For the last few years, when the vacation and holiday seasons come around and the news stories start to dry up, I've looked back in time to previous centuries to find something newsworthy. Today, please join me on a whistle stop tour 400 years back in time to the year 1609 ....

The Renaissance is in full swing. While Galileo demonstrates his first telescope to Venetian lawmakers and Cornelius Drebbel invents the thermostat, Johannes Kepler is busy publishing his first two laws of planetary motion. Meanwhile Henry Hudson is off adventuring, becoming the first European to see Delaware Bay and the Hudson River. Not far away, seven ships arrive at the Jamestown colony reporting the sad demise of their flagship, the Sea Venture, wrecked off the coast of the uninhabited island of Bermuda. The survivors, including writer William Strachey, eventually reach Virginia ten months later in two small ships they built while marooned on the island. Strachey's account of the wreck is believed to be the inspiration for Shakespeare's The Tempest (1610-11).

Talking of Shakespeare, the bard is in good voice in 1609, publishing two books of poetry: The Sonnets (mostly written before 1600) and A Lover's Complaint; and two plays: Pericles, Prince of Tyre and Troilus and Cressida. His contemporaries, Thomas Middleton and Ben Jonson, are also busy publishing their own works. Elsewhere, in Naples, the outlawed (for killing a man in a brawl) painter, Michelangelo Merisi da Carravagio, completes at least four great works including The Raising of Lazarus, and Salome With The Head of John The Baptist. Carravagio dies the following year but his work will inspire some of the next generation of painters including Rubens and Rembrandt.

While Europe savors its first sips of tea courtesy of the Dutch East India Company, and the people of Strasbourg (Alsace) and Augsburg (Bavaria) enjoy the first regularly published newspapers in Europe, the Spanish Inquisition moves into high gear with the Basque witch trials. Meanwhile, somewhere in England, teenage songwriter Thomas Ravenscroft publishes a little ditty that, four hundred years later, I would hazard to guess, can be recited in its modern form by more people than any of Shakespeare's verses!

Three Blinde Mice,
Three Blinde Mice,
Dame Iulian,
Dame Iulian,
the Miller and his merry olde Wife,
shee scrapte her tripe licke thou the knife

Davina Morgan-Witts - BookBrowse Editor

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