Beavis and Butt-Head on SNL

If you need six min­utes of com­ic relief, this might do the trick. For those who don’t get the under­ly­ing ref­er­ence, watch here. Enjoy! :)

Emily Dickinson’s Herbarium: A Beautiful Digital Edition of the Poet’s Pressed Plants & Flowers Is Now Online

So many writ­ers have been gar­den­ers and have writ­ten about gar­dens that it might be eas­i­er to make a list of those who didn’t. But even in this crowd­ed com­pa­ny, Emi­ly Dick­in­son stands out. She not only attend­ed the frag­ile beau­ty of flow­ers with an artist’s eye—before she’d writ­ten any of her famous verse—but she did so with the keen eye of a botanist, a field of work then open to any­one with the leisure, curios­i­ty, and cre­ativ­i­ty to under­take it.

“In an era when the sci­en­tif­ic estab­lish­ment barred and bolt­ed its gates to women,” Brain Pick­ings’ Maria Popo­va writes, “botany allowed Vic­to­ri­an women to enter sci­ence through the per­mis­si­ble back­door of art.”

In Dickinson’s case, this involved the press­ing of plants and flow­ers in an herbar­i­um, pre­serv­ing their beau­ty, and in some mea­sure, their col­or for over 150 years. The Har­vard Gazette describes this very frag­ile book, made avail­able in 2006 in a full-col­or dig­i­tal fac­sim­i­le on the Har­vard Library site:

Assem­bled in a pat­terned green album bought from the Spring­field sta­tion­er G. & C. Mer­ri­am, the herbar­i­um con­tains 424 spec­i­mens arranged on 66 leaves and del­i­cate­ly attached with small strips of paper. The spec­i­mens are either native plants, plants nat­u­ral­ized to West­ern Mass­a­chu­setts, where Dick­in­son lived, or house­plants. Every page is accom­pa­nied by a tran­scrip­tion of Dickinson’s neat hand­writ­ten labels, which iden­ti­fies each plant by its sci­en­tif­ic name.

The book is thought to have been fin­ished by the time she was 14 years old. Long part of Harvard’s Houghton Library col­lec­tion, it has also long been treat­ed as too frag­ile for any­one to view. The only access has come in the form of grainy, black and white pho­tographs. For the past few years, how­ev­er, schol­ars and lovers of Dickinson’s work have been able to see the herbar­i­um in these stun­ning repro­duc­tions.

The pages are so for­mal­ly com­posed they look like paint­ings from a dis­tance. Though most­ly unknown as a poet in her life, Dick­in­son was local­ly renowned in Amherst as a gar­den­er and “expert plant iden­ti­fi­er,” notes Sara C. Ditsworth. The herbar­i­um may or may not offer a win­dow of insight into Dickinson’s lit­er­ary mind. Houghton Library cura­tor Leslie A. Mor­ris, who wrote the for­ward to the fac­sim­i­le edi­tion, seems skep­ti­cal. “I think that you could read a lot into the herbar­i­um if you want­ed to,” she says, “but you have no way of know­ing.”

And yet we do. It may be impos­si­ble to sep­a­rate Dick­in­son the gar­den­er and botanist from Dick­in­son the poet and writer. As Ditsworth points out, “accord­ing to Judith Farr, author of The Gar­dens of Emi­ly Dick­in­son, one-third of Dickinson’s poems and half of her let­ters men­tion flow­ers. She refers to plants almost 600 times,” includ­ing 350 ref­er­ences to flow­ers. Both her herbar­i­um and her poet­ry can be sit­u­at­ed with­in the 19th cen­tu­ry “lan­guage of flow­ers,” a sen­ti­men­tal genre that Dick­in­son made her own, with her ellip­ti­cal entwin­ing of pas­sion and secre­cy.

The first two spec­i­mens in Dickinson’s herbar­i­um are the jas­mine and the priv­et: “You have jas­mine for poet­ry and pas­sion” in the lan­guage of flow­ers, Mor­ris points out, “and priv­et,” a hedge plant, “for pri­va­cy.” There is no need to see this arrange­ment as a pre­dic­tion of the future from the teenage botanist Dick­in­son. Did she plan from ado­les­cence to become a recluse poet in lat­er life? Per­haps not. But we can cer­tain­ly “read into” the lan­guage of her herbar­i­um some of the same great themes that recur over and over in her work, car­ried across by images of plants and flow­ers. See Dickinson’s com­plete herbar­i­um at Har­vard Library’s dig­i­tal col­lec­tions here, or pur­chase a (very expen­sive) fac­sim­i­le edi­tion of the book here.

Note: Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in 2019.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Sur­pris­ing Map of Plants: A New Ani­ma­tion Shows How All the Dif­fer­ent Plants Relate to Each Oth­er

His­toric Man­u­script Filled with Beau­ti­ful Illus­tra­tions of Cuban Flow­ers & Plants Is Now Online (1826)

How Emi­ly Dick­in­son Writes A Poem: A Short Video Intro­duc­tion

The Sec­ond Known Pho­to of Emi­ly Dick­in­son Emerges

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Who’s Behind These Scammy Text Messages We’ve All Been Getting?: The Search Engine Podcast Demystifies the Global Scam

You have received those odd text mes­sages from a stranger. (“Hi, This is Ani­ta. Have you received the Panam­era parts yet?”) You know the mes­sages are spam, but you don’t quite under­stand the angle of the scam. Above, the Search Engine pod­cast works with Bloomberg reporter Zeke Faux to break down the con oper­a­tion. The sto­ry turns out to be more com­pli­cat­ed than it first appears. It involves cryp­to, but also human traf­fick­ing and forced labor com­pounds in Cam­bo­dia and Myan­mar. We’ll just leave it at that and sug­gest you lis­ten to this unnerv­ing pod­cast episode. You can hope­ful­ly stream it above or find it on your favorite pod­cast platform—e.g., Apple and Spo­ti­fy.

Studio Ghibli Lets You Download Free Images from Hayao Miyazaki’s “Final” Film, The Boy and the Heron

Stu­dio Ghi­b­li fans are still pon­der­ing the mean­ing of Hayao Miyaza­k­i’s The Boy and the Heron, which came out last year. Though by some mea­sure the stu­dio’s most lav­ish fea­ture yet — not least by the mea­sure of it being the most expen­sive film yet pro­duced in Japan — it’s also the one least amenable to sim­ple inter­pre­ta­tion. Even more so than in his pre­vi­ous work, Miyaza­ki seems to have intend­ed to make a movie less to be explained than to be expe­ri­enced. Just as the tit­u­lar young pro­tag­o­nist descends into a bizarre but cap­ti­vat­ing under­world and returns, changed, to real­i­ty, so does the view­er.

If you’ve seen The Boy and the Heron, hear­ing its very title (which in Japan is 君たちはどう生きるか, or How Do You Live?) will bring back to mind a host of vivid images: the rov­ing back of bul­bous-fea­tured grannies obsessed with non-per­ish­able food­stuffs; the pos­tur­ing of the mid­dle-age Bird­man, stuffed into his avian flight suit; the pyrotech­nic feats of the young Lady Himi; and above all, per­haps, the float­ing cas­cades of Warawara, those adorably round spir­its who — in painstak­ing Ghi­b­li fash­ion — appear to have been ani­mat­ed indi­vid­u­al­ly, each with its own per­son­al­i­ty. Now, you can down­load stills from these and oth­er scenes at Stu­dio Ghi­b­li’s offi­cial web site.

These come as an expan­sion to Ghi­b­li’s exist­ing col­lec­tion, pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture, of free-to-down­load images from their library of titles. They’re offered, the site explains, “sole­ly for per­son­al use by indi­vid­ual fans to fur­ther enjoy Stu­dio Ghi­b­li films.” And indeed, they may have no effect stronger than mak­ing you want to watch The Boy and the Heron again, the more deeply to feel what Miyaza­ki intend­ed with his “final” pic­ture. Not that the lat­est of his retire­ments has stuck: last fall, Ghi­b­li pres­i­dent Toshio Suzu­ki report­ed that the octo­ge­nar­i­an Miyaza­ki was back in the office, plan­ning his next film. If he has more realms yet to explore, ani­ma­tion-lovers around the world will sure­ly fol­low him. Find the images from The Boy and the Heron here.

via My Mod­ern Met

Relat­ed con­tent:

Stu­dio Ghi­b­li Makes 1,178 Images Free to Down­load from My Neigh­bor Totoro, Spir­it­ed Away & Oth­er Beloved Ani­mat­ed Films

Hayao Miyazaki’s Stu­dio Ghi­b­li Releas­es Free Back­grounds for Vir­tu­al Meet­ings: Princess Mononoke, Spir­it­ed Away & More

Stu­dio Ghi­b­li Pro­duc­er Toshio Suzu­ki Teach­es You How to Draw Totoro in Two Min­utes

Soft­ware Used by Hayao Miyazaki’s Ani­ma­tion Stu­dio Becomes Open Source & Free to Down­load

Hayao Miyaza­ki, The Mind of a Mas­ter: A Thought­ful Video Essay Reveals the Dri­ving Forces Behind the Animator’s Incred­i­ble Body of Work

Stream Hun­dreds of Hours of Stu­dio Ghi­b­li Movie Music That Will Help You Study, Work, or Sim­ply Relax: My Neigh­bor Totoro, Spir­it­ed Away & More

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

The Fictional Brand Archives: Explore a Growing Collection of Iconic But Fake Brands Found in Movies & TV

Los Pol­los Her­manos, Madri­gal Elec­tro­mo­tive, Mesa Verde Bank and Trust, Davis & Main: Attor­neys at Law—all of these brands come from the Break­ing Bad/Bet­ter Call Saul uni­verse. They also appear in the Fic­tion­al Brands Archive, a web­site ded­i­cat­ed to “fic­tion­al brands found in films, series and video games.” Tak­ing the brands seri­ous­ly as brands, the site draws on research from a new book writ­ten by Loren­zo Berni­ni enti­tled Fic­tion­al Brand Design. And, with its many entries, the site pro­vides a “com­pre­hen­sive view of each fic­tion­al brand, fram­ing them in their own fic­tion­al con­text and doc­u­ment­ing their use and exe­cu­tion in source work.”

Oth­er notable brands include Acme (Looney Tunes), ATN News (Suc­ces­sion), Dun­der Mif­flin (The Office), Fed­er­al Motor Cor­po­ra­tion (Fight Club), both Grand Budapest Hotel and Mendl’s (Grand Budapest Hotel), and Nakato­mi Cor­po­ra­tion (Die Hard). Enter the Fic­tion­al Brands Archive here.

via Messy­Nessy

Relat­ed Con­tent 

A Free Dig­i­tal Archive of Graph­ic Design: A Curat­ed Col­lec­tion of Design Trea­sures from the Inter­net Archive

The Let­ter­form Archive Launch­es a New Online Archive of Graph­ic Design, Fea­tur­ing 9,000 Hi-Fi Images

Down­load 2,000 Mag­nif­i­cent Turn-of-the-Cen­tu­ry Art Posters, Cour­tesy of the New York Pub­lic Library

40 Years of Saul Bass’ Ground­break­ing Title Sequences in One Com­pi­la­tion


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Ernest Hemingway’s Advice to Aspiring, Young Writers (1935)

Here in the twen­ty-twen­ties, a hope­ful young nov­el­ist might choose to enroll in one of a host of post-grad­u­ate pro­grams, and — with luck — there find a will­ing and able men­tor. Back in the nine­teen-thir­ties, things worked a bit dif­fer­ent­ly. “In the spring of 1934, an aspir­ing writer named Arnold Samuel­son hitch­hiked from Min­neso­ta to Flori­da to see if he could land a meet­ing with his favorite author,” says Nicole Bianchi, nar­ra­tor of the InkWell Media video above. “The writer he had picked to be his men­tor? Ernest Hem­ing­way.”

What Hem­ing­way offered Samuel­son was some­thing more than a lit­er­ary men­tor­ship. “This young man had one oth­er obses­sion,” Hem­ing­way writes in a 1935 Esquire piece. “He had always want­ed to go to sea.” And so “we gave him a job as a night watch­man on the boat which fur­nished him a place to sleep and work and gave him two or three hours’ work each day at clean­ing up and a half of each day free to do his writ­ing.” To Hem­ing­way’s irri­ta­tion, Samuel­son proved not just a clum­sy hand on the Pilar, but a fount of ques­tions about how to craft lit­er­a­ture — some­thing Hem­ing­way gives the impres­sion of con­sid­er­ing eas­i­er done than said.

Nev­er­the­less, in the Esquire piece, Hem­ing­way con­dens­es this long back-and-forth with Samuel­son into a dia­logue con­tain­ing lessons that “would have been worth fifty cents to him when he was twen­ty-one.” He first declares that “good writ­ing is true writ­ing,” and that such truth depends on the writer’s con­sci­en­tious­ness and knowl­edge of life. As for the val­ue of imag­i­na­tion, “the more he learns from expe­ri­ence the more tru­ly he can imag­ine.” But even the most world-weary nov­el­ist must “con­vey every­thing, every sen­sa­tion, sight, feel­ing, place and emo­tion to the read­er,” and that requires round after round of revi­sion, so you might as well do the first draft in pen­cil.

As far as the writ­ing itself, Hem­ing­way rec­om­mends read­ing over at least your last two or three chap­ters at the start of each day, and repeats his well-known dic­tum always to leave a lit­tle water in the well at the end so that “your sub­con­scious will work on it all the time.” But all will be for naught if you haven’t read enough great books so as to “write what has­n’t been writ­ten before or beat dead men at what they have done.” Don’t com­pete with liv­ing writ­ers, whom Hem­ing­way saw as propped up by “crit­ics who always need a genius of the sea­son, some­one they under­stand com­plete­ly and feel safe in prais­ing, but when these fab­ri­cat­ed genius­es are dead they will not exist.”

The video focus­es on a series of men­tal exer­cis­es Hem­ing­way explains to Samuel­son. Recall an excit­ing expe­ri­ence, such as that of catch­ing a fish, and “find what gave you the emo­tion, what the action was that gave you the excite­ment. Then write it down mak­ing it clear so the read­er will see it too and have the same feel­ing you had.” Remem­ber con­flicts and try to under­stand all the points of view: “If I bawl you out try to fig­ure out what I’m think­ing about as well as how you feel about it. If Car­los curs­es Juan think what both their sides of it are. Don’t just think who is right.” When oth­er peo­ple talk, “lis­ten com­plete­ly. Don’t be think­ing what you’re going to say.”

Under­ly­ing this char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly straight­for­ward advice is the com­mand­ment to find ways out of your own head and into the per­spec­tive of the rest of human­i­ty. The nec­es­sary habits of obser­va­tion can be cul­ti­vat­ed any­where: at sea, yes, but also in the city, where you can “stand out­side the the­atre and see how peo­ple dif­fer in the way they get out of taxis or motor cars.” In the event, Samuel­son nev­er did become a nov­el­ist, though he did write a mem­oir about his year under Hem­ing­way’s tute­lage. What­ev­er the expe­ri­ence taught Samuel­son, it brought Hem­ing­way to a res­o­lu­tion of his own: “If any more aspi­rant writ­ers come on board the Pilar let them be females, let them be very beau­ti­ful and let them bring cham­pagne.”

Relat­ed con­tent:

7 Tips From Ernest Hem­ing­way on How to Write Fic­tion

The (Urban) Leg­end of Ernest Hemingway’s Six-Word Sto­ry: “For sale, Baby shoes, Nev­er worn”

Ernest Hem­ing­way Cre­ates a Read­ing List for a Young Writer (1934)

28 Tips for Writ­ing Sto­ries from Edgar Allan Poe, William Faulkn­er, Ernest Hem­ing­way & F. Scott Fitzger­ald

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

67 Logical Fallacies Explained in 11 Minutes

Fallacies—notes Pur­due’s Writ­ing Lab—“are com­mon errors in rea­son­ing that will under­mine the log­ic of your argu­ment. Fal­lac­i­es can be either ille­git­i­mate argu­ments or irrel­e­vant points, and are often iden­ti­fied because they lack evi­dence that sup­ports their claim. Avoid these com­mon fal­lac­i­es in your own argu­ments and watch for them in the argu­ments of oth­ers.” Pur­due’s web­site then high­lights a num­ber of the men­tal traps that stu­dents often fall into—for exam­ple, the slip­pery slope, beg­ging the claim, cir­cu­lar argu­ments, the red her­ring, and more. But if you want a rapid-fire intro­duc­tion to many more log­i­cal fal­lac­i­es, look no fur­ther than the video above. In 11 min­utes, you will come across ones you may not have known about before—from the No True Scots­man and the Texas Sharp­shoot­er, to the Tu QuoQue and the Igno­ra­tio Elenchi. But it also has some time­less ones we see every day. Indeed who among us has­n’t expe­ri­enced the Sunk Cost Fal­la­cy at work, or the Ad Hominem attack on TV?

Relat­ed Con­tent 

24 Com­mon Cog­ni­tive Bias­es: A Visu­al List of the Psy­cho­log­i­cal Sys­tems Errors That Keep Us From Think­ing Ratio­nal­ly

Daniel Den­nett Presents Sev­en Tools For Crit­i­cal Think­ing

Phi­los­o­phy Ref­er­ee Hand Sig­nals

How Photos Were Transmitted by Wire in 1937: The Innovative Technology of a Century Ago

When did you last send some­one a pho­to? That ques­tion may sound odd, owing to the sheer com­mon­ness of the act in ques­tion; in the twen­ty-twen­ties, we take pho­tographs and share them world­wide with­out giv­ing it a sec­ond thought. But in the nine­teen-thir­ties, almost every­one who sent a pho­to did so through the mail, if they did it at all. Not that there weren’t more effi­cient means of trans­mis­sion, at least to pro­fes­sion­als in the cut­ting-edge news­pa­per indus­try: as dra­ma­tized in the short 1937 doc­u­men­tary above, the visu­al accom­pa­ni­ment to a suf­fi­cient­ly impor­tant scoop could also be sent in mere min­utes through the mir­a­cle of wire.

“Trav­el­ing almost as fast as the tele­phone sto­ry, wired pho­tos now go across the con­ti­nent with the speed of light,” declares the nar­ra­tor in breath­less news­reel-announc­er style. “It’s not a mat­ter of send­ing the whole pic­ture at once, but of sep­a­rat­ing the pic­ture into fine lines, send­ing those lines over a wire, and assem­bling them at the oth­er end.”

Illus­trat­ing this process is a clever mechan­i­cal prop involv­ing two spin­dles on a hand crank, and a length of rope print­ed with the image of a car that unwinds from one spin­dle onto the oth­er. To ensure the view­er’s com­plete under­stand­ing, ani­mat­ed dia­grams also reveal the inner work­ings of the actu­al scan­ning, send­ing, and receiv­ing appa­ra­tus.

This process may now seem impos­si­bly cum­ber­some, but at the time it rep­re­sent­ed a leap for­ward for mass visu­al media. In the decades after the Sec­ond World War, the same basic prin­ci­ple — that of dis­as­sem­bling an image into lines at one point in order to reassem­ble it at anoth­er — would be employed in the homes and offices of ordi­nary Amer­i­cans by devices such as the tele­vi­sion set and fax machine. We know, as the view­ers of 1937 did­n’t, just how those ana­log tech­nolo­gies would change the char­ac­ter of life and work in the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry. As for what their dig­i­tal descen­dants will do to the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry, as they con­tin­ue to break down all exis­tence into not lines but bits, we’ve only just begun to find out.

via Kids Should See This

Relat­ed con­tent:

The His­to­ry of Pho­tog­ra­phy in Five Ani­mat­ed Min­utes: From Cam­era Obscu­ra to Cam­era Phone

Watch a Local TV Sta­tion Switch From Black & White to Col­or for First Time (1967)

Cre­ative Uses of the Fax Machine: From Iggy Pop’s Bile to Stephen Hawking’s Snark

The His­to­ry of Amer­i­can News­pa­pers Has Been Dig­i­tized: Explore 114 Years of Edi­tor & Pub­lish­er, “the Bible of the News­pa­per Indus­try”

From the Annals of Opti­mism: The News­pa­per Indus­try in 1981 Imag­ines its Dig­i­tal Future

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Aldous Huxley, Dying of Cancer, Left This World Tripping on LSD (1963)

Aldous Hux­ley put him­self for­ev­er on the intel­lec­tu­al map when he wrote the dystopi­an sci-fi nov­el Brave New World in 1931. (Lis­ten to Hux­ley nar­rat­ing a dra­ma­tized ver­sion here.) The British-born writer was liv­ing in Italy at the time, a con­ti­nen­tal intel­lec­tu­al par excel­lence.

Then, six years lat­er, Hux­ley turned all of this upside down. He head­ed West, to Hol­ly­wood, the newest of the New World, where he took a stab at writ­ing screen­plays (with not much luck) and start­ed exper­i­ment­ing with mys­ti­cism and psy­che­delics — first mesca­line in 1953, then LSD in 1955. This put Hux­ley at the fore­front of the coun­ter­cul­ture’s exper­i­men­ta­tion with psy­che­del­ic drugs, some­thing he doc­u­ment­ed in his 1954 book, The Doors of Per­cep­tion.

Hux­ley’s exper­i­men­ta­tion con­tin­ued until his death in Novem­ber 1963. When can­cer brought him to his deathbed, he asked his wife to inject him with “LSD, 100 µg, intra­mus­cu­lar.” He died trip­ping lat­er that day, just hours after Kennedy’s assas­si­na­tion. Three years lat­er, LSD was offi­cial­ly banned in Cal­i­for­nia.

By way of foot­note, it’s worth men­tion­ing that the Amer­i­can med­ical estab­lish­ment is now giv­ing hal­lu­cino­gens a sec­ond look, con­duct­ing con­trolled stud­ies of how psilo­cy­bin and oth­er psy­che­delics can help treat patients deal­ing with can­cer, obses­sive-com­pul­sive dis­or­der, post-trau­mat­ic stress dis­or­der, drug/alcohol addic­tion and end-of-life anx­i­ety.

For a look at the his­to­ry of LSD, we rec­om­mend the 2002 film Hofmann’s Potion by Cana­di­an film­mak­er Con­nie Lit­tle­field. You can watch it here.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ken Kesey’s First LSD Trip Ani­mat­ed

Hear Aldous Hux­ley Nar­rate His Dystopi­an Mas­ter­piece, Brave New World

Every­thing You Want­ed to Ask About Psy­che­delics: A Johns Hop­kins Psy­che­delics Researcher Answers 24 Ques­tions in 2 Hours

Aldous Hux­ley Pre­dicts in 1950 What the World Will Look Like in the Year 2000

How Was the Great Pyramid Built?; What Did the Ancient Egyptian Language Sound Like?; Were There Bars in Ancient Egypt?: An Egyptologist Answers These Questions & More from Internet Users

What did ancient Egyp­tians sound like? What did they eat and drink? What ancient Egypt­ian med­i­cine and tools do we still use in mod­ern times? Why did they prac­tice mum­mi­fi­ca­tion? Above, Lau­rel Bestock, a pro­fes­sor from Brown Uni­ver­si­ty, dis­cuss­es every­thing you ever want­ed to know about Ancient Egypt. Not a stranger to pop­u­lar media productions—Bestock appears in a recent Nation­al Geo­graph­ic pro­duc­tion, Egyp­t’s Lost Won­ders—the pro­fes­sor fields every ques­tion that comes her way, no mat­ter how big or small. All along, she gives “out­stand­ing and very down-to-earth expla­na­tions,” notes a fel­low pro­fes­sor in the YouTube com­ments. For my mon­ey, the best part comes at the 10:40 mark when she deci­phers and reads hiero­glyphs. Enjoy.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent 

How to Read Ancient Egypt­ian Hiero­glyphs: A British Muse­um Cura­tor Explains

An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion to the Roset­ta Stone, and How It Unlocked Our Under­stand­ing of Egypt­ian Hiero­glyphs

What the Great Pyra­mid of Giza Would’ve Looked Like When First Built: It Was Gleam­ing, Reflec­tive White

Who Built the Egypt­ian Pyra­mids & How Did They Do It?: New Arche­o­log­i­cal Evi­dence Busts Ancient Myths

When a Medieval Monk Crowdsourced the Most Accurate Map of the World, Creating “the Google Earth of the 1450s”

If we want to know the pre­cise geo­graph­i­cal loca­tion of, say, a par­tic­u­lar church in Madrid, video arcade in Tokyo or cof­fee shop in Addis Aba­ba, we can fig­ure it out in a mat­ter of sec­onds. This is, in his­tor­i­cal terms, a recent devel­op­ment indeed: many of us remem­ber when the most detailed car­to­graph­i­cal infor­ma­tion we could get about dis­tant lands (or for that mat­ter, most of our own land) revealed to us only its cities and major roads — assum­ing we even had a world atlas at hand. Now, younger peo­ple take for grant­ed the knowl­edge of not just where every place in the world is, but what it looks like, what its prices are, and what its vis­i­tors have said about it.

We live today, in oth­er words, in the dream of Fra Mau­ro, the Venet­ian car­tog­ra­ph­er-monk of the late Mid­dle Ages who cre­at­ed the most detailed and accu­rate world map to that point in human his­to­ry. “As a young man, Fra Mau­ro had been a sol­dier and mer­chant of the famed Venice Mer­chant Fleet,” says the site of New World Car­to­graph­ic. “His trav­els with the fleet around the Mediter­ranean and the Mid­dle East result­ed in his becom­ing inter­est­ed in map­ping, and he even­tu­al­ly set­tled in the monastery of San Michelle on the island of Mura­no, in the Venice Lagoon, where he became a lay broth­er.” In the ear­ly 1450s, “he was com­mis­sioned by King Afon­so V of Por­tu­gal to cre­ate a map of the world.”

Por­tu­gal’s will to dom­i­nate world trade, which required the most detailed maps pos­si­ble, was matched by Fra Mau­ro’s will to gath­er infor­ma­tion about every cor­ner of Earth, no mat­ter how far-flung. And he could do that with­out leav­ing Venice: as Atlas Obscu­ra’s Adam Kessler writes, “Arab traders and world explor­ers passed through the port, giv­ing Fra Mau­ro an incom­pa­ra­ble source of gos­sip and tall tales about the world. The fall of Con­stan­tino­ple, occur­ring a few years before the map was fin­ished, would also have pro­vid­ed a rich source of well-trav­eled refugees, pre­sum­ably will­ing to swap their sto­ries for some bread or beer.” Not only did the map’s phys­i­cal cre­ation require a team of col­lab­o­ra­tors, the gath­er­ing of its con­tents relied upon the fif­teenth-cen­tu­ry equiv­a­lent of crowd­sourc­ing.

This chap­ter of car­to­graph­i­cal his­to­ry invites such tech­no­log­i­cal analo­gies: Kessler calls Fra Mau­ro’s com­plet­ed map­pa mun­di “the Google Earth of the 1450s.” Despite his reli­gious affil­i­a­tion with the monastery of San Michele, Fra Mau­ro’s efforts pro­duced an unprece­dent­ed­ly rad­i­cal ren­di­tion of the world. Break­ing with reli­gious tra­di­tion, he did­n’t put Jerusalem in the cen­ter; “the Gar­den of Eden was rel­e­gat­ed to a side­box, not shown in a real geo­graph­ic loca­tion.” His scrupu­lous­ness made him the first car­tog­ra­ph­er “to depict Japan as an island, and the first Euro­pean to show that you could sail all the way around Africa.” While his map was “the most accu­rate ever made at the time,” its more than 3,000 anno­ta­tions do con­tain plen­ty of tall tales, often of lit­er­al giants. But are they real­ly much less trust­wor­thy than the aver­age twen­ty-first-cen­tu­ry user review?

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The World Map That Intro­duced Sci­en­tif­ic Map­mak­ing to the Medieval Islam­ic World (1154 AD)

Explore the Here­ford Map­pa Mun­di, the Largest Medieval Map Still in Exis­tence (Cir­ca 1300)

The Evo­lu­tion of the World Map: An Inven­tive Info­graph­ic Shows How Our Pic­ture of the World Changed Over 1,800 Years

Europe’s Old­est Map: Dis­cov­er the Saint-Bélec Slab (Cir­ca 2150–1600 BCE)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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