‘The Book of Miracles’

Marina Warner

In the sixteenth century, a new focus on reading the Bible led to a resurgence of interest in stories of direct divine intervention, and Protestant Europe saw a “boom” in compendia of miracles, among them The Book of Miracles, a luxury manuscript produced in the Imperial City of Augsburg and only recently rediscovered.

The Queen and the Camera

Geoffrey Wheatcroft

Photography, and Queen Victoria’s interest in it, emerged into public light with the Great Exhibition of 1851, partly Prince Albert’s brainchild. Many of the astonishing six million people who visited the exhibition in Hyde Park saw photographs for the first time, a number of which can be seen at a new exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum and in the handsome accompanying book by Anne M. Lyden, both called “A Royal Passion: Queen Victoria and Photography.”

How to Write a Letter

Muriel Spark

In the middle of a house-move I came across many books I didn’t know I had, among them pamphlets that I had picked up for their curiosity value as long as twenty years ago, and tucked out of sight among the overpowering hardbacks. Busy as I was, now, in the turmoil, I couldn’t resist sitting down among the packing-cases to read How to Write a Good Letter: A Complete Guide to the Correct Manner of Letter Writing by John Barter, F.S.Sc., Revised and Enlarged by Gilbert Foyle (London, W. & G. Foyle, 135 Charing Cross Road, W.C., 1912).

Blasting Opera Forward

Seth Colter Walls

Though Anthony Braxton’s contributions to jazz have been substantial, he has spent the last three decades on the genre’s fringes. A MacArthur Award-winning saxophonist, composer, and teacher, Braxton has released a number of acclaimed works, and has for years been a leading proponent of merging avant-garde jazz with contemporary art music. Yet when I spoke to him in early April, Braxton told me he was surprised to be included on the list of “Jazz Masters” honored by the National Endowment for the Arts, in January. And, once again, he was already looking ahead: more eager to talk about Richard Wagner and Karlheinz Stockhausen, influences on his own opera-cycle in progress, Trillium, the latest entry in which will have its premiere this month.