Wednesday, August 31

The second biggest bibliographic tragedy after the burning of Alexandria Library

I never heard this before but now that I have read it, its so tragic!

In September 1666, the ‘lamentable and dismal fire’ that we now know as the Great Fire consumed most of the City of London, from Fleet Street to the edges of the Tower of London, coating what remained in inches of soot, destroying homes, churches and ancient company halls, and causing many thousands to sleep out under the late-summer stars. As many as 100,000 people were rendered homeless, more than 80 churches were razed, along with St Paul’s Cathedral, the Royal Exchange and the Guildhall. Within three days, four-fifths of the ancient city had been destroyed.The flames not only consumed buildings, but also paintings, tapestries, and evaporated thousands of gallons of wine, beer and other liquor (estimated at over £1m in value). Many thousands of books and manuscripts also joined the pyre in perhaps one of the most terrible, and perhaps neglected, losses of the Great Fire. As one chronicler of the fire notes ‘Never since the burning of the great library at Alexandria had there been such a holocaust of books’ (W G Bell, The Great Fire of London in 1666

Tuesday, August 30

Indo-Pacific glass beads from the Indian subcontinent in Early Merovingian graves (5th–6th century AD)

this article was very interesting :), it talks about how the Merovingian graves had Indian beads, how they were manufactured, their composition, use and how they were traded. Given that we are talking about the 2 centuries after the Roman Empire crashed, its not surprising that the trade routes remained for 2 centuries afterwards although slowly dying. The authors talk about political upheavals in South India in 6th century and changes in fashion. Absolutely fascinating to see presence of Indian Manufactured goods in Europe so early in the human history. 

Peter Francis Jr. has devoted much of his research to Indo-Pacific glass beads. These productions are among the emblematic objects made by South Asian glass workshops for nearly two millennia. Despite their wide distribution, both in Asia and Africa and in the Middle East, these tiny beads have never been reported in Western Europe. They have recently been found in large numbers on funerary sites in Merovingian Gaul, dated to between the middle of the 5th and the middle of the 6th century AD (mainly in the form of necklaces or clothing ornaments). Their presence stimulates reflection on the extensive trade between the Merovingian and the Indian worlds. This contribution discusses the technological, typological and chemical characteristics of these beads, as well as their use.

Monday, August 29

An Ascetic on an Emaciated Nag

I came across this photograph of an Ascetic on an Emaciated Nag in a book in the British Library.

The artistic elements of the painting - well leave that aside for the moment, but this was so brilliantly executed that all I could do was to stare at it. Just look at it, the artist has managed to draw out the typical Hindu ascetic and that too riding a nag! absolutely amazing. 

Wednesday, August 24

A Selective Review of Scholarly Communications on Palm Leaf Manuscripts

I have a small but growing collection of palm leaf manuscripts so it was interesting to learn more about these manuscripts from this paper

A Selective Review of Scholarly Communications on Palm Leaf Manuscripts

Abstract - The very purpose of this paper is to provide a meticulous review of literature on various aspects of palm leaf manuscripts. Through the process of review, it aims to highlight the antiquity of palm leaf manuscripts, the process of seasoning and writing over the leaves, the physical, chemical and biological factors of deterioration, the classification and cataloguing process of manuscripts, different traditional / modern methods of preservation and conservation as well as the viability and prospects of digital preservation of manuscripts and the attempts taken by various manuscript libraries for digitization.

Monday, August 22


I just finished reading this book by Bruno Colson called as Napoleon: On War.. Quite an interesting book, son. It reviews prior work on Napoleon as a military commander and compares his work with Clausewitz. you may think this is a bit of a chimney thing which Baba does. :) I have included the review below.

But I see this as a different matter, son. Deals are like battles. winning large number of deals is like a war. And then you have an overarching grand strategy of the sector and overall business. So learning from war, for me, is vital. Yes, there are significant differences between war and banking but its not that much of a difference in so far as there are limited resources, there are competitors, there is a political and economic element, there are winners and losers, and so on and so forth. Let me quote a bit from the conclusion of the book

> In an army, unified command is essential. Supplies are an important task and local resources are there to contribute. If troops are not battle-hardened, it is better to entrust them with a defensive mission, which is accomplished better by men used to staying in the same sector, where they will have acquired habits. They must not be arranged in a cordon: that is equivalent to being strong absolutely nowhere. When you do not know where the enemy will attack, it is better for troops to be positioned in close echelons, so that they can be concentrated rapidly at the point under attack. If you attack, you will seek to outflank or envelop the enemy, but out of his view. It is always difficult to combine different forms of attack simultaneously. The simplest moves are the best. They are accompanied by concentrated fire. In moun- tainous terrain above all, you must not attack an enemy position head on. The enemy must be flushed out by making for his flank or rear. If you attack a town, it is better not to commit your infantrymen in the streets. An occu- pation is always difficult. In any event, forces must remain concentrated and be mobile. The main towns, where the important people whose collabor- ation is essential reside, must be held. Mobile columns will pursue insurgents, but without committing blunders. It is necessary to make examples, but also to issue pardons. Finally, all possibilities must be envisaged when one engages in war. It is necessary to reckon on the worst. Plans must be carefully prepared, but remain open to adaptation depending on circumstances. You must always ask yourself how the enemy will react. When it comes to the enemy, it is necessary to target the essentials—the main front—and direct your efforts there. If a breach is made, the secondary fronts will fall of their own accord. A conquest must always be accompanied by political gestures. Any military objective is subordinate to a political objective and every general must possess civil qualities. This does not preclude the supreme commander having to enjoy a certain freedom of action in the theatre where he is in charge. These observations can be applied to all wars, including those of the early twenty-first century.

If nothing else, you can see how these basic rules will help you to think about where to place your relationship managers, your capital, your attention, your pitching, and so on and so forth. each of these rules are golden rules for warfare and will be similar to business as well. Very interesting indeed. If you look at the business leaders, they are all having history or military history book.

But one thing you have to remember about Napoleon. He was tactically brilliant, won so many wars, was very focussed on the human element, but he was not a strategist and its that inability to bring in the political, economic, and other elements made him lose in the end. At end of the day, he left France smaller than what he took. So despite his great reputation, he lost in the end. You learn more from failures, son.

Best of luck with your presentation, I am very proud of you, that is good work, really good work on the presentation.

Your proud father.



In the more than two centuries since his rise to power during the French Revolution, the world at large has been fascinated with Napoleon Bonaparte, justly considering him as one of the great geniuses of all time. In particular, his military successes have led numerous authors, after his defeat and fall from power in 1815, to attempt to distill his writings into a series of maxims that could be studied and applied to current events. This concept has proven difficult. While exiled on Saint Helena, Napoleon himself considered writing about the art of war, but before his death in 1821 he ordered his efforts to be destroyed. Since the third decade of the nineteenth century, a number of scholars have sought to synthesize and recreate this material, with varying degrees of detail and accuracy, using the emperor's correspondence, official records, observations by his associates, and other sources.

Sunday, August 21

When I nearly fell into the gutter and met with old London Ghosts

So I found out about a little secret that London has. So off I went

So I have arrived at the intersection of Charing Cross Road and Old Compton Street in Soho. 

See? lovely old place full of book stores of the dodgy kind.  

And you peer down into the grate. Can you see what I am peering at?

Can you see two signs? Saying Old Compton Street?

Its full of wires and stuff, but the side signs are what are thoroughly fascinating. So the background is that long time back, the street level was much much lower than now. There used to be a pub here and many more buildings.

But in 1896, all this stuff was demolished and the current Charing Cross Road constructed with an office building on top. So nothing else remains, other than these two signs showing two levels of the London street.

it was strange, standing in the middle of the very busy street, peering up and down the grate, getting some very weird looks at me. And then just stood there trying to imagine the old London. I could really feel it, its one of those places where the old London Ghosts roam.

Saturday, August 20

Why do the most flamboyant males have the evolutionary edge? – Alex Riley | Aeon Essays

Something relating to our Ecuador visit. And to Darwin of course. A most fascinating overview of why males spend so much time in impressing females. And other males so that they are frightened away from the females. We aren't that different from animals or peacocks and this has driven our behaviours. 
Very interesting to note how human behaviour is also aligned to ensuring our mitochondria is aligned with our partner's. 

Why do the most flamboyant males have the evolutionary edge? – Alex Riley | Aeon Essays
(via Instapaper)

For a large part of his life, Charles Darwin didn't like peacocks. It wasn't their loud vocalisations – a high-pitched, piercing combo of laughter and screaming. That he could deal with. What kept him up at night was the peacocks' tails. As he wrote to a friend in 1860, the sight of those ornate feathers made him feel sick whenever he gazed at them. Why? Because he couldn't explain them. The plumes of turquoise, blue and brown, trailing behind many times the bird's body length or spread into a wide fan of flamboyancy, was an affront to his theory of evolution by natural selection, a process founded on efficiency and removal of extravagance.
Not only is such a train of feathers metabolically costly, it is also readily visible to any carnivore looking for an easy meal. With all the predation, pathogens and diseases that living things need to overcome, Darwin wondered, how could such self-destructive beauty evolve? Why would an animal go to such extremes to make life harder, and death more likely? He finally hit on a plausible answer in 1871. In the second part of his book The Descent of Man, he explained that there is more to life than mere survival. Animals need to have sex, too. And because females are often more heavily invested than males in egg production and parental care, they are more likely to take the lead in choosing mates, too. As Darwin wrote: 'It's not a struggle for existence, but a struggle between the males for the possession of the females.'

Friday, August 19

The Japanese after action report from the battle of Midway

My knowledge of the battle of midway comes mostly from American sources. But this was from Japanese sources. Amazing to read it.

They were basically shite after coral sea. Go read the entire thing. 

Thursday, August 18

‘A Man of very surprising Genius’: John Bagford, Bookseller and Collector - Untold lives blog

So a month back, kids, I went for a walk around London. It was lead by this librarian who took us around buildings and places where bagford had an association with. I've written about him earlier to you. 
I can understand why people are not happy with him. For him to cut out title pages is a crime. Heinous. 
But compared to that, he did help create some of the great libraries of London so that's good. 
Interesting chap :)


'A Man of very surprising Genius': John Bagford, Bookseller and Collector - Untold lives blog
(via Instapaper)

[H]e was a Man of very surprising Genius, and, had his education...been equal to his natural Genius, he would have proved a much greater Man than he was. And yet, without this Education, he was, certainly, the greatest Man in the World in his way...
So wrote the Oxford antiquary Thomas Hearne of his friend John Bagford (b. 1650/51, d. 1716): a man of humble background and little formal education, a one-time shoemaker who made a career as a bookseller. Since he counted among his customers such luminaries as Hans Sloane and Robert Harley – whose libraries went on to form foundation collections of the British Museum – Bagford's activities are of no little interest in the history of the British Library and its books. Bagford is principally remembered today for amassing important collections of early printed ballads and title-pages. The latter he gathered with the object – unfulfilled at his death – of writing 'an Historical Account of that most Universally Celebrated, as well as Useful Art of Typography'.

Engraving of John Bagford by George Vertue, after the painting by Hugh Howard. © National

Wednesday, August 17

A Terrifying Journey Through the World's Most Dangerous Jungle

This was a difficult read. I'm a family of migrants. Going back several generations. Crossing internal and external boundaries. Burma. Bangladesh. Nepal. India. It's a strange feeling. To read about bangladeshis being in Panama and Columbia. Going through very tough situations. And then can you imagine? Being forced to go back after crossing the ferocious most dangerous jungle? Will kill your spirit :(

A Terrifying Journey Through the World's Most Dangerous Jungle
(via Instapaper)

"Huelo chilingos," the boatman shouts over the drone of an outboard motor. I smell migrants.
I turn around and see nothing but a wall of dark, unruly jungle, then I slump back into the bow of the canoe. Five days we've been out here, waiting for a group of foreigners to appear on this godforsaken smuggler's route in the Darién Gap, and all we have to show for it is sunburn and trench foot. Our search is starting to feel futile.
For centuries the lure of the unknown has attracted explorers, scientists, criminals, and other dubious characters to the Gap, a 10,000-square-mile rectangle of swamp, mountains, and rainforest that spans both sides of the border between Colombia and Panama. Plenty of things here can kill you, from venomous snakes to murderous outlaws who want your money and equipment. We've come to find the most improbable travelers imaginable: migrants who, by choice, are passing through the Darién region from all over the world, in a round-about bid to reach the United States and secure refugee status