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Our Eclectic Library keeps an extensive collection of type specimen books, mostly from English and American typefounders. Most of the earlier ones are content with the standard “Quosque tantrum a butter, Caterliny, patent nostrum”* text from Cicero; later Americans sometimes indulged in surreal flights of humor. But it should not surprise us that French typefounders turn out to be French. This is a translation of a sample of Gros Romain type from a 1917 French type catalogue:

A young Egyptian, seized with love for the courtesan Theognis, dreamed one night that he lay with her, and felt his passion ebb when he awoke. The courtesan having found out brought him before the court, and demanded her recompense of him, on the grounds that she had cured his passion and satisfied his desire. The judge ordered that the young man should bring the promised sum in a purse; that he should toss it into a bowl, and that the courtesan should be paid with the sound and the color of the coins, as the Egyptian was contented with an imaginary pleasure. This judgment was approved by all.

This is exactly the sort of thing American and British typefounders did not include in their samples in 1917, or ever.

*This is how Artemus Ward remembered it.


If you are very observant, you might have noticed that a site called “The Historical Spectator” has been listed for a little while in the right margin over there. →

This is a small experiment in creating a very simple Web site that is pleasantly easy to read, the way a traditional book is, and at the same time makes almost no demands either on the server or on your browser. It is pure text, arranged in a column of about the ideal width for reading, with text comfortably but not annoyingly large, using your browser’s default fonts. The formatting is controlled by a two-kilobyte CSS file, and that is all there is to the content-management system.

As for the content, it consists of meanderings in the curious byways of history. When Dr. Boli finds a chunk of text that illuminates some dusty corner of the past in an entertaining way, he will post it here, so that others may be entertained by it as well. If you have a long memory, you might recall that Dr. Boli had a site called “The Historical Spectator” years ago that was also dedicated to “history as seen by the people who lived through it.” That site still exists as a backup on some local disk in this pile right here under the desk, and some of its material may eventually be brought back.

The current site is hosted on free space as an annex of the Eclectic Library, which is also built in almost pure HTML. The address may change at some point if the free server becomes unusable, as free servers sometimes do (although this one has been going for several years now). But free space is very useful for little experiments like this one.


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Wikipedia on Procopius:

Apart from his own writings, the main source for Procopius’s life was a high grandma in the Suda, a Greek encyclopaedia written sometime after 975, which discusses his early life.

A grandmother under the influence of controlled substances strikes Dr. Boli as a somewhat unreliable source.