Photographer: Robert Howlett | Isambard Kingdom Brunel, builder of the Great Eastern | ca. 1857-1858 | George Eastman House,

Some stories we’ve been reading this week:

  • The San Jose Public Library wants its books back. And its CDs and DVDs. Taken altogether, library patrons are holding onto or have damaged 97,000 items and owe the city $6.8 million in fines and fees. The situation is so out of control that about 40 percent of the city’s library cardholders can no longer borrow anything until they return their library holdings and pay what they owe.”
  • And speaking of the maltreatment of books, holes in the pages of manuscripts are the result of many causes. But, unlike damaged library books, these holes sometimes add to the books’ beauty: check out the images.
  • One would think an artist famous for sending giant rubber ducks around the world would have a great sense of humor, but he was not laughing when he accused Brazilian protesters of plagiarism after they used a similarly enormous rubber bird as a statement against their president.

  • The recent opening Turkey’s first two research centers dedicated to Byzantine studies may help the country to finally claim its place at the forefront of research into the art, archaeology, and history of Byzantium. Modern Turkey has long struggled with its approach to the Byzantine period, which some nationalists regard as the “history of the Greeks.”
  • The Etruscans have long been perceived as an enticing mystery, not only to archeologists and historians, but also to romantics and mystics, so the recent discovery of a 500-pound sandstone stele with some 70 legible letters and punctuation marks is a huge step in the study of this ancient civilization.