Friday, September 30, 2005

Earthquake Images

Turkey 1509------- Mitilini, Greece 1867

There's something poetic about my abysmal html/graphic handling techniques being demonstrated in a post whose illustrations portray earthquakes. Click on the links below the pictures for larger images.

Moscow 1445--------- Istanbul 1556: comet AND earthquake

The National Information Service for Earthquake Engineering at University of California, Berkeley have the Jan T Kozak Exhibition: Historical Images of Earthquakes on display. There are a larger number of images than I expected (875!) and this includes photographs. They range from 464BC to 1932 and can be displayed chronologically or alphabetically.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Master and Margarita

Irina Shipovskaia
Apt. 50 Unlucky Visitors Ch.18

Veselaia kompaniia (The Happy Company) 1983

Mikhail Bulgakov had been dead 26 years when his fantasy politico-religious satire The Master and Margarita was released in 1966. It was written in Russia during the Stalin era. I must profess complete ignorance to its very existence until a short while ago. I'm now very intrigued.

I came across a website devoted to the The Master and Margarita which has a sizeable number of wonderful +/- disturbing illustrations associated with the book. There's also an exegesis of the work.

  • Here's an extended Wikipedia entry if you need anything more.
  • A Russian tv series was being produced last year to the consternation of some - Guardian article.

Irina Shipovskaia
from: Illustrations II

Addit: While we're on the subject, Stalinka digital display - from the University of Pittsburgh Digital Research Library - banners, photos, pins, sculptures, cartoons &c.

Strutt & Play

All images in this entry are from: The Sports and Pastimes of the People of England: including the Rural and Domestic Recreations. May Games, Mummeries, Shows, Processions, Pageants, and Pompous Spectacles, from the Earliest Period to the Present Time. 1801 by Joseph Strutt [edited and enlarged by JC Cox 1903]

Joseph Strutt (1749-1802) made a substantial contribution to English antiquarian historiography but there is a dearth of material available about him on the internet.

The study of games at every level of society - jousting and hawking for the nobility, chess and backgammon for the intelligentsia, wrestling and bowling for the commoners, and field games for the children - are all included in Sports. Strutt is referenced when interpreting some words in Shakespeare and is credited with popularizing golf and of having an influence in the origin of baseball.

He also wrote extended works on the antiquities of England and a dictionary on engraving but his other great achievement was documenting historical dress styles.

Strutt is said to have undertaken most of his social studies at the British Museum, using stained glass windows and illuminated manuscripts as inspiration to record the hobbies and dress customs going back to Roman times.

After Strutt died, Sir Walter Scott completed a lacklustre romance novel that Strutt had started, and he credited Strutt with influencing his subsequent writing of the famed Waverley novels.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Designer Aboriginals

Book Illustrations ©Bronwyn Bancroft

Minute Bodies


Robert Hooke (1635-1703) could list in his not inconsiderable curriculum vitae, inventor, physicist, astronomer, biologist and architect among other talents. Sir Isaac Newton, who was mutually despised by Hooke, first wrote "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants" as a sarcastic barb in a letter to Hooke, who was short in stature.

When he published Micrographia in 1665, Samuel Pepys described it as "the most ingenious book I have ever read in my life." Hooke accurately described his observations from use of a compound microscope in it and it was very popular following release.

About the flea image above he wrote:

"..a'dorned with a curiously polished suite of sable Armour, neatly jointed.."
and in relation to the cork cell illustration above he observed:
"..I could exceedingly plainly perceive it to be all perforated and porous, much like a Honey-comb, but that the pores of it were not regular....these pores,....or cells,...were indeed the first microscopial pores I ever saw, and perhaps that were ever seen.."
which announced the discovey of the cell. The third image is the head of a fly.

Hooke was also notable in being the official Surveyor of London following the Great Fire of 1666 and, together with Sir Christopher Wren, designed a number of replacement buildings in and around London. Curiously, no known portrait of Robert Hooke exists.

Southern Nature

The original sketch for the copper plate book engraving in Travels Through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida, the Cherokee Country, the Extensive Territories of the Muscogulges or Creek Confederacy, and the Country of the Chactaws; Containing an Account of the Soil and Natural Productions of those Regions, Together with Observations on the Manners of the Indians by William Bartram 1791.

Leaves of Liquid Amber and other trees; Magnolia altissima
from Hortus Europae Americanus by Mark Catesby 1767.

These images come from the American Philosophical Society's Southern Nature: Scientific Views of the Colonial American South Exhibit, [cache]which includes single page accounts of the lives and works of over a dozen authors (including Thomas Jefferson) with sample images, from the Society's Library manuscript and rare book holdings.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Passarola, 1709

Brazilian Jesuit priest, linguist and mathematician, Bartolomeu Lourenço de Gusmão might have demonstrated to King João V of Portugal in 1709 that a device heavier than air could fly. Supposedly he floated a paper balloon construction indoors by means of a small fire in a clay crucible. There is only slim support for the notion that he successfully flew a bird-like 'balloon' some 60 or 70 years prior to the Montgolfier brothers of France however. It is also suggested that Gusmão's papers with substantiating evidence were destroyed during the Inquisition. Various forms of the Passarola (portuguese for flying ship) have appeared in print over the years. It's the stuff of patriotic legend.

The image above is from the 2-page MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections: Balloon Prints from the Vail Collection.

The Featherbook

Dioniosio Minaggio worked as a gardner to the Governor of Milan. During his tenure he made Il Bestiarrio Barocco in which 156 pictures were crafted entirely from bird feathers and skin. It was completed in 1618 and is housed today in the Blacker-Wood Library of Biology's Rare Book Collection at McGill University in Montreal.

Thumb page views (high resolution images are available) -

Birds I, Birds II, Birds III, Birds IV, The Hunters, The Comedians, The Musicians, The Tradesmen

Addit: I finally found the information page. Either McGill has some funny linking happening or I wasn't paying close enough attention wandering around their sites.

Rare Books of the Japanese Diet Library

Monday, September 26, 2005

Architectura Navalis Mercatoria

Frederik Chapman from Göteborg Sweden was partly educated in England and came to be regarded as one of the greatest shipbuilders and naval architects of all time. He approached design scientifically (going so far as to have legends and measurements in 3 languages) in contrast to the empirical/discussion methods of boating construction beforehand. One of his great works, Architectura Navalis Mercatoria, was published in Sweden in 1768 and contains a large number of diagrams from which the above were selected.

All the book illustrations (to my knowledge) are available at the Swedish subsite ChapmanNet. There is no english available that I could find. I somehow think there's a bit/lot more around on the parent site.


The Author's Meditation upon sight of his Picture
[large jpeg]

What I Was, is passed by;
What I Am, away doth flie;
What I Shal Bee none do see;
Yet, in that, my Beauties bee.
George Wither 1635*

Frontpiece* George Wither 1635

*A collection of Emblemes, Ancient and Moderne, Quickened with metricall illustrations, both Morall and divine: And Disposed into lotteries, that instruction, and good counsell, may bee furthered by an honest and pleasant recreation. George Wither 1635 in 4 volumes.

Emblem books were a popular form of moral publication in 15th and 16th century Europe. The idea was that you would meditate upon the pictures (typically woodcuts) with varying possible allegorical interpretations, and then read the adjacent text to fully understand the meaning. Thus, a sort of dual form of communication was used by the author to impart religious or secular ethics. The original emblem book, Emblematum liber was written by an Italian, Andrea Alciato in 1531, but this style of book was most popular in Belgium, Holland and Germany.

George Wither, puritan, satirist and poet of modest renown, was imprisoned a number of times for his blunt libels against the reigning powers. He was ulimately employed by a publisher to contribute emblematic verse to extant book plates by Crispin van Passe, but emblem books never grew to be as popular in Britain.

Pennsylvania State University have a number of scanned emblem books online as part of The English Emblem Book Project. There is some minor background commentary, but it's mostly about the research project.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Astronomické České

Manuscript Title: Textus varii
Date: 14th or 15th century
Text Script: Latin
Repository: Královská kanonie premonstrátů na Strahově, Praha
Website: Demo Versions of Complete Documents - Czech Manuscriptorium Memoria Project

My best search efforts failed to turn up much more by way of information, although I'm copying in the Latin/Czech notations from this manuscript as a comment. Fully half of the 150-odd page manuscript are illustrations in a similar vein to those above. I saved these images in the supposedly poor quality mode to avoid an imprinted watermark, but I don't think there was much loss of quality. Each of the 8 or so 'demo' manuscripts open in a modified window allowing for zoom and multiple page previews. Please educate me if anyone knows anything about Textus varii. Of course 'various texts' doesn't quite have the same ring of authenticity now does it?

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