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When to Read Was to Write

Leah Price: Marginalia in Renaissance England, 9 October 2008

Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England 
by William Sherman.
Pennsylvania, 259 pp., £29.50, April 2008, 978 0 8122 4043 6
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... is excluded is that we are left with a thinner record of reader-response. Some of the research for William Sherman’s Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England was conducted in Cambridge University Library, where every desk bears a sign reading ‘Marking of Books is Forbidden’, many of them imaginatively defaced. When I worked there at around ...

Who Knows?

Meehan Crist: The Voynich Manuscript, 27 July 2017

The Voynich Manuscript 
edited by Raymond Clemens.
Yale, 336 pp., £35, November 2016, 978 0 300 21723 0
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... York, where, increasingly desperate to crack the cipher, he enlisted the cryptographic skills of William Newbold, a professor of philosophy at Pennsylvania, who spent years studying the manuscript under a microscope and came to believe that the glyphs concealed a second cipher – microletters encoded into each penstroke. Voynich was elated. ‘When the time ...

Forty Acres and a Mule

Amanda Claybaugh: E.L. Doctorow, 26 January 2006

The March: A Novel 
by E.L. Doctorow.
Little, Brown, 367 pp., £11.99, January 2006, 0 316 73198 6
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... recent novel deals with one of the most fraught subjects in US history: the long march of General William Tecumseh Sherman in the final months of the Civil War. The election of 1864 was a referendum on whether the Union should fight to achieve total victory or seek a negotiated peace, which would almost certainly have ...

Seating Arrangements at the Table of World Morality

Simon Chesterman: The guilt of nations, 19 October 2000

The Guilt of Nations: Restitution and Negotiating Historical Injustices 
by Elazar Barkan.
Norton, 414 pp., £21, September 2000, 0 393 04886 1
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... 40-acre parcels to freed slaves was introduced in Congress. Though implemented in part by General William Sherman in respect of the former slaves who had fought under him, this early gesture towards restitution was ended by President Andrew Johnson in 1869 and has been the subject of bitter jokes ever since. Looters in urban riots a century later claimed ...

Locum, Lacum, Lucum

Anthony Grafton: The Emperor of Things, 13 September 2018

Pietro Bembo and the Intellectual Pleasures of a Renaissance Writer and Art Collector 
by Susan Nalezyty.
Yale, 277 pp., £50, May 2017, 978 0 300 21919 7
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Pietro Bembo on Etna: The Ascent of a Venetian Humanist 
by Gareth Williams.
Oxford, 440 pp., £46.49, August 2017, 978 0 19 027229 6
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... out how the popes piped fresh water to their city and sewage away from it.* Lawrence Principe and William Newman (Alchemy Tried in the Fire, 2002) and Pamela Smith (The Making and Knowing Project) have decrypted arcane manuscripts and recreated forgotten crafts to establish how alchemists and artisans actually did their work, which they then ...

Defeated Armies

Scott Sherman: Castro in the New York Times, 5 July 2007

The Man Who Invented Fidel: Castro, Cuba, and Herbert L. Matthews of the ‘New York Times’ 
by Anthony DePalma.
PublicAffairs, 308 pp., £15.99, September 2006, 1 58648 332 3
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... Colleagues shunned him; the FBI investigated him; congressional subcommittees harassed him; and William F. Buckley taunted him with nicknames like ‘Sherbert Matthews’. He also received death threats from Cuban exiles in Miami, and once had to flee a platform at the University of New Mexico because the local police believed there might be a bomb in the ...

Hallelujah Times

Eric Foner: The Great Migration, 29 June 2017

A Mind to Stay: White Plantation, Black Homeland 
by Sydney Nathans.
Harvard, 313 pp., £23.95, February 2017, 978 0 674 97214 8
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... the aftermath of slavery, freedpeople throughout the South demanded access to land. When General William T. Sherman met with a group of black ministers in Savannah in January 1865, he asked what would enable the emancipated slaves to live as free people. They answered: ‘Give us land.’ ...

His Whiskers Trimmed

Matthew Karp: Robert E. Lee in Defeat, 7 April 2022

Robert E. Lee: A Life 
by Allen Guelzo.
Knopf, 585 pp., $27.99, September 2021, 978 1 101 94622 0
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... long, grinding conflict he feared had come to pass. In 1864 the campaigns of Grant in Virginia and William T. Sherman in Georgia put unrelenting pressure on an exhausted South. Lincoln’s re-election that autumn effectively sealed the war’s outcome. A few months later, at Appomattox, Lee donned a ‘splendid’ new ...

A Topic Best Avoided

Nicholas Guyatt: Abraham Lincoln, 1 December 2011

The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery 
by Eric Foner.
Norton, 426 pp., £21, February 2011, 978 0 393 06618 0
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... to the project, and his personal access to Lincoln frustrated key figures in the cabinet. William Seward, the secretary of state, opposed colonisation and held it up; John Usher, the interior secretary, claimed authority over the emigration bureau and felt undermined by Mitchell; Edwin Stanton, the secretary of war, coveted black manpower for the ...

That’s Liquor!

Nick James, 7 March 1996

Leaving Las Vegas 
directed by Mike Figgis.
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... depicting Hollywood’s own wild party. The paradigm of all movies about Hollywood is probably William Wellman’s 1937 melodrama A Star is Born, which has been remade twice as a musical and was itself based on George Cukor’s What Price Hollywood? of 1932. The basic story contrasts the inexorable rise to stardom of an unassuming waitress with the fall ...

I am Gregor Samsa

Eric Korn, 7 January 1993

Virtual Reality 
by Howard Rheingold.
Secker, 415 pp., £19.99, October 1992, 0 436 41212 8
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by Katie Hafner and John Markoff.
Fourth Estate, 368 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 1 872180 94 9
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Glimpses of Heaven, Visions of Hell: Virtual Reality and its Implications 
by Barrie Sherman and Phil Judkins.
Hodder, 224 pp., £12.99, July 1992, 0 340 56905 0
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... In the novels of William Gibson and other writers of cyberpunk, the new SF sub-genre, in the glittery non-realism of the movies, cyberspace is crystalline and neonlit and shiny, a place of infinite depth and detail, of towers and canyons and technicolor hypergeometry, the ‘consensual hallucination shared daily by billions ...

Clothes were everything to me

Lisa Cohen: Bill Cunningham, 25 October 2018

Fashion Climbing: A New York Life 
by Bill Cunningham.
Chatto, 256 pp., £16.99, October 2018, 978 1 78474 281 2
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... that when he became a hat designer, at scarcely twenty years old, he did so semi-anonymously as ‘William J.’ and ‘William Jay’. We see his overwhelming desire to be close to women’s clothes transmuted into the need to know everything about them. He doesn’t reflect on how a flamboyant maker became a self-effacing ...

It isn’t the lines

Bee Wilson: Paul Newman’s Looks, 16 February 2023

Paul Newman: The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man 
by Paul Newman, edited by David Rosenthal.
Century, 320 pp., £25, October 2022, 978 1 5291 9706 8
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The Last Movie Stars 
directed by Ethan Hawke.
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... didn’t take long for him to become spectacularly successful. In 1953, he starred on Broadway in William Inge’s Picnic, in which he was ‘stiff and wooden but an actor’, according to the film director Sidney Lumet. John Foreman told Stern that every studio wanted him after that, and he officially became the ‘hot guy’. Over the next few years he just ...

Royal Americans

D.A.N. Jones, 4 October 1984

by Gore Vidal.
Heinemann, 657 pp., £9.95, September 1984, 0 434 83077 1
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Stars and Bars 
by William Boyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 255 pp., £8.50, September 1984, 0 241 11343 1
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... laugh at the farcical communities of Stars and Bars, in the defeated land of Robert E. Lee, where Sherman marched so ruthlessly. William Boyd’s title will suggest Hollywood to some – but a Virginian, seeing me carrying it about, sighed ‘Ah, the old flag’ and became unusually pensive. He began telling me about the ...

Talking with Alfred

Steven Shapin: Mr Loomis’s Obsession, 15 April 2004

Tuxedo Park: A Wall Street Tycoon and the Secret Palace of Science that Changed the Course of World War Two 
by Jennet Conant.
Simon and Schuster, 330 pp., £9.99, July 2003, 0 684 87288 9
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... compared to Loomis’s development of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. On land that General Sherman had given to freed slaves during the Civil War, he constructed an opulent sporting preserve, where he ‘played the country squire’ and treated Yankee visitors to dinners of Rabelaisian vastness: ‘The big kitchen sent out a tempting fragrance of roast ...

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