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The Oculatum - A Brief History

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

In September 1666 the city of London was ravaged by a great fire. Some four hundred fifty acres were burnt bare, sixty-nine churches were destroyed, and ten souls were known to have perished. The inferno blazed for more than four days, and the citizens could only watch their metropolis turn to ash.

To the east of the city, at the Friary on Blackheath, among those seeking sanctuary from the flames was a family most familiar with life's hardship, but more familiar with life's hope. Their leader was a man of Flemish descent named Joseph Van dar Lippen. Some ninety years before, his great-great grand father had led a similar group to safety in England from the fires of persecution in Europe. Van dar Lippen kept about him a memento of his forebear and referred to it often as it always gave strength, hope, and comfort.

The medieval era was marked by great superstition. To ensure safety and harmony, masons would hide scraps of paper containing wisdom and well-wishes between the bricks. Originally passed down by word of mouth, these small sayings became a collection of wisdom words that might be read in time of need. Later they were collected and with the invention of the printing press, these wise sayings spread through Europe in a flood of pamphlets and almanacs.

One such collection, The Oculatum, was Van dar Lipen's memento. A "smallest book or folio" that "would allow several ways of reading." Made of "loose papers" it "let there be changing of their order." It contained "many writings" and was "rough and aged much." There was "much good thought" and "wisdom within."


Cindy H said...

Shirley, welcome back, first of all! You and your wonderful projects have been missed!

I think studying the Oculatum sounds very intriguing and fun! I'm excited to begin a new project and this one sounds perfect!!

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