Friday, November 18, 2011


Towards the end of the Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra's performance at Poets House on Monday, conductor Fagin suggested guests stop to take a walk around the Emily Dickinson exhibit.

From the closing of Letter 146, Emily Dickinson to Emily Fowler Ford, (December 21?) 1853:

Affy, Emily —

Isn't it curious that Emily Dickinson signed off with this kind of abbreviation? The terminal ys do draw attention to themselves, almost as a couple. The Dickinson dash—well: there it is.

Seeing the letters reminded me that I missed visiting the re-created Dickinson garden at the botanic garden.

The other day, I watched a video of a young Joni Mitchell singing "Urge for Going." I wonder how much Dickinson she read in her early years.

Friday, November 11, 2011


I take part in the Writhing Society's meetings. This week we did exercises using state and country abbreviations. Angelo Pastormerlo came up with a "cuppiece" for Cuba that included the word CUstardy. I liked custardy and said so. It called to mind Picardy and (distantly) Anna Madrigal's address in San Francisco.

Tom La Farge said,

Joint custardy,

and this was delightful.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Another Obs. rare from the OED meaning "Of or pertaining to handles, handle-like."

1664 H. Power Exper. Philos. Pref. sig. A4v, The secondary Planets of Saturn and Jupiter and his Ansulary appearances.

This is my excuse to post one of the nicer illustrations from the Huygens book (of the previous post). I kind of love it, and wonder if its real-life form/real life form is superior to the digital one. Very possibly not.

Before his Systema Saturnium, Huygens wrote De Saturni luna observatio nova (New observation of a moon of Saturn), published in 1656, which formally announced his discovery of Saturn's moon and casually announced his theory about Saturn's ring--and welcomed others to offer theirs. Not wanting to give it away just yet, he set down the theory in the form of a letter list:

a a a a a a a c c c c c d e e e e e h i i i i i i i l l l l m m n n n n n n n n n o o o o p p q r r s t t t t t u u u u u.

Annulo cingitur, tenui, plano, nusquam cohaerente, ad eclipticam inclinato (It is surrounded by a thin flat ring, nowhere touching, and inclined to the ecliptic).

According to the 1999 notes of Ronald Brashear, then "Curator of Science and Technology Rare Books in the Special Collections Department at the Smithsonian Institution Libraries" (and now at the Othmer Library), Systema Saturnium was printed in modern times (after more than a half-century) in 1925, "when it was published in volume 15 of Oeuvres compl├Ętes de Christiaan Huygens, a 22-volume set published over a sixty-year period by the Society of Sciences of Holland. The 1925 printing contained a French translation side-by-side with the original Latin text."

That would be interesting to see, the side-by-side translation.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Imagine if we had Ancarn Steel, the Ancarn Free Libraries, Ancarn Hall.

Bern Dibner was an electrical engineer who, among other things, collected books on the history of science.

From a pretty book plate in Christiaan Huygens's The System of Saturn, or On the matter of Saturn's remarkable appearance, and its satellite, the new planet (Systema Saturnium, sive de causis mirandorum Saturni phaenomenon, et comite ejus planeta novom, 1659), via the World Digital Library:

I wonder what kind of shape the book is in after being scanned.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


From the "Out of Town" episode of Mad Men, spoken by the character John Hooker just after he looks at Bert Cooper's ant farm.

This place is a gynocracy.

I don't pass this word too often. Maybe it's more common in academic journals. The OED has an 1864 citation. That's the most recent one.

Great find by the writers.

"Out of Town" takes place in March of 1963. I watched the episode not long after two little girls rang my doorbell. One was dressed up as Snow White, the other as Wonder Woman. If they had arrived at the same time as the sweet hound dog (not the rude M&M), I feel they might have made a jolly group.