Friday 20 January 2023

De Wit's End

One definition of stupidity / insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Five years ago in 2017, we had the whole 3 generation fambly for Christmas. Someone b(r)ought a mighty 2000 piece jigsaw puzzle as an alternative to discussing Kant and Hegel together like real intellectual families. It took an elapsed week, maybe 90 person hours, to put the final piece into place.

This Christmas we were but 4 Effectives but Someone noted that a range of 1500 piece jigsaws was available for €8.99 in ALIDLI and bought two [because ExcessMas]. The conveniently large sheet of plywood used in 2017 has long since been repurposed as a desk-top, so I was tasked to rustle up something flat at least 850mm x 670mm in size. A sheet of 4mm hardboard, trimmed to size, did the trick. Supported by our trusty blue 600 x 600mm rubberwood Ikea coffee-table or tucked under the sofa when insupportable ennui and frustration required the puzzle to be out of sight. Note-to-self: do not put any other weight, such as an elbow, on the projecting corners of the puzzle.

That's a crap photo, up above, on many levels, but at least it illustrates a work-in-progress: so much of the sea is still in pieces. For the sea it's a case of nothing to see here except the lines of lat and long. The picture is a copy of Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Tabula Auctore F. De Wit which has survived in a number of different places including the Greenwich observatory. Bibliographic and other evidence ties Frederick de Wit's Do Date to 1660. That's 4 years before New Amsterdam changed hands to New York; and a whole generation after the Pilgrims landed at Plimouth Rock. So the  coasts of N America are reasonably well annotated but the interior is Terra Incognita. Africa otoh is packed with placenames! Which is peculiar because when Livingstone and Stanley [prev] and Speke and Grant were pushing into the interior of The Dark Continent 200 years later, they really were mapping and recording new data as they progressed into the unknown.

For the Antipodes some dates:

  • 1606 Willem Janszoon N Australia
  • 1616 Dirk Hartog W Australia
  • 1627 François Thijssen S Australia
  • 1642 Abel Tasman Van Diemen's Land and NZ
  • 1770 James Cook E Australia
Mais revenons nous à nos jigsaws! The final piece was installed just before dinnertime on 7th January 2023. It is an exercise not totally without value. It's important interesting to know the date when distant parts of the world were brought to the knowledge of Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie or its British equivalents [prev]. That's when you can possibly date the beginning of local Great Extinctions: of language and culture among the indigenous people as well as flora and fauna for museums and cabinets of curiosity back home in Europe. Really, jigsaws are not an efficient use of [my] time -but YMMV: you work away.

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