Illuminated Manuscripts

There is someone out there who is making it their mission to archive “every book ever written” on the internet.  That’s quite and undertaking, especially when you consider that many historical books are long gone. I think they might want to revise their mission statement.

Historians think that writing, a visible record of language, began around 4500 b.c. in Mesopotamia, located in the area that is now Iraq.

My son got me thinking about this yesterday. At least half of the history of civilization has been written down (I guess it depends on what you consider ‘civilization’). It is an art, this writing thing. Not just in the construct of stories, but in the production of the tool, the paper, the script, the illustrations. And it’s really a wonder that any of them have made it through history as long as they have. I wonder what the advent of digital media holds for the future? Will the Kindle Fire alight a revolution akin to a slow burning of the library at Alexandria? After all, it is just a first generation of digital ‘books’. The papyrus of our age. What will ‘books’ look like in 10 years? 20 years…100 years….Will they be only museum pieces?

Birthed in the womb of the Lascaux caves, archived on the clay tablets of Persia, deified in the Vedas and the book of Kells. Some of the first books that were created over 4000 years ago were cook books and mythologies. I wonder if that’s where it will end as well, this illuminated path of knowledge.  All others converted to binary code with only the beginning left to us again – cook books and mythologies. At least we have respectable priorities. Here are a few we should bury in jars in the desert for posterity:

New Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies

This is a treasury of 240 classical and regional Iranian recipes. 120 colour photographs intertwined with descriptions of ancient and modern ceremonies, poetry, folk tales, travelogue excerpts, and anecdotes make “New Food of Life” not just a collection of recipes but also an introduction to Persian art and culture. Each recipe is presented in a format that is brilliantly logical and marvellously easy-to-follow. You will learn how to cook rice, the jewel of Persian cooking, simply yet deliciously. And by combining it with a little meat, fowl, or fish, vegetables, fruits, and herbs, you’ll have a balanced diet – colourful, yet healthy, simple yet exotic.Iranian festivals, ceremonies, and celebrations, together with the menus and recipes associated with them are described in detail: from the ancient winter solstice celebration, Yalda, or the ‘sun’s birthday’, which is the origin of such Western holidays as Christmas and Halloween, to the rituals and symbolism involved in a modern Iranian marriage. Like a magnificent Persian carpet, 1,000 years of Persian literature and art have been woven into the book. Food-related pieces from such classics as the “10th century Book of Kings”, and “1,001 Nights” to the miniatures of Mir Mussavar and Aq Mirak, from the poetry of Omar Khayyam to the humour of Mulla Nasruddin are all included. Now with the ingredients for Iranian food available in most US cities, “New Food of Life” makes accessible one of the world’s oldest – yet least known – culinary traditions where the first recipes were written 4,000 years ago in a cuneiform script on clay tablets.

The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily

The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily is one of the most important stories of the Anthroposophic and Rosicrucian streams. It is a timeless, allegorical tale of initiation and had a profound impact on Rudolf Steiner and on the formulation of his teachings. He called the fairy tale a kind of “secret revelation,” an “apocalypse.” As the authors point out in The Time Is At Hand! Goethe’s fairy tale begins with a specific image: a river separating two lands that contrast to each other, as do the sensory world and the spiritual world. The story ends with a bridge, created through sacrifice, that spans the river between the two lands.

Indeed, Rudolf Steiner was so deeply impressed by Goethe’s fairy tale, that he used it as the model for his own first mystery drama, The Portal of Initiation. It is said that, prior to its first performance, he told friends, “I know how long and deeply you have loved Goethe’s fairy tale, and today I am happy to tell you that you will see it performed on stage.”

The twelve paintings in this book represent the soul experiences of the “Youth” in the fairy tale. These images are the fruit of an intense collaboration between the artist Hermann Linde and Rudolf Steiner, who commissioned the work. Steiner visited Linde’s studio every day and gave him detailed indications for the treatment of the various motifs. The result is this beautifully illustrated, full-color book.

This is a fairy tale for meditation—and for building bridges of the soul and spirit.

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