Sunday, 30 May 2010

In search of the antuerpia

Image from Chinadaily BBS: The bay of pigs: swine swimming in crystal clear water. Seagoing pigs, Big Major Spot Island, Bahamas.

An interesting question I encountered via Yahoo! Answers: what's an antuerpia?

The word comes from The Memoirs of Fray Servando Teresa de Mier. Mier was a priest and politican born in New Spain, and an important figure in the cause for Mexican independence. At one point in the Memoirs, Mier attacks the anthropological stereotypes of his time, particularly those of Cornelius de Pauw who (without ever having been to the Americas), pontificated on the supposed degeneracy of the native Central Americans and the Europeans who settled in the Americas. Mier wrote:
"Era pues necesario dar también algunas escobadas sobre tanto incómodo escarabajo, despachurrarlo sobre sus propias horduras, y proveer a mis paisanos de un manual ito de exorcismos contra semejantes antuerpias"
- p13, Historia de la revolución de Nueva España, 1990

"It is also necessary to take a broom to all these many annoying beetles, squashing them on top of their own dung, and providing my countrymen with a little manual of exorcisms against such antuerpias
- p xxxii, The Memoirs of Fray Servando Teresa de Mier, OUP US, 1998
In trying to find the explanation, I rapidly found that the 1998 OUP US edition of the Memoirs is one of a number of books containing a false etymology of the word based on a bizarre misreading of a source text
The antuerpia is a marine boar that was sighted in 1537, according to Antonio Torquemada in his Jardín de Flores curiosas (Salamanca, 1570)
- page lix, Ibid.

La Antuerpia es un jabalí marino ...
- De un autor censurado en el "Quijote", Antonio de Torquemada, Alfonso Reyes, 1948
La Antuerpia es un jabalí marino ...
- La disputa del Nuevo Mundo: historia de una polémica, 1750-1900, Antonello Gerbi, 1960

La antuerpia è un cinghiale marino ...
- Il mito del Perù, Antonello Gerbi & Sandro Gerbi, 1988
Such a creature as a "marine boar" seemed so unlikely that I had to check the citation, and it turns out Torquemada says nothing of the sort. His account tells of the finding on the shores of the Sea of Germany a large sea creature with prominent tusks, spines and a head like a wild boar:
De ninguna cosa quiero maravillarme ni dejar de creer que sea posible lo que se dice de las bestias o pescados grandes del mar, habiendo entendido por cosa muy cierta y averiguada, y así lo escriben autores modernos, que el año de quinientos y treinta y siete se halló en las riberas del mar de Alemania un pescado de grandísima grandeza. Tenía la cabeza de hechura de puerco jabalí, con dos colmillos que salían más de cuatro palmos fuera de la boca, y cuatro pies de la manera y hechura que pintan a los dragones; y demás de los ojos de la cabeza, tenía otros dos muy grandes en los lados y otro junto al ombligo; en el cerro, unas espinas muy altas, fuertes y duras, como de hierro o azero. Este puerco marino se llevó a Antuerpia, como cosa maravillosa, para que todos le viesen, y hoy día habrá muchos testigos de los que entonces se hallaron presentes.
- see pp 474-475, Jardín de Flores curiosas, Volume 1982, comp. Giovanni Allegra
John Ashton's 1890 Curious Creatures in Zoology (Internet Archive curiouscreatures00ashtiala) gives an English translation of the description:

Again we are indebted to Gesner for the drawing of this Sea Monster. Olaus Magnus, speaking of "The Monstrous Hog of the German Ocean" says : " I spake before of a Monstrous Fish found on the Shores of England, with a clear description of his whole body, and every member thereof, which was seen there in the year 1532, and the Inhabitants made a Prey of it. Now I shall revive the memory of that Monstrous Hog that was found afterwards, Anno 1537, in the same German Ocean, and it was a Monster in every part of it. For it had a Hog's head, and a quarter of a Circle, like the Moon, in the hinder part of its head, four feet like a Dragon's, two eyes on both sides in his Loyns, and a third in his belly, inclining towards his Navel; behind he had a forked Tail, like to other Fish commonly.
- page 235, Ibid.
It's not clear what this beastie might have been - it looks to me like an embroidered description of a walrus (Gesner's drawing of a walrus on page 236 of Curious Creatures in Zoology isn't so different; though deserving credit as a pioneering zoologist, Gesner tended to pick up tales of sea creatures exaggerated to monstrousness 1). But whatever it was, the crucial pertinent sentence in the Torquemada account is "Este puerco marino se llevó a Antuerpia, como cosa maravillosa, para que todos le viesen" - "This sea pig was carried to Antwerp as a wonderful thing that everyone should see". Misreading the role of Antuerpia in this sentence is clearly the origin of the idea that an antuerpia was some kind of sea creature.

Credit to the authors of Fray Servando Teresa de Mier (Publications de la Sorbonne, 1990, ISBN 2859441859) for the far more likely explanation:
"Antverpia en latín es la ciudad de Amberes, donde se publicaron numerosos textos antiespañoles"
- footnote 25, page 13, Fray Servando Teresa de Mier

"Antverpia in Latin is the city of Antwerp, where many anti-Spanish texts were published"
This is consistent with the description of the Antwerp print industry in David Kunzle's From criminal to courtier: the soldier in Netherlandish art 1550-1672: page 13 describes how outrage at the Sack of Antwerp (nicknamed "The Spanish Fury") led to "what must be ranked as the second (after the earlier Lutheran) great cartoon campaign in history". The anti-Spanish sentiment evidently was still continuing in the 1800s when Mier was writing his Memoirs.

Antuerpias, then are "antwerpisms" - or a good translation to bring out Mier's pejorative edge might be "antwerpishness".

1. See the .PDF of William M Johnson's monograph Monk seals in Post-Classical History: The role of the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus)in European history and culture, from the fall of Rome to the 20th century

- Ray

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Fantasy/SF: recent reading

Further to The Eyre Affair: I just finished, and very much enjoyed, the second in Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series, Lost in a Good Book. As explained earlier, Thursday is a detective / security services operative in a world culturally similar to ours, but differing in its all-pervading relationship to literature, limited access to time travel, and the ability of some characters to jump in and out of books. Oh, and Wales is a socialist republic and cheese is illegal.

In Lost in a Good Book, Thursday finds her husband has been "sidelined" (i.e. wiped from history) by the Goliath Corporation in order to blackmail her into retrieving one of its executives she trapped inside Poe's poem The Raven. She is also confronted with the impending end of the world. Her attempts to elucidate both mysteries lead her into being apprenticed to Jurisfiction, an organisation that works inside books to police the text. Her mentor is Miss Havisham, who we find wears trainers when Dickens is not describing her: one of many examples of what goes in books hidden behind the reader. For instance, when Thursday is taken into Great Expectations to help Magwitch get ashore (I'm sure Fforde must have read John Sutherland's Can Jane Eyre be Happy on this problem), we see out of Pip's sight in another part of the graveyard that an archaeological dig is going on to find earlier drafts of the text). The prison hulk from which Magwitch escapes is meanwhile being parasitised by "grammasites" that suck adjectives from descriptions. All very enjoyable, and I can't wait to get on to the next in the series, The Well of Lost Plots.

Elsewhere, I recommend the recent Guardian Books Blog posting World of Fantasy: Conan the Barbarian and his lily-white women ("Is it ridiculous to criticise Robert E Howard's enjoyably pulpy Conan stories for their 1930s attitudes to women and race?"): both the article and its discussion have good recommendations to fantasy novels, some little known.

One I followed, and liked, is Edgar Rice Burroughs' 1915 non-mythos novel Beyond Thirty (widely retitled The Lost Continent). The setting is 2137 and the Thirty refers to 30°W; a border not crossed by the isolationist Pan-American Federation since the collapse of Europe during the First World War over a century previously. The novel follows the adventures of Lieutenant Jefferson Turck, commander of the Coldwater - a Pan-American "aerosubmarine" - who is separated from his ship and forced to take its small launch to land on what once was England. After finding only wilderness at what once was Devonport and encountering a small tribe on the Isle of Wight 1, Turck and his crew reach the site of London, now a lion-infested forest with a few ruins (one for David Platt's Where London Stood, I think) and larger tribes. He teams up with a young woman called Victory, who turns out to be Queen of England. After capture by the armies of Menelek, head of the Abyssinian Empire, they finally escape to civilisation, an enlightened Asian empire governed from Peking. Turck asks the Chinese emperor who won the war in Europe:
"Pan-America, perhaps, and China, with the blacks of Abyssinia," he said. "Those who did not fight were the only ones to reap any of the rewards that are supposed to belong to victory. The combatants reaped naught but annihilation. You have seen--better than any man you must realize that there was no victory for any nation embroiled in that frightful war."

"When did it end?" I asked him.

Again he shook his head. "It has not ended yet. There has never been a formal peace declared in Europe. After a while there were none left to make peace, and the rude tribes which sprang from the survivors continued to fight among themselves because they knew no better condition of society. War razed the works of man--war and pestilence razed man. God give that there shall never be such another war!"
Turck and Victory return to Pan-America, and all is well.
My return to Pan-America was very different from anything I could possibly have imagined a year before. Instead of being received as a traitor to my country, I was acclaimed a hero. It was good to get back again, good to witness the kindly treatment that was accorded my dear Victory, and when I learned that Delcarte and Taylor had been found at the mouth of the Rhine and were already back in Pan-America my joy was unalloyed.

And now we are going back, Victory and I, with the men and the munitions and power to reclaim England for her queen. Again I shall cross thirty, but under what altered conditions!

A new epoch for Europe is inaugurated, with enlightened China on the east and enlightened Pan-America on the west-- the two great peace powers whom God has preserved to regenerate chastened and forgiven Europe. I have been through much--I have suffered much, but I have won two great laurel wreaths beyond thirty. One is the opportunity to rescue Europe from barbarism, the other is a little barbarian, and the greater of these is--Victory.
It's a polemical curiosity, clearly inspired by ERB's outrage at the ongoing WW1 and the prospect of US isolationism allowing Europe to tear itself apart. It also has a touch of the sexism and racism that's being discussed at the Guardian Books Blog in relation to the works of Robert E Howard, and the dénouement seems thoroughly naive - a world split between two civilisations trying to displace a third looks like a recipe for further conflict. It's nevertheless strangely readable: see Erblist or Project Gutenberg EText-No. 149 for the text; and FantasticFiction for editions and covers.
- RG

1. Nitpick: ERB's geography is pretty poor here. He says:
We skirted the northern shore of the island in fruitless search for man, and then at last landed upon an eastern point, where Newport should have stood
Nope. Newport is about 4.5 miles inland from the northern tip of the Island.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

No word for the upstairs?

The Guardian featured recently a series of extracts from his new book At Home. Introduced here - The secret life of your home (The Guardian, 15 May 2010):

Ever wondered why forks have four prongs? Or why we choose salt and pepper over other spices? For his new book, Bill Bryson took a trip around his own house to find out why we live the way we do

It looks rather good overall, and further extracts were The story of the electric light (17 May) and The history of the toilet (17 May), the latter also covering stairs and the lawn.

Stairs are a sore point at the best of times; Clare and I live in a house with ancient irregular death-trap stairs that have left us both needing medical attention on a couple of occasions, in line with the statistics Bryson cites:

Even on the most conservative calculations, however, stairs rank as the second most common cause of accidental death, well behind car accidents but far ahead of drownings, burns and other similarly grim misfortunes.

However, aches and pains aside, I couldn't help griping at a section in the Bryson extract, one that exemplifies how easy it is even for good writers to make daft linguistic assertions.

In passing, one linguistic curiosity is worth noting. As nouns, "upstairs" and "downstairs" are surprisingly recent additions to the language. "Upstairs" isn't recorded in English until 1842 (in a novel called Handy Andy by one Samuel Lover), and "downstairs" is first seen the following year in a letter written by Jane Carlyle. In both cases, the context makes clear that the words were already in existence – Jane Carlyle was no coiner of terms – but no earlier written records have yet been found. The upshot is that for at least three centuries people lived on multiple floors, yet had no convenient way of expressing it.

No noun usage of "upstairs" and "downstairs"? Uh, so what? Even accepting these Oxford English Dictionary citations as the first for the noun forms 1, lack of "upstairs" and "downstairs" as nouns is no handicap to expression. Now and in the past, citations abound to people living on, and moving between, different levels of houses, all easily expressed using "upstairs" and "downstairs" as adverbs and adjectives (see Google Books for 1700-1800: upstairs and downstairs). Furthermore, there are and were plenty of nouns and noun phrases referring to individual floors and levels of houses. Again looking at 1700-1800, we can find cellar, ground floor, first floor, second floor, etc, attic, upper room, above stairs, below stairs, mezzanine, principal floor, and no doubt others.

With such a varied terminology available, Bryson's claim that

... people lived on multiple floors, yet had no convenient way of expressing it.

appears to be completely unjustified: a variant on the "language X has no word for Y" meme that's frequently discussed at Language Log.
- Ray

1. The OED's "downstairs" noun citation looks OK

1843 MRS. CARLYLE Lett. I. 254 The old green curtains of downstairs were become filthy

but the "upstairs" one looks dubious:
b. quasi-n.
1842 S. LOVER Handy Andy xiv, The ogre's voice from up~stairs
- Oxford English Dictionary

Comparing with, say, "the ogre's voice from above", this usage of "upstairs" looks solidly adverbial to me. However, it's irrelevant, as it's not difficult to beat the OED for citation dates these days. I find that "upstairs" as a noun predates the OED citation by 30+ years:

All the lanterns and some of the globes which were tied in the upstairs of my house were broken to pieces
- The Literary Panorama, 1810

The place of dancing is generally the up-stairs, or loft of a farm-house, whose owner readily lends it for the occasion free of expence, together with every other corner, above and below, for the accommodation of the drinkers and carders.
- The Anti-Jacobin Review and Magazine, 1806.

Addendum (upgraded from Comments) - trabizonspor writes:

The fods have conned you again with the long s. For example La Calprenède trans Cotterell "Cassandra" (1667) has a couple of upftairs [link]. Pepys around the same time is using "above stairs" e.g. [link]

My impression is that this minor literary phenomenon takes off in England post-Restoration. So instead of Mr Bryson's humdrummery it might have been interesting to waffle about English bibles and social stratification (Him Upstairs as monarchs or gods - eg metaphorical use in religious/political ambit in 1659 [link]. I suppose you could even try to drag in the rebuilding of London after the fire. But it might not sell as well as the house that Bill built.

Thankf! I didn't look in the 1600s, as I was mostly interested in the century leading up to the OED citations (and specifically in the noun form).
- Ray

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

The death of Nelson

James Gillray's The Death of Lord Nelson in the Moment of Victory - listed in Robert Harding Evans's 1851 Historical and descriptive account of the caricatures of James Gillray as "A rather feeble attempt at celebrating the great battle of Trafalgar, fought on the 24th of October, 1805, in which Nelson fell in the moment of victory".

This is thoroughly unseasonal, it being nowhere near Trafalgar Day, but a couple of days ago Channel 4 repeated an excellent historical docudrama, Trafalgar Battle Surgeon:
This gritty and wry drama details the Battle of Trafalgar through the eyes of HMS Victory's surgeon, William Beatty, and his team on the lowest decks of the ship
This has been dramatised before, but Hardy Pictures, which has filmed a number of other equally good social history docudramas, produced one of their best here: a gripping combination of the tropes of modern medical drama and top-quality historical research (largely based on Beatty's own published account, Authentic Narrative of the Death of Lord Nelson (Gutenberg EText-No. 15233).

At the risk of being morbid, there are a number of other interesting accounts online about the death of Nelson: the timeline at (which mentions the various posthumous preservation measures that led to the "tapping the admiral" myth); the reprint Admiral Lord Nelson's death: known and unknown – A historical review of the anatomy (Spinal Cord (2005) 43, 573–576); and Medscape Today takes a "what if?" approach with The Case of the Fearless Mariner With a Mortal Chest Wound: How Would the Patient Be Treated Today? 1

It is, however, falling into a standard Great Men view of history to focus entirely on Nelson. Although the death of Nelson was central to Trafalgar Battle Surgeon, it also focused on the surprisingly effective treatment of other casualties and other interesting historical realities: it mentioned, for instance, women serving aboard British warships, that sailors were well-nourished, and the still-disputed phenomenon of death by "wind of ball"). 2 It rightly won the award Winner Royal Television Society Best History Film 2005.

Obligatory reference to literature: there was, unsurprisingly, a deal of ghastly poetry written about the event. John Leyden's overblown Verses on the Death of Nelson is fairly typical, and there are many more.

- Ray

1. This paper mentions Nelson's previous injuries: as is mostly known now, Nelson hadn't lost his blind eye and didn't wear an eyepatch; we owe this entirely to Laurence Olivier's portrayal in Korda's film That Hamilton Woman.
2. One minor aspect puzzled me: why Nelson in the dramatisation doesn't speak, when accounts say he spoke clearly and audibly in the period before his death. It would have been quite difficult to find an actor with the correct physical attributes (i.e. age, appearance, correct arm missing), so maybe Robert Linge, the Gulf War veteran who played Nelson, has an inappropriate accent? Or do Equity rules still apply?

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Musical miscellany

Maria Kalaniemi: Arctic Paradise. More on this below.

A regular glance at Sydney Padua's 2D Goggles finds a new story under way in her beautifully drawn steampunk comic The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: Lovelace and Babbage Vs The Organist! (part 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5) pits Babbage against his nemesis - street musicians - and Lovelace against the inner demons of her poetic ancestry. The erudite commentary brings to light a wealth of connections in the early 19th century scientific and social circuit: in this case, that the English concertina was one of a number of musical inventions by the physicist Sir Charles Wheatstone.

In that territory of instrument - the more complex free-bass accordion - I continue to be delighted and amazed by Finnish accordion virtuosity; a number of classically-trained exponents are creating exciting folk / classical / jazz / ethnic fusion. Check out Pauliina Lerche (for example Tulikatriili on accordion, and her vocal/instrumental work in general, such as Tanssi poika and Vot I Kaalina); Johanna Juhola (for example, Painajainen Leikkikentll); and Maria Kalaniemi (my current favourites are the reflective Arctic Paradise and Taklax I, whose folk-classical fusion reminds me a lot of Methera) . Accordion aside, exploring associated YouTube links has led me to Ulla Pirttijarvi, a Sámi musician whose work combines the traditional Sámi "yoik" form with modern arrangements (for instance, Northern Silk); and Gjallarhorn, a band from the Swedish-speaking Ostrobothnian region of Finland, who fuse "the folk music of Finland with a global range of influences and instrumentation including the didgeridoo and Australian wood flute" (for instance, O-Vals and Eldgjald). Oh, talking of Finnish music, I find - mutters curses - that I missed a Värttinä concert in Exeter three years ago, when they were in the UK following the West End premiere of The Lord of the Rings stage production, for which they co-composed the music.

Markku Lepistö Company: Concerto Diatonique

Addition upgraded from comment: Alan.98 (who is Alan Brignull) recommends the addition of Markku Lepistö to the list. Definitely!

Continuing the theme of instrumental virtuosity, I just ran into Seeing Ear Theatre's audio adaptation of Jack Vance's 1961 short SF story The Moon Moth. (also in the anthology The Moon Moth and Other Stories). In the scene-setting introduction (not in the print story), a drunken man attempts to force his attentions on a young woman. He is stopped and, despite protesting that he is a Consular Representative, is executed on the spot: not for the attempted assault, but for misjudging the woman's 'strakh' - social prestige level, as denoted by her mask. This is typical of Sirene, a planet with a highly xenophobic mask-wearing culture where all interactions depend on level of strakh (an unwritten scale of social prestige) and furthermore must be conducted in song accompanied by bizarre instruments whose choice again depends on relative strakh levels (for instance, the hymerkin - "a clapping, slapping, clattering device of wood and stone" - is used primarily to talk to slaves, and would be a deadly insult in other contexts).

The Moon Moth
(plot spoiler, if you want, here) is a social satire and murder mystery telling of the misadventures of Edwer Thissell, the replacement Consular Representative, who has to catch a murderer despite his own inexperience in Sirenese culture. I think the Seeing Ear Theatre version could do with a bit more musicality in the dialogue and accompaniments, which don't fully convey the virtuosity and complexity of Sirenese music, but it's not a bad effort overall. Here it is: part 1 / part 2.

- Ray

Thursday, 13 May 2010

That bee story again

Oh, lordy. A sizable section of UK television viewership was treated this evening to an exposition by a popular natural history presenter, Bill Oddie, of the urban myth about Einstein calculating that the death of bees would be the death of mankind. See the clip and transcript - Hail Caesar! - from the BBC programme Bill Oddie's Top 10 Aliens.
Brought to the UK by the Romans 2,000 years ago, honey bees make a massive and vital contribution to life on Earth. Not only do they provide honey, but they pollinate much of the flora we admire. Of even more significance, is their role in helping to produce the food we eat. Without bees there would be no fruit, no vegetables and pretty certainly, in an alarmingly short amount of time, there would be no us. Einstein (reportedly *) calculated that if bees become extinct, then in five years so would the human race. A worrying enough prediction in itself, made more alarming recently because the population of bees is plummeting rapidly and that definitely includes here in Britain. At least we know there are problems, we just need to find a way to solve them and hope that Einstein got his sums wrong!
* I bracketed the "reportedly" because for some reason it's in the transcript, but wasn't in the segment as broadcast.

Firstly, spot the massive logical fail. If honeybees were only brought to Britain 2000 years ago, then clearly they're not vital to human survival, since there was a thriving native human population in the British Isles long before the Romans arrived. (The Americas, too, got along fine before the Europeans introduced Apis mellifera). Or is the piece talking about bees in general, not just the honeybee? Hard to tell; but the specifics don't much matter, because there's absolutely no known provable attribution of this story to Einstein.

Until this evening, I thought it first appeared in June 1965 in Abeilles et Fleurs (i.e. Bees and Flowers), the house journal of the French beekeepers' association Union Nationale de l'Apiculture Française, which further propagated the story during a protest in 1994. I find now it has even older roots in French apiculture, as a rather similar claim appears in 1906 in the journal Les Abeilles & Les Fruits (logo pictured above) published by the Socíeté Haut-Marnaise d'Apiculture. An article about an apiculture expo in Nancy features a vigorous defence of beekeepers against fruit growers who didn't want bees kept near their orchards, ending with this warning to those opponents:
Partout ou une plantation s'élève, le rucher est construit: ce sont deux choses inséparables. Ceux qui se font les interprètes de pareilles erreurs sont coupables euxmêmes, et il n'y a qu'à les plaindre si on ne peut les convaincre, mais répétons-leur à cor et à cri le grand enseignement de Darwin:

"La vie de l'homme serait rendue extrêmement difficile si l'abeille venait à disparaître".
- page 1090, July 1906, Les Abeilles & Les Fruits, Volumes 6-8, 1906. 1

Wherever a plantation stands, the apiary is built: they are two inseparable things. Those who are the perpetrators of such errors are culpable themselves, and you can only pity them if you cannot convince them, but we repeat to them loudly the great teaching of Darwin:

"The life of man would be made extremely difficult if the bee disappeared".
That I can find no such statement by Darwin doesn't surprise me, and gives me a strong feeling of déjà vu. The use of his name to give authority to the assertion looks a definite precursor to the fake attribution of the more elaborate scare story to Einstein.

Probably the most enlightening take on the subject I've seen is in ScienceDaily - Pollination Crisis 'A Myth': Honeybees Are On The Rise, But Demand Grows Faster - which reports on a Current Biology paper by Aizen and Harder, who point out "that most agricultural crop production does not depend on pollinators". They argue that globalization has produced a destructive mutual benefit between bee-pollination services and producers of high-value bee-pollinated crops, increasing the market share of those crops and destroying habitats that harbour the many other pollinators. Perhaps the story is mostly about the impact on interested parties rather than humanity in general.

Another solid debunking comes from Keith S. Delaplane, Professor, Dept. Entomology, University of Georgia, who wrote this guest editorial in the newsletter of the British Bee Keepers Association: On Einstein, Bees, and Survival of the Human Race.

For more background, including a summary of discussion with Felix Grant (who has spoken to experts on colony collapse disorder), see my previous post Tracking bee story.

Addendum: see 2012 update Einstein, Darwin and bee apocalypse

1. Refinements on the translation welcome.
- Ray

Monday, 10 May 2010

Orange roots

My history in some areas is very shaky. Recently Wayland Wordsmith featured a 1690 poem concerning a war I'd never heard of: the Nine Years' War when the French fought the Grand Alliance (just about everyone else in Europe, including England) in 1688-1697. One of its sea engagements was the 1690 Battle of Beachy Head, in which the French fleet under Admiral Touville was victorious, but failed to follow up the advantage and instead sacked the completely unstrategic port of Teignmouth (Touville himself was sacked for this).

However, unstrategic or not, it was no fun for the inhabitants, who petitioned the Lord Lieutenant with this account:

... on the 26th day of this instant July 1690 by Foure of the clocke in the morning, your poor petitioners were invaded (by the French) to the number of 1,000 or thereabouts, who in the space of three hours tyme, burnt down to the ground the dwelling houses of 240 persons of our parish and upwards, plundered and carried away all our goods, defaced our churches, burnt ten of our ships in the harbour, besides fishing boats, netts and other fishing craft ...

Apart from a national relief fund fetching £11,000, Teignmouth received a poem of commiseration, Upon Tingmouth, by Philip Avant, vicar of Salcombe Regis. Not a great deal is known about Avant, a minor poet and a strong supporter of William III, beyond the brief entry in William Henry Kearley Wright's 1896 West-country Poets: their Lives and Works.

A Vicar of Salcombe of this name was a writer of poetry, among which are some local poems in praise of Torbay, and on the burning of Teignmouth by the French in 1680. The title of one of his publications is given in the Bibliotheca Devoniensis: Torbaia digna Camaenis ad Gulielmum tertium regem gratissimum. Ecclesiae Anglicanae conservatorem. Authore Philippo Avant, minimo indignissimo Ecclesiae Anglianae Presbytero: London, 1692. This contained, besides the above, some poems in honour of William and Mary ' On the Fall of Belgrade,' and others to Bishop Burnet.

The London-printed 1693 English edition had the even more grandiose title, "Torbaia digna Camaenis or The Wonderful Deliverance vouchsafed these Nations in the late Revolution and seasonable Landing of His most Sacred Majesty King WILLIAM III at Torbay, worthy to be written in indelible Characters, with a Pen of Iron and the Point of a Diamond ; yea so to be engraven on all Protestant Hearts as never to be worn out even to the World's End, a POEM originally written in Latin and now translated into English by the Author, PHILIP AVANT."

Rosalind Northcote, in her Devon, Its Moorlands, Streams and Coasts, quotes a little of the book, saying of it:

Fishermen and others gave a very cordial welcome to the Prince of Orange when he arrived on November 5, 1688. But by no one can he have been more vehemently applauded than by the author of the lines I have quoted at the head of the present chapter—the Rev Philip Avant, Vicar of Salcombe. The poem, originally written in Latin, and translated by the author, takes up almost the whole of his small and rather rare volume, Torbaia digna Camœnsis. It is in parts unintentionally amusing, and is interesting as showing how far the frenzied fervour of bigotry may carry a naturally amiable person, for in the narrow intervals between his torrents of denunciation it is clear that Mr Avant was, in ordinary matters, a kindly-disposed man.

She's referrring to the following section:

'Torbay, unknown to the Aonian Quire,
Nothing oblig'd to any Poet's lyre ...
The Muses had no Matter from thy Bay,
To make thee famous till great William's Day....
To Orange only and Batavia's Seed
Remain'd this glory, as of old decreed,
To make thy Name immortal, and thy Shore
More famous and renown'd than heretofore....
O happy, happy Bay! All future times
Shall speak of thee renown'd in foreign Climes!...
Muses have matter now, enough to make
Poets of Peasants for Torbaia's sake....
King David's Deeds were sung, and Triumphs too,
And why should not Great Orange have his due?
Supream in Earth, Dread Sovereign thou art;
Long may'st thou reign, we pray with all our heart.'

The classical/historical references lead down some interesting etymological paths. The "Aonian Quire" who'll sing in all future times in praise of Torbay are the Muses, who were supposed to come from Aonia. "Batavia's Seed" refers to the Dutch, whose precursors were the Batavi (aka Batavians), a Germanic tribe who occupied an area of the Rhine delta and whose name derived from batawjō, "good island": the area is still called Betuwe. This explains all subsequent uses of the name Batavia: whether as the East India Company ship Batavia; the historical name for the Netherlands (see the 1728 Batavia Illustrata); the colonial Dutch name for what is now Jakarta; the Batavian Republic; and many others.

Another snippet of the poem appeared in Devon Notes and Queries, volume 2, 1903, when a correspondent asked - without result, as far as I know - if anyone could unravel the allusions in the following section.

Dartmouth is overjoyed, etc.
Nor canst thou, Kingswear, etc., nor Hew
Forbear to give the great Nassau his due.
The ghost that heretofore did haunt thy Downs
And with loud clamours fright the neighbouring clowns,
Is silent.

I can't shed much light on it, except to speculate that "clowns" might be a misprint for "towns". The "great Nassau" also refers to William of Orange, who came from the Dutch House of Orange-Nassau. Nassau being the name of the capital of the Bahamas is no etymological coincidence; the original Nassau was in what's now Germany, but Nassau, Bahamas (originally Charles Town) was named in honour of William III of Orange. The word "Orange" is itself is etymologically interesting; the Principality of Orange is nothing to do with oranges, but derives its name from the original Roman settlement Arausio (apparently named after a Celtic water god); the name of the fruit comes from an entirely different Dravidian root similar to the Sanskrit naranga. By around the 13th century, the two words had both mutated to "orange" and an etymological fusion was pretty inevitable. This was cemented by the Protestant House of Orange adopting orange heraldic motifis and orange-coloured regalia, hence Orangemen.

Avant died in 1696: Mary Jones' 1875 The History of Chudleigh, Devon: with a description of the surrounding scenery, seats, families, etc mentions

From an inscription on a stone in the chancel of the church to the memory of Philip Avant, died Nov. 28, 1696, and described as the only son of Stephen "Gymnasiarchae Chudliensis," it has been conjectured that the said Stephen was master of Chudleigh Grammar School.

Fraser Halle's 1851 Letters, historical and botanical, relating chiefly to places in the Vale of Teign: and particularly to Chudleigh, Lustleigh, Canonteign, and Bovey-Tracey also mentions the inscription, confirming that this was the same Philip Avant, "Vic. de Salcombe".

It's a pity more of his 48-page Torbaia digna Camaenis isn't online; however, a copy resides in the Devon and Exeter Institution. I'm quite tempted to go and transcribe it one day.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Dispatches from Adanaland

I love retro craftsmanship, and just received an excellent package of it from the artist Alan Brignull of the Hedgehog Press, Colchester. Alan uses an Adana Letterpress machine to produce, among other artworks, an exquisitely-printed postcard-format series (I'm not quite sure what exactly you'd call it - keepsake, ephemera, miniature magazine?) called The Rambling Urchin. The image (right) shows four in the series: click the image to enlarge.

We got in discussion following a bit of Language Log whimsy, Eyjafjallajökull FTW, where posters were swapping ideas about what kind of sea-shanty might be inspired by the eruption of that Icelandic volcano. Alan asked if he could devote the current issue to my effort. Along the lines of English sailors' ship nicknames, such as the Bellerophon becoming the Billy Ruffian, I thought the oral tradition would blunt the name Eyjafjallajökull to Fat Yokel. The result - Rambling Urchin 44 - is very nice, and gives more posterity than deserved to a completely throwaway bit of verse: thanks, Alan.

"Adanaland" has no online presence, but via others equally impressed, a certain amount of Alan's other work is documented online: for instance, "Artistamps" - a genre I'd never heard of - including World Cup Winners, and some examples of Women of Adanaland in this post, Wayzgoose, at the blog Middle of Nowhere. Alan's Flickr Photostream is also worth a look for its pleasant selection of photographs, ephemera, fonts, type, and so on.

(The process of Googling for this topic in itself led in directions of typographical, printing and art blogs where I could browse for hours. See, for example, Typoretum and Woodtyper).

- RG