Early Printing in Norway

I am a student of some types of Norwegian history and do a lot of research in the 1600s to 1900s. As I was unaware of any history of printing in Norway, I thought I would explore it for Journal 2. Norway’s historic connection to Denmark was a hindrance to the development of printing in Norway proper; needed printing was done Copenhagen or other Danish or foreign cities (Gjerset, History of the Norwegian People, vol 2, p 90). Also of significance is the lack of a Norwegian University until quite late; students had to attend foreign universities such as Rostock, founded in 1418. Finally, in 1643, a printing facility was set up in Christiania (Oslo) where three small books were published by Tyge Nielsen (Gjerset, p. 91). It is significant that the upper classes strove to read and/or speak Danish and Norwegian, considered rustic, was relegated to the lower classes; this did not help Norway develop printing capabilities nor a strong literary history. Most printing was either for government or church. The Norwegian government did collect their census, but on an erratic schedule. The most famous early census is that of 1 February 1801 this link from Larvik and this page shows that the pages were printed out with headings and then everything else handwritten in. The advantage of even printed headings becomes very obvious when comparing to the Manntall of 1701 where all is handwritten (Sør-Trøndelag fylke, Fosen fogderi, Manntall 12 (RA/EA-4070/J/Jb/L0012), 1701-1701, oppb: Riksarkivet). Quite obviously, education and cultural dissemination via print was linked to the church. However, the ancient epics were retained in oral tradition and quite late were writtne, collected and printed.

The weather helped destroy most old manuscripts and books. Ongoing is a project in Norway to record the remaining fragments (pieces from Latin and Old Norse); it is interesting  what needed preserving: old manuscripts and books were cut up to use as binding for tax records.


British Library Image Downloads

It will be weeks before the class studies this era but I could not resist this bicycle. And the British Museum has free downloads.


Glass Kilns in Jezreel Valley

Glass in ancient times was a trade item of wide distribution. Now, Israeli archaeologists have found the remains of 1600 year old kilns in the Jezreel Valley, This was a prime glass production site, by which I mean, massive pieces of glass (weighing up to 10 tons) were created and then broken off and shipped elsewhere for creation of smaller glass items. Fascinating.

An Interesting Carved Rock

I ran across this carved rock from Meredith, NH, some years ago. It has continued to fascinate me with its uniqueness. Is it genuine? Perhaps. Maybe. Yes? The imagery is certainly Native American but the method of execution on an egg shaped rock is more linked to Mexican stone artifacts than any North American image I’m aware of.

Graphic Design – Illuminated Manuscripts, Stave Churches, & Tapestries

The Voynich Manuscript eludes solution, as the text cannot be translated. The text seems old and tests as genuine but inscrutable. Here is an example from one page https://www.jasondavies.com/voynich/#f88v_f89r1_f89r2/0.327/0.474/3.50. There is a heavy coverage of plants; perhaps it is medicinal in its orientation. It is written on vellum and has been dated to the early 15th century and possibly created in Northern Italy, per its entry in Wikipedia.

While in Norway, Christianity was replacing the old pagan religion, churches previously pagan were rededicated as Christian. Likely this is true of Gol, whose timbers have been dated to the 12th Century. In the latter 1800s, this church was moved from Gol, Buskerud county to near Oslo. Though I do not know how old the visible wall paintings are but there was a tradition of painting Biblical stories on walls for the predominantly non-reading congregations to study. Tapestries may also have been used.

Most famous of tapestries, the Bayeux commemorates the Norman Conquest and the Battle of Hastings (1066). Technically, it is not a tapestry as it is not woven but embroidered. Part of its purpose was to educate and remind those viewing it of history. It does include some text often to identify people (Here King Harold has been killed). 1024px-Bayeux_Tapestry_scene57_Harold_death

Graphic Design – What Does It Comprise?

Must it always contain writing? Well, no. Certainly, the pre-writing imagery of many cultures is considered to fall within the realm of graphic design. For example, the fabulous bulls and other animals of Lascaux Cave had meaning for their creators and viewers and we only can attempt to understand the intended meaning.

Despite the thousands of years, some very ancient artifacts survive: mostly of stone, bone, and shell, they are indicative – we think – of what was essential to the ancients: food gathering or hunting, safety, shelter, ritual, and ornament. The latter, ornament, may have been more bound to ritual, hunt, and safety than just decoration.

There were early attempts to understand and document earthly cycles, as this calendar bone indicates. It is Aurignacian (about 32,000 BC) and has been analyzed as representing the phases of the moon http://sservi.nasa.gov/articles/oldest-lunar-calendars/ – certainly important to a society dependent upon hunting.  The layout is serpentine but whether that reference is to a circular, repeating pattern like moon phases, a snake, or a stream is unknown.

Writing of some cultures is not yet deciphered. Harappa with its Indus Script, I believe, is one such culture with writing that was meaningful once but now not. We presume/assume that the writing accompanying the image of the bull relates to it but we do not know how. Was it an inventory or an invocation? Are there 3 bulls, 2 humans (one with a weapon) and a tool? All we can assume is that something of importance required recording.

Were it not for the Rosetta Stone, the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic language might still be undeciphered. The historical power of the image is evident when one visits the British Museum; it is difficult to get a good view of the stone and near impossible to photograph, though I did manage an image RosettaStone-01104 of the demotic and Greek on the stone.






For sheer ancient drama, the hieroglyphics of tombs and monuments are commanding as are those on surviving wood pieces (the weighing of a heart or a soul by Thoth) and papyrus scrolls (like this fragment).

More recent and closer geographically to us is the Quipu system of knots which was used to keep records in the Inca empire. Little is known about the system because of obliteration by conquerors. The types of knots, lengths of fiber, and perhaps the color of the fiber used, are important to understanding the record. This Quipu, from the Inca empire is in the Larco Museum Collection. More information on Quipu [Khipu] can be found at http://khipukamayuq.fas.harvard.edu/WhatIsAKhipu.html


Early Asian instances of writing are late and disappointing, as they are limited to the oracle bones of the mid-Shang dynasty. Considering the technical abilities in the use of bronze by the Shang metalsmiths, it is hard for this writer to believe that writing developed so late in Asia, particularly China.

Working Title/Artist: Spouted ritual wine vessel Department: Asian Art Culture/Period/Location: Shang dynasty HB/TOA Date Code: 03 Working Date: 13th c. BC photography by mma, Digital File DP140733.tif retouched by film and media (jnc) 6_1_10

Working Title/Artist: Spouted ritual wine vessel
Department: Asian Art
Culture/Period/Location: Shang dynasty
HB/TOA Date Code: 03
Working Date: 13th c. BC
photography by mma, Digital File DP140733.tif
retouched by film and media (jnc) 6_1_10

Possible explanations include lack of archaeological study of early pre-dynastic China or the use of easily destroyed media such as fabric or paper. There is a claim that a script earlier than that of the oracle bones has been found in Zhejiang Province, but there is a debate as to whether it is a legitimate writing system. Why? Per Wang Jangjun, “To become a language, certain symbols should be readable, shapeable and explainable” and these seem not to be.” Interestingly, I believe this definition makes Quipu a valid writing system.


New Quarter – New Blog

Am taking a History of Graphic Design class and will be using my blog for my field notes.

Back Up Again & New Reads

It has been too long since my last post. Site down for a while, then couldn’t remember my login for posting.

Night is when I read and often it is mystery/police procedure – both US and Europe. I’m within 3 books of finishing Michael Connelly’s stories. His stories are much more interesting than most other crime writer’s works as his characters and plots are better developed. Jo Nesbø is another favorite with his crimes set in Norway.

Television? Not in a year.

New Studio

Studio Interior
For several years, my beads have been gathered in three or more locations. Now they have a specific place, which is not on dining room table, living room or bedroom floor. This photo is of the start of the move-in.