Adelard returns to Bath: The BRLSI programme

This is being promoted by the Bath Royal Literary & Scientific Institution based at Queen Square. The purpose is to revive the City’s awareness, and celebration, of its most famous citizen.
We are assembling a small team at the BRLSI who will do the work but we would like it to be set up as a City Initiative. Rather than just do the work ourselves, and then go out and talk at people, we would prefer that any body that has an inherent interest in the subject should work with us from the start; they will no doubt have much to bring to the programme and will be able to take things out of it for their own benefit.
We have already spoken to the Council’s Heritage Services Department and Central Library who are interested in principle. Also Bath Abbey which includes the Abbey Vaults, a leading tourist attraction with over 50,000 visitors per annum and which already has a small exhibition devoted to Adelard. We think it is essential that both Universities should be onboard and will be speaking to them. If there is an umbrella unit for the Local History Societies we would like to include them. We welcome any body with a relevant interest onboard and intend to set up a sort of external Steering Group shortly.
Firstly, we wish to create at the BRLSI the Adelard Archive. This will be a reading room where people can go to read but not take away. Louise Cochrane, who wrote the definitive book on Adelard over a 20-year period when she was resident in the City, has agreed to make a Lifetime Bequest of her Papers to the Archive which gives it immediate credibility. We are very grateful for this. We will progressively add items to it; works by Adelard and about him and the fruits of our own efforts.
One plan is to summarise the Adelard Story in its component elements in a touch-screen interactive computer program, on a desk with loose chairs around. There could be a copy of this in the BRLSI Archive and maybe other copies at other locations such as the Abbey Vaults.
The main work at the BRLSI will be done by tackling the topic areas one by one – the General History of the period; the History of Science; the Philosophy; the Maths, including the Geometry, Numbering Systems and the Abacus; the Astronomy, including Astrology and the Astrolabe; Medieval Islam; the Music; maybe the Medicine and the Birds; and the Exchequer Table.
We will do this in internal Workshops and Talks. The outline plan is to stage Brainstrusts, where invited panels of experts in these subjects, having read up the relevant Adelard material, discuss at the BRLSI in sessions open to the public who can also be involved. Summaries of these sessions will feed into the Archive and Proceedings of the BRLSI.
Apart from these Workshops and Talks internal to the BRLSI we also plan a series of external Talks in the City and around; general interest rather than academic and hopefully entertaining and aimed at specific groups who might be attracted by the prospect.
We would like to draw Schools into the process especially with practical exercise with the Abacus and the Astrolabe; the Abacus as fun and intended to make young children unfrightened of Maths; Louise Cochrane has been working on a playground version of the Astrolabe.
There will also be Trips; EduTourism as it has become known. The Workshops will not just be home fixtures but also away ones. At Laon and Tours in France and in Sicily and Antioch (now in modern Turkey); Antioch will probably be the first and this could happen in the near future; it would be interesting to be on the bridge at Mamistra, near to Antioch, where Adelard experienced the earthquake of November 1114 on its 900th anniversary. We will lay on organised Trips with good speakers at the other end.
Bath Philarmonia are considering another 900th anniversary, a Concert at the Guildhall in Bath at Easter 2016 under the baton of Jason Thornton, with a Cithera solo, to celebrate his playing for Queen Matilda.
We are thinking about how this Initiative might best be covered in the Media, as it progresses. It is possible that one of the TV channels (Discovery Channel?) might find it sufficiently interesting to cover it over a period of time, for subsequent transmission. We will also have our own Web Site, part of or linked to the BRLSI Web Site.
The intention is to set up an Adelard Society in the near future, to carry the interest forward in all sorts of ways.
One thing we do have is his famous green cloak (and the rest of his clothes); not the original, of course, but a well researched repro (pictured right, worn by Michael Davis) using the materials and techniques available at the time. It is a magnificent and practical garment and we have been astonished at the quality.
Michael Davis, BRLSI Convenor
“Adelard returns to Bath” programme
October 2009