Page 26. " The sleigh-bells, vigorously shaken, strike up their familiar janissary music "

   The Janisseries (from Ottoman Turkish يکيچرى Yeniçeri  meaning "new soldier") were an elite corps who served as personal guards to sultans of the Ottoman Empire between the 15th and 19th centuries.  Members of this force also formed the core of the empire’s military marching bands, amongst the oldest known examples in the world.  The distinctive Mehter style of music they produced combined many instruments, including something called the çevgan which, when shaken, makes a sound resembling sleigh-bells. 

 

Ottoman army music from early 17th century:

 

Page 27. " sojourns with the giants of Brobdingnag and the virtuous Houyhnhnms "

   In his popular satirical travelogue Gulliver's Travels (1726), Jonathan Swift's eponymous explorer journeys through various fantasy worlds populated by an assortment of bizarre creatures.  In Part II he discovers the land of Brobdingnag, and lives amongst a race of giants many times his size.  Later he encounters the ‘Houyhnhnm’; a tribe of highly intelligent horses, whose ruthlessly rationalist society is founded on a slave-race resembling primitive humanity.

Gulliver's Travels on Book Drum

 

                

Page 49. " we go on a mission to the Duchy of Bernburg or the Principality of Liechtenstein to inspect their navies, or let Charles XII enlist us as a volunteer just before the battle of Pultava "

 

   As the town of Bernburg in central Germany is roughly 150 miles from the coast, and the Principality of Liechtenstein is a doubly-landlocked alpine microstate in Western Europe, neither is particularly famed for its naval achievements. 

At the Battle of Poltava in 1709, Russian forces decisively triumphed over the hugely outnumbered army of Swedish king Charles XII, setting in motion Sweden’s fall from its position as a great power in Northern Europe.  Enlisting in Charles' army on the eve of the battle would therefore have been akin to joining Napoleon’s infantry en route to Waterloo. 

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