Book and string

This from erikkwakkel:

Smart page with string

These pages from a late-16th-century scientific manuscript share a most unusual feature: they contain a string that runs through a pierced hole. Dozens of them are found in this book. The pages contain diagrams that accompany astronomical tracts. They show such things as the working of the astrolabe (Pic 1), the position of the stars (Pic 4), and the movement of the sun (Pic 6). The book was written and copied by the cartographer Jean du Temps of Blois (born 1555), about whom little appears to be known. The book contains a number of volvelles or wheel charts: revolving disks that the reader would turn to execute calculations. The strings seen in these images are another example of the “hands-on” kind of reading the book facilitates. Pulling the string tight and moving it from left to right, or all the way around, would connect different bits of data, like a modern computer: the string drew a temporary line between two or more values, highlighting their relationship. The tiny addition made the physical page as smart as its contents.

Pics: London, British Library, Harley MS 3263: more on this book here; and full digital reproduction here.

Sappho is a compost occasion

We found as a class three things compost does. One, there’s a breaking down of old forms, cauliflower leaves corn cobs egg shells radish greens, they begin to lose the walls that bound them as what they were. Two, there’s a blending and a merging, as the elements released in the breakdown start to wander in search of new figurations. (See mandibles in Empedokles, the clinamen of Lucretius, the fact that matter does wander, that’s its nature, that is nature.) Three, something’s nourished, as nutrients released by the breakdown and rearranged in the blending become the constituents of new forms, new ways of being life.

And found all three at work Carson’s translations of Sappho in If Not, Winter. Just one for now (all things in their times). The first line of the one poem of hers we have whole, called often her “Hymn to Aphrodite,” in the Greek is

Ποικίλοφρον ἀθανάτ Ἀφρόδιτα

Transliterated that is, I think, I have no Greek,

Poikilophron athanat’ Aphrodita

And translated word for word,

Spangle-minded deathless Aphrodite

One character is in question. Where Carson reads phi (φ), others read theta (θ), and that one difference, between a sphere crossed vertically and an ellipse crossed horizontally, is a difference between poikilophron, mind, and poikilothron, throne. Is it the mind of Aphrodite, or the chair she sits in, that’s glinting, variegated, subtle, ambiguous, changeful?

What makes this compost is that the two readings coexist. A word Sappho wrote, or had written, was made by time two words, jostling. We can never get rid of one of the other. Time’s co-author of the poem.

Deathless Aphrodite of the spangled mind