The Slave Bible

In 1807, three years after the Haitian Revolution, someone decided to edit the Bible that was provided to Caribbean slaves to omit any inducements to rebel. The result was Select Parts of the Holy Bible, for the Use of the Negro Slaves in the British West-India Islands, a heavily redacted version that includes Joseph’s enslavement in Egypt but omits Moses leading the Israelites to freedom.

The anonymous editors were “really highlighting portions that would instill obedience,” Museum of the Bible curator Anthony Schmidt told History.com. Also cut were Galatians 3:28 (“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus”) and the Book of Revelation, which tells of a new world in which evil will be punished.

But they retained Ephesians 6:5: “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ.”

Here’s a copy.

Podcast Episode 270: Kidnapped by North Korea

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

In 1978, two luminaries of South Korean cinema were abducted by Kim Jong-Il and forced to make films in North Korea in an outlandish plan to improve his country’s fortunes. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll tell the story of Choi Eun-Hee and Shin Sang-Ok and their dramatic efforts to escape their captors.

We’ll also examine Napoleon’s wallpaper and puzzle over an abandoned construction.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 269: The Sack of Baltimore

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One night in 1631, pirates from the Barbary coast stole ashore at the little Irish village of Baltimore and abducted 107 people to a life of slavery in Algiers — a rare instance of African raiders seizing white slaves from the British Isles. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe the sack of Baltimore and the new life that awaited the captives in North Africa.

We’ll also save the Tower of London and puzzle over a controversial number.

See full show notes …

A Wine Slide Rule

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Image: Science Museum Group

Revenue agents in 18th-century London faced a curious challenge: how to calculate the excise tax on a barrel that was partially full of liquor. The answer was an “ullage slide rule” — this gauging rod was dipped into the barrel, some brass sliding pieces were adjusted to reflect the height of the surface, and a mathematical calculation would tell how much liquid the barrel contained.

The Science Museum says, “The calculations were very complicated.” A correspondent to the Mathematical Gazette wrote in 1990, “I well remember puzzling, unsuccessfully, over graphs and calculations of measurements until I wrote to the makers whose name was stamped on the rule and who still existed [in 1966] at the same address in London Bridge. At that time they were still making a modern equivalent for the same use by revenue officers.” More at the link below.

(Tom Martin, “Gauging: The Art Behind the Slide Rule,” Brewery History 133 [2009], 69-86.)

“Let Liking Last”

Inscriptions found in 17th-century English wedding rings, from William Jones’ Finger-Ring Lore, 1898:

  • I LOVE AND LIKE MY CHOYSE.
  • I CHUSE NOT TO CHANGE.
  • Let reason rule affection.
  • A token of good-will.
  • Live in Loue.
  • As I expect so let me find, A faithfull ❤ and constant mind.
  • Time lesseneth not my love.
  • Love the truth.
  • In loving wife spend all thy life.

A diamond ring bore the inscription “This sparke will grow.”

W Hour

Each year on August 1 the city of Warsaw comes to a voluntary standstill for one minute at 5 p.m.

It’s done to honor those who fought for freedom during the Warsaw Uprising, which began at that hour on August 1, 1944.

A Hidden Treasure

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

In 1954, workers in Bangkok were moving a plaster Buddha to a new temple when the ropes broke and it fell to the ground. Some of the surface broke away, revealing gold beneath.

They had accidentally rediscovered the Phra Phuttha Maha Suwana Patimakon, a 5.5-tonne gold statue that had remained hidden for nearly 200 years. It had been made in the 13th or 14th century and then covered with stucco sometime in the late 18th century to preserve it from thieves.

The rediscovery occurred near the 2500-year anniversary of Gautama Buddha’s passing and was widely regarded as a miracle. The statue was moved to a new large building in 2010.

(Thanks, David.)

Podcast Episode 265: The Great Hedge of India

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

In the 19th century, an enormous hedge ran for more than a thousand miles across India, installed by the British to enforce a tax on salt. Though it took a Herculean effort to build, today it’s been almost completely forgotten. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe this strange project and reflect on its disappearance from history.

We’ll also exonerate a rooster and puzzle over a racing murderer.

See full show notes …