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Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Stonehenge as it might have been -- or maybe not....



Stonehenge 2,800 BC, copyright Peter Dunn.  Gouache on Art paper.  Original for sale.

On this blog we are always happy to help the poor and needy, and having had my attention drawn to Peter Dunn's very skilled artwork I'm happy to help him to sell some of it.  Info here:

http://www.sarsen.org/2016/07/peter-dunn-exhibition-and-sale.html

and here:

http://www.mcneillgallery.com/index.php?s=Peter%20Dunn

The illustration above presumably shows Peter's interpretation of what Stonehenge looked like in its pristine or "perfect" form.  There are a number of notable features.  The Altar Stone is shown as a big upright slab or pillar.  Then we have a small bluestone circle contained within the setting of sarsen trilithons.  We have two mini-trilithons made of bluestones -- that's a fair assumption, since some of the working on dolerite bluestones suggests this sort of usage at some stage.  Then we see a sort of mini-avenue of bluestones flanked by a double bluestone setting -- and I wonder where the evidence for this has come from. 


My main problem with the portrayal is the assumption that all of the bluestones in the bluestone circle and around the mini-avenue were pillars.  We know that they were not.  Most of them were boulders and stumpy slabs.  And as we have said before, there is nothing to show that Stonehenge was ever completed, with this stone setting or any other.

49 comments:

TonyH said...

Peter Dunn's reconstructions of how he (and, presumably, MPP and the full set of Stonehenge Riverside Project co - workers) sees Stonehenge when/if complete, are illustrated in MPP's latest book on Stonehenge, published Autumn 2015 in the CBA's 'Archaeology For All' Series [MPP & Co should really be paying me on the equivalent of a football agent's commission for all the plugs, probably around TEN, I've given this book!]

Neil Wiseman said...

The picture as shown is a detail of the complete site at winter solstice sunset.
Mr Dunn's interpretations have long been a touchstone among researchers trying to imagine the evidence visually. He is, himself, among those researchers.
My only issues with his SH interpretations is that, more often than not, the Altar Stone is shown as an upright, and the North Barrow is never shown in the early representations. These are minor points overall, and I hope he did well with the sales!
_______________________

Brian,
There are 17 extant Circle Stones at Stonehenge, whole or in part. There are 28 known positions in total. There are also 2 extremely compelling locations that, with a high degree of probability, held Stones -17 & -18.
That's 30.

All 15 Trilithon Stones are on-site, whole or in remnant.
There are 44 positions for, or examples of, Bluestones. Many more are known to be missing, by way of the holes they were in.
So then, while many of the outer lintels are missing, all the Circle uprights, all the Trilithons, and half the Bluestones (by my reckoning) are accounted for.

Now, you can take the Bluestones and chuck them into the Channel or haul them back to Wales for all I care, but the Sarsen framework Was completed.

Neil

Jon Morris said...

We know that they were not. Most of them were boulders and stumpy slabs. And as we have said before, there is nothing to show that Stonehenge was ever completed, with this stone setting or any other

It's a very interesting point Brian: The intention of whatever purpose the stumpy stones served may have specifically required low lying stones.

For instance, the intention of stumpy stones could have been to allow people to sit and view over for extended periods. Later incorporation into the monument may have been a nod to past achievements: Complete a monument by incorporating an old monument's pieces.

If, as a way-out-there example, we could find out what purpose those pieces served, then locate where that type of arrangement would work, then find traces of that past 'monument' at the location, would it then be reasonable to conclude that Stonehenge was "finished"?

BRIAN JOHN said...

Incomplete Stonehenge? We have discussed this many times before. Neil -- there seems no disagreement about the number of bluestones, give or take one or two. I use the figure of 43 known stones, as do most other writers about Stonehenge. Some are broken, with assumed bits in different places. But the fact that there are pits does not mean that there ever were DIFFERENT stones in them -- Anthony Johnson makes the point that the honeycomb of intersecting pits / sockets / extraction pits / solution hollows is so complex that the stones they DID have must have been moved about over and again. Tim Darvill seems to think they were moved about at least four times. Indecision? Changing priorities? Lack of stones? Who knows.......

Jon -- of course MPP and his colleagues will say that regardless of shapes, the bluestones in the circle were brought in as ancestor stones of tribute stones carted from Wales not because of their shapes but because of their mystical or spiritual importance. I like the idea that they were stone cushions which could be used by those who were viewing something or other going on in the middle of the circle!

BRIAN JOHN said...

Neil -- what is your evidence that the sarsen framework WAS completed? That means over 80 sarsen stones. About half that number actually exists. The evidence for the completion of the sarsen stone setting seems to me to be no stronger than the evidence for a complete bluestone setting.

Peter Dunn said...

Blast! I had just decided not to comment any more and now your being nice and I feel obliged to answer and it takes such a time to go back and check references and put down why which ideas and details went into which reconstruction.
Thank you for the plug Brian although I like to put myself in the photogenic variety of Reconstruction Artist rather than the poor and needy.
I will answer these questions but first I can say that this post title is exactly to the point.

"Of course, no reconstruction can ever represent exactly what the past was like; there are many layers of interpretation and new evidence will change our understanding over the years. Decisions are made at every stage that can affect the view and details in the final painting; this will also reflect the artist’s own vision and style. The purpose should always be the same: to create ‘a sense of place’ and to stimulate the viewer to look at the past and ask questions about what life was like hundreds or even thousands of years ago."

From a text box on reconstructions in Stonehenge making sense of a prehistoric mystery written by me.
The Date on the reconstruction should be 2480 BC between SRP stages 2 and 3, not 2800 BC a mistake on the Gallery Site.
Peter

Myris of Alexandria said...

Many of the illustrations are in MPPs most recent excellent book. The Winter painting is especially apposite and good.

An unbiased review of MPP from Current Archaeology also notes the pictorial contribution.

Mike Parker Pearson, a prolific author and excavator, (how does he find the time), has published a number of books recently concentrating on his and his extensive team’s work within the Stonehenge-Avon River Landscape. All, like this one, are highly approachable, but this time we are given a racing, almost racy, review of Stonehenge and its builders (and excavators), coming close at times to emulating the style of a ‘graphic novel’ with its expansive use of (very good) illustrative reconstructions and photographs of excavators in ‘Poldark-like’ poses.
It is published, with great justification, within the CBA’s ‘Archaeology for all’ series, for, although there are a dozen or so broader-based, more expansive and highly readable Stonehenge books (Chippingdale, Darvill, Pitts among others), this, to date, must strongly contend to be the premier- primer to the stone circle (and Durrington Walls), the text seating them well within their physical and cultural landscapes whilst introducing the reader to much major current (late 2015) British, Neolithic-Bronze Age mega-thinking. Fashionably sveldt and pretty, sound.

The review would make me want to buy the book.

M

Neil Wiseman said...


Part Two
_____________________________

The spacing of the Blues suggests that there may have been 56 in the Outer Circle, and likely 27 or 28 in the Inner Oval. Informed observers can take what they like from those numbers. (Admittedly, this is my conjecture, though I'm not alone.)

This means that there was the possibility of 160 installations — excluding the 3 or 4 presumed Bluestone Lintels. There are 92 there now, or 60%. (The number is actually smaller, as counted articles include broken pieces of whole Stones, eg: Lintel-160, S-55, S-9 and so on.)

Another logic-string is that even after the Stones went up they continued to tweak the place. The Avenue came later than the Stones, as did the woefully ambiguous Y&Z Holes. Was there a concealing ring of shrubs outside the Circle? Perhaps. But the point is that they didn't simply wander off leaving a goofy-looking gap-toothed project — even if the society had morphed away from the belief-system.

Remember: Stonehenge was among the last things these people built as a culture — an extremely long-lived culture. This is why the end-product is so sophisticated, because it's the final word they said in a distillation of all they knew.

Symbolism, metaphor and an understanding of what, together, it all meant in a wider interpretation of the world around them defines what Stonehenge was. In terms of time spent and the tremendous labor cost, it simply makes no sense that the Stonework wasn't completed.

Best wishes,
Neil

Neil Wiseman said...

Part One

Hi Brian,

It's actually 75 Sarsen Stones. That is: 30 Circle uprights with 30 Lintels, 10 Trilithon uprights, and 5 Trilithon Lintels.
This does not include the Station Stones or the Heelstone — just the Circle.

There are 30 holes, and the extant uprights — including some intact recumbents — all have tenons.

Yes, I misspoke. It's 44 existing Blues, not 45. (I'm doing all this from memory, so please bear with me!)
_______________________________

Here's the argument for completion:
The tenons on the standers, as well as those we detect on recumbents, are not a uniform distance apart, even within forgivable tolerances. This tells us that those Stones weren't simply mass-produced, but custom made. Each is reactive to the previous Stone. The same is true for the Lintels, whose mortises were sculpted and distanced according to the upright's tenons.

Stones -12 & -14 are good examples of the former, while each of the 9 sitting Lintels are not identical, either in length, or in the spacing of their mortises.
Because of the crazy amount of labor involved, I have a pretty good idea that they weren't going to sculpt a tenon or mortise if they didn't need to!

Clearly, the Circle Standers were shaped and partially finished prior to erection, as required. Then they dug the socket to put it in. In the case of -17 & -18, the 2013 discovery of the parchmarks follow the precise radius of the Circle and are distanced according to the layout of the other Stones, which are on-center measurements — just like all the rest.
Now, whether created through erection or in pulling the Stone down during the robbing period, there is the suggestion of exterior ramps in each of the parchmark shadows.

Stone-16 has a tenon on its west side. If there was an intended vacancy, why sculpt this? Obviously we don't see another tenon till we get around to S-21, but the remnants of S-19 and L-120 are there, as is the socket for -20. Was this another Missing Stone? Unlikely, due to the tenon on -21.
Additionally, if there was to be an intended vacancy in the Circle, personally, I would have capped the upright all the way to the opposite side, much like the Trilithons. No outboard tenon necessary, and would certainly clean up the look. Conversely, if, like on the Trilithons, the tenon was offset/outboard, then the inner one becomes superfluous.

The last thing you'd do in a building-component of this magnitude would be to dig the socket to accept the Stone. They probably had the Stone in position right there before they started digging. How much sense does it make to dig two holes, then just walk away? The customization of the Lintels infers that the uprights were installed one at a time, so the distance in time between the placement of one stone and another means that the holes would have only been scoured out as required — not dug and left for years as open pits.

Physical evidence? Only the parchmarks.
But common sense screams: No Wasted Effort!

PeteG said...

I think Peters paintings are astonishing! We can nit-pick over minor deails, the bluestone trilithons are too high, the EH staff depicted inside the stones would never put their hands up to anything, the Alter stone is wrong etc etc but it doesn't matter. Peter can always create more paintings from his imagination. As a photographer it is harder to create a good photo out of the remains that are left to us now.
More please Peter!

TonyH said...

And, folks, whatever happened to the (presumably sarsen) stones that were placed either side of The Avenue, beyond the Heel Stone?

If these were procured by locals, presumably in Medieval times, did the same fate occur to various missing stones from within the Henge?

Answers on a megalith, please.

Neil Wiseman said...

My l o n g comment, constrained by a character limitation, is divided into two parts, as listed. I posted the 2nd one first so they'd bleed together, but this wound up not being the case, so look for 'Part One' & '-Two', for the correct order.

Neil

Peter Dunn said...

Many of the references in the recon are from Stonehenge in its landscape.
The painting is an interpretation worked on with Mike PP of the period of change between stages 2 and 3 (SPR) which I had input to, I.e. the bluestone circle inside the sarsen trilithons was an observation I made that an arc of stone holes WA 3402, 3702, 3700, 3286 and 3285, presumed to have held bluestones and predating the bluestone oval were the same size, spacing and diameter as that worked out for the stone holes at West Amesbury. Even if the West Amesbury circle did not hold bluestones the profiles there are bluestone pillar shaped and whatever was in them was removed according to the excavation at around 2500 BC. It was proposed the whatevers were moved to Stonehenge, I proposed they were moved to the arc of unphased stone holes completed as a circle, the West Amesbury monument rebuilt ,this fitted with a similar proposals from Atkinson and in the Cleal at al Stonehenge Volume.
The N.E. entrance of bluestones and double arc either side are Hawley’s excavation plan the inner entrance stones are the right distance apart to have held one of the bluestone lintels, one of the few bluestone arrangements that are.
I agree that I could have made it clearer that the outer bluestone circle would have been the smaller rounder sort perhaps declining in height away from the entrance avenue and some of the double arc which I think would have been pillars. The western arc is shown as smaller rounded bluestones.
The bluestone double arc and entrance may not have existed at the same time as my proposed inner circle that was Mike’ preferred arrangement, I wonder if the inner circle may have been earlier even than the sarsen trilithons. I think the whole arrangement of sarsen and bluestones was erected and in the case of the bluestones re-erected several times to enclose the site of timber and stone settings pictured in the earlier stage 1 reconstruction, the symbolic centre of the monument of cremation burials, lunar and solar alignments.
Explanation of the Altar stone arrangement etc to follow.
Peter

Peter Dunn said...

The Altar Stone is shown in the stage 2-3 painting as an upright, this again is to show the complex arrangement of stone holes in the centre of the monument and that the Altar Stone and other uprights had existed in arrangements prior to the final settings (Stage 1 reconstruction). Stonehenge in its Landscape suggests 2 or 3 places the Altar Stone may have stood, Atkinson suggests that the tongue and groove pair of bluestones may have been paired to match the altar stone as an upright.
My thinking here was that the Altar Stone or the paired bluestone stones was in hole WA 3359 previous to the scene in this painting as part of an arrangement with the posts in WA 3364 and 3362, these being at either end of the NE edge of the present site of the Altar Stone. The WA 3364 stone later being removed and as part of the general symbolic rearranging of stones the altar stone is placed recumbent to commemorate the site of the 2 posts.
The accepted explanation for the felling of the upright Altar Stone by the falling lintel 156 and stone 55b didn’t make much sense to me when researching the 2004 guidebook reconstruction of this view with Julian Richards, I proposed that it was recumbent as I have just suggested and was bounced a foot or so to the NW by these stones into its present position as they fell onto it.
So Neil I am afraid my only other reconstruction of this stage of Stonehenge from 2004 shows the Altar Stone recumbent. I think the earlier date for the North Barrow was not around when I painted these reconstructions in 2010/11 or I hadn’t heard of it.
Neil’s explanation for the finished Sarsen circle is good for me, except for stone 11 which we have shown as always being smaller and out of line with the rest of the circle perhaps a setting relating to the South entrance in the bank and remembering the timber settings leading from that entrance to the centre. There is also a bluestone trilithon setting shown inside stone 11 as bluestone lintel 36 lies partially buried just to the left. Mike Pitts suggested stone 11 may have had a timber extension and timer lintel relating back to previous timber settings with lintels.
Thanks to Neil and others for positive comments much appreciated.
Peter

Neil Wiseman said...

Hi Peter — good to see you.

I have a feeling that the Bluestone double-arc and the Inner Oval are separate installs, just as you say. The spacing of a couple of them on the sunline 'corridor' match the mortise-hole spacing on BS-36 and -150.

Then it was disassembled when the Big Stones went in and used to create part of the outer Circle. Then they put up the Sarsen Circle and toddled down to the River, retrieved the Blues there, and re-assembled them in the Horseshoe. Notice the difference in quality between the sets, indicating the two almost certainly have separate 'meaning' — one older, and the other, egg-shaped, more recent.
(I also sense that the two batches were culled from Preselli in separate episodes, for exclusive purpose.)

Re: the Altar Stone. The two postholes flanking, and forward of its present location, (3364 & 3362) indicate that the specific position had been important for years before that Stone was installed. Then the unique Stone was laid down behind them, aligned to WSSR. (It still is)
I say: 'Laid Down' because there's no evidence of a stonehole for it. It would have interfered with an unimpeded sunline of both Solstices, events that we now know were a big deal at both times of year, requiring the light to shine through the entire monument. (I think we discussed this a couple of years ago?)

I disagree with the interpretation that those particular postholes were 'Phase Two', as Cleal, et al states, but have also been pondering the concurrent mix of wood and stone features. It's starting to make sense.

Best Wishes,
Neil

chris johnson said...

@Peter,
Very interesting commentary. Thanks for your contribution here.

Neil Wiseman said...

Hi Gang,
These comments are almost certainly not being posted in the correct order, with some answers appearing before the question is asked! lol
I do not think Brian is responsible.
__________________________

Peter - I didn't know the image as shown was that old, so that explains that.
Though the explanation of BS-66 & -68 is quite intriguing, it still doesn't explain the lack of socket for the Altar Stone.

With regard to Stone-11, it was obviously an intentional install, though is broken about 2/3 the way up. Its radial centerline is the same as all the others -- it's just skinnier.
I also believe that the answer to its size involves Cardinal South.

Maybe there was a wooden lintel, but it could just as easily have been stone. Some have suggested One lintel across it from -10 to -12, though personally, I believe there's plenty of room for two.

Bluestone-36 has always fascinated me, based upon the fine craftsmanship. Was it used as part of a fancy Entrance/Exit at the S-11 position? Could be of course.
I always thought it might have been used at the WSSS position behind the Great Trilithon.
But who knows?

Best,
Neil

TonyH said...

In case some reading this Blog are unaware, Neil is the author of the realtively recent book, "Stonehenge and the Neolithic Cosmos", which has good reviews.

Myris of Alexandria said...

As here Fortean Times like other posts in two halves
Stonehenge and the Neolithic Cosmos.
A new look at the oldest mystery in the world.
ND Wiseman.
The Vinland Press Cape Cod. 58pp Fully illustrated in colour.
Stonehenge books are plentiful, they must sell well, seemingly upwelling from an inexhaustible supply of arcane, new, or re-interpreted knowledge. In this century few years have passed without one or two authors uncovering ‘new revelations’ that promise to ‘rewrite the history of Stonehenge’.
These works fall into a minimum of three categories; data-rich and written by professional archaeologists, state funded, (loosely) constrained by peer pressure and attached to mainstream publishers; non-archaeologically trained professionals, (astronomers, engineers, geographers, art historians and even geologists) sometimes self-funded and published privately or with bespoke/boutique publishers, the authors undergoing translation into archaeo-astronomers etc; finally the self-taught, mono-railers, who through misunderstanding, misinterpretation, or misuse of data (or more often a datum) find themselves as sole holders of The Truth (which is out there) and compelled to enlighten the world.
Mr Wiseman, a long-standing and credible commentator on the Druidical Plains and its buildings, tells us very early on and, perhaps, slightly disingenuously, that he does not hold ‘The Truth’. In a thin tome of just 58 pages, he has synthesised (really quite well) much of the recent, first category literature and despite his choice of a slightly recycled title for most of the book he remains firmly close to the middle category of authors albeit, with no malicious intent, sometimes in clear viewing distance of the third, most notably within the middle of the book when Sister Moon (Keeper of the Dead) and Father Sun appear above the horizon to illuminate the text. His rewriting of the literature, up to early 2015, is selective but has few factual errors, although much of page 3, notably the origin of sarsens is wrong, (this may have been corrected in later editions) and there is no prehistorical use of tin metal in Wessex, sarsen is not 6x harder than granite. It is topical, but Vespasian Camp/Blick Mead and its votive stone ducks and the Mesolithic generally, quite fashionable now, may, eventually, be shown to have little to do with the far, far later main reason(s) for Stonehenge.

more

Myris of Alexandria said...

Review second half.

But, but, he belongs to the sub-set of Stonehenge workers, the ‘cabalistic aligners’, for whom the summer-winter solstice alignment/orientation (for Father Sun) is just first amongst the piers (sic). Over a third of the book, for Wiseman the heart and determination of it, discusses the celestial significance of alignments between the standing stones, the 56 Aubrey Holes and the legion of post holes (within the half of Stonehenge that has been excavated, but what of the, as yet, uncovered rest) and later the relationship between the stone circle and its closest satellite barrows. Many sight lines, he asserts, were to keep “constant surveillance on ever capricious Sister Moon” only later was Father Sun to rise-up in importance, striding fully erect along the summer-winter solstice alignment into the Trilithons of “solid imperishable Earth Mother”. As with many mainstream and most non-orthodox archaeo-astronomical texts this numerological aspect of the book is difficult to follow, seemingly perching on a few, given as read (even revealed) assertions; challenge those and only a ruin remains.
The text is written in a light informative style, although there are intrusive asides and talking to the fourth wall, (“Yabba Dabba Doo”) but for most readers the impact and influence of the book will be more about the diagrams and photographs (Pete Glastonbury and Adam Stanford showing some of their best) than text. Much care has gone into the choice and blending of newly commissioned and historical photographs. Glastonbury’s aerial view of the Stonehenge Greater Cursus is a highlight, being wonderful, plus playfully ironic in almost loosing Stonehenge in the upper right hand corner and allowing us to see the ‘Stonehenge Landscape’. It is a pity that the quality of the printing and paper (ultimately one of the costs associated with self-publication) do not allow for a greater crispness; it just misses out on being a fine coffee-table book. Would there be a market for a deluxe, limited edition on high quality paper.
Is the book worth having, does it stand re-reading, (it only takes a couple of hours at most) clearly yes. But does the book and the abundant, new (in)sight-lines, add to Stonehenge studies, others need to understand them and judge. Has Mr Wiseman been wasting his and our time, most definitely no. Time to break out that glossy paper?

M

BRIAN JOHN said...

Blessed readers

Probably my fault that things have not always been posted in the right order..... Been on the move for the last few days, to the fine city of Winchester for a golden wedding celebration, on to Sevenoaks and now to Sweden, where we are checking out the arrival of autumn and looking forward to a little quiet fishing now that all the tourists have gone home...... in addition to which I have had to deal with more password issues on my laptop. However, trying to keep the act on the road. Will soon catch up.....

TonyH said...

Perhaps Dr John himself might consider just now giving a self - publishing hand to Neil Wiseman whilst he is fishing in the Swedish archipelago?

I noted somewhere that Neil Wiseman's book would benefit to being reduced from its A4() dimensions. But if Myris of Alexandria, gives it a two - part review like this, it deserves to sell bucketloads amongst the cogniscenti and would - be cogniscenti.

TonyH said...

Really good extended review of Neil Wiseman's "Cosmos" book on the equally excellent Silent Earth website, at:-

www.silentearth.org/stonehenge-and-the-neolithic-cosmos/

Neil Wiseman said...

"Sister Moon's Circle", as the Fortean Times titled the above review (May 2016, pg 61), is a somewhat misleading mast. Though the Moon plays a large role in the early years at Stonehenge, these ideas were overshadowed and absorbed into the structure when Sun took precedence during the Stone phase. The book is not solely about the Moon, but how the monument morphed in intention over the years. It is not 'New-Agey' at all, but an evidence-based interpretation as I see it.

Dr Rob Ixer, the author of the review, (but not the mast!) was quite circumspect in his observations, and I appreciate his effort. It's a bit longer than most, unlike several other authors to whom he gives short shrift.

In close consultation with he and others, earlier references to Sarsen origins were revised, and now reflect a more accurate portrayal of how that stone came to be. I should probably send Dr Ixer a more recent copy!

As readers of my postings here and elsewhere will have noted, I don't make reference to the book in my remarks, as this type of thing is generally construed as pandering! lol

Thanks (I think) for posting, Myris.

Neil

BRIAN JOHN said...

A4? Not a good idea -- large format books hardly ever do well, unless they are aimed straight into a highly specialised market and are very glossy and snazzy.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Neil -- your restraint is commendable. Not to worry, every now and then an author pushes his own book on this blog. Myris has been doing it for years with his Pet Rock Atlas, and I hope he has got a few sales as a result. I even mention my own modest tome now and then.....

Neil Wiseman said...

Believe me Brian, choosing the volume-size wasn't easy, and yes, it has hardly gone unnoticed.

But there's 114 photographs and illustrations in 72 pages, and the detail of many would have been compromised in a smaller format.

The downside, as Dr Ixer mentions in the review, is the paper-quality. In the mainstream it would deserve 100# gloss, wherein the pictures would sizzle.

A couple of good UK publishers are looking at it now, so perhaps one day soon ...

Best,
Neil

Neil Wiseman said...

Tony,
Thanks for the kind remarks.

Austin K of Silent Earth note is a pretty cool feller and his site is quite an eye-opener with related arcana! He has just returned from Ireland, having traveled with Terry Meaden to witness Equinox at the Dromberg Circle. (Terry's new book should not be missed!)

Austin's been enthusiastically inducted, as a member in good-standing, into the rarefied ranks of the 'Stonehenge Mafia', a few members of which are known to comment here. We try to de-mystify the site using reality, as well as counter its Disneyfication.

Alas, I am not at liberty to name other members, as I would soon be sleeping with the Bluestones ...

Neil

BRIAN JOHN said...

Neil -- you are a brave fellow. Self-publishing is not for the faint-hearted, and I wish you well. You might find this of interest -- a presentation given originally to the Society of Authors in London and subsequently to the PENfro Book Festival.
http://www.brianjohn.co.uk/self-publishing-1.html
It's a very personal story, but some of the points are are of pretty broad relevance I think......

FREE Myris of Alexandria said...

The pet rock atlas more formally known as An Atlas of opaque and ore minerals in their associations has been out of print since 1991 and Dr Ixer regularly has refused a number of the major scientific publishing houses offers of having it reprinted. He last sold copies in 1994 including all the ‘special copies’ and now only has a single presentation copy. He holds the sole copyright.
Second hand copies are available on Amazon etc but have nothing to do with Dr Ixer.
The virtual atlas of opaque and ore minerals in their associations Drs Ixer and Duller is and has always been FREE on the web, indeed they pay for the website and I guess they jointly hold the copyright. It has been FREE for almost 20 years and was a GIFT from the good doctors to the geological community. (In order to buy back the copyright from the original publishers Dr Ixer had to buy all the unsold copies of the atlas- that is how he knows there are no books floating around- it took a few years to sell all the books but he did make a really decent, unexpected profit).
The point being made (yet again Brian does not read what is written but what he thinks is written) when the atlas is mentioned is that OTHERS should make their book FREE to their community and not try to sell it. It would stop all that bleating about firewalls etc . Come on authors give your book for free….. to quote the Coen Brothers film “Come on in boys, the water is fine”.
So any mention of the atlas is code for “mend your ways penny-pinching authors go sky-clad” not please buy my book. It cannot be of any use to anybody on this blog-site not without a few years of training.
So GIVE GIVE GIVE or at least bloody read what is written.
M

BRIAN JOHN said...

Well, that was all very confusing, Myris. One can but admire your philanthropy, but I have my doubts that very many will follow your lead and give their books away, even on the web. The main reason for authors or publishers to give their books away is that they are difficult or impossible to sell -- we have all done it with certain titles. It's a more noble thing to do than pulping excess copies or remaindering them at prices far below the unit cost of printing. The idea of writers giving their books away to their communities of interest is a very jolly one, except that we live in a market economy in which intellectual property has a market value. That's why teachers teach, and get paid for it. I happen to make my living from publishing and selling books, and I am not greatly attracted by the idea of giving them all away just in order to give myself a rosy glow. Dream on, Myris......

All that having been said, I have just given my four folk tales books away via Dropbox to anybody who wants them, because I judge that the cost of republishing them in paperback or hardback would not be cost-effective, given the rather small market!

Myris of Alexandria said...

It has become a trend in geology (I doubt because of Dr Ixer) and some very important books are now freely available and it is slowly snowballing.

Whilst Dr Ixer enjoys a Rosie glow as much as anyone he did it as a thank you for the free uni education that he received in the 60s. It seemed right and proper to repay that debt. Karma is everything.

Of course this is a tinsy bit disingenuous as someone has all the free Angel Mtn books on his Kindle and enjoys Mistress Martha (Spoiler alert don't marry her)and her up and down hikes.
M

BRIAN JOHN said...

What? Is Amazon giving away my books for free on Kindle? They are supposed to sell them for a couple of quid apiece -- fantastic value, though I say it myself. Ironically, when they sell the Kindle version of On Angel Mountain for £2.27 (or whatever) I earn more than I do when Amazon sells a paperback version which has a cover price of £6.99. That's because of the vast discount that Amazon insists on, and which small publishers are powerless to resist. Don't get me going on that one.......

Jon Morris said...

You gave them away in one of your promotions Brian!

Not so sure about the idea of making books free: It's a costly exercise to produce a non-fiction book and there's no realistic probability of recouping the costs even if it becomes a best-seller in its field.

Really cheap kindle books are an indicator of the quality of the product. The odd promotion is OK, but if you chuck a quality title into a low quality pond, the title is likely to be seen as low quality. I figure the best thing to do is to make the cost of the title reflect, at least to a small extent, the amount of effort that was required to produce it. People are unlikely to buy a non-fiction title using low cost as the selection criteria.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Quite right you are, Jon. I have tried free promotions with a number of my titles -- Its a great deal cheaper than paid advertising, and at least brings titles to the attention of potential readers if you are active on Twitter and Facebook etc. I don't really know how effective these free promos are -- sometimes I have seen a bit of a spike in sales figures afterwards, and sometimes not...... Certainly there have been no dramatic increases in sales when the freebie promos come to an end. Funny old business.

I agree that for fiction you have to set Kindle sales prices low, so as to compete with all the rest, but if I was doing a non-fiction title on Amazon I would aim at a higher price in the hope that this would signal a quality product!

chris johnson said...

After a working lifetime in marketing I can say with confidence that high prices are a sign of quality and people will pay as long as it IS quality.
The Networld paradigm of giving everything for nothing is not for people with content to sell.

'Ag Myris of Alexandria said...

But we are not talking about selling but giving away things of worth. The fun of doing something good just because you can, becoming an academic secret Santa (as long as they spell your name correctly).
Who here has not been enriched from Dr Ixer putting his Stonehenge papers FREE on line, neither earning nor wanting a single widow's mite. Although he might die for a widow's peak again and to be able to disbar some of the gabardine swine from misreading them but in his saintly heart he forgives but never FORGETS them.
What a sad, drab world commercial marketing must be, what did our own dear Oscar say, a cynic knows.
M

Jon Morris said...

I like Myris's way of thinking, but it's a subject that falls within Ixer's own field of expertise, so it's very easy for him to judge whether or not there is benefit to others.

If content is within one's own field of expertise, but the only potential beneficial impact is to another discipline, it is exceptionally difficult to judge how, or even if, it should be published. Potential benefits are best assessed by the discipline affected, so assessing the response of others (to see if it is worthwhile making more information available), becomes a drawn out process of trial and error.

If the expert response from potential beneficiaries is lacklustre, it is usually a good indication that the content may not be as beneficial (to the external discipline) as the authors might believe. Prior to the internet, this would have been a big signal to stop work and archive the content: The idea of giving is good, but only if there is a benefit to someone from the giving.

If the content provider still believes, despite the expert response, that the work may be beneficial, then making it available freely can these days be done on blogs or forums (for example, the Megalithic Portal). So both points of view on how to publish seem to me to be equally good in their own context.

BRIAN JOHN said...

I don't think anybody (apart from some massive journal publishers) disputes the fact that learned articles in peer-reviewed journals should be free for all those who want to read them. After all, we taxpayers have most often contributed to the research done by those who then write the articles. So it is not an act of great philanthropy to "give away" one's learned articles. It's the least the public should expect. With books, that is a different matter. Nobody seriously suggests that all learned tomes should be given away. If a writer spends years slaving away on his research, and if a publisher invests in getting a book into print and then marketing it, the idea of a reasonable recompense has a certain attraction.......

Jon Morris said...

After all, we taxpayers have most often contributed to the research done by those who then write the articles.

Not sure about that Brian. None of the journals that I subscribe to, or that I've been published in, get any support from the taxpayer and virtually none of the authors in those journals receive any taxpayer support (other than Charitable Status for tax purposes): It's all from industry (and the journals are also funded by industry with no taxpayer support). It might be different in other disciplines.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Jon, my education up to degree stage was free, and was paid for by the taxpayer, and so was my period as a research student. My period of employment for BAS was paid for by the taxpayer, and so was most of my salary as a university lecturer. My research grants came mostly from the taxpayer too -- apart from a few from charitable / educational institutions like the RGS. I know that industry is increasingly important nowadays in science research, but if taken as a proportion of the total, across the board, I bet it's still not more than 10% of the sum invested in getting a researcher productive to the point of submitting things to journals.....

Myris of Alexandria said...

It is wonderful that Dr John’s Craig Rhosyfelin work and since 2001 ALL of Dr Ixer’s Stonehenge work has been SELF-FUNDED this allows them both the moral high ground and their academic gifts are therefore untrammelled by the tainted taxes of the sweating/sweaty poor. Pure philanthropy at its finest. Examples to us all, we should all book places on this rosy dawn.
Dr Ixer’s work is, of course, nominally paid for by the Constantine XI Palaeologos Porphyrogenitus Research Fund who have been unstinting in their assistance. Indeed his atlas is dedicated to Cont. XI.
But lordy lordy Miss Scarlet, I am having difficulty in readjusting my perception of Brian whom I imagined as a typical Welsh petit bourgeoisie ((can any native speaker please give me the Welsh for petit bourgeoisie (no loan words please)) but now am told has been enslaved, enchained for YEARS. It is so fashionable these days to be a victim, -the empowered and bullies have rights as well. But Brian enshackled to his desk, good that the candle light is free, is distressing and no wonder he has lost a little generosity of heart and perhaps his way.
This is all becoming a bit too Name of the Rose and I must stop licking my bleeding fingers and feed the dogs before I hear ‘the music of the night’.
Public taxes and patriotism are the last refuge of ………
M

BRIAN JOHN said...

Before I am offered the Nobel Peace Prize or nominated for a sainthood, I MUST declare that I am in receipt of my old age pension from the state. Is that an acceptable degree of state intervention?

Myris of Alexanadria said...

An OAP eh! leeching off the state. By your own logic re public money equals public access to papers etc can we expect you to buy and then cook OAP paid-for food and distribute it freely. We have paid for it with our taxes.

Enough trivia Brian what is your cosy arrangement with the Blick Mead madders? Why are their outrageous claims not vilified here as poor MPP is? Are you being bought off, is that tax payers back-handers.

I see in the Daily Mail (I only read it on-line after reading the BBC and Guardian on line and I only read it for the porn) so must be correct, that the puce coloured rocks,the "Welsh slate Tool" this is the size of a finger nail and may very well not be slate but local-ish shale and is just the sort of detritus to adhere to the sole of an archy boot and be brought in, is now joined by a "Midlands rock".

Could this be the beginning of Brian's glacial erratics that so far have eluded all seekers.
Is this why the Blickers are being protected and Brian so Blinkered.

Ironically much is about a dog's dinner

Where are the ducks
There ought to be ducks
etc pace S.Sondheim.

I hear there is to be a real erratic unveiling tomorrow. Photos to follow.
M

BRIAN JOHN said...

As you should know by now, Myris, I am completely incorruptible. As for Blick Mead, the Daily Mail and dog's teeth, the less said the better.....

Peter Dunn said...

Hello Brian,
A late addition to this discussion bringing it back to the original topic, you asked what the evidence was for some details in the panting. I am interested to know if you were at all convinced and if as one of the purposes is for these works did it raise more questions and ideas as well as perhaps answer a few? Interestingly in an earlier post you show an entrance arrangement to Meini Gwyr very similar to that in the Stonehenge stage 2/3 double bluestone arc and entrance minus the lintel. I think it is reasonable to assume that most of the stone arrangements were “finished” although rearrangement for the blues after a slight or longer period seems to be part of the plan, belief system or response to developments over time until the need to do this ended.
Perhaps the design of the sarsen circle was “finished” if it’s design included the deliberate use of stone 11 to break the lintel ring or extend the smaller stone with some ingenious arrangement and complete the ring.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Peter -- I am really not expert enough to comment in detail on the Stonehenge settings, except to mention the comments from Tim Darvill and Anthony Johnson (among others) to the effect that any "immaculate" reconstruction is likely to be wide of the mark, given that the stones were rearranged over and again. Two things come immediately to mind. Why have you shown all the bluestones in the bluestone circle as elongated pillars when, from the evidence presented on the "Stones of Stonehenge" website, most of them were rounded boulders or slabs with many varied shapes? Also, you have shown the Altar Stone as being a standing stone. Others insist that it always was recumbent, given its rather strange shape.......

Peter Dunn said...

Brian, I agree with and have shown that the bluestones were rearranged several times sometimes with settings of posts as in SPR plan stage 1 another of my contributions to the SPR stages, however there would have been no matter who’s stages or phases you go by, years, tens or hundreds of years between settings. The idea of the thing looking like an unfinished building site for a thousand years with the odd group of workmen leaning on a stone with the Neolithic equivalent of a fag and a cup of tea, I don’t think so.
Darvil and Johnson also show plans of phases and settings as though they are finished and Tim Darvil has used my 2004 recons in lectures.
I think I already answered these two questions but I will have another stab at it. I have shown my proposed inner bluestone circle as pillars as that was what the shape of the excavation holes at W. Amesbury suggested( Whatever it was came out of them) and the remaining SW side of the horseshoe are pillars, these would have been the same stones different holes. I do agree that with the bluestone entrance portal and double arc being pillars there appears too many. I have said that I think they may have been separate stages, but sometimes you have to keep the client happy, it isn’t impossible that there were more of the refined upright blues. However next time I will put in more varied shaped blues in the arc and later circles.

I have said why I think there may have been a stone in stonehole in WA3359 it may have been the Altar stone or a similar/slightly smaller stone at the period depicted. I have thought the Altar Stone was recumbent when it was hit by stone 55 and its lintel since the early 2000s and have been talking about it being a memorial stone marking the positions of the two posts since then, I don’t believe anyone else was, certainly not the archaeologists I was working with. It may be that the two posts, the recumbent Alter Stone and a stone, the Bluestone tongue and groove pair or here’s a new idea little skinny sarsen 11 in WA 3359 inside the inner bluestone circle, all before the sarsen circle and trilithons were set up.
That would make a nice image.
Peter

AG said...

"Where are the flint nodules?
There ought to be Flint nodules?
etc Pace S.Sondheim"!