I’ve been traveling around a bit on my sabbatical, mostly on the cheap. I spent a week and a half with my brother and his family in Michigan. I learned the names of most of the characters from Cars to ensure my survival, and I picked up a little girl each time she threw open her arms. In my spare time, I spent hours in the graduate reading room at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor‘s library and worked on an article on wax images for Caduceus Books, to be published alongside the notebook of galvanist William Bellhouse.
I have to say that the latter experience impressed upon me just how many strides have been made in making books available for scholarship. Oh, sure, it is a top research library, but so much of the material I used was available online through links to Google Books, and once you add in The Internet Archive, Gallica (for French language books), the new option to access limited articles on JSTOR, and a few other scattered sites, you’ve got a great many printed historical sources available to you. It’s not as if everything’s online, as it’s highly unlikely anyone would ever want to go to that effort, but access has improved so much, even over the short course of my writing career.
Wait. I have a twenty-year writing career. Oh hell, I feel ancient now.
The wax image article is done and sent to Ben, who seems quite happy with it. I initially resisted the idea of the article, as I wasn’t sure I could come up with many examples. As it turned out, I did, ranging from the pharaohs to the present and including grimoires, witch trial accounts, and folklore. It might serve as a springboard for a history of image magic, which, to my knowledge, has not been written yet. Among the fascinating stories were accounts of a medieval wax image found in Germany, and the deed done on the altars of Paris when Henry III had offended the populace, and the princess who made little horned poppets of her husband.
I also made a trip to Washington, DC, with Graeme Price (better known to Delta Green readers as Graeme Emerson, the hapless dissector of many eldritch monstrosities) as my gracious host. I visited the Folger, and the Library of Congress, which apparently has some Hockley manuscripts. These are more of the spiritualist than magical variety, I am afraid, but there’s quite a lot of them for future scholars to explore, including a brief posthumous discussion with John Dee and some spectral investigations of the Waterloo Bridge Mystery. We later came back to the Library for a tour, then visited the Newseum and the National Geographic’s Pirates Exhibit. Due to some confusion involving flashlights and hangtags, I also had a visit to the local impound lot, which I am afraid is not worth the admission.
In other news, I just saw my royalty statement for The Long-Lost Friend, and it appears to be doing well. (Briefly put, it’s almost made back its advance, and I believe the title has enough legs to continue to generate money for years.)
I’m about to head off for Austin, Houston, and New Orleans, and I’ll report more when I get back.