Sunday, 31 January 2010

More thoughts on PhDs

It was a really cold night and a heavy frost. I spent much of yesterday painting the kitchen floor but forgot to put the heating on constant and so the house is really cold this morning. I have also volunteered to deliver a batch of the village newsletter to the houses on our road and decide to go early(so as to minimise the chances of meeting anyone as I push things through their letter boxes). Then a walk across to the next village to collect the papers.

Still deep in thought about the PhD letter from Oxford. The main problem with still not knowing is that I had some plans for what I was going to do if the news was positive. I would slacken off the pace of work on my MSc and do a few other things over the spring and summer. More exercise, more DIY, various other projects. And the work I would do would switch focus onto more Latin and some of the deeper background reading that I had wanted to do for the PhD. But I hadn't really anticipated that the news would be a deferral. That rather scuppers my planning in some respects. Now I won't hear for another couple of months and therefore I am unsure how best to spend the intervening period.

Maybe I should still do what I had planned, but then if the news is bad from Oxford I will perhaps have wasted the time a bit - especially versus the MSc. But if I focus on the MSc (as it is all I have), I will waste some of this period if the verdict is positive from Oxford.

So lots to think about. Today I do some Latin for a couple of hours, read some of The Man who loved Books too much and a biography of Karl Jaspers. So no MSc work and no PhD work either!

Saturday, 30 January 2010

PhD - no decision yet

Much of the last few weeks has been spent wondering about the outcome of my PhD application. At times I feel quite bullish - my proposal seems a good one, I have good referees, a good academic background and I am self-financing. At other times I feel quite the opposite, unable to shake the issue of my age, or the current difficulties in University funding.

There were broadly three outcomes at this stage. I could be accepted, rejected or rolled forward and considered later. Today the decision arrived. It is the third - I am being rolled forward.

I am not really very clear what that means. It could be that no one has had the time to actually look at my application, so the news is o.k. Or it could be that it was looked at but no decision was made. That also seems o.k. to me as it seems relatively easy to reject an application. So maybe I shouldn't feel dispondent at this stage.

And at least the thin letter wasn't the rejection that I had feared such a letter would be. If only there was someway I could influence the matter.

Friday, 29 January 2010

J.D. Salinger

For the past 25 years or so I have had four favourite books of which I read one each year without fail. One of these books is J.D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey (*). This morning, the radio announced that Salinger had died at the very suitable age of 91 (an age we can all aspire to I think).

Of course the main result of this is to ignite speculation about what he has been writing since 1965 and for many of his readers, I'm sure this really concerns what further stories there are of the Glass family. Rumours suggest that he continued to write (that seems fairly clearcut), that some of these did concern the Glass family, and that there was a large collection of manuscripts in a safe, some of which were ready for publication, others needed further editing.

So will there be a whole stack of new Salinger releases, or will they be consigned to the flames. I know I for one would buy a new Salinger release without a moment's hesitation.

* the others are Kerouac's The Dharma Bums, Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard. All broadly buddhist books, all very "juvenile" choices - all containing values that I like to have reaffirmed each year.

This year is, coincidentally, a Franny and Zooey year, to be followed by The Dharma Bums, then the Snow Leopard, then ZAMM which was 2009's read.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Nancy Goldstone - a name from the distant past

Years ago, when I was first getting starting in financial markets, I was (as one might expect) a avid reader of books on trading. Once I was asked to provide a "my top ten" list to a financial magazine of books and rather surprised the editor by selecting as one of them, Nancy Goldstone's Trading Up. This recountered her several years as a currency option trader for a US bank in the early / mid 1980s. At this time I worked for one of the large City accountancy firms and was involved in many audits of these "new fangled" products. One of the things that impressed me about the Goldstone book were the many accounts of systems troubles and some of her creative solutions to the problems thrown up by them. As an auditor, I can well remember the time spent in dealing rooms with traders who not only had no real time pricing of their positions during the trading day, but actually took several hours to calculate their positions' values at the close of trading. It was an extraordinary time!

So imagine my surprise when it turns out that one of the books I recently bought about book collecting turns out to be by Nancy Goldstone (and her partnet Lawrence). It is called Used and Rare and recounts their early days as collectors of modern first editions. It has been an ok read so far - not likely to be as influential on me as Trading Up, but then, how could it be?

But there is one sad aspect about this book for me. Once there was a time when both Linda and I were keen book buyers and serious readers. Sadly that is no longer the case and I find it sad to read about the excitement of the two Goldstones as they travel around coming across new finds. Once that would have been Linda and me - now it is just me who retains this excitement.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Work in the middle of the night, DIY and PhD cartoons

For some reason I had major trouble sleeping last night. I woke around midnight and when I couldn't get to sleep by 1:00, I got up and did some work. It is quite odd working in the middle of the night! No noise inside the house, no traffic passing outside . . . My chosen work was an article by Miguel Granada from the University of Barcelona on the varying concepts of centrality, place and infinity in Aristotle, Copernicus and Bruno. This was actually quite an excellent paper, far more than I had expected. A well-spent three hours!

I have also started on some DIY projects - most specifically on filling the gaps between the floor boards in the kitchen and getting the floor ready for re-painting. It makes a nice change to be doing some practical work for a change. If I do get accepted for my PhD, one of the things I plan to do more of over the summer is DIY - which I see as a chance to refresh myself before the new course.

For the last few weeks I have been reading the weekly Times Higher Education supplement and have rather enjoyed the PhD cartoon that appears in each issue. I have tracked down the website for this - - and have thoroughly enjoyed reading these. True, it is mainly based on science grad students, rather than humanities, and it does paint rather a bleak picture of post-grad life. One cartoon featured the strip's professor on holiday. He was standing on the beach with his wife who was talking about how beautiful the sunset was. Then she turned to him and said "you're thinking about research aren't you?". That did make me laugh out loud

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Friday's superb Latin Class

We are all back for our new term. I walked in with Michelle O'Callaghan, who is a "Reader" in the department of English and American Literature at Reading University. At our last class before the Christmas break we had been talking about PhDs and she was telling me this morning that her PhD student from America has had a lot of trouble renewing his student visa. I was telling her about how nerve-racking it is to have not heard yet from Oxford. And today's Times Higher Education magazine has more poor news - apparently Oxford, Cambridge and some other universities have been restricting PhD places to European students while expanding places for overseas students (who pay higher fees). Another reason to worry about my own application.

Some good news to start with - Alison is keen to do a further half term with us after Easter to keep us going before Latin 2 starts in September. I am very keen on this, as are several of the other students.

Then we start with a different thing from past weeks as Alison takes us through an "unseen" translation with the aim of helping us see how to approach translation. This is fantastic for me and I scribble down an immense amount of notes on this and have started writing them up. All sorts of really good practical clues came out from this - I was really pleased. But the rest of the class was pretty tough going!

The translation we had been set from the Gospel according to Luke is apparently the actual text of the King James Latin Bible, so I need to acquire this text in English to check my answer.

Books about books about books?

The last couple of weeks have seen me buying a number of books on the subject of books. Of course I have already acquired a few on this theme over the years; Anne Fadiman's wonderful Ex Libris, for instance, maybe another half-dozen books about libraries, for instance Matthew Battles' lovely Library: An unquiet history. Recent purchases in this area have been more academic - Eliot and Rose's A Companion to the History of the Book, Finkelstein and McCleery's A Book History Reader and Eisenstein's The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe. Even books like Reynolds and Wilson's Scribes and Scholars count, as does the beautiful Introduction to Manuscript Studies by Clemens and Graham and Pearson's Books as History.

Today's purchase - the standard Saturday purchase - is less academic than recently but still on the same broad theme. Goldstone's Used and Rare: Travels in the Bookworld, Ellis's At home with Books: how booklovers live with and care for their Libraries, a different Ellis, Book finds: how to find, but and sell Rare Books, and Bauman's Rare Finds: A Guide to Book Collecting.

Last week I picked up Blackwell's latest Rare Book Catalogue for Greek and Latin Classics. I was surprised by how much stuff in here was quite reasonably priced. And last week I visited the home of one of Linda's clients and had a good browse through their book collection which was full of old and really valuable stuff but not really my areas of interest. I remain in the grip of a fairly standard bibliomania!

At some point, I expect to "diversify my investments" and become a book collector, with the aim of spending about £30,000 on this. When I started my own business in 2001 and hoped for great riches, this was entirely so I could acquire a fantastic books collection, and the failure of that venture was mainly a disappointment for book-buying reasons. Still I currently spent £30-£40 a week, so my collection does grow nicely

Given the large number of books about books, is the time ready for a book about books about books?

Friday, 22 January 2010

Back at LSE & first biography class of the new year

First early departure from home for a while - always something of a shock to the system. On the way to London I listened to an episode of "In our time" which I have successfully managed to transfer to the ipod. The chosen episode was on Dante's Inferno and was very interesting. Though I have downloaded a huge number of these radio shows, I have not really found a way to build them into my daily life. The ipod transfer is my latest attempt and this went very well. So now I know a little about Dante, enough to think that I would certainly like to find out more. So often the way, a quick mention of something new sends me off into detailed reading - there is always so much more to study, so little time . . .

At LSE I exchange 7 library books for some of the long list of books that I have drawn up over the past few weeks. As usual, several books aren't in the place they should be (but are supposedly available), then some turn out not to be as promising as I thought, some are just wjat I wanted, and I spot one or two other things as I am looking. Particularly interesting finds today are Lisa Jardine's book on Erasmus, Schumaker's Occult Sciences in the Renaissance, and Wilson's Epicureanism at the origins of Modernity (far too expensive to buy when I just want to read two chapters).

John was covering Galileo and the Church this week - one of the talks that I missed last year. I have handed in my Kepler and astrology piece for him to have a look at. In the end I was only partially happy with this. It covers some pre-Kepler astrology in a rather sketchy manner and doesn't always make clear how I am bringing these older sources into my consideration of Kepler's own writings on astrology. It was too much of a work-in-progress. But it does have some interesting references (many of which I am sure that John won't have come across before)

I walked back to Marble Arch from LSE through Soho and Chinatown. I was struck again by how many really gorgeous Chinese girls there are out and about. When I lived in London in the 1980s you rearely saw many (even in Chinatown). Is this a cultural change that they are far more visible, or do I just notice them more now?
Exactly the sort of thing I have in mind
Into Oxford this evening for the first biography class of the new term (last week's being cancelled due to the weather). I continue to find these very thought provoking. Tonight we were looking at obituary writing and some examples of short, snap-shot biographies. Homework is to write an obituary - I have selected Kate McGarrigle as my subject.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Kate McGarrigle R.I.P

One of the websites that I frequent for "recordings of independent origin" has half a dozen Kate and Anna McGarrigle live recordings this morning. It turns out that Kate has lost her battle with cancer of the last few years. Really sad news. I forget where I first heard her music but by the early 1980s I had several albums and "Dancer with Bruised Knees" and the "French Album" have been among my all time favourites for years. I saw them once or twice in concert - sometime in the 1980s and then a show a few years ago (2006?).

As I write this I am listening to "Blanche comme la neige / Perrine etait servante", my favourite songs of theirs, and it is snowing lightly outside. The world is a worse place for her absence

Anna and Kate McGarrigle

A day spent listening to various McGarrigle recordings has thrown out a track that I hadn't heard before but which has made quite an impact on me today - "I eat dinner" from a 1991 live recording. Some very sad lyrics there. I was particularly taken with the lines - I eat dinner / at the kitchen table / with my daughter / who is thirteen / we eat leftovers / with mashed potato / no more candlelight / no more romance / no more smalltalk / when the plate is clean

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Philip Glass - the organ version of Satyagraha

Watching an episode of the BBC series "Renaissance" I was struck at one point by the slight hint in the background that I recognized the organ piece being played. A pause in the commentary and a slight uplift in the volume of the music revealed that it was version of Part III of Act III of Philip Glass's "Satyagraha". I had never heard this version before, but was much impressed.

A quick search of the internet and I discovered a CD called "Glass Organ Works" of which it is the last track. The wonders of the age . . . a short time later I am listening to it as I work.

Back in the 1980s, at the height of my music buying, an unusual track heard somewhere would send me racing off round London to the fifteen or so shops that I frequented, tracking down the recording as if my life depended on it. The excitement of the chase, the thrill of the chase, and so on. Today the amount of music I have access to is quite incredible. The urge to investigate Norwegian folk music or whatever, can be covered off in a few minutes (e.g. via the excellent But do I also lose from this? Certainly the raw excitement that went with the purchase of a much-desired record doesn't happen any more. But that so much amazing stuff is available at all is clearly better.

Years ago, on the John Peel show (where else?) I heard (and recording to tape) an amazing piece by an African artist. I was unable to spell his name correctly from the recording I had and so was never able to find it. I even wrote to Peel asking about it, but if he did reply on air, I didn't hear it. Then twenty years later I heard the track on an episode of Michael Palin's "Sahara". He even met the performer, Toumani Diabate, who, of course, is now quite well-known. And a quick bit of internet searching turned up lots of music by him.

Now very few new releases instantly attract my attention. But one did today - the new Joanna Newsom cd is out in February. That is a dead cert for a purchase - can't think of anyone else who would be though.
Joanna seems very happy!

Long essay on Kepler and astrology plus translating the gospel of Luke

John Milton only wants one essay for our History of Science course so today I have rattled off about 5,000 words on Kepler and Astrology. This covered much of my reading of the last few months and is deep background for my possible PhD project. My essay covers the history of the re-discovery of astrology in the twelfth century, some opponents of astrology. such as Pico della Mirandola, and a moderately detailed look at the half dozen works by Kepler that have a strong astrological feel. If I am accepted for the PhD, I plan to use a version of this work as my "first year progress" essay!

My Latin course, due to start again last week, was delayed by the snow. I haven't done much Latin over the Christmas break but have really got back into it the last few days. I am mainly working on the "extra" homework that Alison gave us - a long Latin text based on the Gospel of Luke. I'm not sure if this is the actual text or whether Alison amended it for our level. But it does give a good idea of the work involved in translating a piece where the vocabulary is largely new. I have rattled off the six sides of text producing nearly 30 pages of translation, but this has highlighted the sort of record keeping involved in doing a major translation project - something that I am pondering on a lot at the moment.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Back studying Latin - plus Anthony Grafton

At one time I had high hopes of how much Latin I might be able to do over the Christmas break. I would learn all the vocab to date, the noun declensions, verb conjugations, adjective cases and so on. An exercise that asked us to choose the precise form of an adjective to go with the list of nouns would be a doddle for I would instantly know what type of noun each was and what case it was and so could instantly select the correct adjective. Sadly this has not been the outcome of the Christmas break.

But at least I have started doing some Latin again. Alison had given us an additional translation that we could have a look at if we wanted. This was a series of selections from the Gospel of Luke. I was not clear if the text was the original Latin or whether Alison had doctored it to make it an appropriate level for us, but in any case, I was prepared to give it a go. Results were mixed. Some sentences were very difficult for me, others were ok. However we don't have a copy of The Bible in the house (we have a couple of copies in various boxes in the garage), so I didn't have anything to check my version again, or get some hint of what was causing the problems in the difficult sentences. Only later did it occur to me that I could probably have found the text on the internet.

It was good to get back into the swing of doing Latin though. I ended up with about 30 pages of translation (including various notes) and it did provide another example of the sort of working practices that a translator needs to develop - strangely I have found it very hard to find anything on the actual day-to-day work practices of translators, something that would be a really big help.

Other work has included an initial dip into one of the books I recently bought by Anthony Grafton. He is astonishingly well-read and the level of scholarship displayed is miles above what I think I could ever do myself. Even the pieces on Kepler cover areas of his thought that I know little about (Kepler's humanistic approach to classics, for example) and relations to other thinkers that I have never heard of. Either this is a target of what the very best academic writing might consist of or something so intimidating that it is severely demotivating. Not sure yet what I think.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Awaiting PhD decision - back to work on Kepler

Much of my thoughts are about the forthcoming decision related to my PhD application at Oxford. I am not entirely sure when this will be made but it is pretty soon - anytime in the next week or two. If accepted, I plan to focus most of this year's study on things to do with the PhD and rather let the MSc take care of itself. If not accepted, I have to look elsewhere at places like the Warburg Institute in London, or UCL. Or I could abandon the PhD plan entirely (or delay a year and re-apply to Oxford a year later).

I am back working on Kepler - mainly material to do with his views on astrology. I have been preparing a sort of career summary of his various works with a strong astrological component and have been tracing some of the key ideas contained in these back into the past. For instance, De stella nova contains a couple of chapters that are strongly opposed to Epicurean atomism, in part due to the perceived atheism of this. I know this view is also strongly held by Melanchthon but has it always been the case that atomism was considered atheistic? This, itself, is an interesting historical question.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

New book arrivals - ready for the new term?

The first major new book arrivals of 2010 - several works by Anthony Grafton; Defenders of the Text, Commerce with the Classics and Worlds made by Words. I have read a number of articles by Grafton over the last 12 months and am hugely impressed with the level of scholarship in these. First read of bits of these books suggests that these are also very high-end works. Indeed the first full chapter I read - Humanism and Science in Rudolphine Prague: Kepler in Context - was actually quite an intimidating piece, the product of a huge amount of reading in some pretty obscure places. Would that I was able to produce something similar.

So I am just about ready for the start of the new term. I have been thinking about what my goals are for this term. Obviously I will be attending a good number of John Milton's History of Science seminars, though there are quite a few this term that I saw last year and don't want to repeat. I have no plans to do any Philosophy of Economics in the short term, but might attend a couple of the dissertation seminars at some point. My work focus is based more on my planned PhD than the LSE MSc. Indeed, if I am accepted onto a PhD programme, there is little point in doing much irrelevant work for the MSc. So I have a plan to spend one intensive week doing P of E close to the exam and that will be all. H of S will be fine and it is worthwhile doing something serious for the dissertation. But perhaps not right at the moment.

This year could turn into a really good one for study - or it might all rather peter out. But I am enjoying the intellectual work I am doing more than any other work I have done in my life - so long may it continue!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Trip to Austria, Part 2 - Saturday to Monday


No driving today of course - instead a chance to wander round Linz and see some more Kepler-related sights, then get reader for tonight's opera. First destination was the square I had passed through yesterday and where, quite by chance, I had located the Rathausgasse, where Kepler lived at number 5. Unlike Weil der Stadt, this is not a Kepler museum - indeed it was not clear exactly what it does do. It is called the "Kepler Salon" and seems to stage some types of artistic events, but it wasn't very clear what these were.

The Square I first encountered last night

Rathausgasse is the narrow road off the Square - left of centre

The "Kepler Salon" - Kepler's Linz residence

"In this house lived Johannes Kepler"
From the Rathausgasse I made my way round towards the theatre and, armed with Linda's emails, I managed to colelct my ticket o.k. No souvenirs for sale at this time.

Linz Landestheatre from the "Promenade"

I would have bought a poster if I coud have

And from there it was a short walk up a hill towards the site of the old Castle, only bits of which remain standing. I have no idea about the history of this, but there was a large museum there (but this had not yet opened). The river Danube looked fairly bleak. It didn't take long to find the gardens and the main source of interest to me - the Kepler statue.

The Danube from the Castle Gardens

Kepler's Statue in the Castle Gardens

Linz city centre from the Castle Gardens

I spent most of the afternoon back at the hotel, reading Robert Darnton's excellent The Case for Books and watching cross-country skiing on German t.v. The Darnton book has opened my eyes to the full scale academic discipline of "books as history". I think this could be a really interesting series of themes to consider in my PhD. So I have ordered a 500 page "History of Books Reader" and can barely wait for that to arrive next week!

Another important afternoon task was to buy Linda some bottles of the German champagne she likes and a stock of Rittersport milk chocolate bars that she likes. Luckily I stumbled on a supermarket near the hotel.

And so to Philip Glass's opera, "Kepler". It has been some time since I last saw a Philip Glass opera but I have remained a great fan of his music and was not disappointed by tonight's performance. The music was much more complex and non-minimalist that much of his work, but had many superb bits in it. For myself, a relative expert on Kepler, the libretto was fairly clear, but I suspect that for the "average punter", it was largely incomprehensible. It would not have been clear where the bits about Kepler being a lowly dog, or the discussion of the shape of pomengranate seeds. Moreover, about half the libretto consisted of texts by Andreas Gryphius related to the Thirty Year War. It was not clear to me that these two parts fitted together well, but muc of the best music occured during these other episodes.

The overall production I thought was excellent. I really liked the rotating stage, especially when the back projector was showing the daily rotation of stars. One section in Act 2 where the entire lighting gantry was lowered to the stage was also particularly effective I thought. It was, of course, an extremely modern style of production, but I am quite keen on this.

But the singer who played Kepler did tend to remind me a little of David Tennant as Doctor Who!

The highlight of the opera for me was towards the end when the chorus were singing Kepler's epitaph, "I have measured the heavens, now I shall measure the shadows of the earth". Very moving indeed.

I have never attempted to link a "youtube" video to this blog before. But this is the only clip I have so far seen of "Kepler" and I think it is well worth including.

Sunday to Monday

Departed fron Linz at 6:30. Direct autobane to Frankfurt via Regensburg (where Kepler died) and Nurnburg (where enough snow fell yesterday to close the airport). No trouble on the roads, lots of ploughs about. Average speed around 65mph for hours on end.

Today's music is by Radiohead, PJ Harvey, Gallon Drunk and Rory Gallagher

Total distance covered to Hook of Holland - about 675 miles - in 11 hours. Very few breaks (don't tend to like German motorway food!)

Early night - reading Pierre Bayard's How to talk about Books you haven't read. Not a great night's sleep.

Depart at Harwich at 6:30. Good journey until M1 intersection with M25. Horrendous traffic jams for much of the rest of the journey. Wheatley to Headington roundabout takes nearly an hour. 5 hours to drive 150 miles. In that time I would have managed twice as far in Germany.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Austria Trip, Part I - Wednesday to Friday


Overnight, the south of Endland has suffered its heaviest snow storm for 20 years. The radio warns against making unnessary trips, tales of roads blocked with abandoned lorries, airports closed, and so on. Despite all that, today is the day I set off to drive to Linz in Austria. My decision to set off is based on the discovery that there is very little snow east of Milton Keynes, and the knowledge that my Land Rover is little affected by such conditions.

Emma usues my drive to Harwich to get a lift back to Cambridge. She is working hard on her dissertation and also has preparations for her next lot of job interviews. Our journey only takes about 20 minutes longer than it would have done usually. We have time to call in the Student Travel agency and get lots of brochures for Emma's possible summer travel, and have dinner together. The last three weeks with Emma at home have been really nice - not sure when (or if) we might ever have such a long period together again.

The ferry to Hook of Holland departs at 11:45 but we can board around 9:00. I pretty much make straight for my cabin and settle in with a couple of books - I have brought with me four or five books connected to my work, but not directly so. For instance, Robert Darnton's The Case for Books. A mixed night's sleep - awake several times and hard to get back to sleep with the boat pitching around.

The morning's drive through Holland is really nice. The roads are so quiet (as they so often are on the Continent compared to Britain), the landscape has a small covering of snow and the canals are all frozen. A pale, watery sun tries to break through on several occasions. Most of the time I can see several kms over the flat landscape.

By Dusseldorf, the weather is a little worse. The odd flurry of snow, poorer visibility. I push on in three hour segments with 30 minute breaks between. Listening to long sequences of single artists - today was PJ Harvey, a firm favourite of mine for long distance driving. I reached Heidelberg around 2:30pm and was surprised to find the hotel reasonably easily. I am staying at a small "boutique" hotel north of the river perhaps 2km from the centre. I took a tram down to the centre and spent an hour or so walking round. It was bitterly cold and also I was not feeling 100% and may be going down with the same cold that Linda and Emma have recently had.

Heidelberg has such nice looking secondhand bookshops!


No new snow overnight and awake early enough to have some breakfast at the hotel. Then on my way towards, ultimately, Linz. Weather ok initially but getting slightly worse as I move towards Stuttgart. I decide to make the detour to Weil de Stat despite the roads being much worse. And good that I did to for the visit to this town was an absolute treat and one of the best things I have done lately.

Snow started falling just as I arrived and there has clearly been some recently. In the market square, the statue of Kepler has a light dusting. Behind him, the town's museum is close for the winter and re-opens in March. But the Kepler museum, sited in the house where Kepler was born, was open and was just brilliant. For the first time ever I have found myself coverting the objects in a museum and wishing they were mine. Early editions of Copernicus and Ptolemy and a fine collection of Kepler first editions, including De stella nova (available from a dealer in New York for $75,000 at the moment) and the Rudolphine Tables ($175,000).

This is the first time I have knowingly stood in a spot where I know for certain Kepler had been. I always feel quite a sense of the historic at these times (like I often do in Oxford at various locations) No one else at the museum - indeed they hadn't had a customer for several days. I am able to buy a couple of catalogues, but there are no Kepler-related amazing things for sale

Even the antiquarian bookshop in the town named after Kepler doesn't have anything actually by him. I would have liked to have found Volumes 16 and 17 of the collected works, but no such luck.

The Kepler Statue in front of the Town Museum (sadly closed for its "winterbreak" till March, but the scene of much Kepler-related celebrations in 2009)

Kepler's birthplace - now the Kepler Museum, despite Kepler having left the town when he was six!
A brass version of the embedded polyhedra from "Mysterium Cosmographicum" -the tightly packed centre

A rather neat drawing of the orbits of the outer planets

A copy of "The Rudolphine Tables" - if an original, worth about £125,000

"De Stella Nova"- first edition. I seriously considered seeing if the lid came off the display case at this point

"De Stella Nova" again

And a third time!

The front room upstairs

Kepler's lifetime travels shown on one graphic image - very impressive. Kepler never saw the sea it seems

Downstairs room one

The "Kepler Antiquariat" Bookshop - sadly no Kepler books for sale

The "Kepler Chemist"

Kepler's House tucked away in the corner of the main square

The road to Tubingen
After the wonders of Weil de Stat, I decided I would carry on to Tubingen. It seemed so close on the map! But the roads were far more snowy and progress was slow. I also got rather lost on the edge of Tubingen and was extremely lucky to find the actual way to the centre and a place to park when I got there. Tubingen is not pushing its Kepler links in the way that Weil de Stat was, though I did spot a Keplerstrasse and there were postcards of Phillip Melanchthon in the town's museum. The highlight was perhaps the market square where, in 1591, Kepler had performed a female role in a play about John the Baptist and had subsequently caught a cold

A bookshop in Tubingen - it says that the Osianders have been booksellers in Tubingen since the late 1500s - are they related to the famous preface-writing Osiander?

Pictures on Tubingen Townhall

Tubingen Market Square, where Kepler appeared in a play in February 1591 and became ill as a result
The "Holderlin Tower", where the poet Holderlin spent most of the last 35 years of his life

The road back to Stuttgart
From Tubingen I settle into the long drive to Linz via Munich and Saltzburg. The roads are good again and I make decent progress, kept awake near the end by Gallon Drunk played very loudly. Rather surprisingly, I was able to find the hotel fairly quickly, having accidentally passed the Theatre were the opera is on and the road where Kepler's house is, as I looked for it.
Actually a very good, modern hotel - very much a business hotel - and very cheap for what I have. A quick meal in the bar downstairs, a hot bath (luxury), a quick call home, and in bed by about 9:30. A real treat of a day

Monday, 4 January 2010

"In our time"

Sorting through some old History magazines the other night, I came across a feature on the "In our time" radio show. I have downloaded and listened to a few of these in the last year but was surprised to discover than about 200 episodes were available, including many that are relevant for my studies e.g. Rudolf II, renaissance magic, the translation movement in Baghdad, and so on. I now have loads of these to listen to - next task is to find a way to load them onto my i-pod so I can listen to them in the car or on my travels to london

One episode featured the Oxford History of Science person who I would pick to be my supervisor if I could - I have barely thought about questions like supervision. Should I have put some effort into this question when I did my application?

This reading of History magazines also brought up a new "expensive" book to ponder on buying - Peter Wilson's Europe in Turmoil - a mammoth book on the Thirty Year War. Just over £20. I am relectuant to buy it as it is nearly 1,000 pages long and it might be hard to get much out of, yet earlier today I happily filled up L's car with petrol for £45. A year from now, I might desperately want this book.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

My annual attempt to study art - Gerhard Richter

One of my annual resolutions is always to try and spend a bit more time each year on the study of art. Actually the past couple of years have been quite acceptable in respect of this - the shows in Perugia that I went to, the Richard Long show, the ones at the British Museum. This year my main priority is to see the new Renaissance galleries at the V&A.

In the meantime, a short article in the current issue of Wire, still my favourite music magazine, featured the Gerhard Richter candle picture from Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation. Richter has a really beautiful website ( full of high-quality versions of his works. It has been a few blogs since I attached any pictures, so at least I can now do so!

I was surprised to discover that the candle pictures are actually quite large - the Sonic Youth one is apparently 7ft x 7ft.