Thursday, 14 June 2018

Anglo saxon scribes in St Catherine's monastery in Siniai

Yesterday I tweeted a link to a BBC story about the digital recovery of palimpsets from St Catherine's monastery in Siniai.

Essentially, by using clever digital techniques they can recover the writing from the various erased texts from reused parchment pages.

One thing that really caught my notice was the throw away comment that there was evidence of texts being written in Anglo Saxon hands. Doubly so as at the end of 2010 I became mildly obsessed with the question as to wether it could be true, as reported in some versions of the Anglo saxon Chronicale that Alfred sent Sighelm the ealdorman to visit the Christian communities in Kerala.

From this I started accumulating a fair amount of references covering links between the late Anglo Saxon world and both the Islamic world and the remaining christian communities of the middle east and India [summary].

Now the presence of an Anglo Saxon hand in a palimpset at St Catherine's doesn't necessarily mean that there were Anglo Saxon monks in the scriptorium - they could after all have been working elsewhere and the book ended up in St Catherine's, but it's more intriguing evidence of links between the late Anglo Saxon world and the christian communities of the middle east ...

Monday, 11 June 2018

The persistence of brands ...

When we were in Malaysia recently, I wanted to buy myself some fish oil capsules as I had forgotten to pack my usual brand, so, on the first opportunity I popped into a Watson's chemists to buy some.

And there they were, imported from Australia, and branded with the distinctive 'A' logo from Abbot laboratories that I'd come across time after time when documenting 1950's and 1960's pharmaceutical bottles for the National Trust.

Abbot is no longer a common retail brand in Australia, but there it was, alive and well in Malaysia.

One of the things coming out of my work documenting Dow's pharmacy is how you can (a) document the change from pharmacists making up their own formulations from materia medica to the rise of prepackaged products from pharmaceutical companies, and indeed due to the consolidation in the market, assemble a rough chronology based on brand names and packaging, and (b) track how some of the early suppliers of patent medicines turned into the pharmaceutical companies and wholesalers we know and love today.

And brands persist, Burgoyne Burbridge, a major nineteenth to mid twentieth century chemicl supplies wholesaler, long gone from Britain and Australia, lives on in Mumbai, and May and Baker, again long gone and now part of Aventis, still trades as May and Baker in Nigeria.

I would guess the reason for the persistence of brand names in some places is imply one of recognition - a brand has a reputation for trustworthiness, and once well established, it would be silly to abandon it ...