ETAOIN SHRDLU and the Linotype Keyboard.

ETAOIN SHRDLU is the approximate order of frequency of the twelve most commonly used letters in the English language. As the letters on Linotype keyboards were arranged by letter frequency, ETAOIN SHRDLU were the first two vertical columns on the left side of the keyboard. Piecework or Publishing Linotype operators who had made a mistake […]

Hoefnagel’s Guide to Constructing Letters, c. 1595.

Joris Hoefnagel (1542 – 1600) was a pivotal figure in the history of Dutch art, playing an important role both in the latter stages of the Flemish illumination tradition and the birth of the new genre of still life. In the last decade of his life Hoefnagel was appointed court artist to Holy Roman Emperor […]

J.M. Barrie’s Truly Atrocious Cricket Team.

There are all sorts of literary friendships in history. J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg and The Algonquin Round Table. But they usually restricted themselves to literary pursuits. Not so with J.M. Barrie’s cricket team, which was packed with famous names and almost no athletic ability. J.M. Barrie (author […]

Finally, Friends after 54 years.

What we thought was going to be World War III went off like a damp squib at The Old Guv Legends Lunch on Friday, 7th December, 2012, at the Westies Footy Club. On the one hand we had Alex (The Toff) Riley, the Accuser and on the other hand Brian (…

‘The Curse of the Plane Tree Leaves’ (1960).

Approaching the GP’s door red faced I timidly knocked on the door hoping he was out. A huge bellow roared ‘Come in’ and as I approached him I said ‘Good morning Mr . . . ‘ My voice was drowned out as he roared ‘ARE YOU RILEY’. trembling in fear ‘I replied yes Mr Hawes’. […]

Teeth Extraction by Steam Power drawn on an Envelope,1894.

This wonderful sketch of “teeth painlessly extracted by steam power” appears on an envelope addressed to a certain Dr J. Chapman of Totton, Southampton. As to whether he is the creator of the drawing also (or indeed someone in his household), the jury is out — though the idea that the envelope made its way […]

Turner’s “The Fighting Temeraire.”

‘Chance favours the prepared mind’ said Louis Pasteur and in 1983, for reasons my mind no longer recalls, I looked into the facts behind Turner’s painting of ‘The Fighting Temeraire’. While there are circumstantial anecdotes of him seeing the ship under tow, in the autumn of 1838, from Sheerness up the Thames to John Beatson’s […]

Silverback Gorilla numbers growing in Republic of Congo.

A silverback gorilla in the Republic of Congo’s Nouabalé-Ndoki national park. Researchers now estimate that there are more than 360,000 western lowland gorillas in the wild, approximately one-third higher than earlier figures. Image credit: Photograph by Zanne Labuschagne/WCS Source: The week in wildlife – in pictures | Environment | The Guardian

These Happy Bears could soon be Hunted in Alaska.

Bear mother and cub playing in the winter forest, Alaska. The Trump administration is moving to reverse Obama-era rules barring hunters on some public lands in Alaska from baiting bears with bacon and doughnuts and using spotlights to shoot mother bears and their cubs hibernating in dens. Photograph: Volodymyr Burdiak/Alamy Stock Photo Source: The week […]

The Knocker-Ups woke Workers With Pea Shooters.

Mary Smith using peas as an alarm clock. Courtesy of The Image Works The modern worker rolls out of bed, groans, and turns off an alarm clock. But industrial-era British and Irish workers relied on a different method for rising each morning. In the 19th century and well into the 20th, a human alarm clock […]