Poly-Olbion is a cycle of 30 poems describing England and Wales, county by county, composed by Michael Drayton in the late 16th and early 17th Centuries. It was published in two parts, 1612 and 1622, along with sumptuous black and white maps engraved by William Hole meant to be colored in by its buyers. Now Poly-Olbion will be republished as a coloring book entitled Albions Glorious Ile. The Poly-Olbion Project website is worth exploring, as well as its blog and tumblr.
Journeyman Pictures has uploaded nearly 4000 videos to YouTube. Many of these are trailers for the documentaries they sell, but they have also posted hundreds of full-length videos. Most are for short documentarie, but there are a lot of features too. It's somewhat daunting to explore, but the playlists are a good place to start, and so are the shows: Features, Shorts, News and Savouring Europe, a European travelogue series. Here's a few interesting ones: Gastronauts, about French culinary students working to make astronaut food more palatable, Demon Drummers, about student Kodo drummers, India's Free Lunch, about the effects of free school lunches on Indian society, The Twitter Revolution, about YouTube and Twitter's role in the 2009 Iranian uprising, Europe's Black Hole, about Transnistria, the breakaway region of Moldova, Small Town Boy, about a gay male carnival queen in a small town in England, The Vertigo of Lists, Umberto Eco talks about the ubiquity of lists in modern culture and Monsters from the Id, about scientists in the science fiction films of the Fifties.
The Age of Uncertainty is my new favorite blog. It's by a gentleman bookseller who works in a warehouse in Sussex processing lorryfuls of used books. He shares the most interesting things he finds, commenting with wit and sensitivity. He also writes entertainingly about his everyday life. Let me point you towards his series of extracts from a diary that came to his warehouse, detailing the life of Derek, an employee of the government who converted to Mormonism. It was a fairly normal life, but the excerpts are fascinating. Here are the entries in order: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. He also posts beautiful images he finds, such as Victorian color plates: 1 and 2. Still, it is the remains of ordinary lives washing up on his shores that most enthralls me, such as this tear-inducing post about a family photo album which was sent to his used books warehouse.
A heartbreaking 10-minute documentary on Joe Gaetjens who scored the single goal in the USA's shocking victory over England at the 1950 World Cup. Gaetjens was a Haitian accounting student at Columbia University who went to Europe shortly after the 1950 World Cup and returned to Haiti a few years later. His story, and the story of the upset victory, was until recently largely unknown in the US.
Educational gamesmaker Preloaded has recently made two strategy games for English TV station Channel 4. 1066 is a mix of tactics, insult-typing, bowmanship, rhythm-game and narration by Ian Holm. Trafalgar Origins is all Napoleonic high seas derringdo all the time, as you sail your English ship in real time against the damnable French and Spanish. Whether you want to hoist the sails or call your opponent a stench weasel, they are fun little games which have the added bonus of teaching you about British history. Both games can be played solo or multiplayer. [via Rock Paper Shotgun, where they like those games quite a lot]
Punch Cartoons has over 8000 cartoons from the pages of Punch, the long-running British satirical magazine. It cast its eye on everything from quintessentially British entertainment to children's books to computer games to optometrists. Punch ran from 1841 to 1992 and was relaunched in 1996 and finally closed shop in 2002. You can read up on the history of the magazine on their website and if you want to read some old issues to see what they were like, Project Gutenberg has quite a few. [Punch previously]
Norman Centuries is a new podcast by Lars Brownworth, best known for his podcast series 12 Byzantine Rulers (previously). Norman Centuries, as the name suggests, recounts the history of the Normans, those literal vikings who gained Normandy and then England, Sicily, Malta, Antioch and, well, a whole heck of a lot of other places too. They were a conquering bunch. First two episodes are out with more to follow. [iTunes link]
Utopia Britannica is a collection of stories and a gazetter about utopian communes in the British Isles from the 14th Century up until the end of World War II. There are some incredible tales in here, such as 'Free Love' in 19th Century Somerset, St. Kilda, Death of an Island Republic, Percy Bysshe Shelley's attempted communes, Augustus John, the King of Bohemia and many more.
British Women Romantic Poets Project is a collection of poetry written by women from the British Isles between 1789 and 1832. Over a hundred female poets are represented. Women rarely feature in literary histories of the Romantic period but there is treasure if you search (some poems are, frankly, terrible). A few places to start are Charlotte Turner Smith's Elegiac Sonnets, and Other Poems, Christian Ross Milne's Simple Poems on Simple Subjects and Mary Robinson's sonnet cycle Sappho and Phaon. The oddest works to modern readers may be Elizabeth Hitchener's Enigmas, Historical and Geographical and Marianne Curties' Classical Pastime, which are collections of verse riddles (the answers are at the end of the text).
Colour on the Thames is a 7 minute film shot in 1935 using Gasparcolor, one of the many early forms of tinting black and white film. Beside Colour on the Thames, which provides a wonderful view of 1930's England, the only film made in Gasparcolor I could find online was Colour Flight by New Zealand artist Len Lye, an abstract cartoon set to instrumental 1930's pop music. The story of Gasparcolor is in itself interesting, for instance touching on Nazis, Hungary between the wars and early color animation.