.

Leo "Tod" Todeschini was present at the shoot, and reports that the crossbow had a draw weight of 150 lbs, far too light for a war weapon. He reckons that a belt and claw can span a crossbow up to about 350 lbs in draw, at a rate of about six shots a minute. This agrees with the contemporary Florentine chronicler Villani's account of Crecy that the English shot three times in the time it took the Genoese crossbowmen to fire once.

Before about 1390,  minutes and seconds were things known only by the very learned. A first person portrayal of an English bowman from before then might  say " I can shoot six times in the time it takes to say the Lord's Prayer, three times the speed of a crossbowman spanning from the belt."

"But, if I shoot as fast as I can, I'll use a whole sheaf of 24 arrows before French men-at-arms on foot, starting 200 yards out, are still more than 60 yards out. And this is not to be thought on, since everyone knows that an archer does the greatest injury at close range.  So I will shoot more deliberately at long range, especially since there is much advantage to marking where your first shot falls before firing the second, which can scarcely be  done if you shoot when your first shot is still in the air."

An English bowman who shoots his arrows wisely will shoot his last arrow only a few seconds before he drops his bow and takes up another weapon.

In these videos Tod Todeschini shoots heavy crossbows spanned with a belt and pulley and a goat's foot lever, getting off about three and five shots a minute respectively.  I don't think he's trying to shoot as fast as he possibly can. The belt and pulley is, of course, somewhat more cumbersome than a simple belt hook, but allows a heavier draw.

Note Tod's superior biomechanics compare to the first video: he presses downward with one leg rather than lifting his entire body as he spans the bow. The downward leg press is often visible in medieval images of crossbowmen spanning from a belt.

In comments, Jason Daub says that he can get off six shots in 34 seconds with a 240 lb. bow using a simple belt hook. It is well to know that the draw weights of crossbows and hand bows are not directly comparable, since the crossbow generally has a much shorter power stroke. A 240 lb. composite crossbow might put no more energy into the missile than an 80 lb. hand bow. And crossbows with steel prods suffer further  in comparison, because much of the stored energy goes into accelerating the relatively heavy prod.

Friday, January 23, 2015

SCA Errata Sheet: Knighthood and Fealty

In the SCA, all knights must swear fealty to the crown. This is not what was done in the actual Middle Ages. The order of chivalry was entirely distinct from the question of who owed fealty for what. You could have landless knights who owed no fealty to anyone because they had no fief. You could have men that already held land in fief to the crown and had already sworn fealty. And you could have men that held land in fief, and swore fealty to an intermediate overlord.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

SCA Errata Sheet: "Only a Knight Can Make a Knight"

There is a very old tradition within the SCA that "only a knight can make a knight"

I am reliably informed that Queen Elizabeth I did not believe this at all, nor did any Pope since knighthood became a thing.

SCA Errata Sheet: Precedence

In the SCA, the members of the Order of Chivalry, of the Laurel, and of the Pelican are members of the peerage. In some kingdoms they outrank barons.

This is quite ahistorical. In medieval England the lay peerage was composed of barons and higher titles, and knights without a higher title were not peers. The French peerage was even more exclusive.

Knights had high status, but there were many ways to achieve status outside the  hierarchy of nobility and the crown as the fount of honor.

In John Russelll's mid 15th c. Boke of Nurture, the following were all ranked equal in estate to a knight: unmitered prior or abbot, dean, archdeacon, Master of the Rolls, under justices and Barons of the Exchequer,  Clerk of the Crown,  Mayor of the Staple of Calais, Doctor of Divinity or Both Laws (i.e, civil and canon), provincial, prothonotary, or Pope's collector.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

SCA Peerage Kerfuffle

If you have no interest in the Society for Creative Anachronism, move along, nothing to see.

If you do:

The following is an excerpt of a message was sent out to the SCA, Inc. Announcements mailing list.

The Board Votes.

The Board was split on the question of the rapier peerage. Three directors voted to approve the Corpora changes and the resulting establishment of a rapier peerage because they believe that while rapier should really be recognized by the Chivalry, trying to force inclusion in the Chivalry by Board fiat would not work, and they were willing to vote yes on the proposal as a good compromise. Two directors felt rapier should be recognized as part of a peerage that recognizes all non-rattan martial arts and not a separate peerage. Two directors believed rapier should be recognized in the Chivalry. So, with a 4-3 vote against the proposed Corpora changes, which would have established a separate rapier peerage, no change will take place at this time. 
The only other action the Board took concerning rapier in the SCA was removing language dating from 1979 saying that rapier was an “ancillary” activity of the SCA and, to make it clear that we are not discarding the traditions of Crown Tourney, the Board then made it very clear that only rattan combat may be used in a Royal list. This change to Corpora received the unanimous approval of the Board. 
Response to Social Media Discussions. 
First, the Board received commentary from less than 2% of the membership over the entire 3 years and all requests for comments on the rapier peerage issue. Many people wrote in more than once, but repeating an opinion doesn’t count as a separate opinion. However, it was not the lack of commentary that influenced some Board members to vote against the proposal; it was the fact that the small amount of commentary the Board did receive trended against a separate rapier peerage. The majority of comments received in favor of recognizing rapier with a peerage said that rapier should either be included in the Order of the Chivalry or in a new peerage that included all non-rattan combat. The result of such a relatively small number of people commenting is that the opinions the Board did receive were given greater weight – if a larger number of those who supported the separate rapier peerage had commented, a different result might very well have resulted. There’s no way to know that for sure, but it underscores the importance of writing in to let the Board know your opinions about proposed changes to Corpora. 
Second, the Board did not open the Order of the Chivalry to inclusion of rapier fighters. There is a 1999 policy interpretation from the Society Seneschal (upheld by the Board at that time) specifically stating that the Order of the Chivalry is intended for rattan combatants only. It would take a new policy interpretation (which would need to be upheld by the current Board) or other Board action to change that fact. The Board’s intention in removing the “ancillary activity” language had nothing to do with making rapier knights. The Board removed the “ancillary activity” language because it was simply no longer accurate or true. It may have been true long ago when it was added to Corpora, but times have definitely changed. Rapier has permeated the fabric of the Society, and the Board felt that the language needed to be removed. However, in order to clarify that we weren’t changing the rules regarding Crown Tourneys by the deletion of the “ancillary activity” language, the Board added language restricting Crown Tourneys to rattan weapons.
I think this was the right call. A bestowed peerage wasn't the only way to recognize excellence in the Middle Ages and it isn't the only way to do it in the SCA. And often it isn't the best way. For rapier combat, an officially recognized guild-like organization like the Company of the Masters of Defense of London seems far more historically appropriate. There's no reason why the masters of such a company couldn't be given social rank equal to the bestowed peerages if the kingdom desires to. And if the people of a kingdom don't think the best rapier fighters are equal to the chivalry in dignity, making them a bestowed peerage isn't going to change that.

We need to be more aware of the many ways that rank and dignity could be recognized in the Middle Ages. The Order of Chivalry was only one approach, and it wasn't considered a peerage. There were paths to high status that didn't involve the crown at all. You could rise through the church, civic government, law or academia and the crown often had little or no involvement in the process.

That said, I think some martial arts could be profitably recognized within the current Order of Chivalry.  it seems to me that a splendid horseman who is an average rattan fighter is a more fitting member of the Order, as a medieval knight would have seen it, than a splendid rattan fighter that never rides. And a cut and thrust fighter who has studied his Fiore well, and fights accordingly, is perhaps a more worthy knight than a man who fights well with rattan because he has tailored everything he does to the specific rules of SCA sport combat.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Medieval Chess

The following is based on Caxton's The Game and Playe of Chesse from the 1470s, a translation of the late 13th c. Liber de moribus hominum et officiis nobilium super ludo scacchorum of Jacobus de Cessolis, probably primarily a translation of a French translation of the original. The book uses chess as the starting point for an elaborate allegory about medieval society.

So, I edited out most of the allegory to get to the chess rules. But the work also uses the allegory as positional notation: each of the eight pawns on each side represents a specific type of commoner. So I needed to add some explanation of the movement rules in italics that doesn't depend on the allegory.

This is a slower game than modern chess. Queens and bishops (alphyns or judges in Caxton) are much slower and weaker than in the modern game. Their powering up for the modern game started around this time in Iberia, Italy and France, but took time to spread .

The Game and Playe of Chesse

And in this playe we ought to knowe by the nature of hit how the kynge meueth hym and yssueth oute of his place/ For y'e shall vnderstande that he is sette in the fourth quadrante or poynt of theschequer. And whan he is black/ he standeth in the white/ and the knyght on his ryght side in white/ And the Alphyn and the rooke in black/ And on the lifte side the foure holden the places opposite/

For whan he wele meue hym/ he ought not to passe at the first draught the nombre of .iii. poynts/ And whan he begynneth thus to meue from his whyt point/ He may move ii ponts either right or cornerly/ And hit happen that the aduersarie be not couered in ony poynt in the seconde ligne/ All these yssues hath y'e kyng out of his propre place of his owen vertue whan he begynneth to meue. But whan he is ones meuyd fro his propre place/ He may not meue but in to one space or poynt/ and so from one to an other/After that the kynge begynneth to meue he may lede wyth hym the quene/ after the maner of his yffue

Whan the Quene whiche is accompanyed vnto the kynge begynneth to meue from her propre place/ She goth in dowble manere/ that is to wete as an Alphyn on her first draught she may jump two points cornerwise. And whan she is meuyd ones oute of her place she may not goo but fro oon poynt to an other and yet cornerly whether hit be foreward or backward takynge or to be taken/

The manere and nature of the draught of the Alphyn is suche/ that he that is black in his propre fiege is sette on the right side of the kynge/ And he that is whyt is sette on the lifte side/ And ben callyd and named black and white/ But for no cause that they be so in subftance of her propre colour/ But for the colour of the places in whiche they ben sette/ And alleway be they black or white/ whan they ben sette in theyr places/ the alphyn goynge oute of his place comyth two spaces cornerly.

After the yssue of the Alphyns we shall deuyse to yow the yssue & the moeuynge of the knyghtes/ And we saye that the knyght on the right syde is whyt/ And on the lifte syde black/ And the yssue and moeuynge of hem bothe is in one maner whan so is that the knyght on the ryght syde Is whyt/ The lyfte knyght is black/ The moeuynge of hem is suche/that they may jump three poynts, one ryght forth going and the last at an angle. 

The moeuynge and yssue of the rooks whiche ben vicairs of the kynge is suche/ that the ryght rook is black and the lifte rook is whyte/ And whan the chesse ben sette as well the nobles as the comyn peple first in their propre places/ The rooks by their propre vertue haue no wey to yssue but yf hyt be made to them by the nobles or comyn peple/ For they ben enclosed in their propre sieges/ And as fer may they renne as they fynde the tablier voyde whether hit be of his aduersaryes as of his owen felowship/ And whan the rook is in the myddell of the tablier/ he may goo whiche way he wyll in to foure right lignes on euery side/ and hit is to wete that he may in no wyse goo cornerwyse/ but allway ryght forth goynge.

 One yffue and one mouynge apperteyneth vnto alle the peple/ For they may goo fro the poynt they stande in at the first meuynge vnto the thirde poynt right forth to fore them/ & whan they haue so don they may afterward meue no more but fro one poynt ryght forth in to an other/ And they may neuer retorne backward And thus goynge forth fro poynt to poynt They may gete by vertue and strengthe/ that thynge that the other noble fynde by dignyte/ And yf the knyghtes and other nobles helpe hem that they come to the ferthest lygne to fore them where theyr aduersaryes were sette. They acquyre the dignyte that the quene hath graunted to her by grace/ And y'e shall vnderftande/ whan thyse comyn peple meue right forth in her ligne/ and fynde ony noble persone or of the peple of their aduersaries sette in the poynt at on ony side to fore hym/ In that corner poynt he may take his aduersarye wherther hit be on the right side or on the lifte.

 Jacobus, de Cessolis, William Caxton, and William E. A. Axon. 1883. Caxton's Game and playe of the chesse, 1474. London: E. Stock.

Passage, Hazard and Raffle

Passage is a Game at Dice to be plaid at but by two, and it is perform'd with three Dice. The Caster throws continually till he hath thrown Doublets under ten, and then he is out, and loseth, or Doublets above ten, and then he passeth and wins.
Hazzard is a proper Name for this Game; for it speedily makes a Man or undoes him, in the twinkling of an Eye either a Man or a Mouse. This Game is play'd but with two Dice, but there may play at it as many as as can stand round the largest round Table. 
There are two Things chiefly to be observed, Main and Chance; the Chance is the Caster's, and the Main theirs who are concerned in Play with him. There can be no Main thrown above nine and under five, so that five, six, seven, eight, and nine, are the only Mains, and no more which are flung at Hazzard; Chances and Nicks are from four to ten, thus four is a Chance to nine, five to eight, six to seven, seven to fix, eight to five;  and nine and ten a Chance to five, six, seven and eight; in short, four five, six, seven, eight, nine and ten, are Chances to any Main, if any of these Nick it not: Now Nicks are either when the Chance is the same with the Main, as five and five, six and six, seven and seven, and so on, or six and twelve, seven and eleven, eight and twelvej where note, that twelve is out to nine, seven and five; and eleven is out to nine, eight, six and five; Ames-Ace and Deuce-Ace (2 or 3) are out to all Mains whatever. 
That I may the better illustrate this this Game, it will not be amiss to give one Examble for your better Information; Seven's the Main, the Caster throws five, and that's his Chance, and so hath five to seven; if the Caster throw his own Chance, he wins all the Money was set him, but if he throw seven, which was the Main, he must pay as much Money as is on the Board, if again seven be the Main, and the Caster throws eleven, that is a Nick, and sweeps away all the Money on the Table; but if he throws a Chance, he must wait which will come first. Lastly, if seven be the Main, and the Caster throws Ames-Ace, Deuce-Ace or twelve, he is out, but if he throw from four to ten, he hath a Chance, though they are accounted the worst Chances on the Dice, as seven is reputed the best and easiest Main to be flung  thus it is in eight or six, if either of them be the Main, and the Caster throws either four, five, seven, nine or ten, this is is Chance, which if he throw first, he wins, otherwise loseth, if he throw twelve to eight, or six to the same Cast with the Main, he wins; but if Ames-Ace or Deuce-Ace to all he loseth or if twelve, when the Main is either five or nine. Here note, that nothing nicks five but five, nor nothing nine but nine.
There is another kind of game which they call riffa that is played in this way: he who first rolls the dice should roll them as many times until he rolls a pair on two, then he should roll the other one. Then the pips of this third die are to be counted with the pips of the other first two dice. And if the other who is playing  with him, in rolling the dice in this same way rolls more points he wins, and if as many he ties, and if less he loses.

Cotton, Charles. 1725. The compleat gamester: or, Full and easy instructions for playing at above twenty several games upon the cards with variety of diverting fancies and tricks upon the same now first added ; as likewise at all the games on the tables, together with the royal game of chess and billiards. London: J. Wilford.

Musser Golladay, Sonja. 2007. Los libros de acedrex dados e tablas: historical, artistic and metaphysical dimensions of Alfonso X's Book of Games. Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA: UMI Dissertation Services, from ProQuest Co.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Grey Lady and Charlie

The New York Times has chosen not to reprint controversial cartoons from Charlie Hebdo.  Some have condemned this decision.

I think they gravely misunderstand the kind of paper the NYT is. It is the kind of paper, as my father would say, that considers itself a guest in the family home, and acts accordingly.

That means, for example, no cussing in front of the children. Or quoting cussing, unless the story absolutely, positively demands it.

If you offend your readers, you don't get invited back. Which is bad for business, but also make it impossible to tell the stories you want to tell to that family.

Similarly, the Times is fairly reticent about photographs of full frontal nudity or gore, or showing the faces of murder victims, unless absolutely essential to telling the story properly. Even though many of their readers would not be offended by this, or by quoted profanity.

The choice not to reprint the controversial cartoons is, I think, an appropriate one for the Times. given the kind of newspaper they are. They have conveyed the essence of the story adequately by describing the cartoons in words.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Calais under English Rule: 1347-1558

The town of Calais, while ruled by England, was very much an English town. Most of the original French inhabitants were expelled when Edward III took the town, and English settlers brought in. The names of streets and inns were all English.

This was less true of the Pale of Calais, the territory under English control outside Calais proper, including the outlying forts at Hammes and Guisnes (now Guînes). While some English settled in the Pale, the population outside the town remained predominantly French or Flemish. The Pale covered about 20 square miles, and Guînes is about 6.5  miles from Calais by road.

Even though Edward III expelled most of the original population of the town, a few were allowed to remain: a priest, "and other auncyent personages such as knewe the customes, lawes and ordynaunces of the towne and to signe out the herytages howe they were devyded", and some others by special leave of the king. Foreigners could not become a burgess, hold freehold property or keep an inn. Over time these regulations became less well enforced, and in 1364 there was a complaint of foreigners owning hostelries in Calais. In 1413, Henry V renewed the prohibition on foreigners becoming burgesses or keeping an inn, and required foreigners settling in Calais to be taxed at 1/15th of their wealth.

Lodging keepers were required to make a report of what strangers were lodging with them each night.

During herring time, between the feasts of Michaelmas and St. Andrew, when many foreign fishermen brought their catch to Calais, there were extra precautions: only one of the town gates was open,  there was an additional watch, and foreign fishermen were not allowed in town overnight.

The Calais Staple was an important institution under English Rule. From 1348 until the French retook Calais, with brief lapses in the 14th century, most wool, woolfells, tin and lead exported from England was required to pass through the Staple, a marketplace governed by the Company of the Staple, where it could be conveniently taxed. The Staple was an important source of revenue for the Crown, and the Staplers an important source of financing.

After the garrison mutinied over unpaid wages, in 1407 Henry IV assigned half of the wool duties to pay the garrison. This was insufficient, and Henry borrowed the remainder from the Staplers, repaying them by excusing them from wool customs for a time.

While most of the Staplers and members of the garrison expected to eventually return to England, some of the burgesses, descendants of the original English settlers, expected Calais to be their home for life.

From 1365 on, the town was ruled by a mayor and 12 aldermen, but there was also a Mayor of the Staple, leading to repeated conflicts as to who had precedence, the Mayor of the Town or the Mayor of the Staple. This bickering would continue into the reign of Edward IV, to be resolved for a time in favor of the Mayor of the Staple, only to be revived in the early 16th c.

The town is estimated to have had a population of 4,500 in the 15th c.

When Henry VIII visited in 1532, the town was reckoned capable of providing 2,400 beds and stables for 2,000 horses.

Brewing beer was a major local industry. There were at least 7 brewhouses in the 16th c., including a large one owned by the crown.

A 16th century English report on Calais spells the name of its inhabitants "Calisian"

Sandeman, George Amelius Crawshay. 1908. Calais under English rule. Oxford: B.H. Blackwell; [etc., etc.].

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Name a Crater on Mercury

Immortalize an important person in the Arts and Humanities from any nation or cultural group by having a crater on the planet Mercury named in their honor! The MESSENGER Team is seeking help from all Earthlings to suggest names for five impact craters on Mercury. We will accept submissions beginning midnight (00:00 UTC) December 15, 2014 until January 15, 2015 (23:59 UTC). All entries will be reviewed by Team representatives and expert panels. Then, 15 finalist names will be submitted to the International Astronomical Union (IAU) for selection of the 5 winners. Winning submissions will be announced by the IAU to coincide with MESSENGER’s End of Mission Operations in late March/April 2015.
Details here.
According to the IAU rules for Mercury, impact craters are named in honor of people who have made outstanding or fundamental contributions to the Arts and Humanities (visual artists, writers, poets, dancers, architects, musicians, composers and so on). The person must have been recognized as an art-historically significant figure for more than 50 years and must have been dead for at least three years.
I have submitted Christine de Pizan and Cab Calloway.

When I make a submission using a Mac with Safari as a browser, the second page appears blank until I scroll up. I then see the relevant requests for additional reference documentation.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Cab Calloway (1907-1994)

Cabell "Cab" Calloway III was a jazz singer and bandleader, well known for his performances at Harlem's Cotton Club and scat singing.

His music was worked into several of Fleischer Studios' Betty Boop cartoons, including "Minnie the Moocher", in which Calloway provided the voice for a spectral walrus.

That's right, a spectral walrus. You can't make this up. At least, I can't.

He created music that people loved, and that is worthy of some appropriate memorial. Like a crater on Mercury, where they name craters after artists.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Most Read Posts of 2014

Most read posts of 2014:

Boucicaut's Training Regime.

Scabbard Making in Diderot's Encyclopedia.

Pitfalls in Understanding the Middle Ages: Archaism

Did Neil deGrasse Tyson Lie About President Bush?

Recreating Medieval Combat

Rectangular Tents in Swiss Illuminations: 1478-1513

Rectangular Medieval Tents

When May a Medieval Gentleman Display Their Breeches?

Breeches and a Breech-belt.

Armor: 1375:1387

Hanging Up Armor in the 14th Century.

Robin Hood Hats: 1380-1415

Hose: 1350-1500

Wax Tablets

Reproduction Early 15th c. Bascinet

You Know Nothing About Feudalism. Nothing.

Christine de Pizan.

Christine de Pizan was an admirable author of the late 14th and early 15th c. Born in Venice in 1364, her father moved his family to Paris in 1368 where he served as royal astrologer. She wrote in French, as a French patriot. Widowed when her husband died in 1390, she was the sole support of her mother, niece and two children. She turned to writing to support them, a remarkable choice in an age when Geoffrey Chaucer was careful to retain his day job as a govenrment bureaucrat. She was probably the first woman to make a living as a professional author.

She was industrious, prolific and influential. She wrote poems about love and deeds of arms, works on the proper role of women in society, and a cruel but fair criticism of Jean de Meun’s misogyny in the Romance of the Rose. She also wrote on politics, wrote a biography of Charles V and a profoundly unromantic and subversive romance, The Book of the Duke of True Lovers, presenting the argument that most of what male courtly lovers say about serving their ladies is self serving "since the honor and profit remains with them and not at all with the lady!"

She also wrote an influential treatise on war, Les faits d'armes et de chevalerie, in part based on the late Roman author Vegetius, in part on the slightly earlier Honoré Bonet, and the rest based on contemporary advice from experienced soldiers on how to carry out or repel a siege or carry out a campaign.

One measure of her influence is that one of the earliest books printed in English is a translation of her work: The Book of the Order of Chivalry, and her The Epistle of Othea was also translated into English in the middle of the 15th century.

Although she signed herself Christine de Pizan, later authors and editions of her work overwhelmingly gave her name as Christine de Pisan, The original spelling of her name only returned  to predominance in the 1980s in English in the 1990s in French. It seems likely that there was a wide assumption that her family originally came from Pisa, rather than the town of Pizzano near Bologna.

2015 in Space

It should be interesting.

In January, SpaceX will attempt to land the first stage of an orbital launcher on a barge. If they fail, they'll try again.

In April, Dawn should enter Ceres orbit.

In May, the Planetary Society should launch a solar sail spacecraft.

In July, New Horizons should fly by Pluto.

In November, Japan will make another attempt to put their Akatsuki spacecraft in Venus orbit.

The flotilla of Mars orbiters and surviving rovers will continue to probe Mars. Cassini continues to explore the Saturn system.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

2014 in Space

China put their Chang'E lander and Yutu rover on the the  Lunar surface late in 2013, and they continued to send back data in 2014. It was the first soft landing on the Lunar surface since the Soviet Luna 24 in 1976.

In July, the Opportunity rover surpassed the record of Lunokhod 2 for the greatest distance driven on a world other than Earth. By then, Opportunity had spent more than ten years exploring Mars.

On September 24, India put their Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft into Martian orbit, a few days after NASA's MAVEN spacecraft also arrived in orbit around Mars. India becomes the fourth space agency to reach Mars orbit, and the first to do so on their first try.

This brought the international flotilla of Mars orbiters to five, plus two rovers on the surface.

In November, the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft, orbiting the rubber-duck shaped comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, dropped the little Philae lander to the surface, where it bounced across the unexpectedly crunchy crust of the comet nucleus.

In December, NASA's Dawn spacecraft began to capture images of Ceres, Japan launched their Hayabusa 2 spacecraft to visit an asteroid and bring back samples, NASA launched an unmanned test flight of their Orion capsule, and NASA's New Horizons spacecraft woke from hibernation approaching Pluto. Also, three potential Kuiper Belt targets have been identified for New Horizons after Pluto.

Also, the Curiosity rover reports that something is intermittently pumping methane into the Martian atmosphere. It could be something non-biological, but still, very interesting.

All in all, a good year in space.

For getting to space, it was rockier.  On August 22, the usually reliable Soyuz launcher put two Galileo satellites in the wrong orbit. On October, 28, an Antares launcher failed shortly after liftoff, fell back to the ground and exploded. On October 31 , a SpaceShipTwo suborbital rocket plane broke up in flight, killing one of the crew, 39 year old Michael Tyner Alsbury.

Space is hard. All the more reason to appreciate the successes.