The skull of what some believe to be the 14th-century Italian Benedictine monk St Vitalis of Assisi is to be auctioned in County Meath this weekend. St Vitalis, who died in 1370, reportedly led an immoral youth but attempted to atone for his sins through pilgrimages to various shrines throughout Europe, allegedly performing miracles on those with bladder and genital disorders. The skull, which resides in a 17th-century Queen Anne case, was recently found in an outhouse at County Louth and is thought to have been brought to Ireland as a ‘souvenir’ of a grand tour of Europe in the 18th century.
A 200-year-old journal written by Fife-born Alexander Nimmo, a one-time rector of Inverness Academy, has been published for the first time. Nimmo, who in 1806 was asked by the Commission for Highland Roads and Bridges to carry out a survey of the boundaries of Highland counties, wrote the journal as he travelled around Inverness-shire and other parts of the Highlands. At the time, the Highlands was undergoing huge changes with age-old townships being cleared for large-scale sheep farming and deer rearing – a period commonly known as the Highland Clearances. The journal has been published with assistance from the Royal Irish Academy and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, both of which Nimmo was affiliated with. The book will be launched in Inverness on 8 June.
A 9,000-word poem written by the 18th-century scholar James Beattie has been found in Sir Walter Scott’s library at Abbotsford House in the Scottish Borders. The Grotesquiad, a work that has been described as “significant” by experts, is one of a number of finds made at the house during online cataloguing by the Faculty of Advocates. Beattie, who became professor of moral philosophy at Aberdeen University and was an avid opponent of slavery, is widely regarded as having been a strong influence on poet William Wordsworth.
A 10-metre cross-section of the Titanic that was used during the inquiry into ship’s sinking in 1912 is to be auctioned in Wiltshire this weekend. The detailed hand-drawn plan, which hung in the hearing room throughout the 36-day proceedings, is marked with chalk to indicate where the iceberg is thought to have struck the liner. Ninety-six witnesses were called to testify to indicate various parts of the ship on the plan using a pointer, and the inquiry found that the loss of the ship had been brought about by “excessive speed.” The plan is expected to fetch between £100,000 and £150,000 at auction.
Author and former politician Lord Jeffrey Archer is to auction a torch used at the 1948 Olympic Games. The torch was originally designed by Ralph Lavers to be ‘inexpensive, well-crafted and suitable’ for what is now known as the ‘Austerity Games’ – the last time the Games were held in the UK. Funds raised from the sale will be donated to the Saracens Sport Foundation charity.
Our colleagues at BBC Sky at Night Magazine have launched a brand new digital book app, Man in Space, which celebates 50 years of mankind’s adventure in space – from Yuri Gagarin’s epic spaceflight on 12 April 1961 to the International Space Station and beyond. Based on a special issue of Sky at Night Magazine, the app brings readers content in the form of additional photos, archive videos and interactive diagrams, as well as 360-degree panoramic views of the moon, 3D views of legendary spacecraft, which can be viewed from different angles, and a foreword by Sir Patrick Moore. Man In Space can be purchased for £2.99 at the iTunes app store.