Vermilion

Karen Loomis discovered the presence of mercury in the red pigment on the Queen Mary harp, when she did X-ray fluorescence analysis in 2010. This pretty much confirms that the pigment is vermilion, a mercury sulphide compound.

Karen reported that only the pigment on the curved body of the fish on the forepillar indicated mercury; the pigment on the flat panels of the forepillar contained no mercury. A rendering of the CT-scan data printed in her Galpin Society Journal article (vol LXV, 2012, p.166) shows high-density spots in the crevaces between the interlace of the fish shoulders, and also around the fish eye.

As soon as Karen told me about this I thought of re-painting my replica. Continue reading Vermilion

A book from the Library of Babel

I came across Jonathan Basile’s Library of Babel a while back. This online project has created (in virtual form) the “universal library” imagined by Borges, containing in this case, every possible page of 26 letters. Of course, that means that it does indeed contain this blog post – at least the beginning of it.

Continue reading A book from the Library of Babel

Gross travesties of Pictish art

After I finished the Trinity College harp neck decoration sheet, I thought again about the issues surrounding this type of art, considering the sketchy and approximate versions of this scheme that we have seen up to now even on the best copies of the harp.

Continue reading Gross travesties of Pictish art

Trinity College harp neck decoration

I am halfway through preparing a sheet, laying out the decorative scheme of the neck of the Trinity College harp.

I thought of doing this two years ago, when I did my scheme for the pillar, but I never got round to it until now.

I will eventually put both the halves together in one sheet, and publish it on Early Gaelic Harp Info, but for now you can get a sneak preview of the left side.

Continue reading Trinity College harp neck decoration

West Highland heraldry

For a very long time I have been interested in the symbolism of the animals on the forepillar of the Queen Mary harp. In their book Tree of Strings – Crann nan Teud, Keith Sanger and Alison Kinnaird discuss these animals, suggesting that they may have religious symbolism: “We have examined the possibility of the designs having some family or clan significance but they do not seem to have any apparent links”

Continue reading West Highland heraldry

Paper astrolabe

I often used to visit the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford, and I used to admire the 1542 Nuremberg paper astrolabe. (I see from the online catalogue they also have a 1584 Paris paper astrolabe.)

Although the brass astrolabes are more common in museums and collections, and are a lot more shiney and impressive looking, I thought the paper and wood ones looked a lot more possible to make as a project.

Continue reading Paper astrolabe