Cassandra Austen courtesy the National Portrait Gallery via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain 

Cassandra Austen courtesy the National Portrait Gallery via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain 

Read What Jane Austen’s Friends Had to Say About Mansfield Park

Cassandra Austen courtesy the National Portrait Gallery via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain 

Cassandra Austen courtesy the National Portrait Gallery via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain 

Jane Austen, chronicler of 18th century social norms, was more receptive to criticism from her loved ones than most. The novelist actually encouraged her friends and family to write her with opinions on her work, and her own notes on those letters are about to go on display at the British Library, The Guardian reports.

"Jane Austen Among Family and Friends" celebrates the writer on the 200-year anniversary of her death. It features reviews by Austen’s friends and family on her third novel, Mansfield Park, which was published in 1814, just a few years before her 1817 death. And many of those reviews were not favorable. Austen's own mother told her the novel wasn’t as good as Pride and Prejudice and called its main character, Fanny Price, “insipid.” Others tended to agree, like her niece, Anna Lefroy, who liked the book but hated the character of Fanny. Another letter writer said it “wanted incident,” and one, according to Austen, thought her first two books were “nonsense,” but hoped the new novel would be better.

A spoof story featured in the exhibition, written by Austen and illustrated by her sister Cassandra. Image Credit: Courtesy the British Library

Not all the reviews were so bleak. Austen’s sister Cassandra (who drew the sketch of the author above) “thought it quite as clever, tho’ not as brilliant as P. & P.” She was fond of Fanny and found the stupidity of the character Mr. Rushworth delightful.

Regardless of the opinions of those close to her, the novel would sell out within six months of its publication.

The exhibition also includes notebooks of writings by a teenage Austen as well as her writing desk and some of her memorabilia. They will be on display at the British Library from January 10 to February 19, 2017.

[h/t The Guardian]

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Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0
New 'Eye Language' Lets Paralyzed People Communicate More Easily
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0

The invention of sign language proved you don't need to vocalize to use complex language face to face. Now, a group of designers has shown that you don't even need control of your hands: Their new type of language for paralyzed people relies entirely on the eyes.

As AdAge reports, "Blink to Speak" was created by the design agency TBWA/India for the NeuroGen Brain & Spine Institute and the Asha Ek Hope Foundation. The language takes advantage of one of the few motor functions many paralyzed people have at their disposal: eye movement. Designers had a limited number of moves to work with—looking up, down, left, or right; closing one or both eyes—but they figured out how to use these building blocks to create a sophisticated way to get information across. The final product consists of eight alphabets and messages like "get doctor" and "entertainment" meant to facilitate communication between patients and caregivers.

Inside of a language book.
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

This isn't the only tool that allows paralyzed people to "speak" through facial movements, but unlike most other options currently available, Blink to Speak doesn't require any expensive technology. The project's potential impact on the lives of people with paralysis earned it the Health Grand Prix for Good at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity earlier in June.

The groups behind Blink to Speak have produced thousands of print copies of the language guide and have made it available online as an ebook. To learn the language yourself or share it with someone you know, you can download it for free here.

[h/t AdAge]

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How Bats Protect Rare Books at This Portuguese Library
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iStock

Visit the Joanina Library at the University of Coimbra in Portugal at night and you might think the building has a bat problem. It's true that common pipistrelle bats live there, occupying the space behind the bookshelves by day and swooping beneath the arched ceilings and in and out of windows once the sun goes down, but they're not a problem. As Smithsonian reports, the bats play a vital role in preserving the institution's manuscripts, so librarians are in no hurry to get rid of them.

The bats that live in the library don't damage the books and, because they're nocturnal, they usually don't bother the human guests. The much bigger danger to the collection is the insect population. Many bug species are known to gnaw on paper, which could be disastrous for the library's rare items that date from before the 19th century. The bats act as a natural form of pest control: At night, they feast on the insects that would otherwise feast on library books.

The Joanina Library is famous for being one of the most architecturally stunning libraries on earth. It was constructed before 1725, but when exactly the bats arrived is unknown. Librarians can say for sure they've been flapping around the halls since at least the 1800s.

Though bats have no reason to go after the materials, there is one threat they pose to the interior: falling feces. Librarians protect against this by covering their 18th-century tables with fabric made from animal skin at night and cleaning the floors of guano every morning.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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