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Preface: Short Attention Span History

This little book has been through a lot of changes. It has been circulated a few pages at a time, in sections, in whole, and in part through three large Renaissance Faires--and more, for all I know. People recite parts of it in my hearing, unaware that they are using my words. Parts of it turn up verbatim and unattributed in other people's handouts. The folk process in action!

Mary, Countess of Southampton I started this in response to a situation for the Queen's Court of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Southern California, probably about 1987. I noticed during rehearsals that new people especially were missing some of the details that had been common knowledge in the group a few years earlier. And in the course of putting some notes together, I began to see places where that common knowledge was wrong. I passed out about 10 pages under the current title. A few weeks later, I had added a few more. Any time I learned something new, or when someone asked a question that sent me looking for answers, new pages appeared. Eventually it grew to about 35 pages, and the Compendium: The Next Generation appeared, this time with pictures.

The organization on any particular page was as you see it here: short, brief, snappy, 1-lesson-at-a-time. One topic per page, one page (no more than two) per topic. One factoid per paragraph. Where there is more than enough to fill that guideline, break it up, put it a little further away, give it another snappy title, cross reference it. Just don't get bored with it. Pick it up any time, and learn one new thing. This is history for the MTV generation. These aren't essays, they are fact bites.

If you learn just one new thing today, you're ahead. The layout of this little book always was designed to make that one new thing immediate, interesting, and accessible. Here we are years later with exactly the same organization, as if it had been designed with the web in mind. And as before, it's common knowledge.

(You see. I can write a clean, grammatical, properly punctuated English paragraph-in its place.)


The information here comes from my own research and that of many others. Most particularly, I am indebted to the following people for providing either questions or answers at significant times: Kevin Brown, Lloyd Winter, Walter Nelson, Malcolm Scott, Nan Earnheart, Stephen Gillan, and Jeff Bissiri. Also Gereg Blaidd, Luis Rodriguez, Donna Moran, Fred Louaillier, Cathleen & James Myers, Terri Saffouri, John Hertz, and Dr. Ron Love. Not to forget Jess Miller, Cecily Thompson, Paul Giles, Linda Abrams, Jerry & Judy Gorelick, Elizabeth Pruyne, Angie Grimes, Andy Bradshaw, Dr. Ari Berk, Alan Chudnow, Simon Hedges, Shelley Monson, and Dorothy Dunnett. And a special nod to Ron and Phyllis Patterson for giving me a place to play and providing the basis for a 20-year research project.

With a particularly deep reverence to the generosity and patience of the Guilde of St. George, RPFS '79-'91.

North Hollywood, California
Spring 1998, updated Summer 2005

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7 August 2005 pkm