Wednesday, 29 October 2014

A History of the World in 100 Sheds: No 5 The Scriptorium

Shedman is a regular and grateful user of the Oxford English Dictionary online. Today, it's probably the best dictionary in the world and it began life in a garden shed called 'The Scriptorium'!


 Of all those involved with the first edition of the OED, it was James Murray (1837-1915) who made the greatest single contribution. An article in the Scottish Review by editor Kenneth Roy referred to his "single-minded tenacity". Murray was the son of a draper, "born in the village of Denholm, near Hawick, who left school at 14."


Murray started the project working in his corrugated iron Scriptorium, lined with wooden planks, bookshelves and 1,029 pigeon-holes for the quotation slips. In one of the earliest examples of crowdsourcing, Murray asked newspaper readers to report “as many quotations as you can for ordinary words” and for words that were “rare, obsolete, old-fashioned, new, peculiar or used in a peculiar way”. 1,000 quotation slips arrived daily to the Scriptorium, and by 1882, there were 3,500,000. "The volume of correspondence at the Scriptorium was so great," according to Kenneth Roy, "that the Post Office erected a special pillar-box on the site. Murray worked at the Herculean undertaking for 36 years and died 13 years before the dictionary was finally published in 1928."

Sunnyside, 78, Banbury Road Oxford where Murray built his Scriptorium - with thanks to Cassini Maps Blog
Murray had to obtain permission to build his Scriptorium from St John's College who owned the land. The college refused to allow its erection in the front garden so it was eventually built behind the north of the house, sunk about fifteen feet into the ground in order not to obscure next door's view. The Scriptorium has long since been demolished, but the letter box still stands.


 

According to Examining the OED Murray's mottoes were " 'Knowledge is power' and 'Nihil est melius quam vita diligentissima' (nothing is better than a life of utmost diligence). He was to pursue these aims with unremitting consistency and fortitude over the course of his long life." More detail on the history of the project and Murray's herculean commitment can be found on the OED's own website.

Murray "conceived of the dictionary as a national project, a co-operative effort, saying, in 1900, 'The English Dictionary, like the English Constitution, is the creation of no one man, and of no one age; it is a growth that has slowly developed itself down the ages' ... Yet, while he saw it as a cumulative evolutionary process, Murray recognised the leap forward that had been taken in his own time: 'It can be maintained that in the Oxford Dictionary, permeated as it is through and through with the scientific method of the century, Lexicography has for the present reached its supreme development'. (Examining the OED)

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

A History of the World in 100 Sheds: No. 4 Romulus' hut



Oh, little did the Wolf-Child care--
  When first he planned his home, 
What City should arise and bear
  The weight and state of Rome.
From Romulus and Remus by Rudyard Kipling

At the very begining of the Roman empire, there's a shed. The hut built by Romulus around 753 BC.

In Tom Holland's brilliant Rubicon - The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic (Abacus 2005 P19-20) he writes:
“Of all Rome’s seven hills, however, the Palatine was the most exclusive by far. Here the city’s elite chose to cluster. Only the very, very rich could afford the prices. Yet, incongruously, there on the world’s most expensive real estate stood a shepherd’s hut made of reeds. The reeds might dry and fall away, but they would always be replaced, so that the hut never seemed to alter. It was the ultimate triumph of Roman conservatism - the childhood home of Romulus, Rome’s first king, and Remus, his twin.
“According the the legend, both brothers had decided to found a city, but they could not agree where, nor what name it should have. Romulus had stood on the Palatine, Remus on the Aventine, both of them waiting for a sign from the gods. Remus had seen six vultures flying overhead, but Romulus had seen twelve. Taking this as incontrovertible proof of divine backing, Romulus had promptly fortified the Palatine and named the new city after himself. Remus, in a fury of jealousy and resentment, had ended up murdered by his brother in a brawl. This had irrevocably fixed the two hills’ destinies. From that moment on, the Palatine would be for winners, the Aventine for losers. Success and failure, prestige and shame - there expressed in the very geography of the city, were the two poles around which Roman life evolved.”

Today, signs on the Palatino direct the visitor to the Romulean Huts near the Casa di Augusto.

According to Wikipedia, the original Casa Romuli ("hut of Romulus"), also known as the tugurium Romuli, was located "on the south-western corner of the Palatine hill, where it slopes down towards the Circus Maximus, near the so-called 'Steps of Cacus'. It was a traditional single-roomed peasants' hut, with a straw roof and wattle-and-daub walls, such as are reproduced in miniature in the distinctive funerary urns of the so-called Latial culture (ca. 1000 - ca. 600 BC)."
Funeral hut urns in the Vatican Museum

Carneades, the Greek philosopher thought the Romans ought to go back where they belonged:
“Even the Romans, the masters of the world, if they want to be fair and return what belongs to others, should return to their huts and live in poverty and misery.” Carneades (2nd century - quoted in a display at the Colisseum, Rome.)

More references
"What I find important is that this site is the most direct link we have to that April day so very long ago and that this hut, or one so very like it, gave rise to the massive and sprawling palaces that surround it." Maul Aelius in a thread on Ancient Worlds

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Robert Montgomery pops up posters

After a lot of exhibitions elsewhere, Robert Montgomery’s first London solo show in over a year has opened at KK Outlet.

'Montgomery’s work references the Situationist tradition of capturing the audience’s attention in unexpected ways within the public realm. For his show at KK Outlet Montgomery has created a series of 3 large billboard poems on Old Street, which reference the moral failure of Capitalism, the concerns of the Occupy movement, and new ideas of freedom in the city.'

Good to see the whole thing was sponsored by that arch-enemy of capitalism - Red Stripe (owned by Diageo).

For more information see KK Outlet and the launch night Flickr feed.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

White Sheds

Also at London Art Fair: Joash Woodrow Allotment Trees and White Sheds Oil on board, circa 1980 - 85



Saturday, 21 January 2012

Glorious Shed at London Art Fair

Anyone who's taken a river trip along the Spree in Berlin will have seen the wonderful range of sheds along the river bank, structures whose spirit is reflected in the work of Berlin based artist Gabriel Dubois that Edel Assanti has brought to London Art Fair. (Thanks to Andrew Davies for the link.)

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Painted Sheds

For the last few years on his travels, Shedman has been building a compendium of artworks that include sheds. It adds a flavour to his gallery visits.

Last year, Shedman & son visited Berlin for his son's 18th birthday.

Here's a brief review of some of the pictures featuring sheds in the Gemäldegalerie and the Alte Nationalgalerie.


The Dutch Proverbs by Pieter Brueghal the Elder How many sheds?

Asselijn wiederaufbau-muiderdeich

Wiederaufbau des Muiderdeiches by Jan Asselijn

Abraham Bloemaert (1564-1651) obviously liked his sheds. There's a landscape in the Gemäldegalerie by Bloemaert featuring St Tobias and an angel with a fine shed in the background. But this picture in the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (1624), predates The Wire by several centuries and shows a couple out of it on a corner, although the main interest is surely that fine shed tree house.


And finally Caspar David Friedrich with a Cabin covered in snow.


If you chance upon other images of sheds in pictures online or in galleries please send Shedman a link. And don't forget that Shedman is still compiling the anthology of shed poems - so send your favourites through for inclusion.

Friday, 8 July 2011

RadioShed? Shedman at Daventry Arts Festival 17-21 July

Daventry is a place of roads and crossings: the A5 and A45, Watford Gap and the M45/M1 junction. For Shedman growing up in the Midlands it was somewhere below Coventry, geographically and alphabetically; a place viewed distantly from a rainy car window, but with the curious magic and mystery of those giant transmission masts. On departure Daventry symbolised the wide world, pumping radio signals far and wide. On return, Daventry marked the first outpost of home. Shedman has a long attachment to Daventry, so he's delighted to have been invited to be part of the very first Daventry Arts Festival.





Daventry was the original wireless community, globally connected. It's the home of BBC World Service. It was also the site of the first successful experiment with Radio Direction Finding (RDF) or, as the Americans called it, Radio Detection and Ranging, now better known as radar.


Shedman is looking forward to doing some of his own direction finding during his stay in Daventry, conducting one of his inimitable shedquests and exploring not just Daventry itself but also the surrounding area - Wolfhampcote, Nethercote, Newnham, Braunston, Ashby St. Ledgers, Welton, Weedon, Long Buckby, Muscott, the Catesbys and the Everdons. He's looking forward to exploring lots of Littles, Nethers and Uppers.

During his sojourn in Daventry Shedman will be based in his shed at the entrance to New Street Recreation Ground. If you're in the area come on down and and check in at the radio shack. Swap stories with Shedman about your sheds and have a go at writing a poem or a story.


All pictures courtesy of the fascinating website G8GMU 

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Indigenous peoples have a word for it...

Shedman will be returning to the States later this month to Dana Point, near San Diego in southern California. He hopes to visit Mission San Capistrano.

According to the Kumeyaay Information Village website, San Diego County has more Native American Indian Reservations than any other county in the US.

Wikipedia points out that in this region, 'the pre-contact Acjachemen built cone-shaped huts made of willow branches covered with brush or mats made of tule leaves. Known as Kiichas (or wikiups), the temporary shelters were utilized for sleeping or as refuge in cases of inclement weather. When a dwelling reached the end of its practical life it was simply burned, and a replacement erected in its place in about a day's time.'

So Wikipedia is Shedpedia!

Photo of Kumeyaay house at the museum in Francisco Zarco, Mexico from Kenneth Brantingan

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Previously on the South Bank...

Yesterday's post sent me hunting for other South Bank sheds. In 2007, another group of artistic sheds appeared, overseen by Antony Gormley's figures during 'Blind Light', his first major London exhibition (appropriately sponsored by Eversheds LLP).




Described as an 'alternative allotment for the South Bank'.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Beach huts on the South Bank

Shedman feels as though every time he goes to the South Bank someone has put up a shed - and not just for builders. Until September 4 you can enjoy a promenade of pleasure past a variety of artistically decorated pavilions.


Monday, 27 June 2011

The Navajo for shed

You may have thought 'hogan' was a not very nice word for someone from the Netherlands or else the name of a gigantic wrestler. However, a hogan is also 'a North American Indian (esp. Navajo) building usually made of logs and earth, and traditionally built with the door facing east.' (Thank you OED online.)
Shedman saw an example in the flesh - well, wood - on a recent visit to the Heard Museum in Phoenix Arizona.
'This hogan is referred to as a female hogan because it simulates the roundness of the female body of Mother Earth. While most Navajo families do not reside in hogans today, their modern homes almost always include a hogan near the main house. Hogans are used for ceremonies that are still practised by Navajo people including the Kinaaald, a coming of age ceremony for young Navajo woman. Other family members spend quiet time in the hogan as a way to reconnect themselves with Navajo teachings and to remind themselves from where they have come.'    Interpretation panel at the Heard Museum, Phoenix.
Wikipedia tells Shedman that:
The hogan is considered sacred to those who practice the Navajo religion. The religious song "The Blessingway" describes the first hogan as being built by Coyote with help from beavers to be a house for First Man, First Woman, and Talking God. The Beaver People gave Coyote logs and instructions on how to build the first hogan, now known as a "forked stick" or "male" hogan, which resembles a pyramid with five triangular faces. Earth may fill the spaces between the framework logs, hiding the five faceted shape and creating thick, winter-protective walls. The "forked stick" or "male" Hogan contains a vestibule in the front and was used only for sacred or private ceremonies.


Navajo hogan
The "circular" or "female" Hogan , the family home for the Navajo people, is much larger and does not contain a vestibule. In it, the children play, the women cook, weave, talk, and entertain and men tell jokes and stories. Navajos made their hogans in this fashion until the 1900s, when they started to make them in hexagonal and octagonal shapes. The change in shape may have been due to the arrival of the railroad. A supply of wooden cross-ties, which could be laid horizontally to form walls of a larger, taller home, allowed the retention of the "female" hogan shape but with more interior room. The doorways of the hogans always face east.


Many cultural taboos are associated with the hogan and its use. Should a death occur in the structure, the body is either buried in the hogan with the entry sealed to warn others away, or the deceased is extracted through a hole knocked in the north side of the structure and it is abandoned and often burned. A hogan may also become taboo for further use if lightning strikes near the structure or a bear rubs against it. Wood from such structures is never reused for any other purpose by a Navajo.


Navajo hogan - inside
Today, while some older hogans are still used as dwellings and others are maintained for ceremonial purposes, new hogans are rarely intended as family dwellings.

Traditional structured hogan is also considered a pioneer energy efficient home. Using packed mud against the entire wood structure, the home was kept cooled by natural air ventilation and water sprinkled on the dirt ground inside. During the winter, the fireplace kept the inside warm for a long period of time and into the night.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

On the Shedge, Mount Etna, Sicily


Shedman is just back from a wonderful holiday in Sicily. Italy may not be that well noted for its sheds but on Mount Etna they certainly come into their own. The landscape is pretty fast changing and the Italians seem to have realised that temporary wooden structures make a whole lot more sense than any attempt to build permanent brick or stone buildings that can be swept away or buried beneath the next lava flow. It gave Shedman pause for thought about the whole idea of the 'shedge' - that curious zone on the edge of everything frequently occupied by sheds. It might be the edge of the world or the hedge bordering the garden, but the shedge is archetypal shed territory.