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One of our members recently visited the British Library, providing this theme from the ancient writings there.

portolan - pertaining to maritime navigation of ports and coasts
[from Italian portolano=pilot book and porto=port]

Note: I have found this only in OED and one on-line compilation, each of which list this word only as a noun. Its usage, however, is clearly as an adjective.
quote:
This chart of Western Europe, the Mediterranean, and North Africa ... is from the earliest portolan atlas in the British Library's collections. Intended primarily for navigators and merchants, portolan charts show extensive coastal detail.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: wordcrafter,
 
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Here's some information on portolans from the James Ford Bell Library, University of Minnesota. And Trinity College, Cambridge, offers this bibliography:

Portolans

*Tony Campbell, ‘Portolan charts from the late thirteenth century to 1500’ in The history of cartography vol. I. Cartography in Prehistoric, Ancient and Medieval Europe and the Mediterranean, (eds.) J. B. Harley and D. Woodward, Chicago, 1987, 371-463

Peter Whitfield, The Charting of the Oceans, London 1996.

Michel Mollat, Sea Charts of the Early Explorers: 13th to 17th century, trans. L. le R. Dethan, New York: Thames and Hudson, 1984.

Alison Sandman, ‘Sea charts, navigation and territorial claims in sixteenth-century Spain’, in P. H. Smith and P. Findlen eds, Merchants and marvels: commerce, science and art in early modern Europe, London, 2002.

B. Schmidt, ‘The project of Dutch geography and the marketing of the world, circa 1700’, in P. H. Smith and P. Findlen eds, Merchants and marvels: commerce, science and art in early modern Europe, London, 2002.

Tinman
 
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Michael Quinion writes about portolan in World Wide Words.

Tinman
 
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Tinman, thank you. I very much enjoyed browsing throught the larger cite of which your link is part. There was an interesting related word.

rhumb; rhumb line - the line showing the path of a ship or plane that maintains a constant, unchanging compass direction. Also called a loxodrome
 
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Almost all the uses of the word on the Web are in collocations like 'portolan atlas', 'portolan chart', and though those don't tell you whether it's an adjective or a noun, the fact that it's so rarely used as a head noun suggests the writers think of it as an adjective.

Here's a site that twice uses it as a head noun, as well as a qualifier.

But elsewhere we find 'a Portolan Italian Chart of Iesi', and there's no way it can be a noun there, in front of an adjective.

Presumably the two would be pronounced differently, full vowel in the noun, schwa in the adjective.

A portolan chart was a portolan that was a chart in itself, rather than an illustration in a text.

There are a very small amount of hits for "portolan is", "portolan was", and one for "portolan showed", showing it being used as a noun.
 
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codex (pl. codices) – a manuscript (handwritten) volume, especially of a classic work or of the Scriptures ('manuscript' in this sense means "handwritten")

From Latin caudex, tree stump. As I understand it, the word was then used for "waxed wooden strips on which to write", then "a collection of such strips", and then "a collection of paper or parchment on which to write". The method was cheaper than writing on a scroll (lower quality parchment; writing on both sides) and easier to handle, but less durable. The codex format became more respectable when impoverished early Christians took to it for their texts, which thus came to be called codices.
quote:
The parchment codex was copied in a hand known as "khutsuri" or "priestly hand".
 
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repoussé - used esp. of decorative metalwork: with raised patterns formed by hammering or pressing into the reverse side
quote:
This elaborate front cover of repoussé work on gilded base metal is one of the most lavish metalwork bindings preserved in the Library's collections.
This may be one of those definitions for which a picture is worth a thousand words.
 
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Not to be confused, of course, with retroussé. Smile


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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Regarding portolan, a logophile friend remembers that in Clavell's novel "Shogun," it was also called a "routier" (which I couldn't find in Onelook) or a "rutter".
 
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colophonoriginally, an inscription at the end of a book, giving facts about its publication.
[Gk. kolophon summit, final touch; cf. L. culmen top, collis hill]
However, the inscription has now migrated to a title page at the front, and the term 'colophon' now includes a publisher's emblem or trademark on the title page.
quote:
When the colophon, or final description, fell into disuse, and . . . the title page had become the principal direct means of identifying the book.
– De Morgan, Difficulty of Descr. Bks. (1800s?) [Note: I cannot find further explanation of this source. Can anyone help?]

He [God] comes to the Creation of man, and makes him the Colophon, or conclusion of all things else. -- 1635 SWAN Spec. M. ix. #1 (1643) 420

The Lindisfarne Gospels is one of Britian's great nation treasures. It is thought, on grounds of its style and according to the colophon, added around 970, to have been made on the tidal inland of Lindisfarne in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria in north-eastern England in the late 7th/early 8th century.
- British Library. The library's site offers a digitised tour of the Lindisfarne Gospels.
 
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psalter – a collection of Psalms for liturgical or devotional use
quote:
This psalter was illuminated for King Levon who ruled the Cilician Kingdom in Armenia from 1279-1287.
– British Library

We approached what had been Adelmo's working place, where the pages of a richly illuminated psalter still lay. They were folios of the finest vellum - that queen among parchments – and the last was still fixed to the desk.
- Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose
Bonus word: illuminate - to add embellishments and paintings (to medieval manuscripts)
Tomorrow we'll talk about 'vellum'.
 
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vellum – fine parchment made from the skin of a young animal: lamb, calf, etc. (or paper resembling same)

quote:
You are well aware that chemical preparations exist, and have existed time out of mind, by means of which it is possible to write on either paper or vellum, so that the characters shall become visible only when subjected to the action of fire.
– Edgar Allan Poe, The Gold-Bug
We recently mentioned the word 'codex', and previously noted the word 'rubricate', each below.
quote:
By this time, the papyrus scroll used from Egypt to Rome was replaced by the vellum (calfskin) or parchment (lambskin) codex, made of separate pages bound at one side.
– Carol Strickland, The Annotated Mona Lisa: A Crash Course in Art History from Prehistoric to Post-Modern

Nearby I saw a rubricator, Magnus of Iona, who had finished scraping his vellum with pumice stone and was now softening it with chalk, soon to smooth the surface with the ruler.
– Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose
 
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shufitz: rhumb; rhumb line - the line showing the path of a ship or plane that maintains a constant, unchanging compass direction. Also called a loxodrome

When I was a kid, the wall-maps in our school classrooms always showed Greenland as huge. Frankly, I thought Greenland was much larger than the United States. When I learned otherwise, I wondered why the map showed it as much larger.

The answer was that those maps were prepared by a projection that sacrificed accuracy of areas, in order to be completely accurate as to directions. Any straight line drawn on that map will show where a sailor/aviator will go if he travels in constant compass direction. Thanks to shufitz I now have the terminology: on that map rhumb lines will show up as straight lines.

Which is great for navigators, I'm sure, but it's a poor map to use in the schools.
 
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Upon seeing the post about "vellum," my logophile friend reminded me of "palimpsest." He sent me this:

"Palimpsest - manuscript pages evidently scraped of ink and reused for another purpose, a common practice when new Parchment was difficult to obtain - from the Greek palimpsestos or "scraped again."

We've talked about palimpsest here and here.
 
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miniature – a picture or decorative letter [not necessarily small*] on an illuminated manuscript*; also, a small painting, or more generally, something small of its class.
[* Note: AHD erroneously requires "small" here. ]

Pictures called "miniatures" sometimes cover a full page, or even a two-page spread, in the British Library's manuscripts. A 'miniature' need not be small because the word, despite appearance, does not come from the same root as minimum and like words relating to small size.

Rather, it comes from the red pigment, Latin minium, used in coloring manuscripts. From this came miniare to illuminate a manuscript or to color with red; miniature the illumination made; miniator the person who does that job. Only later did that the word "miniature" came to mean specifically something small.

Some sources say the pigment minium was red lead (Pb3O4); others say cinnabar (HgS). As best I can tell minium simply meant 'red pigment' of either kind, but the word subsequently evolved, and today the English word minium means red lead.
quote:
The manuscript contains more than 1200 scenes from the Bible, in addition to the traditional series of miniatures. – British Library
 
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In reply to wordnerd and shufitz, the problem of Greenland (and other areas in the far north and far south, globally) appearing inordinately large: as a geography teacher, I explain to my pupils that there are many map projections for many uses, and that this one is comparable to an orange that has been peeled, the peel coming off in one piece.

Then, that which once was round, is flattened as a map is flat. The gaps toward the top and bottom of the orange/map can either be filled in or left open. The projection we are referring to has filled-in areas where there were gaps. Greenland, being in the far north, consisted of a large gap and some surrounding land areas. The gap(s) are filled in, making Greenland appear much larger than it actually is. The same, of course, is true of Alaska, while the Arctic and Antarctic are spread across most of the upper and lower margins!
 
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quote:
Originally posted by shufitz:

_rhumb; rhumb line_ - the line showing the path of a ship or plane that maintains a constant, unchanging compass direction. Also called a _loxodrome_

I remember reading once that the longest possible ship's rhumb line runs from the Sea of Okhotsk in eastern Russia,to Pakistan, via the Drake Passage. Darned if it doesn't look possible on a globe!
 
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