First, permit me channelling an inner Donald Rumsfeld:
Reports that say there’s — that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things that we know that we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know.
Or, to gloss:
- there are things I know;
- there are many things I think I know, but may not properly grasp;
- there are things I think I know, but find I don’t;
- there are things I thought I didn’t know, but find I did;
- there are things I do know, but wish I didn’t;
- there are things I’d like to know, but don’t (but I’m working on them);
- there are other things I’d like to know but won’t, because my comprehension isn’t up to the interpretation (e.g. reading music or calculus);
- there are things I stumble upon, which cause me to despair;
- there are other things I happen upon, which I know will stay with me.
What follows is covered by most of those, but especially the last.
Another bit of self-reproach
Those who had the Thirty Years War inflicted upon them (in my case, because of Irish Leaving Certificate, 1958-60), may appreciate my reluctance here.
Back then, I guess the standard text was C(icily) V(eronica)’s from 1938.
I guess there are better, more thorough, more recent studies I ought to be reading: the various arm-breakers by Peter H. Wilson of Hull University come to mind.
Since I no longer need to study the heavy stuff for prescribed courses, I’d be preferring the likes of Simon Winder every time. As the publisher’s puff has it: the brilliant and entertaining companion to the Sunday Times top ten bestseller Germania.
Which brings me to pages 53-54, and this wee gem:
Which is good (and bad) to know for all sorts of reasons.
My attempt at that extract, of course, is a fraud. Ellipsis Digital of Glasgow typeset it, like the rest of the book, in a standard, decent standard face. And I can’t use true Fraktur, anyway: the nearest I could find on this Mac was Lucida Blackletter, else I’d be using weirdo stuff like the long s [the one like a half-crossed f] and the Eszett [ß].
I have a couple of quibbles over Winder’s version there:
That bit about Hitler himself banning Fraktur seems to derive from Albert Kapr, and around 1993. Someone would need to consult Herr Doktor Kapr’s voluminous foot-notes, all in impeccable academic German, to locate an earlier source (and I guess that comes under “things I don’t know, and can’t be arsed” category).
Nor was the ban essentially for effective communication with his new world empire. Martin Bormann issued the Normalschrifterlass decree (3rd January, 1941) after a meeting of Hitler with SS-Gruppenführer Max Amann (president of the Reich Media Chamber and profiteer) and publisher Adolf Müller.
Fraktur was denounced as Schwabacher Judenlettern. It would be interesting to know whether someone had confused Schwabach (a decent little town near Nuremberg, where the typeface originated, around 1500) with the undoubtedly Jewish Schwabacher brothers who were prominent in the late-19th-century economic development of the American North-West.
All of which falls somewhere between things I stumble upon, which cause me to despair and things I happen upon, which I know will stay with me.
But Simon Winder is a winner.
His book, some 530 pages of real business, is pushing those promised other readings further back in the guilt-queue.