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So said Jorge Luis Borges, apparently. I’d like to help reunite someone with their own little slice of paradise, and you can help me do it, gentle reader.

A large box of books has found its way into my office, posted from the Leeds International Medieval Congress in July. Monash colleagues and I posted quite a lot of books home from this conference – 24kg of them to be exact – and some of them have arrived, while some of them haven’t. The box in question has arrived, but it doesn’t contain books that any of us actually purchased. It’s a box of bookish orphans, in fact. We need help to locate the owner of these books so that a reunion can be effected. If you or your colleagues purchased a fairly large number of books from the collection of the late Elizabeth Williams, and have strong interests in Middle English and French romance literature and lyric, please alert us. If you can name four or more books that are likely to be in the box, we’ll try and sort out a way of reuniting you without costing either party too much extra.[1] If the owner can’t be identified within 3 months, I’m just going to donate them to the Monash library, because I can’t see another way around it.

Paradise: the State LIbrary of Victoria Domed Reading Room. From Wikimedia Commons. By John O'Neill, under creative commons licence.

Paradise: the State Library of Victoria Domed Reading Room. From Wikimedia Commons. By John O’Neill, under creative commons licence.

Meanwhile, if anyone has seen a large number of books on Maimonides, preaching and silence, marriage, chastity, gender or the figure of Penelope in medieval literature, please let me know! (None of these, as you may have gathered, were my books; all mine have, happily, found their way to me already.) I know a few readers who won’t find Elysian peace until they can be reunited with the said volumes.

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[1] We haven’t had any success getting a response from Oxbow Books, who provide the postage service from Leeds. We greatly appreciate that they provide this service, but we’re frustrated by the radio silence after emails, online customer feedback forms and tweets over several weeks haven’t generated any communication. They may or may not have records that connect the books with the address to which they should have gone. If you work for Oxbow, please get in touch so we can get this sorted out together!

[Update: A colleague has finally had a response from Oxbow, who are looking into matters at their end, and the books will soon be heading back to them at their expense – with luck to be reunited with their owners.]

[Update 2: our missing items have arrived!!! Huzzah!]

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Debs Thorpe has contributed to the debate about postgraduate training in a typically thoughtful way, as well as providing a helpful summary for those of us unable to be in London for The National Archives’ recent ECR training day. Go and have a read! I fully endorse her comments about peer-to-peer training. Some of my best historical training has arisen from groups like that!

Yesterday was the training day for Early Career Researchers at The National Archives (TNA), which was aimed at those who are doing advanced archival research into the period 1200-1500. It was a greatly thought-provoking day for me, as someone who has been working on household records and who has dipped her toes into the world of medieval central government. I thought that some of the discussions that arose had relevance to all postgraduates or postdoctoral researchers whose work depends on specialised skills and knowledge. I thought I’d write a blog post to summarise some of the discussions and so extend them beyond the group of people in the room (as that was one of the aims of the day for those who were leading the workshop).

     One of the key points that was re-iterated time and time again by Nick Barratt and James Ross of TNA was exactly how…

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parergon30-1coverI’m happy to announce that my article “Words as Weapons in the Correspondence of Edward I with Llywelyn ap Gruffydd” has just appeared in the most recent edition of Parergon. You can get it through Project Muse here if your library has a subscription.1 Here’s the abstract to whet your appetite:

The correspondence exchanged by Edward I of England and Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, Prince of Wales in the late thirteenth century has traditionally been read for its legal and jurisdictional implications. However, as Rees Davies noted, language was itself a weapon in medieval Anglo-Welsh conflict. From this assumption, I examine a single letter exchange to investigate the construction and function of royal epistolary language. I suggest that traditional and formulaic elements were adapted to strategic expression of the authority and longevity of royal power, and that silences were equally intentional and rhetorically forceful weapons in the campaign to dominate Wales.

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[1] I know it’s all about open access these days, but I’m a member of the august association that publishes this journal, and the income that this online access generates keeps it afloat, and able to do fabulous things like offer student essay prizes, subsidized conference registrations, professional training seminars and travel bursaries. All of these activities are things I have benefited from in my own (albeit, so far, short ) career, and are in my humble opinion Good Things. So, despite the fact that I’m all for people being able to read my work (the more the merrier!) you won’t find me putting illicit copies of this online because I think it would be genuinely counter productive and mean spirited of me to deny opportunities like this to others by diverting such an important funding stream away from the good work of the Australian and New Zealand Association for Medieval and Early Modern Studies. On the other hand, if you are an independent scholar without access or means you can contact me privately for a copy for your own use if you are interested, because I do care about information accessibility even if I don’t want it to be at the expense of small scholarly societies. End rant.

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I teach and research at the Centre for Medieval & Renaissance Studies in the School of Philosophical, Historial and International Studies, Monash University (Australia). Views expressed here are my own and not representative of the CMRS, SOPHIS or Monash.

You can also find my academic profile on Academia.edu

Twitter: @KB_Neal

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