July 6

Amber pages

Sir Thomas More, English statesman, inventor of Utopia, "A Man For All Seasons", beheaded today in 1535

"Principia Mathematica," by Isaac Newton, published today in 
1687. I am actually sitting in his house to type this - the Westminster Reference Library, as it is now; and remembering another Library, the one at Clifton College, where I worked for fifteen years, and where, one rainy afternoon of not much else to do, I agreed to help out with the go-through of the library storage rooms, to see what needed to be retrieved, and even mended, and what remained to be remaindered. Amongst the dust and spider-webs in a low corner underneath the stairs, I pulled out a heavy, leather-bound volume, and opening it to see what it was, realised I was holding a First Edition of the "Principia", which was a bit like having the original hand-written folio of Shakespeare's plays, or Einstein's notes for his 1905 essays. I handed it to the Librarian, who looked, smiled, said nothing. Some months later I asked where it was now, and was somewhat shocked to hear the school had sold it off at auction.

The extraordinary Frida Kahlo, born today in 1907 - an account of my pilgrimage to her shrine in Mexico City will be published very soon, in "Travels In Unfamiliar Lands".

Lawrence of Arabia captured Aqaba, today in 1917. Fred Zinneman directing Paul Scofield in a Robert Bolt screenplay above, David Lean directing Peter O'Toole in a Robert Bolt screenplay here. Both men became my heroes after seeing the movies of their lives in my impressionable teens, but I wonder if they would have done so, had the director, and especially the screenplay writer, been less than greats themselves?

The USSR, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or CCCP in Russian, was formed, today in 

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