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Archive newsletter, July 22 2014

Welcome to the July 2014 edition of the Early Modern Forum newsletter.

Firstly there are some conferences and calls for papers which may be of interest. An AHRC network meeting takes place on September 8 in Strathclyde University, Glasgow, on Voices and Books , exploring performance and aural reception of the hearing word, 1500-1800. Queen Mary, University of Lonon, hosts a conference on the theme of Cartography between Europe & the Islamic World, 1100-1600 on 8-9 September, with more information here.

There is a call for contributions to an interdisciplinary edited volume entitled Playthings in Early Modernity: Party Games, Word Games, Mind Games, to be edited by Allison Levy and published by Ashgate. There is more information here .

There are also a number of calls for papers for forthcoming conferences. These include Religious Toleration in the Age of Enlightenment , to be held at Pamplona, 22-23 June, the Marginalization of Astrology to be held in Utrecht on 19-20 March, Humour in Shakespeare’s Arcadia : Gender, Genre and Wordplay in Early Modern Comedy to be held in Florence on 23 April , and Publish or Perish ? Scientific periodicals from 1665 to the present, at The Royal Society, London, from 19-21 March.

In Coventry, some small items from the early modern period which were found during excavations in the past couple of years have gone on display in the History Centre at The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum in Jordan Well. They were found in sandstone-lined pits (original use known) which were excavated at the back of Gosford Books in nearby Gosford Street. A number of medieval pits have previously been investigated there and in the aea, but in these pits items from the early eighteenth century were found. The property is on the site of the Mercers' Pageant House where wagons and paraphernalia used in the annual pageants were stored.

A huge study of centuries-old marginalia was featured in the Guardian, which said it was being analysed and made available digitally in the Archaeology of Reading in Early Modern Europe project. Alison Flood said the project was focusing on notes in the margins of sixteenth and seventeenth century texts. The project is a collaboration between the John Hopkins University, the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters at UCL (CELL) and the Princeton University library, and has just received a $488,000 (£285,000) grant from the Andrew W Mellon Foundation. There are examples of marginalia in the article.

The Guardian also reported on The Jane Austen Centre's claims to have used forensic techniques and eye-witness accounts to create the best likeness of the novelist. A waxwork has gone on display at the centre in Bath, and is shown in this article. Forensic artist Melissa Dring used an 1810 sketch as her starting point.

The Warburg Institute in London has just opened a new exhibition entitled Laughter in the Warburg Library, which is on until September 30. The exhibition spreads throughout different periods of history and four floors, with more information here .

Art

There has been another twist in the story of the painting called Head Study of a Man in a Ruff , bought for £400, and spotted by Fiona Bruce on Antiques Roadshow to be by Van Dyck by. The owner hoped to sell it for £500,000 at Christie’s to buy new bells for his local church, but it failed to sell.

By contrast, a Botticelli drawing sold for a record £1.3 million at Sotheby’s in London. Study for a Seated Joseph from the 1480s showed a bearded biblical figure in contemplative pose. There are only 12 known Botticelli drawings still in existence.

A 300-year old tapestry , which has hung in the University of Sheffield for half a century, has been returned to France after revelations it had been looted by the Nazis. The tapestry shows a scene from Ovid’s Metamorphoses and dates from 1720. It was looted from the Chateau de Versainville in Normandy when the owners were in a concentration camp. The university bought the tapestry at auction in 1959.

Several reviewers visited the modernised Mauritshuis in The Hague. Jonathan Jones in the Guardian and said the dramatic but tasteful refurbishment allowed the fine collection of Dutch art from its golden age to “seduce and intrigue”. The collection includes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, which he says is “better lit, better hung and more elegantly surrounded than ever before”.

Writing in the Independent , Boyd Tonkin visited the Mauritshuis and wrote about the interest in Dutch art among novelists, and why this may be so. Mark Hudson in the Telegraph found its original charm still intact, and the refurbishment ‘near perfect’.

The Maritime Museum in Greenwich is showing, until January 4, Ships, clocks and the stars : the quest for Longitude, to mark the 300th anniversary of the passing of the Longitude Act and the clockmaking genius who made it happen. John Harrison (right) invented a series of increasingly-accurate clocks and a cabbage-sized watch which eventually solved the Longitude problem. The exhibition includes Harrison’s clocks, paintings, books, scientific instruments, letters from people including Isaac Newton, and eighteenth century astronomer royal Neil Maskelyne’s silk outfit for stargazing.

Jonathan Jones reviewed the Making Colour exhibition at the National Gallery, London, and said it was like entering a “dazzling, eye-opening world”, and a scientific look at how artists risked their lives to create amazing colours to paint with, including many works from the early modern period. The exhibition is on until September 7.

Books

Following on from recent book reviews, on the www.history.ac.uk website there are podcasts of interviews with authors Felipe Fernandez-Armesto and Claire Tomalin. Fernandez-Armesto , author of Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States was interviewed by Professor Anthony McFarlane, Professor of the School of Comparative American Studies at the University of Warwick. Claire Tomalin is the author of biographies of Charles Darwin, Thomas Hardy, Samuel Pepys, Jane Austen and Mary Wollstonecraft. She was interviewed by Daniel Snowman.

On the same website, Elizabeth's Bedfellows : An Intimate History of Elizabeth's Court by Anna Whitelock was reviewed by Dr Nadia Thérèse van Pelt of the University of Southampton, who said although this is not the first book to focus on the ladies of the bedchamber, it accesses a large number of primary sources including letters, ambassadorial accounts and state papers which bring the court to life. It is split into 62 short chapters, described as highly accessible, and “offers the reader intimate glimpses of a hidden world”, though she said because it is so split up it sometimes seems anecdotal rather than analytical. Dr van Pelt said, though, that it is Whitelock’s objective not just to give an insight into the queen's personal life, but to emphasise her political body and see how this image was constructed and controlled by the Ladies of the Bedchamber.

Print and Public Politics in the English Revolution by Jason Peacey was reviewed by Dr David Magliocco of Queen Mary, University of London, who said the author illuminated the production of polemical print to great effect in a previous work, Politicians and Pamphleteers, and now addressed its appropriation. Dr Magliocco wrote that the author introduced the reader to “an array of characters that is positively Dickensian”, and “convincingly reinserts radicalism back into the English Revolution”, and the book “represents another nail in the coffin of revisionism”. He also said for £70 he would hope for a bibliography of secondary materials, and he said the footnotes need a Rosetta Stone to decipher, but it was “an outstanding work of scholarship combining archival mastery, theoretical sophistication, methodological innovation and lucid exposition”.

World Without End: the Global Empire of Philip II by Hugh Thomas was reviewed by Jeremy Treglown in the Telegraph. This is the final of three volumes by Thomas, a total of 1,925 pages, and he said to fit in what was happening in South America and the Philippines some dramas closer to home have been excluded. The information is also very dense, with a 40-page index.

How to Ruin a Queen by Jonathan Beckman was reviewed by Frances Wilson in the Telegraph, who admired his "deft and rock-solid scholarship, glistening with wit and insight". The story covers the Affair of the Diamond Necklace involving an unwitting Marie Antoinette in 1786.

Theatre

There were several reviews of Richard III at the Trafalgar Studios, London, until September 27, and starring Martin Freeman. In the Observer , Susannah Clapp said he was a contained and caustic king, and warnings about sonic disturbances and blood during the show were wrong, with little spattered gore. Warnings should have been issued though about “imposing a complicated back-story on an already knotted plot”, which was setting the play in a coup following Britain’s 1978-79 winter of discontent, which she said did not fit well with Shakespeare’s dynastic drama. Michael Billington in the Guardian found the staging was inventive, but that the production missed “the monarch’s lurid sexiness and demonic exuberance” and the production did not make total sense.

Paul Taylor in the Independent found Martin Freeman gave a “highly intelligent, calculatedly understated” performance, but without enough sense of unpredictability. Tim Walker in the Telegraph thought Freeman on "terrifyingly top form", and the production in general chilling, genuinely horrific and peculiarly violent with Freeman the most terrifying Richard III he had ever seen.

The Crucible is on at the Old Vic, London, until September 13. Arthur Miller’s drama about the 1692 Salem witch hunts in Massachusetts was reviewed by Susannah Clapp who said this production is in the round, with the stage sometimes lit by lantern glimmers but often filled with darkness and swirld of smoke. She said the staging was strong, if sometimes overemphatic, running for three and a half hours and with “some unnecessary keening and writhing”, and a lot of shouting. Michael Billington for the Guardian found Yaël Farber's “extraordinary” production still had its disturbing relevance today. He said the action was invested “with a raw, visceral power”.

In the Independent , Paul Taylor found the production spellbinding, and that the tension was “brilliantly sustained” over the hours.

An unusual version of Macbeth was reviewed by Lyn Gardner in the Guardian. RIFT perform a version in an East London tower block, with the production ranging over several floors, including six hours of sleep in dormitory-style bedrooms, and ending at 8am with breakfast on the roof and the swearing in of Malcolm as the new king. The audience also get to dine with the murderous couple, and meet witches in the underground car park. Gardner said they sometimes overstretched themselves but it was “ambition of an admirable kind” and a memorable experience. It is on until August 16.

In the Telegraph , Charles Spencer reviewed Julius Caesar at Shakespeare’s Globe and said the pre-show atmosphere put him in mind of a rock festival, and he admired the crowd’s attention in standing for nearly three hours. However he said this production was captivating, with a freshness of the acting and a play that suited the Globe well.

Paul Taylor in the Independent found the production had vigour, and in the first half “the right risky mood of volatility”.