The Canterbury Tales is a long poem written at the end of the 14th century by Geoffrey Chaucer, who is credited as having set the style for Middle English literature. His poem follows the journey of a group of pilgrims from London to Canterbury Cathedral. Each pilgrim resolves to tell two tales on the way out and two on the way home to help while away their time on the road.
Who were Caxton’s readers? Most continental printers produced books in Latin, the international language of the day, in order to be able to sell them in a number of countries. Caxton, on the other hand, mainly produced books in English for a local market.
Although printed books could reach a much wider audience than manuscripts, they were still a luxury in Caxton’s day and were thus aimed at fairly wealthy people. However, printing soon led to books becoming available at a cheaper price, and Caxton was part of the beginning of a major change in the way in which people acquired books for information and for entertainment.
At the end of his Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye, the first book printed in English in about 1473 or 1474, Caxton wrote, ‘I have practised and earned at my great charge and dispense to ordain this said book in print after the manner and form as you may here see, and is not written with pen and ink as other books been, to the end that every man may have them at once.’
Caxton used a Burgundian-style type for the 1476 edition of The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer’s popular classic was itself a canny choice for his first major project in England. The second edition, published in 1483, was printed in a smaller size of the same type design. Smaller type meant more words on each page. Fewer pages meant cheaper production costs – and more profit.
The second edition was also made more commercially appealing by the addition of 26 woodcut illustrations, one at the beginning of each tale, usually showing a pilgrim on horseback.
On the dotted line: King John signing Magna Carta at Runnymeade 15 June 1215. Photograph: Universal History Archive/Un/REX
It was on 15 June 1215 that King John, in the meadow of Runnymede beside the Thames between Windsor and Staines, sealed (not signed) the document now known as the Magna Carta.
Today, jets taking off from London Heathrow airport come up over Runnymede and then often turn to fly down its whole length before vanishing into the distance.
Yet it is not difficult to imagine the scene, during those tense days in June 1215, when Magna Carta was being negotiated, the great pavilion of the king, like a circus top, towering over the smaller tents of barons and knights stretching out across the meadow.
The Magna Carta is a document some 3,550 words long written in Latin, the English translation being “Great Charter”. Much of it, even in a modern translation, can seem remote and archaic.
It abounds in such terms as wainage, amercement, socage, novel disseisin, mort d’ancestor and distraint. Some of its chapters seem of minor importance: one calls for the removal of fish weirs from the Thames and Medway.
Yet there are also chapters which still have a very clear contemporary relevance. Chapters 12 and 14 prevented the king from levying taxation without the common consent of the kingdom.
Chapter 39 laid down that “No free man is to be arrested, or imprisoned, or diseised [dispossessed], or outlawed, or exiled, or in any way destroyed, nor will we go against him, nor will we send against him, save by the lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land.”
In chapter 40 the king declared that “To no one will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay, right or justice.”
In these ways, the Charter asserted a fundamental principle – the rule of law.
The king was beneath the law, the law the Charter itself was making. He could no longer treat his subjects in an arbitrary fashion.
It was for asserting this principle that the Charter was cherished by opponents of Charles I, and called in aid by the founding fathers of the United States. When on trial for his life in 1964, Nelson Mandela appealed to Magna Carta, alongside the Petition of Rights and the Bill of Rights, “documents which are held in veneration by democrats throughout the world”.
Chapters 39 and 40 are still on the statute book of the UK today.
The headline of a Guardian piece in 2007 opposing the 90-day detention period for suspected terrorists was “Protecting Magna Carta”.
In the past decade Bristol has been synonymous with street art, specifically graffiti from the artist Banksy.
Although he isn’t the be all and end all in the UK street art world, his wide-spread acclaim cannot be ignored.
Many of his best known pieces first appeared here, and many exhibitions have been held locally.
All this attention has lead to a healthy appreciation of street art in Bristol, along with a large fan base of up-and-coming artists.
The city’s involvement in street art actually goes back a few decades when numerous artists, were active in the original 1980s graffiti boom.
Although there are many fan-based sites offering interactive maps of the city and advice on where to see the best pieces, Bristol Street Art Tours offer a walking guide which will ensure you don’t miss the most exciting works.
The 19th-century market building in London’s Covent Garden was transformed.
French artist Charles Pétillon used twenty-five workers over five days to fill the building with 100,000 giant white balloons in an installation called “heartbeat.”
The project is part of “The balloon invasions I create are metaphors,” Pétillon told Design Boom.
“Their goal is to change the way in which we see the things we live alongside each day without really noticing them. with ‘heartbeat’ I want to represent the market building as the beating heart of this area – connecting its past with the present day to allow visitors to re-examine its role at the heart of London’s life.
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