As an end-of-the-summer-holiday treat my little family and I went on a road-trip from Devon to Portsmouth to visit the Mary Rose Museum. I would highly recommend you to visit if you are nearby, or are particularly interested in Tudor life or the famous ship that was brought back to the surface in the 1970s.

The Mary Rose was sailing from 1511 to 1545 and saw a lot of action, serving Henry VIII well until her sinking at the Battle of the Solent. Out of the 400-strong crew, only around 35 men survived. The men aboard were a mixture of ordinary soldiers and higher order officers, and their personal items have been found amazingly preserved including shoes, tools, and books.




The Mary Rose

I find Tudor life fascinating and it is easy to romanticise the period what with its dresses, courtships, and seemingly simpler lives, but you soon realise that unless you are a rich man you wouldn’t fare well. Practical skills were generally held in higher regard especially in the lower orders. Learning to create, mend, and grow produce are essential life skills when you cannot afford to pay someone to do it for you. Academic education was reserved for those with the financial stability to educate the child and pay for a tutor. The luckier children had literate parents who could pass their knowledge on to them.

Horrifyingly to us Reading Addicts of the female persuasion we would have even less of a chance to read and write. Women and girls were seen as inferior, and their education seen as a waste. If a 16th century girl is lucky, or has particularly progressive or aspiring parents, then she may be permitted to read the Bible or her prayer book, but anything more than that was considered a waste of everyone’s time.

It seems it wouldn’t even matter if you were destined to be Queen: two of Henry VIII’s wives, Jane Seymour and Catherine Howard, could barely read a word. Despite this injustice many privileged women of the Tudor court were permitted to read and write, including Anne Boleyn whose golden book of psalms is now held in the British Library.

Anne Boleyn’s golden book of psalms.

Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth I) c. 1559

Beautiful prayerbooks were popular among the wealthy women, above is Elizabeth I clutching her own copy in pious readiness.



As soon as I saw this book cover I thought about you lot- our Reading Addicts- and how you would understand my excitement at seeing a 500 year old book. Back then books were rarer than they are today, they were very expensive and so only the higher orders on the Mary Rose would own such an item. This beautifully decorated, calfskin book cover belonged to an officer aboard the fateful ship. The Mary Rose organisation says: “It is one of only two covers found on the Mary Rose to incorporate human likenesses within the design. Within small panels on the front and back are the letters ‘MD’, originally assumed to represent 1500 in Roman numerals, but now believed to represent Martin Doture, a London-based bookbinder and stationer during the period 1527–57.”

I have read many Philippa Gregory books about the royal courts during the 15th and 16th centuries, so this visit brought some realism to the characters I had come to know and the events that had unfolded. To see the leather boots the men wore and the tools they used, touched me deeper than I imagined it would. Life was cruel for many who lived through the reigns of bitter feuds of entitled royals and consequential religious turmoil, but it had always been just stories. Since seeing the bowls they ate from, etched with their personal symbols for easy identification, and the clothes they wore for comfort or protection, it has brought them to life again.




Women’s Storybook Project Celebrates 15 Years of Helping Incarcerated Mothers Read to Their Children

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For the past 15 years, the Women’s Story Book Project of Texas has been helping women in prison remain connected to their children by allowing inmates who have maintained good behaviour to read to their children. The organisation provides the mothers with a range of books to choose from and helps record them onto CD’s so their children can still hear their mother’s voice reading to them.

One inmate, named Myeisha Garcia, who a part of the programme finished her recording by saying “We’ve come a long way, and I love you,” to her two daughters who currently live with their grandmother. She was sentenced to 10 years after she was charged for manslaughter after killing her boyfriend in a domestic violence fight which she claims was self defence.
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The Great American Read Coming to PBS

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If there’s one thing I’m sure we can all agree it’s that there aren’t enough books on the television, but all that is about to change with several bookish shows lined up this year. Just a few weeks ago we brought you the news that Zoe Ball is to front a television bookclub in the UK and now it’s announced that an eight part series ‘The Great American Read’ is to air on PBS. Read More

Neil Gaiman to become a King Neptune in 2018

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Award-winning fantasy and sci-fi author Neil Gaiman has announced that he will be becoming King Neptune this Summer.

At his side will be his queen- the wonderfully talented musician and artist, Amanda Palmer, and they will be jointly be ruling their watery subjects from the Coney Island Mermaid Parade float.

Coney Island prides itself on honouring American pop-culture through fresh and original shows and acts. Drawing from circus and theatrical traditions of P.T. Barnum, the people of Coney Island present uniquely American visual arts. This year the mermaid float will carry Queen Mermaid Amanda Palmer and King Neptune Neil Gaiman along the Coney Island Boardwalk before arriving at the beach for the official Beach Ceremony: the ‘opening’ of the ocean for the summer swimming season.

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Stephen King gives $50,000 to Portland elementary schools

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Stephen King set up The Stephen & Tabitha King Foundation in 1986 to provide support for communities in Maine. As a family foundation, their key focus is community, with much of the donations going towards education and community projects.

The STKF has recently awarded a $50,000 grant that will be used to help with providing books and a literacy program in Portland elementary schools.

Spokeswoman Kate Snyder noted that Portland public schools’ Books and Literacy Resources program will certainly benefit from the award with the $50,000 used to build book collections to also celebrate culture and language differences.

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Chinese artist saves lost art of dragon scale bookbinding

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Artist Zhang Xiaodong spends his time at his studio in Beijing recreating a lost Chinese bookbinding art.

The art can be traced back over 1,000 years to the Tang dynasty where dragon scale bookbinding was once reserved for the very wealthy and privileged of the Chinese people. Each piece was original and exquisitely hand made and passed down from generation to generation of royalty and the wealthier families.

Very few of the original books can be found today which prompted Zhang to look into the process and attempt to recreate it. Zhang found himself taking a more scientific approach to his artwork in an effort to recreate an exquisite piece just like the original artists did.

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Turkish Garbage Collectors Open Library Full of Discarded Books

By | Culture, Libraries, News | 3 Comments
Turkish garbage collectors in the country’s capital city of Ankara have opened a public library that is full of books that were originally destined to be put into landfill. The workers began collecting discarded books and opened the new library in the Çankaya district of Ankara. News of the library has spread and now people have begun donating books directly to the library, rather than throwing them away. Read More

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