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Photo: Dr. David S. Weiland
Conductor Joseph Young with the Berkeley Symphony. Young credits Marin Alsop of the Baltimore Symphony Orchcestra with expertly mentoring his career.

Never underestimate the good you can do by being someone’s mentor. In this story, a woman conductor was the rock a young African American musician leaned on. Today he mentors others.

Lisa Houston writes at San Francisco Classical Voice, “Conducting is not a low-stress career. When the Berkeley Symphony called on Joseph Young to step in, the conductor had just two days to get up to speed on Leonard Bernstein’s second symphony, aptly named The Age of Anxiety, as well as the ominous majesty of the four orchestral interludes from Britten’s Peter Grimes. By all accounts he rose to the task admirably.

” ‘I didn’t sleep,’ Young says. ‘I even had a concert with the San Francisco Symphony that weekend as well. It was a great weekend of music making and I enjoyed every second of it, but I didn’t sleep until I got back to Baltimore.’

“In the wake of this triumph, Young was offered the music directorship for a three-year post. …

“The son of a Navy man, Young’s family moved around a fair amount in his childhood before settling in Goose Creek, South Carolina, best known for its naval base, and an area where Young’s mother’s family resided.

” ‘We heard music mostly in church,’ he says. ‘My mom comes from an extended family so I grew up going to the same high school she went to, the same church she grew up in, so we have a very tight-knit big family.’ …

“Young has known he wanted to conduct since he first heard an orchestra at the age of 16. ‘Sixteen was the first time I actually saw an orchestra, but it was also the first time I got to stand in front of an orchestra. It wasn’t any piece in particular, it was just the sound in front of me. I was a very introverted teenager and the idea of emoting what you wanted musically without saying a word was … I want to say cathartic. I was finding a way toward finding my voice.’

“An important mentor for Young has been Marin Alsop. …

‘I went up to her and said “I really want to go to grad school for conducting” and she said “why don’t you come study with me.” That moment changed my life.

” ‘Before that I had no examples. I had no mentor. All I knew was that I wanted to conduct orchestras. In that moment I had all of that. Someone from whom I learned there is a transcendental power in what we do in music, which I began to appreciate. Someone who showed me, by example, to be a leader not only of an orchestra, but of a community, as when I was with her in Baltimore. Someone trusting my own talent, my own musicality, giving to me, and showing me that this is a process, and it takes time. As a young conductor I was very eager to go, go, go! and she was there along the whole journey.

“ ‘I’m teaching with her now at Peabody [Conservatory in Baltimore], where we’re both teaching conducting. It’s kind of a strange to teach alongside someone who taught you, and at the school you went to! But seeing the students go through the same journey musically makes me realize how much more I appreciate being in that room with her throughout my early career.’ …

Asking Young about the upcoming repertoire for Berkeley is like asking a grandparent to describe in detail how cute their grandchildren are. He is effusive, delighted, and quite simply in love. …

“ ‘I wanted this season to be about focusing on the community, showcasing the community, investigating the community, not only Berkeley, but the Bay area.’ …

“For the first of four symphonic concerts, which took place Oct. 24, Young wanted to feature a friend of the orchestra, so Conrad Tao returned to play Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major. The program also featured a work of Olly Wilson.

“ ‘There’s a group of African-American composers that I have always wanted to conduct, and one of them happened to be from Berkeley. … I knew I wanted to feature an African-American composer somewhere in my season and I thought this was a great tribute not only to him, but to Berkeley, and also a way to strengthen the relationship between the Berkeley Symphony and UC Berkeley.’ …

“The season’s second symphonic concert on Feb. 6 is titled ‘You Have a Voice,’ and will feature the San Francisco Girls Chorus in a work by Mary Kouyoumdjian called Become Who I Am.

“ ‘Her piece talks about gender inequality, girls with confidence issues, and we have these young girls singing the parts, so I think it’s going to be a very empowering kind of message.’ ”

More here.

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Fresh produce in a market that is one of many in an affluent town. Many urban areas in America do not have easy access to such nutritious food.

In many parts of this great land of ours, people go hungry or subsist on junk food because that’s what’s available. I’ve written about food deserts before, and I continue to be interested in how activists and small businesses are addressing the problem.

Brittany Hutson reports at WEDT and National Public Radio (NPR), “On a cold, sunny day in early February, Raphael Wright and his business partner, Sonya Greene, check out a vacant building in Detroit’s Linwood neighborhood. Inside, wood panels are on the floor, and drywall is being placed over exposed brick. The only clue to the building’s past is a sign out front, with the words ‘Liquor, Beepers, and Check Cashing.’

“Located on the west side of Detroit, the Linwood neighborhood remains underdeveloped, with few retail businesses, countless empty lots and many vacant buildings. But Wright and Greene see potential here. It’s why they’ve chosen this neighborhood to open a bodega that sells healthy food. Like other neglected neighborhoods in urban areas, fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t a basic necessity here — they’re a luxury.

“Wright says it’s been that way since he was a kid.

” ‘I was raised in the ’90s, and I always say that we were junk food babies,’ he explains. … ‘Liquor stores, gas stations, and many times fast food restaurants were pretty much our go-to places to eat. … I’m a victim of food insecurity. … I was diagnosed with diabetes at 19, so before I was old enough to have a drink, I was diabetic.’

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Photo: Brittany Hutson/WDET
Sonya Greene and Raphael Wright are the folks behind a bodega offering fresh produce, prepared foods and staple items in an underdeveloped Detroit neighborhood.

“Wright wants the bodega, tentatively named the Glendale Mini Mart, to be a pilot for a full-range grocery store he hopes to open in the future. The bodega will offer fresh produce, prepared foods and staple items. He says he hopes it will be part of a larger mixed-use development that will include a barber shop, a beauty salon and housing. …

“Wright and Greene are not the first to recognize the importance of Detroit’s African American residents having access to fresh, reasonably priced food. That awareness began more than 50 years ago, following the rebellion that rocked the city. …

“The riots were the culmination of high levels of frustration, resentment and anger among African Americans due to unemployment, poverty, racial segregation, police brutality and lack of economic and education opportunities. However, there was something else not often discussed — food.

“According to Alex Hill, adjunct professor at Wayne State University in Detroit, there was a ‘fairly expansive hunger issue in the community’ around that time. Hill’s research on the ’67 Rebellion looks at food, power and race. In many ways, it’s the continuation of work that began when the non-profit group Focus: HOPE began studying conditions in Detroit’s black neighborhoods in the ’60s as a response to the riots.

“Focus: HOPE educated the clergy and the white Christian community on racism, poverty and other forms of injustice. In 1968, the organization released a Consumer Survey on Food and Drugs. …

“To get answers, nearly 400 suburban white women and inner-city black women were trained as undercover shoppers and sent to 300 grocery stores in the Detroit metro area. The main findings were that poor inner-city Detroiters were paying up to 20% more for lower-quality groceries. The survey also found that the quality of service, store condition, produce and meats in the city’s chain and independent stores were not of average quality compared to upper-income and suburban stores. …

” ‘In thinking about those disparities and access, those are still very much real. They may look different, but I’d say they’re very much the same from 1967.’ He says … Detroiters travel outside of the city on weekends to larger chain grocers to stock up and use their local grocer for smaller needs, such as eggs or milk, during the week. …

“Wright says the bodega is also about representation.

” ‘We’ve seen our grocery stores not be representative of our communities,’ he says. ‘So putting faces in the community that looked like us, that are from our neighborhoods and understand what we’re going through, it makes the education part easier.’ ”

More at NPR, here.

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Photo:
In a Brazilian favela, Rocywood actors pose with their screenwriter and their director.

The headlines from the slums of Brazil are hardly ever good. Between the gang violence and the police violence, there is frequent loss of life among innocent bystanders. So anytime I see something upbeat about these places — say, colorfully painted houses or musical instruments created from dump discards — I want to share the news.

This story is about the joy of making movies, even when the movies are about the harshness of life. It’s about the feeling of rising above it all.

Mariana Simões writes at Hyperallergic, ” Stacks of houses that showcase raw, exposed brick frame the rooftop view where I meet screenwriter Fabiana Escobar, or Bibi Danger, as she is known in Rio de Janeiro’s Rocinha, the largest favela in Brazil.

“With around 70,000 inhabitants, Rocinha is a vibrant community made up of low-income improvised homes built atop rolling hills that tower over Rio de Janeiro like a city within a city. Rocinha is also where, since 2015, Escobar and four other filmmakers have championed a budding film scene they call ‘Rocywood,’ combining Rocinha with Hollywood. Their Rocywood production company has one award-winning short under its belt and another short and two features in the making.

The films portray local realities, from the joys of growing up in a tight-knit neighborhood to the difficulties residents face living among drug traffickers and gun violence.

“ ‘When I was a kid, I stayed home to watch the Oscars on TV and I would marvel at every little detail. Hollywood creates that kind of magic that envelops us, even though it’s something that is so distant from our reality,’ Escobar says. …  ‘I grew up with that magic, but the industry doesn’t embrace Rocinha. We have to create our own magic. We are going to make it happen for ourselves.’

“The 38-year-old screenwriter used to own a salon and clothing store, but now rents out her shop while she dedicates her life to making Hollywood magic. But most of the people involved can’t afford to make movies full-time.

“ ‘The actors, the producers, the whole team has a second job. I am a manager at a clothing store, and I make films up here on the hill on the side,’ says Sergio Dias, Rocywood’s 31-year-old director. Dias was born and raised in Rocinha where he is known by his stage name, Sergio Mib. His one-bedroom apartment functions as a dressing room and houses Rocywood’s equipment and props, including three toy assault rifles that look impressively real.

“Rocywood’s productions cost $50 dollars (USD) on average. The filmmakers often take the budget out of their own pockets to cover transportation fees and snacks. With no dedicated financing, everyone in the community pitches in to make the films come to life, from lending filming equipment to styling hair and makeup for free at the local salon. Dias explains that Rocywood makes a conscious effort to include only people from favelas in its productions. The films, made for locals by locals, are screened on the streets of Rocinha using a projector and an improvised tarp as a screen, but are also available on YouTube for a worldwide audience to see. …

“I went in search of Rocinha’s low-budget Hollywood scene after meeting American filmmaker Alan Hofmanis by chance at a traditional Rio de Janeiro fast-food style chicken restaurant in the bustling tourist neighborhood of Copacabana. I struck up a conversation with him about his dessert and ended up learning about Wakaliwood, Uganda’s version of Hollywood, named after Wakaliga, the slum in Uganda’s capital of Kampala where the films are made.

“Eight years ago, after Hofmanis saw a trailer for a feature by Ugandan director Isaac Nabwana that mixed mafia gangs, kung fu, and gun fighting, he hopped on a plane to meet Nabwana. In 2013, Hofmanis sold everything he owned in New York and moved to Wakaliga, where he has been making movies with Nabwana ever since. Nabwana founded Uganda’s first action-film company, has produced about 45 films, and just had his feature Crazy World premiere at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

“Fascinated by Nabwana and his ability to make kitschy action films with budgets around 65 dollars that still draw in millions of online viewers, Hofmanis searched the world for others like him. He found people in Ghana, India, Afghanistan, Peru, and even Siberia who are also making low-budget, Hollywood-inspired productions. He came to Brazil in the hopes of discovering the same scene in Rio de Janeiro. …

“The American filmmaker believes low-budget, Hollywood-inspired films are a growing phenomenon. … ‘They are taking something that is outside their reality and spinning it and making it their own,’ he says. ‘So maybe this [new movement] can be called the Micro Wave because it’s a New Wave movement, but it’s based on these micro-economies.’ …

“Escobar summarizes, ‘I decided our next feature will be a horror film to break free from that stigma that because I live in a favela, I can only make films about drug trafficking and violence. If we want to write about drug trafficking it will be a great film, but we can rock other narratives, too, and we want to break that barrier.’ ”

More at Hyperallergic, here.

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Photo: Night Media
A collaboration to plant 20 million trees started when YouTuber Mr. Beast (Jimmy Donaldson) hit 20 million subscribers.

Last year, when an ancient tree in our yard was pronounced too badly diseased to save, I felt terrible about cutting it down. After all, Planet Earth needs all the trees it can get. So I searched the web to find a good place to offset the loss. I wanted to find a highly rated nonprofit that was planting trees. I ultimately donated to the Arbor Day Foundation.

The radio show Living on Earth recently featured a story on an Arbor Day initiative that got its start on YouTube.

“YouTuber Destin Sandlin, who runs the science-based channel ‘Smarter Every Day,’ spoke with Living on Earth host Jenni Doering. …

“JENNI DOERING: On October 25, in what’s being called the largest YouTube collaboration of all time, hundreds of YouTubers from around the world came together and used their combined influence to send a message on the environment. … These YouTubers have a combined subscriber count of more than a billion people. One of the most popular YouTubers and an organizer of the event is Mr. Beast, who posted a video of himself and a team of volunteers planting trees. …

“Another YouTuber, Destin Sandlin, helped recruit fellow YouTube creators. … He joins me from Huntsville, Alabama. Destin, welcome to Living on Earth.

“DESTIN SANDLIN: Thank you so much for having me.

“DOERING: All right, so first, tell me about this collaboration — what kinds of videos are being featured?

“SANDLIN: [There are] a ton of different creators from all over the internet coming together; … people that have beauty channels, vlogging channels, we have science creators, education-type creators, people that do challenges. All these creators are coming from different places all over YouTube and the rest of the internet to work together on this one thing: We want to make an impact for good. We’re calling it Team Trees. And we’re going to support the Arbor Day Foundation and try to donate $20 million. And the Arbor Day Foundation has agreed that for every $1 that is donated to them, they will plant one tree, which is so cool.

“DOERING: How did this big, huge collaboration among different influencers and creators actually get started?

“SANDLIN: That was from the internet itself. When [Mr. Beast] passed 20 million subscribers. … Everybody on Twitter and Reddit were telling him to plant 20 million trees. And he’s like, ‘How the heck am I going to do that? That’s that’s a huge task’ But he decided to basically reach out and get help.

And so there was this little Twitter storm that happened one particular day, and everybody jumped in on it. They’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, we could actually do this.’

“So there was this video that was created behind the scenes. It was a secret video that was invite only. You can make a video unlisted on YouTube. And this was pushed out to a bunch of different creators, and it included a lot of really big creators in it all the way up to PewDiePie, right?

“PEWDIEPIE: Of course, Mr. Beast, I am by your side. I will plant at least a couple of trees. …

“SANDLIN: Once you watch [the secret video], you’re like, ‘Holy cow. This is bigger than any one YouTube channel. This is bigger than any one genre even.’ … The viewers have the power to actually do things themselves. You know, a lot of times we think about these issues, and we’re like, ‘Oh, that’s another person’s problem.’ It’s not. It’s all of our problems. So if we can come together and literally do something, it’s an empowering message, right?

“DOERING: And you’re not competing with each other.

“SANDLIN: No, not at all, like, to succeed is for everyone to succeed, right? Because it’s the Earth, right? Like if we’re all helping the Earth, that’s like all being on the same bus and rooting for the bus driver to do well. We want the Earth to succeed. And so you know, there’s a lot of policies that, you know, we see a lot of campaigns. But what we want to do is physically and tangibly do a real thing that helps the environment. And that is putting trees in the ground. …

“DOERING: I understand that some creators have even made songs just for this occasion. Let’s listen to a clip.

“GABRIEL BROWN [singing]: ‘Is there anything better than the tree? If you ask me it ain’t that hard to see. How about 20 million, 20 million trees. Making 20 trillion little baby leaves. And I can’t help but choke up thinking about all the birds and bees.’

“SANDLIN: What we just heard is from a guy named Gabriel Brown. He’s a creator that was in the Navy. He’s a veteran. But now he makes music videos. He does all kinds of stuff on YouTube. And he decided to make a song for this movement. … Let me tell you a story. I got a tree in my Happy Meal back when I was six years old, and we planted it at my granny’s house.

“DOERING: Wait, in your Happy Meal?

“SANDLIN: Yeah, there was there was the Arbor Day that they gave away pine trees down in the south in your Happy Meal. And I went and planted my tree beside my two cousins. They had trees as well. And we still go by that house today. And we look at this tree and it’s huge. And knowing that I had a part in planting it so long ago is amazing. So I really think that planting trees is awesome, as long as you know exactly what you’re doing, make sure you you make a decision, an informed decision on what to do and how to do it and just put a tree in the ground.”

More here.

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Photo: Blue Lake Rancheria
The Blue Lake Rancheria microgrid powers a number of buildings on the reservation and helped provide energy when California’s Pacific Gas and Electric shut off power during wildfires.

In the following story, disempowered people lacking reliable services not only took action to help themselves but were generous to more-privileged neighbors who suddenly learned what it’s like not to have services.

This is a story about two kinds of power.

Erik Neumann reports at National Public Radio (NPR), “California’s largest electric utility took the unprecedented step of shutting off power to millions of customers beginning last October. The decision was meant to prevent power equipment from sparking catastrophic wildfires.

“Now a renewable energy microgrid on a tiny California Native American reservation is proving to be one solution to this ongoing problem. The Blue Lake Rancheria is located just north of Eureka, Calif. On the 100-acre campus, just behind the casino and hotel, Jana Ganion opens a chain-link fence. …

“Inside, in an area half the size of a football field, are more than 1,500 solar panels, slanted toward the noonday sun. Ganion is the sustainability director with the Blue Lake Rancheria, which includes about 50 members.

[Ganion] helped build this solar microgrid as part of the tribe’s goal to develop climate-resilient infrastructure and to be ready for earthquakes and tsunamis. But then beginning in October, it became useful in a whole new way. …

“As one of the only gas stations in the county with power, the reservation provided diesel to United Indian Health Services to refrigerate their medications and to the Mad River Fish Hatchery to keep their fish alive. The local newspaper used a hotel conference room to put out the next day’s paper. Area residents stopped by to charge their cell phones.

“Ganion estimates that on that day more than 10,000 nearby residents came to the reservation for gas and supplies.

“County officials had been warned about the utility shutoffs, but they didn’t know they were happening until that day, says Ryan Derby, emergency services manager for Humboldt County, where Blue Lake Rancheria is located.

” ‘Our entire planning model for the last 18 months got thrown out the window,’ Derby says. … ‘Humboldt County prides itself on being resilient,’ Derby says, ‘But I think in light of these public safety power shutoffs we realized how dependent we really are on electricity.’

“The county focused on residents who relied on medical devices like respirators or oxygen tanks. At the Blue Lake Rancheria, Anita Huff was directing emergency services for people with critical medical needs.

” ‘We had eight people here who could not have lived without electricity,’ Huff says. ‘So, we saved eight lives.’ …

” ‘Microgrids are very complex. In some ways they’re kind of like snowflakes where no two of them are the same because it depends on where you are on the grid and what your facility is,’ says Dave Carter, the managing research engineer at the Schatz Energy Research Center and the lead technical engineer on the [Blue Lake] project.

“Microgrids keep the electricity flowing to customers even after disconnecting from the overall power grid. During an outage, the Blue Lake microgrid goes into ‘island mode’ and a large Tesla battery system stores extra power and balances the energy supply and demand.

“By comparison, Carter says, conventional solar arrays have to automatically shut down during outages for safety so they don’t electrocute powerline maintenance workers or people who could come in contact with a downed line.

“Microgrids do come at a price. The Blue Lake installation cost $6.3 million. Five million dollars came from a California Energy Commission grant, and the tribe helped raise the rest. …

“Carter’s lab at the Schatz Energy Research Center is looking for ways to lower the cost of microgrids. In spite of the upfront price, he says, communities should consider what it’s worth to stay in control during a natural disaster. …

“Jana Ganion, with the Blue Lake Rancheria, says with future electricity shutoffs, rural communities, and Native American reservations in particular, need to be especially resilient.

” ‘Many, many tribal nations are located at the end of the line in terms of the electricity grid,’ Ganion says. ‘They may have no power. They may have poor quality power. Microgrids are just a way to do an end-run around all of that.’ ”

More at NPR, here.

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Photo: Samantha Reinders for NPR
Midwives at the Brufut Minor Health Center in Gambia don’t administer pain medication during childbirth because, in their view, most of the time it’s “not needed.” A recent NPR feature shows that the scarcity of opioid pain medication in Africa is not such a bad thing.

Here in the land of plenty, we have an opioid crisis that started when patients got hooked on legitimately prescribed medications. But in Gambia, where “luxuries” like opioids are scarce, doing without seems to lead to better outcomes.

Jason Beaubien at National Public Radio (NPR) interviews a Gambian nurse determined to care for patients without leaning on pain medications like opioids.

“Growing up in the Gambia in West Africa, Nabia Drammeh always knew she wanted to be a nurse. ‘My auntie was a nurse,’ she says. ‘I used to go to the clinic and see the way she works. I told her, “I really want to be a nurse in the future!” So I’ve loved this job since when I was a child.’ …

“She now works at the Brufut health clinic just outside the Gambian capital of Banjul. It’s a modest government clinic housed in a cluster of single-story cement buildings.

” ‘The cases we see here are mostly malaria cases, pneumonia cases, ear problems,’ she says. Drammeh and her colleagues at the clinic also treat a lot of urinary tract infections. They stitch up cuts from minor car crashes. They deal with sick kids and fractures from farming accidents. One constant among most of the cases, Drammeh says, is pain.

” ‘Eighty to 90 percent of patients that come here already have pain’ she says. Patients arrive with back pain, muscle pain, stomach pain. … ‘Most of the cases that come here are in pain either physically or psychologically,’ she says.

“So you might think that Drammeh would want to dole out powerful opioid-based medications that have been shown to provide incredible reductions in pain. But she doesn’t. And it’s not just because she doesn’t have any opioids.

‘When taking care of the pain you don’t only deal with drugs,’ Drammeh says with a hint of indignation. ‘Drugs are last when it comes to nursing.’

“The Gambia is one of the poorest countries in the world. Even doctors at the main teaching hospital in Banjul, the capital, don’t have regular access to opioids or other powerful pain meds. …

“But Drammeh says this lack of painkillers is not a problem. Her goal as a nurse isn’t to exterminate that pain. The pain is a clue to help her find the real underlying problem. Instead of drugs Drammeh uses her ‘nursing skills’ to address a patient’s pain.

” ‘First of all we have to receive the patient well,’ she says. ‘Show the person that he or she is welcome [at the clinic].’

“And then she lets them know that a solution to their pain exists. A burning urinary tract infection — there’s medicine for that. A pounding headache? could be a sign of malaria and a dose of malaria pills will do the trick. …

“Just convincing a patient that their particular health problem can be treated will cause their pain to go down, she says. But first, Drammeh insists, you have to connect with the patient and win their trust.

” ‘Tell the patient that this thing is normal, that we have many patients that come here with that problem or even more serious cases than that problem,’ she says. ‘But they were treated and they’ve gone home.’

“What she doesn’t do is rush to quell the patient’s pain with drugs. …

“[Midwife Rohey Jallow also] sees her role as comforting the patient, letting the woman know that pain is normal in childbirth and that she will get through it. …

“Drammeh explains how a woman had come in earlier in the day complaining of lower back pain. The patient seemed uncomfortable to be talking in the open courtyard. …

” ‘So I told her, if you want I can take you privately so I can know what the problem really is.’ They slipped off to an empty part of the ward. It turns out the woman with back pain also had hemorrhoids and had been constipated for weeks. Drammeh told the woman that she must deal with the constipation immediately. She advised her to add more fruit to her diet and gave her laxatives and some hemorrhoid cream.

” ‘I made her understand that these are the medicines that can take care of you.’ …

” ‘That is the best way of managing pain.’ ”

More at NPR, here.

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Photo: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images
Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, from 1890. A new book describes one man’s hunt for Shakespeare’s library.

There are people I’m sure you know who get a bee in their bonnet about some topic, often to the point of wearing out their friends and relatives with a barrage of random facts. But although their enthusiasm can be wearing, there’s no doubt that their research provides benefits to many of us, whether their obsession is about an ancestor of ours or someone we all claim as our own, like Shakespeare.

This report is for Laurie, who is likely to appreciate the enthusiam of Shakespeare hound Stuart Kells.

Alison Flood writes at the Guardian, “In an autumn in which scholars have unearthed Milton’s copy of Shakespeare in Philadelphia and parchment fragments from the 13th-century epic Le Roman de la Rose in Worcester [UK], Stuart Kells, author of the forthcoming Shakespeare’s Library, would like to be clear: he has not uncovered the Bard’s book collection, despite what the title might suggest.

“ ‘But I have confirmed its existence, clarified its scale and scope, and documented what happened to it,’ says the author, who has spent 20 years on the trail of Shakespeare’s personal library, and lays out his search in his new book. ‘It would be a very different book if I had gone out and discovered his library. No one has done that. It isn’t in one spot.’ …

“Kells is by no means the first person to have embark on a quest to find Shakespeare’s library during the last 400 years. As he writes, “for every species of book person, the idea of Shakespeare’s library – his personal collection of manuscripts, books, letters and other papers – is enticing, totemic, a subject of wonder.’ …

“Those not sold on his death, or destroyed or lost, ‘are sitting quietly, in cabinets and on shelves, in public and private collections around the world,’ he speculates. …

“ ‘There are things out there still being found and that’s part of the fun. … People are still finding chests of early letters, and there are volumes of multiple plays all bound together.

‘Play scripts were thought of as low literature for some time – they were slightly disreputable and weren’t taken seriously.’ …

“One of his tantalising findings is the potential former owner of a theologicial work by Agostino Tornielli. The book was published in Milan in 1610 and shipped to England, where it was bound in brown calfskin in 1615, the year before Shakespeare’s death. The cover panels on the book include an image of Pyramus and Thisbe, and the edges of the text block are decorated with elaborate patterning.

“The owner of the four bindings is not known, but there are a few hints.. … Writes Kells. ‘In tiny letters, the cover image is signed “I. S.” No one knows whether the initials are those of the block-maker, the bookbinder, the bookseller, the book’s owner, a patron or a dedicatee.’ … But the initials match those of Iohannes Shakespeare, William’s father, who dealt in leather hides – ‘no doubt some of them for bookbinding,’ Kells writes.

“Kells believes that one of the reasons for the disappearance of Shakespeare’s library is that the playwright was not an ‘avid inscriber of books,’ or much of a letter writer. ‘Practically minded and commercial, he does not seem to have been driven by abstract ideas of fame and posterity,’ Kells writes. …

“ ‘I’m quietly confident things are going to turn up,’ he says. “We now see the quarto editions as some of the greatest literary treasures in the world but, up until the 19th century, they were thought of in a different way. They are slight documents, little pamphlets, so it’s very probable they’re out there. We now have clearer eyes to search for these things and different ways of analysing them and dating things. We’re in a golden era of discovery right now.’ ”

More at the Guardian, here. I must say, it takes imagination to interpret the initials of Shakespeare’s father on a piece of leather this way, but it is surely imagination that will find and assemble the lost library.

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