By pure chance, I stumbled across a curious and fascinating thing to do with books a while ago: Fore-edge painting.

You never heard about that? Welcome to the club – I had no clue what that meant, so I looked it up… and it’s amazing. Let me try to explain.

When you open a book, the pages shift slightly, so that they are not completely stacked atop each other, but a bit staggered. Fore-edge painting means that you paint on these tiny staggered strips of paper that are just, juuuust on the edge of the page.

And here’s the clincher: You gilt the edges of the pages, and when you close the book, the painting completely disappears. It’s incredible, and there’s almost nobody left who does this, but I can give you one link to a crafter in the UK: Foredge Frost. (There’s pictures on the website. Enjoy.)

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I’m doing a little test run on the ink before making a larger batch – and since that involves interesting stuff, you might want to enjoy some pictures of it…

It all starts with the oak galls – in my case, imported ones (which was done in the medieval times as well).

These get crushed, and then they get to soak in water for a few days, with a gentle stir at least once every day.

The next step: Adding iron sulphate – that’s the lovely green stuff…

…which instantly turns the brownish liquid black.

And now the whole thing needs to mature again for a few days…

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If you are (or have been) in Germany, and drove a car, you will probably have made your acquaintance with it. If you’ve never been to Germany, chances are high that you have at least heard of it, and probably tried to imagine how that works…

…I’m talking about the lack of a speed limit on the Autobahn.

German Autobahn has no universal speed limit. So if your car goes insanely fast, you are allowed to go insanely fast. 300 km per hour? You’re good to go.

Unless, of course, there’s a speed restriction because of construction. Or because of a dangerous bend. Or too dense traffic. Or noise prevention. Or rain. So a good amount of the Autobahn is actually limited in speed (though there’s also a good amount of drivers who just don’t care about that, and go over the limit anyways).

In those areas where there is no restriction, you can go as fast as you like, provided you endanger nobody else. So if there’s more traffic… well. You are supposed to slow down to a safe speed. Actually we do have the “Richtgeschwindigkeit”, which is the recommended speed, and that is 130 km/h. Which, of course, is not the speed for lorries, as they are only allowed to go 80 km/h (which means they do about 90-110, depending on what they can get away with).

So driving on the Autobahn in areas with no speed limit means that you will have to overtake a lorry, or several of them, now and then – and that while you are in the left lane, something may come toward you insanely fast, much faster than you are.

That difference between speeds actually is what makes the Autobahn both more dangerous and, ironically, more prone to traffic jams that hold up everything – because these very fast cars have to brake hard when there’s some slow driver (like me!) blocking their path, and that always means they slow down more than to just the speed of the car before them. If you get this a few times in a row (which is no problem on a medium-busy Autobahn), you have a so-called “Spontanstau”, a traffic jam rising out of nowhere… which would be completely avoidable through, you guessed it, a universal speed limit.

There’s a lot of solid, nice evidence for the general smartness of a general speed limit, and most countries have one. It means lower impact on the environment due to less emitted CO2, fewer traffic jams, and more safety as the number and severity of accidents drops. (Here’s some info in German about this.)

Unfortunately, there is a strong lobby in Germany that does not want the German Holy Cow to be restricted in any way – and that includes speed limits. (About as smart as US weapon law… but I guess every nation has their brain fart.) I once got rid of a car club membership salesman in record speed when I told him I’d join their club in the split second they started advocating the general speed limit on the Autobahn. He was gone at high speed!

There is, by the way, one “car club” that does promote the speed limit – it’s the VCD. Which also offers an accident and breakdown cover that not only applies to the car, but also to your bicycle, should you be on a cycle tour. (We’re members. You guessed that, right?)

If you are in Germany, you now have the chance to join in on a petition to finally get a universal speed limit on the German Autobahn. There is an official petition running at the e-petition portal of the Deutscher Bundestag; you will need to register for that portal once, and then you can add your vote to the petitions listed there.

If you, too, think that this is a good idea – please spread the word!

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Time for some links again!

If you like books, and old things, you might be delighted by the item that the Bodleian acquired a while ago, and which is now featured in a display – a 15th century book coffer, one of just over 100 known to exist.

Also related to books, though to more modern ones: The CTR acquired the archive belonging to the Danish textile researcher Margrethe Hald in 2006, and now they have also acquired a grant to digitise this archive, making her work accessible to academic researchers and the public. The digitisation work is taking place right now and is scheduled to be finished on April 30. The plan is to have a full bibliography plus copies of articles, books, slides and photos available on the CTR homepage. This is glorious news, and I’m very much looking forward to this! Here is the info about the project on the CTR homepage (there is nothing of the archive available yet, but some more info about Margrethe Hald and the project).

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I’ve gotten involved in a project, sort of, and that led to my finally stocking up on silk colours for the embroidery silks – emptying out the remainder of the undyed silk stock that I had left.

Somehow, this seems to be linked to fellow archaeologists prodding me – I actually started the project “embroidery silks” because a colleague, years ago, was asking me if I knew a source for naturally dyed silk, historically accurate, for embroidery. I looked around a bit and found out that this stuff was hard (read: impossible) to get. Then the usual thing happened – I looked around some more and found appropriate raw material (only slightly twisted mulberry silk), stuck my head together with my dyer, made her sigh and moan, and ended up with an assortment of embroidery silk colours.

Similarly, a few months ago, I got into contact with another colleague, who is working on a reproduction of an embroidery find, looking for appropriate threads to do the stitching… with a range of colours, most of which were not in my stock.

So soon, now, there will be some new colours in the shop for embroidery silk. I’m all excited that the colour range is finally a bit broader – with, among other things, a nice light, bright green, a darker blueish green and three shades of pinkish colours added in!

The new colours are already wound off, so one of the tasks for the next few days is to take photos of the current complete range and list the additional colours in the shop. The biggest challenge in this, by the way, is the photo-taking part, as a) colours and b) silks are notoriously hard to photograph…

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It’s International Women’s Day (International Men’s Day, by the way, is on November 19)… and I was wondering whether I should blog about this, or not (and obviously, I did decide to do so).

I’m always a little torn on these “Something Something Day” things. On the one hand, I think it’s good and helpful to be reminded, once in a while, of the “Something Something” – of the good sides and the bad ones. Of the fact that no, for instance, men and women are not created equal; there are both gender differences that are natural, and those that are nurture, and the question is whether the nurture ones still benefit our society and us as individuals, or whether we should look at them with a critical eye and maybe get rid of them.

On the other hand, there’s a little part of me that thinks that having a day more or less “devoted” to a Something Something might as well lead to that being topic of the day, people getting all behind the cause verbally, and then going back to business as usual and not giving the thing any more room, or thought. And there’s a lot of “Something Something Day”s these days… many of them tongue-in-cheek, yes, but quite a lot of them are also in earnest, with some of them also being hyped for some reason or other.

Prime examples of the hyped days that come to mind are Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. My mum always ranted against Mother’s Day, for instance. Not because she would not enjoy breakfast in bed, or little presents from her children, or hates flowers – she felt that honouring mothers (or partners, or all other human beings) should be something done every day, not shunted into one single 24 hour period once per year… and that instead of spending time, effort and money for making breakfast once a year and buying flowers, a few minutes’ worth of additional work in the household every day during the year would be a much more helpful present.

That is, undeniably, a true thing. But overall, hypes aside, at least these days can serve as a reminder that what we have, or can do, or the world that we live in today are not to be taken for granted – and that we should show our care and appreciation once in a while, or do something to make the world a better place, a small step at a time.


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Somehow the topic of work vs. hobby seems to be a hot one right now – or at least I found a few more things about them, which were interesting reads. One is an article about hobby vs. side hustle (as in part-time job) on Rewire, which goes into the same direction as the stuff I wrote a bit ago – that once you are making money from your hobby, it becomes a job.

“Do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life” is another thing sort of connected to this topic, and it’s a saying that I find really unfitting – and untrue. I do love my work, but it’s still work, and while having a passion for what you do can help in getting things done, and motivating yourself, it will not be the solution for every problem. There will also still be days when it is hard to buckle down and do the work – and that’s how it is. There is no perfect job that always delivers joy only. “Find your passion”, by the way, is also not as easy as some seem to think, and here’s a nice piece about that.

Finally, the Atlantic has an article about how Workism – seeing work as a quasi-religion, and consequently working a lot – is making people suffer, and here’s a second one about the perpetural hustle.

And with this all said, I think now I’ll take a little coffee break…

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