December 2, 2009

Fortress of Chaul: Plans of Plazas and Forts of Portuguese Possessions in Asia and Africa

This drawing shows the fortress of Chaul, one of Portugal’s defense complexes along the western coast of India. The Portuguese first settled at Chaul in 1521 and constructed a fort, which was rebuilt several times. The structure shown in this drawing most likely is the one built in 1613, which featured expanded defense works.

Gaucho Drinking “Mate”

This photograph shows a gaucho in traditional dress pouring hot water from a kettle to make maté, a traditional drink common to Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay that is made from the yerba maté plant native to subtropical South America. In the background is a tepee-like structure. Gaucho is a term used to denote descendants of the early Spanish colonizers who traditionally led a semi-nomadic life on the South American pampas. The photograph is from the collection of the Columbus Memorial Library of the Organization of American States (OAS), which includes 45,000 photographs illustrative of life and culture in the Americas. Many of the photographs were taken by prominent photographers on OAS missions to member countries. The OAS was established in April 1948 when 21 countries of the western hemisphere adopted the OAS Charter, in which they reaffirmed their commitment to the pursuit of common goals and respect for each other’s sovereignty. Since then, the OAS has expanded to include the countries of the English-speaking Caribbean as well as Canada. The predecessor organization to the OAS was the Pan American Union, founded in 1910, which in turn grew out of the International Union of American Republics, established at the First International Conference of American States in 1889-90.


This ijazah, or diploma of competency in Arabic calligraphy, was written by 'Ali Ra'if Efendi in 1791 (1206 AH). The top and middle panels contain a saying (hadith) attributed to the Prophet Muhammad. It reads: "Secret charity quenches the wrath of the Lord. / The best of you is the best for his family. / The best of the followers is Uways." In the two lowermost panels are the signed and dated approvals of two master calligraphers, Mustafa al-Halimi and Husayn Hamid. Each section of writing appears on a separate piece of different-colored paper, illuminated with gold and dimpled with a stylus for reflection. The official function of the ijazah was to give a student the authority to sign his own calligraphic works with expressions such as katabahu (written by) and hararahu (composed by), thus allowing him to become independent and take on pupils of his own. In order to receive the diploma, the student had to transcribe or copy several lines of calligraphy that had to be approved by one or more master calligraphers. In some cases, the ijazah included the calligrapher's chain of teachers reaching all the way back to the Prophet Muhammad himself. In the Ottoman tradition especially, the diploma was a well-established practice linking, in an almost genealogical fashion, a student to his teacher.

Layla, Issue 1, October 15, 1923

Layla was the first women's magazine to be published in Iraq. Launched in 1923, the magazine dealt with new and useful matters related to science, art, literature, sociology, and in particular to child-rearing and the education of girls, family health, and other matters pertaining to home economics. The establishment of national rule in Iraq was followed by the emergence of several magazines and newspapers dealing with women's issues. Layla marked the beginnings of the women's press in Iraq, and the magazine is credited with being one of the factors in the emergence of the Arab women’s movement. Published under the banner, “On the Way to Revival of the Iraqi Woman,” the magazine disseminated news about culture, education, and family affairs, as well as led a campaign for the liberation of women. Its editorial features included “The Crucible of Right,” “Tax News,” “Housewives Corner,” “Strange News,” “Rings of Magic Strings,” and others. The magazine also was concerned with medical research, literature, and poetry, and published works by the well known Iraqi poets al-Rasafi and al-Zahawi. One of the most important articles to appear in the magazine was the editorial, printed in Issue 6 on May 15, 1924, addressed to the Constituent Iraqi Assembly, asking it to grant women their rights. Layla published only 20 issues. Its last issue, dated August 15, 1925, included a sad article explaining to readers the magazine’s difficult financial situation. Soon thereafter, owner Paulina Hassoun left Iraq and the magazine ceased publication.
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Penza Province

This card is one of a souvenir set of 82 illustrated cards–one for each province of the Russian Empire as it existed in 1856. Each card presents an overview of a particular province’s culture, history, economy, and geography. The front of the card depicts such distinguishing features as rivers, mountains, major cities, and chief industries. The back of each card contains a map of the province, the provincial seal, information about the population, and a picture of the local costume of the inhabitants.