Thursday, October 31, 2013

Along the Arno with Mark Twain / " It would be a very plausible river if they would pump some water into it"

"We went to the Church of Santa Croce, from time to time, in Florence, to weep over the tombs of Michael Angelo, Raphael and Machiavelli, (I suppose they are buried there, but it may be that they reside elsewhere and rent their tombs to other parties--such being the fashion in Italy,) and between times we used to go and stand on the bridges and admire the Arno. It is popular to admire the Arno. It is a great historical creek with four feet in the channel and some scows floating around. It would be a very plausible river if they would pump some water into it. They all call it a river, and they honestly think it is a river, do these dark and bloody Florentines. They even help out the delusion by building bridges over it. I do not see why they are too good to wade." - Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad (1869)

Well now, I think the Arno is a pretty passable river, especially by my West Coast (USA) standards. The Arno is no Mississippi of course, but seeing as the damage it's caused with it's floods over the centuries, I think that it's worthy of admiration ... and I'm sure this river otter I saw the other day would agree!


Looking for Beatrice on the Ponte Santa Trinita

Dante and Beatrice by H. Holiday at Hotel Santa Croce
"After the lapse of so many days that nine years exactly were completed since the above-written appearance of this most gracious being, on the last of those days it happened that the same wonderful lady appeared to me dressed all in pure white, between two gentle ladies elder than she. And passing through a street, she turned her eyes thither where I stood sorely abashed: and by her unspeakable courtesy, which is now guerdoned in the Great Cycle, she saluted me with so virtuous a bearing that I seemed then and there to behold the very limits of blessedness." Dante, La Vita Nuova (trans. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1899)
It was here at the Ponte Santa Trinita, that legend has it that Dante for the second time in his life saw his muse, Beatrice. After this encounter, where he first heard her speak, he was taken by a fit of extacy and composed the great La Vita Nuova (1295). 

Here's a series of night shots ... any Dantes in these groups I wonder? 

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And here are a few shots in the early morning:

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Good morning from Florence, from me and John Ruskin: The Fourth Morning: The Vaulted Book

"As early as may be this morning, let us look for a minute or two into the cathedral:—I was going to say, entering by one of the side doors of the aisles;—but we can't do anything else, which perhaps might not strike you unless you were thinking specially of it. There are no transept doors; and one never wanders round to the desolate front. From either of the side doors, a few paces will bring you to the middle of the nave, and to the point opposite the middle of the third arch from the west end; where you will find yourself—if well in the mid-wave—standing on a circular slab of green porphyry, which marks the former place of the grave of the bishop Zenobius. The larger inscription, on the wide circle of the floor outside of you, records the translation of his body; the smaller one round the stone at your feet—"quiescimus, domum hanc quum adimus ultimam"—is a painful truth, I suppose, to travellers like us, who never rest anywhere now, if we can help it." - John Ruskin, Mornings in Florence (1881)

2013.10.28-IMG_6759My morning shot is above ... here's the real thing:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Looking for Beatrice at the Santa Margherita de' Cerchi

"Nine times already since my birth had the heaven of light returned to the selfsame point almost, as concerns its own revolution, when first the glorious Lady of my mind was made manifest to mine eyes; even she who was called Beatrice by many who knew not wherefore.She had already been in this life for so long as that, within her time, the starry heaven had moved towards the Eastern quarter one of the twelve parts of a degree; so that she appeared to me at the beginning of her ninth year almost, and I saw her almost at the end of my ninth year. Her dress, on that day, was of a most noble colour, a subdued and goodly crimson, girdled and adorned in such sort as best suited with her very tender age. At that moment, I say most truly that the spirit of life, which hath its dwelling in the secretest chamber of the heart, began to tremble so violently that the least pulses of my body shook therewith; and in trembling it said these words: Ecce deus fortior me, qui veniens dominabitur mihi." - Dante, La Vita Nuova (trans. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1899)
The Church of Santa Margherita de' Cerchi, is where Dante, as a child of nine, first saw his beloved Beatrice Portinari. Interestingly, it was also where Dante is reputed to have married Gemma Donati. The church also has the tomb of Folco Portinari, Beatrice's father (but not Beatrice). The church is interesting, tucked away in a little side street, it was quite small and dark.

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An important note about the apostrophe (Artist's Books Series X)

Where oh where does the apostrophe go!?!?!?!?
a·pos·tro·phe 1 (-pstr-f)n. The superscript sign ( ' ) used to indicate the omission of a letter or letters from a word, the possessive case, or the plurals of numbers, letters, and abbreviations.
So, is it "Artists' Books" or "Artist's Books" or "Artists Books" or something else entirely.
Well, Wikipedia's heading is "Artist's Books" but then in the first line, they use "Artists' Books" (equal opportunity perhaps?). Printed Matter, Inc. uses "Artists' Books" while the now gone Bookwarks also used "Artists' Books".
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago uses "Artists' Books," as in their Joan Flasch Artists' Book Collection
The Library of Congress subject heading is: Artist's Books:
Artist's BooksHere are entered books that are produced by artists and intended as visual art objects, and general works about such books. Works on such books produced in a particular place are entered under this heading with local subdivision. Works on books illustrated with original prints by well known artists and published in limited editions are entered under [Artists' illustrated books.] Works on existing books whose pages have been altered by paint, collage, or other media are entered under [Altered books.] Works on custom bindings of books, irrespective of contents, are entered under [Fine bindings.]
I myself find my mind in the same place as Wikipedia and using both of the apostrophe options, but for the purposes of these posts, have settled on the LC style, "Artist's Books" (except when I slip up!).

QotD: "Within days three out of the Big Four Networks had ceased broadcasting operations, and ABC had to fall back on old ‘Happy Days’ marathons"

2012; ALA; Anaheim
"Within days three out of the Big Four Networks had ceased broadcasting operations, and ABC had to fall back on old ‘Happy Days’ marathons of such relentless duration that bomb threats began to be received both by the Network and by poor old Henry Winkler, now hairless and sugar-addicted in La Honda CA and seriously considering giving that lurid-looking but hope-provoking LipoVac procedure a try…." - David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest (1996).
I'll be saving some further commentary on Infinite Jest for later, but for now, I felt the need, on Henry Winkler's birthday (born 1945), to pull this quote. The photo above is of Winkler at the 2012 American Library Association meeting where he was plugging his latest book (because, in case you didn't know, Fonzie is an author!).

The Fonz was beyond friendly and more than happy to pose for pictures and make idle chatter with all comers. Looking fit, he didn't need Wallace's fictional LipoVac. Ay!

Bioinformaticians want metadata to be open / data interactions w/ @EuropeanaEu by Bit Jacob #tdwg

UntitledMore info on NH data interactions w/ @EuropeanaEu. Asked audience of we had problems with CC0 metadata licensing. Shouts of no! When asked why, crowd answered we were the wrong group to ask. Bioinformaticians want metadata to be open!

"Natural History meets Culture" Wolfgang Koller on BioCASE and Europeana #tdwg

Paper coauthored with Heimo Rainer.

Boris Jacob (@editvital) kicking off @OpenUpEu session at #Tdwg

Good session giving overview of the way OpenUp! is getting natural history collections data to a wider GLAM community.

Good morning from Florence, from me and John Ruskin: The Third Morning: Before the Soldan

"You are, therefore—instructed reader—called upon to admire a piece of art which no painter ever produced the equal of except Raphael; but it is unhappily deficient, according to Crowe, in the "mere rendering of form"; and, according to Signor Cavalcasella, "no opinion can be given as to its colour."
John Ruskin, Mornings in Florence (1881)

Since the church wasn't open yet when I went out this morning, I just give you yet another image of Santa Croce. But here are three images from Giotto's frescoes in the Bardi Chapel of Santa Croce from my visit earlier in the week, none, however, of St. Francis and the Sultan (aka Soldan).

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"O bella libertà, O bella!" beneath Casa Guidi windows, near dusk, but I hear only scooter horns, no child

On the south bank of the Arno, just across from the Pitti Palace, is a curious corner that is Casa Guidi. The longtime home of Robert and Elizabeth Browning. I don't know now if one could here a little child singing, what with the noise of scooter horns and all, but the site is still lovely, especially in the evening, which is when I stopped by.
I heard last night a little child go singing
     'Neath Casa Guidi windows, by the church,
    O bella libertà, O bella! – stringing
      The same words still on notes he went in search
    So high for, you concluded the upspringing
      Of such a nimble bird to sky from perch
    Must leave the whole bush in a tremble green,
      And that the heart of Italy must beat,
    While such a voice had leave to rise serene
     'Twixt church and palace of a Florence street;
    A little child, too, who not long had been
      By mother's finger steadied on his feet,
    And still O bella libertà he sang.

Casa Guidi Windows, A Poem (1851), by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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More on Casa Guidi:
Palazzo Guidi was originally two 15th-century structures. The corner house was built by the Ridolfi family, who wanted a residence near the Pitti. In 1618, Count Camillo Guidi, Secretary of State for the Medici, bought this building from Lorenzo Ridolfi. In 1650, the adjoining house was given to Admiral Camillo Guidi, nephew of Count Guidi, by the Commenda of the Military Order of St. Stephen. The two houses were combined and refurbished in the late 18th century. In the early 1840's, the Guidi family sub-divided the grand state rooms on the piano nobile into two apartments.
Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning leased one of these apartments in 1847, less than a year after their marriage. It became their home for the remaining 14 years of their married life. Soon after the birth of their son, Pen, Elizabeth started calling the apartment Casa Guidi, thereby changing "a mere palace into a home."
From "Casa Guidi" from the Browning Society. 
You might also find this article from The Guardian of interest: Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Ode to Florence.

Mayday Club on Via Dante Alighieri

Mayday Club on Via Dante Alighieri
This was quite the find! Little did I know that I'd be in for a great evening when I wandered into the Mayday Club. I was looking for an interesting cocktail spot in Florence and saw some mentions of the Mayday Club. 

Since I'd been strolling on Via Dante Alighieri a few days ago, I knew the general area, but since it was in the day, I hadn't seen Mayday. 

I turned the corner tonight and there it was. The look of the Club attracted me right away: old electronic and telephony equipment. It was early, so when I walked in I was the only person there. I had a friendly greeting from the staff (who turned out to be the owners). 

Marco is an expert mixologist and guided me to the Ginko to start. Gin, Honey wine, Coco Buton made for a great, slightly sweet drink. I was also intrigued by the La Duchessa which included Marco's own absinthe. While I relaxed between drinks, Marco gave me a taste test of some of his fruit pressings (I particularly liked the pear). We also talked specialty liquors and when I asked for an Amaro recommendation to take home, Marco guided me to Vecchio Amaro del Capo

But the most interesting thing was when I received a tour of the collection from Jenna (co-owner and Marco's wife). It was an amazing (Smithsonian quality!) collection of early wireless, telephony, and telegraphy objects from Marco's grandfather and father who worked in the industry (and worked with Marconi on radar research). There's a great documentary on history of telecommunications waiting to be told over a fabulous cocktail.

The Mayday Club also works with the local artist community to sponsor exhibitions as well as related events. 

So, if you're ever in Florence, head over to Mayday Club. You won't regret it.

Along the Arno with Henry James / "... because the river is yellow, and the light is yellow ... "

As I crossed the Ponte Vecchio the other evening, as dusk was approaching, I thought of Henry James' description of the Arno at Florence from Italian Hours (1909):
"And yet forsooth, because the river is yellow, and the light is yellow, and here and there, elsewhere, some mellow mouldering surface, some hint of colour, some accident of atmosphere, takes up the foolish tale and repeats the note—because, in short, it is Florence, it is Italy, and the fond appraiser, the infatuated alien, may have had in his eyes, at birth and afterwards, the micaceous sparkle of brown- stone fronts no more interesting than so much sand-paper, these miserable dwellings, instead of suggesting mental invocations to an enterprising board of health, simply create their own standard of felicity and shamelessly live in it."

@BioDivLibrary symposium at #TDWG 2013 on stage now in Florence

This symposium will focus on strategies for creating, expanding and maintaining a multinational digital library programme; digitisation platforms, standards and services; creating value-added features for discipline-specific communities; use of social media and outreach to increase use and build new audiences; and migration from projects to sustainable programmes.

This session will include presentations from a spectrum of partners from different project-, country-, and continent- collaborators sharing their experiences on facing the mentioned topics of this Symposium and promote a discussion on next steps to improve the needs of scientists.

Martin R. Kalfatovic
A Current Overview of the Biodiversity Heritage Library

This presentation will provide a general overview of recent BHL activities and the BHL’s engagement with taxonomic communities. It will include an overview of how BHL’s focus on new vision, mission and goals help to build important tools and services that will help BHL better serve the taxonomic and other communities. Changes to the organizational structure, global activities, technical development and content acquisition will be introduced and covered in more detail by the other panelists; additionally, new content types for BHL in the future will include Field Books, a more robust discovery of illustrations, and new content from global partners.

Trish Rose-Sandler
Finding a goldmine of natural history illustrations within BHL texts: the Art of Life project
The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) has now achieved a critical mass of digitized historic texts – over 41 million pages and counting. The BHL portal can be searched by several access points including title, author, subject, and scientific name. But, what is largely hidden and entirely unsearchable are the millions of natural history illustrations found with the BHL books and journals. These visual resources which include drawings, paintings, photographs, maps and diagrams represent work by some of the finest botanical and zoological illustrators in the world, including the likes of John James Audubon, Georg Dionysus Ehret, and Pierre Redouté.

Many of the illustrations are the first recorded descriptions of much of the world’s biota, providing the scientific foundation for contemporary taxonomic research and conservation assessments. Some of them are the only verifiable resource about an organism and their existence on Earth due to changes in global climate patterns and rapid loss of natural habitat for many species. Audiences for these illustrations also cross a variety of disciplines and include: biologists, artists, historians, illustrators, graphic designers, archivists, educators, students, and citizen scientists.

In 2012, the Missouri Botanical Garden was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support a project called The Art of Life: Data Mining and Crowdsourcing the Identification and Description of Natural History Illustrations from the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL). This talk will discuss the Art of Life objectives and current status. It will go into detail about the algorithms and schema designed for finding which pages contain illustrations and describing the subsequent output. Finally the talk will discuss the project’s benefits for the scientific community such as improving access to a significant collection of public domain images related to biodiversity.

Jiri Frank
Biodiversity Heritage Library for Europe - past, present and future
Biodiversity Heritage Library for Europe project had a clear vision and mission – mobilise and preserve digital European biodiversity heritage literature and facilitate the open access to this literature through a multilingual community portal, the Biodiversity Library Exhibition (BLE) and Europeana portal. During the project BHL Europe developed the multifunctional portal, an ingest system, additional services using name services as CoL, PESI and VIAF, a unique metadata format “Open Literature Exchange Format (OLEF)” -- able to handle bibliographic data (MODS), policy expressions IPR (ODRL), still image data (MIX) and scientific names (DwC Taxon Terms), and also BLE. The project officially ended in June 2012, but the vision and mission still continue. At the completion of the funding, several institutions from Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, United Kingdom, and Belgium continued to advance the BHLE technical maintenance and the content flow. Content ingest started just before the project end and is continuing. The BHLE portal currently has about 20,000 items representing about 1.8 million pages; new content is added daily via the ingest system. BHL Europe still has more than 70,000 items in the pipeline ready to be processed and in March 2015 will start to ingest whole BHL content. There are several requests from new content providers and also continue with dissemination together with the Global BHL family via social media channels. BHLE is no longer a project but a product and service supported by the afore mentioned consortium which represents the European node in Global BHL. BHL Europe is now in process of negotiations to become a part of the Consortium of European Taxonomic Facilities (CETAF) to help mobilise even more European content, partners and possible funding. The future is always a challenge, but BHLE group will do their best to be part of it.

Lucy Waruingi
Discovering African biodiversity literature collections 

On Monday, 15 April 2013, BHL-Africa was born! The launch ceremony was hosted by SANBI at the Pretoria National Botanical Garden. It began with a welcome by Dr. Tanya Abrahamse, SANBI CEO, after which she and Nancy Gwinn (Chair of the BHL Executive Committee) signed the BHL-Africa MOU (Memorandum of Understanding). Nancy Gwinn then gave a presentation detailing the history of BHL's development, and Anne-Lise Fourie, Assistant Director for SANBI libraries, gave an overview of the BHL-Africa vision, mission, and benefits.

BHL-Africa aims to provide open access to the valuable information held in Africa's biodiversity institutions. Towards this end, the global BHL family works with the international taxonomic community, rights holders, and other interested parties to ensure that this biodiversity heritage is made available to a global audience through open access principles. Across the continent people are embracing mobile technology as communication infrastructure expands and the uptake for these digitized resources is expanding, thus consideration to adapt mobile technology within the BHL consortium will be key in Africa.

Quote: This is of great value to Africa, as we are a continent of long-distance learning.” Anne-Lise Fourie

William Ulate
Expanding the Biodiversity Heritage Library 
BHL has been continuously expanding in terms of quantity and types of content, geographical coverage and services provided, answering requests from diverse communities, including scientists, and particularly taxonomists. BHL currently includes more than 41 million pages, 118,000 volumes, almost 63,000 titles and since March of this year, almost 95,000 articles from BioStor and the number of taxonomic names occurrences within the text has increased substantially with the new services from the Global Names Architecture, totaling now more than 150 million appearances of names. The incorporation of segments has brought the challenge of deduplicating new article titles contributed by our providers. Solving this task by clustering segments together has allowed us to categorize these relations opening the door to new functionality for our everyday end users. Technically, there are paths that could be followed if enough resources were available, like assigning unique identifiers to legacy articles; tagging and extracting entities from the text. The wish list goes on, including citation services, segments linking out to other repositories, crowdsourcing OCR improvements and transcription, legacy articles DOIs, tagging and extracting identities, among other cool things.

Connie Rinaldo
Please phrase your question in the form of feedback...

In 2009/2010, the Biodiversity Heritage Library and BHL-Europe requested user feedback with a targeted and fairly complex user survey. Changes to the BHL interface and features were made based on the results of these surveys. Since 2011, BHL staff have interviewed 32 users and published these interviews on the BHL blog. Who has been interviewed? What do they like and what would they like to see change? What issues have been addressed by interface and backend changes? Are there common themes presented by the users and have these themes changed since 2009? I will summarize and sort user comments. Feedback is always welcome through the feedback link  at BHL. What should we be aiming for next? We are asking you for your thoughts now and would welcome ideas on other ways gather your suggestions. One potentially new direction is to move from being a trusted, bounded resource to a comprehensive resource providing external links to other biodiversity information providers and external links to citations with no full text. Please phrase your question in the form of feedback….

Cynthia Parr (@EOL) and Patricia Mergen (@africamuseumbe), candidates for President and Secretary of #TDWG

Cynthia and Patricia are running unopposed for the offices, respectively, of President and Secretary, of TDWG. The full slate of candidates is here. Voting will commence late on 29 October 2013 with results shortly thereafter.

Cynthia Parr


Good morning Florence, from me and John Ruskin: The Second Morning: The Golden Gate

2013.10.28-IMG_6791Alas, I'm going to cheat today, the picture of Santa Maria Novella here is not from my morning walk, but rather from my evening visit to the church yesterday. By way of recompense, I offer a morning shot at the end of the post.
"To-day, as early as you please, and at all events before doing anything else, let us go to Giotto's own parish-church, Santa Maria Novella. If, walking from the Strozzi Palace, you look on your right for the "Way of the Beautiful Ladies," it will take you quickly there.
Do not let anything in the way of acquaintance, sacristan, or chance sight, stop you in doing what I tell you. Walk straight up to the church, into the apse of it;—(you may let your eyes rest, as you walk, on the glow of its glass, only mind the step, half way;)—and lift the curtain; and go in behind the grand marble altar, giving anybody who follows you anything they want, to hold their tongues, or go away."
John Ruskin, Mornings in Florence (1881)

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Santa Trinta
Santa Trinta

Monday, October 28, 2013

No mail art, but mail-order Artist's Books from Printed Matter (Artist's Book Series IX)

In an earlier post (Printed Matter, the artist's book pilgrimage site (Artist's Book Series VIII), I covered my introduction to the great Printed Matter store. At the time I only knew Printed Matter from their mail-order catalog. Now, having enjoyed the tactile experience of purchases at Bookworks (see Bookworks, a bookshop for artist's books at the Washington Project for the Arts [Artist's Book Series I]), I was a bit hesitant to jump into buying sight unseen, but did anyway.

For my purchase, I selected four items:

Sol LeWitt, The Location of Eight Points (1977, 1974)
This item was a reprint of LeWitt's earlier (1974) work. In addition to being a master of the Minimalist School, LeWitt was also a key figure in the founding of Printed Matter and, at $2.00, it was a low-barrier way to add a "name" artist to my budding collection.
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Tuli KupferbergKill for Peace, Again (1987)
Kupferberg was a bit of a greybeard -- by the 1990s -- of the counterculture, avante-garde movement of the 1960s. A founding member of The Fugs, he was on the barricades of art early on. This work, a newsprint "magazine" was a update to his classic 1965 work (Kill for Peace).
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Louise NeaderlandOpen Roads/Empty Nests (1988)
Another opportunity to add a high profile artist to the collection. I had been a fan of Neaderland for a while. Noted for her work as print-maker, book artist, and for me, as founder-director of the International Society of Copier Artists (I.S.C.A.). The ISCA, and its publication, The ISCA Quarterly, influenced my collecting habits and tastes of artist's books.

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Sol LeWitt
The Location of Eight Points (1977, 1974)
New York, Max Protech Gallery
Text, with accompanying illustrations, describing geometric figures
Cost: $2.00 | x01136 | Joan Flasch Artists' Book Collection
Tuli Kupferberg
Kill for Peace, Again (1987)
New York, Strolling Dog Press
Offset printed text/collage/drawings of a left-wing political bent
Cost: $1.00 | x03288
Louise Neaderland
Open Roads/Empty Nests (1988)
New York, Bone Hollow Arts
Xeroxed maps and photographs; pictorial narrative
Cost: $5.00 | x04720
A fourth book purchased in that mail-order transaction, Sharon Gilbert's Green the Fragile (1989) will be covered in a separate post:
Sharon Gilbert
Green the Fragile (1989)
New York, Self-Published
Xerographic collage/text encouraging Green thinking and saving the trees. Signed: 76/300 
Cost: $2.00 | x04442 |  Joan Flasch Artists' Book Collection