Manners Maketh Man

Some pearls of wisdom from Giovanni della Casa, Galateo (c. 1555), trans. Robert Peterson (1576), reprinted in The Portable Renaissance Reader, eds. James Bruce Ross and Mary Martin McLaughlin (1953). 

***

There is no doubt, but who so disposes himself to live, not in solitary and desert places, as hermits, but in fellowship with men and in populous cities, will think it a very necessary thing to have skill to put himself forth comely and seemly, in his fashions, gestures, and manners. 

We say, then, that every act that offends any of the common senses, or overthwarts a man’s will and desire, or else presents to the imagination and conceit matters unpleasant, and that likewise which the mind does abhor, such things I saw be naught, and must not be used. 

I like it ill to see a gentleman settle himself to do the needs of nature in presence of men, and after he has done to truss himself again before them. Neither would I have him (if I may give him counsel), when he comes from such an occupation, so much as wash his hands in the sight of honest company, for that the cause of his washing puts them in mind of some filthy matter that has been done apart. 

And much worse I like it, who reach some sinking thing unto a man to smell until it, as it is many a man’s fashion to do with importunate means, yes , thrusting it unto their noes, saying, “Foh, see I pray you, how this does stink,’ where they should rather say, “Smell not unto it, for it has an ill scent.” 

We must also beware we do not sing, and specially alone, if we have an untuneful voice, which is a common fault with most men; and yet, he that is of nature least apt unto it, does use it most. 

When you have blown your nose, use not to open your handkerchief, to glare upon your snot, as if you had pearls and rubies fallen from your brains, for these be slovenly parts, enough to cause men, not so much not to love us, as if they did love us, to unlove us again. 

When a man talks with one, it is no good manner to come so near, that he must needs breathe in his face; for there be many that cannot abide to feel the air of another man’s breath, albeit there come no ill savor from him. 

They do very ill that now and then pull out a letter out of their pocket to read it, as if they had great matters of charge and affairs of the commonwealth committed unto them. But they are much more to be blamed, that pull out their knives or their scissors, and do nothing else but pare their nails, as if they made no account at all of the company, and would seek some other solace to pass the time away. 

Let not a man so sit that he turn his tail to him that sits next to him, nor lie tottering with one leg so high above the other that a man may see all bare that his clothes would cover. 

It ill becomes a man when he is in company to be sad, musing, and full of contemplation. And albeit it may be suffered perchance in them that have long beaten their brains in these mathematical studies, which are called (as I take it) the liberal arts, yet without doubt ti may not be borne in other men. For even these studious fellows, at such time, when they be so full of their muses, should be much wiser to get themselves alone.

In speech a man may err many ways. And first in the matter itself, that is in the talk, which may not be vain or filthy. For they that do hear it will not abide it; as you talk they take no pleasure to hear but rather scorn the speech and the speaker both. Again, a man must not love any question of matters that be too deep and too subtle, because it is hardly understood of the most. And a man mush watchfully foresee that the matter be such as none of the company may blush to hear it, or receive any shame by the tale. Neither must he talk of any filthy matter, albeit a man would take a pleasure to hear it; for it ill becomes an honest gentleman to seek to please but in things that be honest.

Neither in sport nor in earnest must a man speak anything against God or His saints, how witty or pleasant soever the matter be. Wherein the company that Giovanni Boccaccio has brought to speak in this novels and tales has erred so much that methinks every good body may justly blames them for it. 

And they do as much amiss, too, that never have other things in their mouth than their children, their wife, and their nurse. “My little boy made me so laugh yesterday; hear you, you never saw a sweeter babe in your life. My wife is such a one, Cecchina told me; of truth you would not believe what a wit she has.” There is none so idle a body that will either intend to answer or abide to hear such foolish prittle-prattle. For it irks a man’s ears to hearken unto it. 

There become again so curious in telling their dreams from point to point, using such wonder and admiration withal, that it makes a man’s heart ache to hear them, and especially because they be such kind of people as it is labor lost to hear, even the very best exploits they do when they be most awake and labor most to show their best. 

It is not enough for a man to do things that be good but he must also have a care he does them with a good grace. 

IDS 498

This past semester I tried something new, an Interdisciplinary Studies course on Homer, the ancient Greek epic poet whose works act as one of the cornerstones of Western Civilization. But rather than focussing on the great mountain of Homeric scholarship produced ever since the Archaic Age, we simply read one book of the Iliad and the Odyssey before for every class meeting and got together to discuss it. We used Ian Johnston’s translations, which I like and which are also available online. I was very impressed with my students’ insights, and I’m pleased to say that the course got even better as the result of the lockdown: we simply conducted it by email, and writing out one’s thoughts, and responses to those thoughts, concentrates the mind even better than open-ended discussion. For the record, I preserve some of this discussion, none of which is of my composition. Well done! 

Book 6

Starting at line 31, when Athena appears to Nausicaa, she comes as a friend of similar age. I found this funny because the way Athena talks to Nausicaa, she sounds more like a mom criticizing her cleanliness than a friend. She acts like the “mom-friend” to Nausicaa; the friend who always tells her friends what they are doing wrong and “how to get a man.”

I observed a Homeric Simile in lines 127-138 describing how Nausicaa stands out in her group of servants like the goddess Artemis in a group going for a hunt. I found this simile especially interesting since Odysseus says, “If you’re one of the gods who hold the wide heaven, then I think you most resemble Artemis… in your loveliness, / your stature, and your shape” when he first addresses her (189-192). Homer must have made this connection deliberately to either emphasize his simile or to prove the loveliness of Nausicaa—or both.

When Odysseus is first introduced in this book, he covers himself with thick bushes since the waves made him naked (159-160). This reminds me of Adam in the book of Genesis when he feels ashamed of his nudeness after eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Odysseus is also introduced with a Homeric Simile in lines 161-169. This simile compares him to a mountain lion to emphasize his stealthy movements. This simile seemed weird since the mountain lion would be hunting prey, and Odysseus is hiding from fear. 

Book 7

I would LOVE to find a study on the society of Phaeacia, and how well Homer’s mythic status for the place correlates to its place in real-world history. Homer sets up this society as an idyllic, heavenly society blessed by a multitude of gods. I find it interesting how godly blessings seem to get passed down from generation to generation – women continually receive blessings from Athena with the loom, and men receive the same with their skill on the sea from Poseidon. (Piggybacking on what Jamie said-maybe Odysseus receiving help and honor from people blessed by Poseidon could be a form of irony in the story? Or maybe a way for Homer to take Poseidon down a peg, if that makes sense?) However, despite receiving blessings from the gods to the point of being the perfect Greek society, they do not hold an important Greek ideal – hospitality. From what we can tell, other Greeks are always ready to receive strangers into their homes and treat them with hospitality and warmness, but the Phaeacians are said to treat strangers with wariness, not being the friendliest people. I feel like that is an important point in the story, thought I am not sure if there is any commentary Homer is trying to make here.

Book 8

I found it interesting that only one Muse loved and gifted Demodocus, but Homer does not state which Muse it is (line 74). It also says that she destroyed his eyes and gave him this gift at the same time, so he traded one kind of sight for another. This feels like a typical theme/occurrence in mythology. I also wonder if this sight helped him identify the “honored guest” since his first unprompted song was about Odysseus and Achilles arguing at Troy (line 90). Alcinous also notices how this and a later song about Troy make his guest weep, but does not ask who he is or why this is his reaction. Instead, Alcinous simply asks Demodocus to change songs. 

After the feast and first song, Alcinous changes the subject by inviting the Phaeacians to compete in games. This reminded me of funeral or festival games. This scene makes it seem like the Greeks took any opportunity to show their strength and practice athletic challenges. They find honor in this competition as expressed in Laodamas’ words: “there’s no greater glory for a man / than what he wins with his own hands and feet” (line 181-182). Euryalus also guilt trips Odysseus into competing in discus by claiming Odysseus is an all show no work kind of person. Odysseus proves him very wrong and spends a lot of time bragging about his competitive prowess. 

The Phaeacians conclude the games with more feasting and songs, and they give expensive gifts to Odysseus before his journey. One song is about Aphrodite and Ares cheating on Hephaestus. This song, of the three, is written in more detail than the other two. It includes detailed storytelling and dialogue among the gods, including Apollo and Hermes discussing how they would like to be the ones trapped with Aphrodite in a total male-ego led conversation (lines 422-431). 

I also found it interesting that Odysseus promises Nausicaa he will pray to her like a god until the end of his days (line 583-585). He is honoring her for saving him, but will his prayers mean anything since she is a living (younger) human and not an immortal deity? Or is he just saying this to be polite and show gratefulness?

He also ass Demodocus to play a song about the Trojan Horse (line 318-326). Is this so he can reminisce and grow sad again, or because he wants to hear of his glory days and have everyone hear about his greatness? Although he has avoided telling them who he is for this long. It’s is odd that the Phaeacians have gone through all this trouble to honor him and have no clue who he is.

Book 9

My first observation about this book is a criticism on Odysseus’ character. In lines 40-51 he describes how painful it was to be trapped with Calypso and kept away from his homeland. He did not mention his wife, his parents he misses, his wife? Nah. Not even mentioned. Neither is his son, he only misses the terrain of Ithaca. 

I also found it interesting that the behavior of his men mimics the behavior of the suitors—they want to drink, slaughter (other people’s) animals, and be merry. They have no concern for returning home. When Odysseus does get them back in the ships, he assures the ritual sacrifices are made before they leave, unlike Menelaus (lines 87-89). However, this sacrifice did not do him any favors; his ships were still attacked by storms at sea. 

In telling his tale, Odysseus spends little time discussing Ismarus or the Lotus-Eaters. He gives small summaries about how he and his men acted in those situations, but most of his summaries and descriptions center on the appearance of the land and oceans they traveled through. I wonder if this is in response to his longing for his homeland.

After these two events are chronicled, Odysseus spends most of his tale focusing on the detail of his encounter with Polyphemus. My guess is he does this because it shows more cunning in Odysseus than the other two encounters, and this portrays him as a stronger hero than simply avoiding a mesmerizing flower. 

Odysseus’ first appeal to Polyphemus is interesting because in it, he describes how:

“…Zeus protects
All suppliants and strangers—as god of guests,
He cares for all respected visitors.” (line 354-356)

This is the first time I’ve heard this quality attributed to Zeus. Usually I would think of Hermes as god protecting travelers, and I guess my brain associated these two things together. Zeus never seems great at caring for his guests either which makes this more interesting. 

Looking onto Odysseus’ craftiness, we notice he gives Polyphemus the name “Nobody” when he introduces himself (line 486). He thought ahead enough to realize that, if Polyphemus asks for help and names his attacker, other Cyclopes will think he is alone. However, he does not remain nameless. When he screams his name as the ship is leaving, this is an act of Hubris because he wants everyone to know his power and cunning (line 664). Hubris is Odysseus’ fatal flaw—all heroes have one. His pride will likely cause him more problems throughout his journey. His flaw makes him more human though, he is not some perfect hero travelling and winning every battle. 

Of course, after revealing his name we learn of a prophecy that conveniently existed before Odysseus met Polyphemus. So Polyphemus belittles Odysseus by claiming he his puny and weak, and he brushes it off by saying he couldn’t protect himself because it was meant to be. So even monsters blame their negative situations on the gods. But at least he can send his dad after Odysseus for the rest of his journey. This is where we learn why Poseidon has been angry at Odysseus for the whole epic. 

Book 10

1. Odysseus is… oddly patient with his crew. I can definitely see his mourning as proportional to his circumstances, but if I were him I definitely would have had a much more violent reaction to their stupidity in getting the crew off-course from Ithaca. I guess you can’t really go on a violent rampage when you’re dependent on a crew to keep your ship moving.

2. The reaction of Aeolus reminds me of that old Jewish belief that someone with lots of misfortune must have done something wrong in the eyes of God to deserve their punishment. I’m writing this with a massive headache so I don’t think I can provide much more commentary on this point.

3. Before reading this book, I was under the impression that Odysseus was a massive playboy that slept with a bunch of women outside of marriage but held up a double standard and got mad at his wife for possibly being unfaithful (though she did remain faithful in her marriage bed). However, so far in this book, the nature of Odysseus’s sexual relationship with women is much more DARK than I expected. Thus far, Odysseus has been held at the mercy of powerful women, who keep him captive on their islands, far from civilization. The only way he’s been able to be safe in these situations has been to perform sexually for these women. In the case of Circe, of course, he has the power to attack her, but Hermes explicitly tells him that the only way to save his crew is to sleep with Circe so she’ll turn them back. That does NOT sound consensual to me, at all. Of course we got told that he eventually has sex with these women voluntarily, as was the case with Calypso, but from a psychological standpoint this does not make his situation better, as plenty of victims of abuse end up believing they are volunteering and complacent in their abuse due to Stockholm Syndrome. The implication of this interpretation is troubling to me, so if I get this wrong I will not be offended! These are just my first impressions upon reading this passage.

4. Did Circe explain why Odysseus had to travel to the Underworld to talk to the prophet? Or is this just a random task she’s making him complete?

Lorenzo Valla

Lorenzo Valla published his Treatise on the Donation of Constantine in 1440, which was an important event in humanist scholarship. I had been under the impression that it was largely philological – that is, that Valla demonstrated that it had been written in the Latin of the eighth century rather than the fourth, as it claims for itself, thereby proving that it was a fabrication. Upon reading it closely and in its entirely (I am ashamed to admit) for the first time just now I discover that its criticism is much more wide-ranging. There is some formal linguistic analysis, but not in really terms of chronology – Valla simply condemns the author for committing certain errors unworthy of any secretary of Constantine’s. Condemnation of anachronism is largely on account of the document’s referents: the Romans did not have “satraps,” the patriarchate of Constantinople had not yet been established, etc. But in a large part Valla focusses on the big questions: is this event likely to have happened? And if it did, why do no contemporary documents corroborate it? All this is strung together with anti-papal vituperation worth of Luther at his most manic.

Near the end of the treatise, Valla also condemns the Life of Saint Sylvester (the pope to whom Constantine supposedly bequeathed the western empire) for including implausible details like the pope’s defeat of a dragon that had threatened Rome – and proceeds to condemn all other saints Lives that indulge in this sort of thing. He does not condemn saints as such; as he says: 

I defend and uphold them, but I do not allow them to be confused with ridiculous legends. Nor can I be persuaded that these writers were other than either infidels, who did this to deride the Christians in case these bits of fiction handed out by crafty men to the ignorant should be accepted as true.

This is very interesting, and one can certainly see where Protestantism came from, but then there is this passage:

I remember asking some one, when I was a youth, who wrote the book of Job; and when he answered, “Job himself,” I rejoined, “How then would he mention his own death?” And this can be said of many other books, discussion of which is not appropriate here. 

Whoa… so here is a humanist, if ever so briefly, turning his critical faculties on the Bible itself. Did anyone else do this? Did any humanist take the Bible to task for such unanswered questions as:

• Whom did Cain marry?
• How many animals did Noah take with him onto the ark? (One passage claims seven of each clean animal, and only two of each unclean animal)
• Just how long were the Hebrews in Egypt? (Exodus gives three different figures)
• If the Torah was written by Moses, how come it describes Moses’ death? 

And so on. 

I would be keen to know if any Renaissance scholar explored such questions, or whether this was more of an Enlightened activity. As I prep for HIS 306 this fall, I will be keeping my eye out for any more examples.

That’s No Ordinary Rabbit

From Mental Floss (hat tip: Wanda Cronauer):

The Time Napoleon Was Attacked by Rabbits

History tells us that Napoleon’s most upsetting defeat came at Waterloo. Or it may have occurred eight years earlier, after the French emperor was attacked by a relentless horde of rabbits.

There are a couple versions of this story. Most agree it happened in July 1807, after Napoleon signed the Treaties of Tilsit (which ended the war between the French Empire and Imperial Russia). Looking to celebrate, the emperor proposed a rabbit hunt, asking Chief of Staff Alexandre Berthier to make it happen.

Berthier arranged an outdoor luncheon, invited some of the military’s biggest brass, and collected a colony of rabbits. Some say Berthier took in hundreds of bunnies, while others claim he collected as many as 3000. Regardless, there were a lot of rabbits, and Berthier’s men caged them all along the fringes of a grassy field. When Napoleon started to prowl—accompanied by beaters and gun-bearers—the rabbits were released from their cages. The hunt was on.

But something strange happened. The rabbits didn’t scurry in fright. Instead, they bounded toward Napoleon and his men. Hundreds of fuzzy bunnies gunned it for the world’s most powerful man.

Napoleon’s party had a good laugh at first. But as the onslaught continued, their concern grew. The sea of long-ears was storming Napoleon quicker than revolutionaries had stormed the Bastille. The rabbits allegedly swarmed the emperor’s legs and started climbing up his jacket. Napoleon tried shooing them with his riding crop, as his men grabbed sticks and tried chasing them. The coachmen cracked their bullwhips to scare the siege. But it kept coming.

Napoleon retreated, fleeing to his carriage. But it didn’t stop. According to historian David Chandler, “with a finer understanding of Napoleonic strategy than most of his generals, the rabbit horde divided into two wings and poured around the flanks of the party and headed for the imperial coach.” The flood of bunnies continued—some reportedly leapt into the carriage.

The attack ceased only as the coach rolled away. The man who was dominating Europe was no match for a battle with bunnies.

It was Berthier’s fault. Rather than trapping wild hares, his men had bought tame rabbits from local farmers. As a result, the rabbits didn’t see Napoleon as a fearsome hunter. They saw him as a waiter bringing out the day’s food. To them, the emperor was effectively a giant head of lettuce. 

I have been unable to verify this story but versions of it can be found across the Internet. I am currently reading Tim Blanning’s Pursuit of Glory: The Five Revolutions that Made Modern Europe, 1648-1815 (2006). One of the most interesting chapters contains a description of the practice of hunting, and how elaborate and central this practice was to the courts of Early Modern Europe. Apparently it was not entirely symbolic of the ancien régime but retained its appeal after the revolution, too – although I doubt that Louis XVI’s Grand Huntsman would have made such a rookie mistake with the rabbits.

Himmelfahrt

From the Bollandist Facebook page (hat tip: William Campbell):

“ML” writes:

21 May: The Ascension of the Lord. One of the oldest depictions of Jesus’ Ascension is an ivory plaque, produced around 400 in Rome or Milan and now kept in the Bayerische Nationalmuseum, Munich. It is contemporary to the establishment of the Feast of the Ascension and as such a unique testimony to how the theological reflection and artistic imagination regarding this mystery of faith developed. The image combines the Ascension with the Resurrection (with Constantine’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the background), but more importantly, it shows to what extent Early Christian art was a product of the Late Antique market: Christ does not ascend to heaven, but is literally given a hand by God. The Christian literati rich enough to command such a plaque would have appreciated this depiction, familiar to them from the image of the goddess Athena lifting up the hero Hercules at his apotheosis, or the coins of the consecration of Constantine, which show him ascend his chariot with his arm stretched out towards a hand from heaven. Was this association of Jesus with the demigods of this world merely an artistic devise, or did the heresy of Arianism, still rampant around 400, play a role as well? 

Montenegro

My former student Danilo Bozovic, now back home in Podgorica, shared this photo of Montenegrin flags in observance of Montenegro’s Independence Day. The referendum of 2006 was held on May 21 in that year, and since independence from Serbia was supported by 55.5% of voters, was followed by a formal declaration of independence on June 3, 2006. But it is the day of the vote that has become a public holiday.

The Treaty of Troyes

From the blog of the National Archives (UK) (which will always be the Public Record Office to me!) (hat tip: Deb Salata):

21 May 2020 marks the 600th anniversary of the Treaty of Troyes, a peace treaty which sought to unite the crowns of England and France under one king – Henry V – and his heirs, and end the Hundred Years War….

That stalemate was shattered by outbreak of war after King Henry V (1413-22) came to the English throne. Henry V’s seismic victory at Agincourt in 1415 opened the way for a new occupation of Normandy, the establishment of garrisons and the more affirmative exercise of a claim to the French throne. It put the English king firmly in the ascendant.

In France, the assassination of the Duke of Burgundy in 1418 had left the way open for a truce and an end to the war. The new duke, Phillip the Good, and the French queen, Isabeau, were willing to form an alliance with England in order to end the ongoing war, and to secure a strong presence on the French throne.

It was agreed that Phillip, Isabeau (acting on behalf of the king, Charles VI, who was often incapacitated with bouts of mental illness) would meet with Henry V at Troyes in May 1420 – with limited numbers of men on either side – to seal a peace treaty intended to unite the crowns of England and France in perpetuity.

The records for this agreement, as well as the muster rolls for the English expedition to Troyes, are held in our collections, and give details of the army who travelled to the proceedings.

By the terms of the treaty Henry would marry Charles’s daughter Catherine of Valois, and would inherit the French throne as heir after the French king’s death.

This was not to be a full integration of the two kingdoms – the institutions of each kingdom, and issues such as taxation remained separate – rather a dual monarchy: one king with two crowns. In the meantime, Henry was to act as regent, but not to name himself as King of France, while Charles VI’s son (also Charles), the Dauphin, was also disinherited for his ‘great and shocking crimes and misdeeds’.

Many years ago I used this document as the starting point of my master’s thesis. It is important to remember that, as impressive as Henry V’s generalship was, the treaty would not have been possible without the support of the duke of Burgundy – whose repudiation of it at the Congress of Arras in 1436 (the closing point of my thesis) heralded the end of English ambitions in France. 

It also calls to mind Act 5, Scene 2 of Shakespeare’s Henry V, in which Henry attempts to woo Katherine across a language barrier:

KING HENRY V: O fair Katharine, if you will love me soundly with your French heart, I will be glad to hear you confess it brokenly with your English tongue. Do you like me, Kate

KATHARINE: Pardonnez-moi, I cannot tell vat is ‘like me.’

KING HENRY V: An angel is like you, Kate, and you are like an angel.

KATHARINE: Que dit-il? que je suis semblable a les anges?

ALICE: Oui, vraiment, sauf votre grace, ainsi dit-il.

KING HENRY V: I said so, dear Katharine; and I must not blush to affirm it.

And so on.

I admit to being of two minds about the history plays. I’m glad that the fifteenth century got some attention from the greatest playwright in the English language, but his great influence means that it takes continuous effort to realize that the plays are more about (fictionalized) characters than actual people or historical events. 

Still, I have enjoyed reading Henry VI, Part 1 and Richard III live on Zoom with fellow Shakespeare enthusiasts during this time of lockdown. This was the idea of Sasha Volokh of Emory Law School and I thank him for organizing it. 

Samuel Pepys and the Plague

From the Conversation, “Diary of Samuel Pepys shows how life under the bubonic plague mirrored today’s pandemic” (hat tip: William Campbell):

In early April, writer Jen Miller urged New York Times readers to start a coronavirus diary.

“Who knows,” she wrote, “maybe one day your diary will provide a valuable window into this period.”

During a different pandemic, one 17th-century British naval administrator named Samuel Pepys did just that. He fastidiously kept a diary from 1660 to 1669 – a period of time that included a severe outbreak of the bubonic plague in London. Epidemics have always haunted humans, but rarely do we get such a detailed glimpse into one person’s life during a crisis from so long ago.

There were no Zoom meetings, drive-through testing or ventilators in 17th-century London. But Pepys’ diary reveals that there were some striking resemblances in how people responded to the pandemic.

For Pepys and the inhabitants of London, there was no way of knowing whether an outbreak of the plague that occurred in the parish of St. Giles, a poor area outside the city walls, in late 1664 and early 1665 would become an epidemic.

The plague first entered Pepys’ consciousness enough to warrant a diary entry on April 30, 1665: “Great fears of the Sickenesse here in the City,” he wrote, “it being said that two or three houses are already shut up. God preserve us all.”

Pepys continued to live his life normally until the beginning of June, when, for the first time, he saw houses “shut up” – the term his contemporaries used for quarantine – with his own eyes, “marked with a red cross upon the doors, and ‘Lord have mercy upon us’ writ there.” After this, Pepys became increasingly troubled by the outbreak.

He soon observed corpses being taken to their burial in the streets, and a number of his acquaintances died, including his own physician.

By mid-August, he had drawn up his will, writing, “that I shall be in much better state of soul, I hope, if it should please the Lord to call me away this sickly time.” Later that month, he wrote of deserted streets; the pedestrians he encountered were “walking like people that had taken leave of the world.”

Read the whole thing

Heraldic Bookplates

To amuse myself during this time of lockdown, I created a bookplate based on my coat of arms (granted in 2006 through the Canadian Heraldic Authority). It’s somewhat Germanic in style, with the crest becoming the mantling. 

This is one of the things that I’ve always loved about heraldry: as long as you follow the blazon, you can depict a coat of arms in any style you wish, the whole thing or only part of it, and with any number of other decorative features. I admit that this is not my first heraldic bookplate! 

This one was drawn for me by Daniel Mitsui in 2014. I love his birch tree, and his mastery of detail in general. 

He also did this drawing for me, which I’ve had put on a stamp, for those paperbacks that don’t quite merit a full bookplate. It consists of the charges from my arms removed and shown on their own, as though they compose a heraldic badge.

Mr. Mitsui also did bookplates for my two daughters, with the shield moved to the side of the tree, and a cadency mark placed on the other side for balance. In Canadian heraldry, a heart denotes the first daughter, and an ermine spot the second. 

The great Gordon Macpherson did this one for me in 2007, consisting only of my crest (and helmet and mantling) and motto (which means “Fight the good fight,” from 1 Timothy 6:12). 

I did this one for my wife in 2003, illustrating her arms from the Bureau of Heraldry in South Africa. 

Gordon Macpherson drew this one in 2007. I quite like its neoclassical design. Technically heraldic impalement (i.e. two coats of arms side by side on the same shield) suggests the wife, as though she is “Mrs. Jonathan Good.” But in these times, I see impalement as representing a partnership and thus both people equally. So this one goes into books that are “ours”!

Questions for Discussion

Does Louis XIV’s sobriquet “Sun King” presuppose a belief in heliocentrism?

Why did Hitler never demand the Swiss German cantons as he demanded Austria and the Sudetenland? Were they ever part of a conceptual Grossdeutschland?

In the history of modern France, why do the National Convention, the Directory, and the Consulate all count as the “First Republic,” when a new constitution in 1958 is judged to have produced a new republic, complete with its own ordinal number?

If the Holy Roman Emperorship was elective, why did the Hapsburgs hold it for so long?

Is there a usage distinction between Hapsburg and Habsburg?