Death at five, quoth the pisswheel

Jordan: taking the piss?

Librarians are incredibly cool (I was employed as one, once, briefly), and, although not all cool people are librarians, like the just before Christ those currently unlibraried should receive the benefit of the doubt. Any doubts remaining as to the benevolence of those who devote their lives to war with the forces of oblivion (thanks, Prof Dr Eco) should be removed by The ARL Digital Initiatives Database. This is “is a Web-based registry for descriptions of digital initiatives in or involving libraries”, which is excellent, since Google doesn’t find everything. However, all we really care about is the query form, so here’s a minimalist version (sorry about the two redundant but … er … necessary fields) that takes keywords:

Amongst the solids thrown up by this particular search are a couple of gems, one of which, a digitised 14th century Yorkshire physician’s belt book, serves to remind us that we should never place too much faith in either iconography or libraries:

Medieval physicians are usually portrayed in a library surrounded by medical textbooks, but this is misleading. Medical practitioners during the Middle Ages frequently left their book-lined offices to examine patients in hospitals, clinics and in their patients’ own homes. But what about all that information left in the libraries? Though they had no Merck Manuals, medieval physicians often carried small fans made of folded parchment pages on their belts. These leaves contained ready reference guides which helped the physician perform the necessary functions of diagnosis and therapy. Fastened together with cloth and leather, these small memory aids are called “belt books.”

Folio 9 is a highly practical wheel of fortune, a guide to urine analysis, where the dark sample at 5 o’clock is accompanied by the legend “these urines signify death.”

It may please those of you who refuse to take young Katie Price and her 34FF globes of fortune completely seriously that the flask used to hold the product of urine extraction is referred to as a jordan.

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