Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The Xylothek - A Wooden Library

I have to admit that up until recently I had never heard of a Xylothek or xylotheque though I did have a clue, recognising the  'theque'  part,  put me in mind of  'bibliotheque'  originally from Ancient Greek βιβλιοθήκη (bibliothēkēbook-room).  And the xylon from the Greek xylon for "wood". So there you have it .... Wood library, how could  WeirdWood  not investigate that subject further !

But just as a library is something more than merely a collection of books, a xylotheque is something more than just a collection of wood. Almost all developed countries with worries about their flora have at least one xylotheque with their flora and one with flora from other places in the world.
The xylotheque with the largest number of samples is the Samuel James Record Collection of the Forestry School of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, which houses 60,000 samples. The second largest xylotheque belongs to the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium. As of September 2004, it had 57,165 samples.The Thünen Institute of Wood Research in Hamburg has more than 37,000 samples.

The Schildbach Xylotheque of the Ottoneum (Natural History Museum) in Kassel (Hesse, Germany).

Wooden libraries - xylotheque or xylothek, flourished for a short period in history, around 1790-1810, mainly in Germany. They were a further elaboration of the cabinets of natural curiosities that were common during the 18th century, and consisted of simple pieces of wood specimens placed together in some kind of cupboard. In a refined form it took the shape of "books" where you could find details from the tree inside and arranged as a "library".

Each "book" describes a certain tree species and is made out of the actual wood for the covers. The spine is covered by the bark, mosses and lichens from the same tree are arranged inside. "Books" of shrubs are covered with mosses with split branches on both covers and spines.
Inside there are dried leaves, flowers, fruits, seedlings, a piece of the root, and cut branches.  In a compartment inside the spine lies a delicately written description of the tree, its biology and its practical use.

Below is another xylothek of a different style ~ this one seems a bit rougher, but still beautiful in its own unique way.

I think these wooden books are stunning, what great things to have displayed in a book case by themselves, real tactile educational tools.

I like to think that in a way the WeirdWood Blog is a Xylotheque, but in cyber format   :-)


Saturday, 12 April 2014

Rosary Bead, Carved in Boxwood

Rosary bead, carved in boxwood Bequeathed to the British Museum by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild

A rosary bead (sometimes referred to as a 'prayer nut' or 'paternoster bead') is characteristic of the minutely detailed, small-scale boxwood carvings used for private devotion. These types of delicate and complex objects were owned by members of the nobility or wealthy merchant classes in northern Europe, and were highly prized as masterpieces of carving and invention. A complete rosary, bearing the arms of England and probably dating to the first third of the sixteenth century, survives in the collections of the Dukes of Devonshire.

Renaissance jewellery was both decorative and functional. Rosary beads were used as memory aids for saying a series of prayers dedicated to the Virgin Mary. When not in use, they could be worn around the neck or waist. Even very religious people who shunned bodily adornment approved of rosary beads. During the Reformation, the practice fell out of favour in the Protestant countries but it remained popular among Catholics.

This spherical bead from the Waddesdon bequest in the British Museum is carved on the outside with Gothic architectural detail, while the interiors are carved variously with scenes from the Old Testament and the New Testament. This boxwood rosary bead is only 2 5/8 inches (6.7cm) in diameter

The upper half is fitted with two doors, carved on both the inner and outer panels, which open to reveal the Crucifixion, crowded with miniscule figures in high relief. 

The Crucifixion

The lower half is fitted with one door, carved on both sides and opening to reveal a complex scene showing the Bearing of the Cross.

The Annunciation
The Bearing of the Cross

The achievement of these perspectives in both low relief and in high relief attests to the great skill of the craftsman, who probably had to work using a magnifying glass.

The word, ‘rosary’ is derived from the Latin rosarium, meaning a ‘garland of roses’ or ‘rose garden’, and denotes a set of prayer beads or the devotional prayer itself. A rosary provides a physical method of keeping track of the number of prayers said and is used in many religions for this purpose and also for meditation and even to relieve stress.

With kind permission from The British Museum

Friday, 11 April 2014

Hangman's Tree Cafe

An article from the Reading Eagle (Oct 27, 1954) explains what this place was:

Jim Long, our Hollywood correspondent, has visited another unusual restaurant. This one was Hangman's Tree Cafe, "the rendezvous of those who enjoy lousy food." That isn't Jim's opinion. It says so on the menu which he sent us.

Many of the items on the menu carry special notations, to wit:

Top sirloin steak, $3.15. Not the usual "mule hide" but finest aged beef.

Chicken fry steak, $1.85. Oh, no, it ain't chicken; it's a beat up cow.

Lamb chops, $2.75. Mary lost it, we found it, you can have it.

Chef's salad, $1. Yeah, we know, every restaurant has a chef salad, but they ain't got our chef.

Caesar salad, 80 cents. The chef will hate you for ordering it, but go ahead and gamble.

On top of the wine list is this announcement: "Seasoning for the town's most tasteless food."

These additional notes are carried inside the menu:

"Don't be a glutton. Leave a little on the plate. Remember, all leftovers are used in our Sunday hash."

"Warning! Well done steaks at your own risk."

On the cover it says: "Lousy food. Warm beer and cocktails. Sneering service."

It's a really good place, Jim writes. But, it seems, everyone in California likes humour with their meals. They must have something to laugh at since the smog keeps the citizens rather gloomy.

Friday, 4 April 2014

First detailed map of global forest change

A University of Maryland-led, multi-organizational team of scientists have created the first high-resolution global map of forest extent, loss and gain, a resource that greatly improves our ability to understand human and naturally-induced forest changes and the local to global implications of these changes on environmental, economic and other natural and societal systems, members of the team say.

In a new study, the team of 15 university, Google and government researchers reports a global loss of 2.3 million square kilometers (888,000 square miles) of forest between 2000 and 2012 and a gain of 800,000 square kilometers (309,000 square miles) of new forest.  

Their study, published online on November 14  2013 in the journal Science, documents the new database, including a number of key findings on global forest change. For example, the tropics were the only climate domain to exhibit a trend, with forest loss increasing by 2,101 square kilometers (811 square miles) per year. Brazil's well-documented reduction in deforestation during the last decade was more than offset by increasing forest loss in Indonesia, Malaysia, Paraguay, Bolivia, Zambia, Angola and elsewhere.

"This is the first map of forest change that is globally consistent and locally relevant," says University of Maryland Professor of Geographical Sciences Matthew Hansen, team leader and corresponding author on the Science paper.
"Losses or gains in forest cover shape many important aspects of an ecosystem including, climate regulation, carbon storage, biodiversity and water supplies, but until now there has not been a way to get detailed, accurate, satellite-based and readily available data on forest cover change from local to global scales," Hansen says.
To build this first of its kind forest mapping resource, Hansen, UMD Research Associate Professor Petr Potapov and five other UMD geographical science researchers drew on the decades-long UMD experience in the use of satellite data to measure changes in forest and other types of land cover. Landsat 7 data from 1999 through 2012 were obtained from a freely available archive at the United States Geological Survey's centre for Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS). More than 650,000 Landsat images were processed to derive the final characterization of forest extent and change.
The analysis was made possible through a collaboration with colleagues from Google Earth Engine, who implemented the models developed at UMD for characterizing the Landsat data sets. Google Earth Engine is a massively parallel technology for high-performance processing of geospatial data and houses a copy of the entire Landsat image catalog. What would have taken a single computer 15 years to perform was completed in a matter of days using Google Earth Engine computing.
Hansen and his coauthors say their mapping tool greatly improves upon existing knowledge of global forest cover by providing fine resolution (30 meter) maps that accurately and consistently quantify annual loss or gain of forest over more than a decade. This mapping database, which will be updated annually, quantifies all forest stand-replacement disturbances, whether due to logging, fire, disease or storms. And they say it is based on repeatable definitions and measurements while previous efforts at national and global assessments of forest cover have been largely dependent on countries' self-reported estimates based on widely varying definitions and measures of forest loss and gain.

Dynamics from local to regional to global scale are quantified. For example, subtropical forests were found to have the highest rates of change, largely due to intensive forestry land uses. The disturbance rate of North American subtropical forests, located in the Southeast United States, was found to be four times that of South American rainforests during the study period; more than 31 percent of U.S. southeastern forest cover was either lost or regrown. At national scales, Paraguay, Malaysia and Cambodia were found to have the highest rates of forest loss. Paraguay was found to have the highest ratio of forest loss to gain, indicating an intensive deforestation dynamic.
The study confirms that well-documented efforts by Brazil -- which has long been responsible for a majority of the world's tropical deforestation -- to reduce its rainforest clearing have had a significant effect. Brazil showed the largest decline in annual forest loss of any country, cutting annual forest loss in half, from a high of approximately 40,000 square kilometers (15,444 square miles) in 2003-2004 to 20,000 square kilometers (7,722 square miles) in 2010-2011. Indonesia had the largest increase in forest loss, more than doubling its annual loss during the study period to nearly 20,000 square kilometers (7,722 square miles) in 2011-2012.
Hansen and colleagues say the global data sets of forest change they have created contain information that can provide a "transparent, sound and consistent basis to quantify critical environmental issues," including the causes of the mapped changes in the amount of forest; the status of world's remaining intact natural forests; biodiversity threats from changes in forest cover; the carbon stored or emitted as a result of gains or losses in tree cover in both managed and unmanaged forests; and the effects of efforts to halt or reduce forest loss.
For example, Hansen says, that while their study shows the efforts of Brazil's government to slow loss of rainforest have been effective, it also shows that a 2011 Indonesian government moratorium on new logging licenses was actually followed by significant increases in deforestation in 2011 and 2012.
"Brazil used Landsat data to document its deforestation trends, then used this information in its policy formulation and implementation. They also shared these data, allowing others to assess and confirm their success," Hansen says. "Such data have not been generically available for other parts of the world. Now, with our global mapping of forest changes every nation has access to this kind of information, for their own country and the rest of the world."

The text of this Blog post remains largely un-edited from the original University of Maryland published paper, I felt the authors report to be of such importance to us all, that the contents should remain intact. I would also urge that readers should make the effort to SHARE this information.