Friday, March 31, 2006

The Cyanotype Work of Anna Atkins

While it's technically true to categorize the cyanotype (blueprint or photogram) as a form of photography, it seems to straddle the fence with printmaking although this may just be semantics.

In 1841 or so, Sir John Herschel disovered the sensitivity to light of a particular iron solution. When this chemical is dissolved in water, it can be applied to a surface such as paper and an object is placed on top and during exposure to uv light, the background goes blue ('Prussian blue') and a negative image of the object remains. Simple and cheap and still practised today by artists and school children.

Anna Atkins had a solid education in science and was a member of the Botanical Society of London. She developed the Herschel discovery as a means of producing illustrations of the plants in which she was interested, chiefly algae and ferns.

"The difficulty of making accurate drawings of objects as minute as many of the Algae and Con[i]fera, has induced me to avail myself of Sir John Herschel's beautiful process of Cyanotype, to obtain impressions of the plants themselves."
During the course of the 1840s Atkins produced more than 200 cyanotypes which were included in a 3 volume publication called Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions. It stands as the first publication to include images made from a photographic technique and Atkins herself is distinguished as being the first ever female photographer. (The first photograph was produced by Joseph Nicephore Niépce in ~1827)

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Architectura Curiosa Nova Unplugged

"Georg Andreas Böckler was a German architect, engineer and author. He was the architect of the city of Nuremberg and specialized in hydraulic architecture. Architectura Curiosa Nova was his main opus, a four-part work in one volume, published in 1664.

Illustrated with 200 engravings, the decorative plates of the first three parts show the theory and application of hydrodynamics for fountains, water-jets, spray-patterns, garden fountains and well heads; and elaborate and often fanciful designs for free-standing fountains. The fourth part includes designs for grottoes, garden pavilions and architectural designs including views of European palaces."

It was my good fortune while fossicking around in the digital cloisters of the University of Heidelburg to discover that since my last post about Böckler's Architectura Curiosa Nova, the whole work has been posted online. It would never be described as understated. Many wedding cake decoration ideas within.

The image above the engraving with the statue carrying a trident was the only plate I saw (when I remembered to look) with an engravers name, but I can't make it out even using the pdf zoom capability at the site.

Part I, II, III, IV of Architectura Curiosa Nova.
nb. Part I of Architectura Curiosa Nova has quite a few pages of text and only a couple of images of piping diagrams; Part II has images of the fountain heads for the most part; Part III has both 'wall' variety and complete fountain images and Part IV concentrates on depicting some of the great houses of Europe and mazes.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Neither Rhyme Nor Reason

I thought I remembered where this came from but I was wrong.

Travels of the Russian merchant Grigor'ii Shelikhov from 1783 to 1787 from Okhotsk over the Eastern Ocean to American shores, and his return to Russia, with detailed information on the opening of Kyktaka and Afagna - A frontpiece from somewhere in the Meeting of Frontiers collection at the Library of Congress.

The Independent Gold Hunter on His Way to California.
'I neither borrow nor lend'
c. 1849 - from the Online Archive of California.

Tvende Slags Norske Söe-Orme 1752 Pontoppidan, Erik. I think this comes from Oslo University Library; they have a series on monster images and this was the only one I hadn't seen or previously posted.

This is from an interesting set: Greetings received by the National Post Office in Norway from international postal organisations in the late 19th century; in this case from Japan. [thumbnail page]

No recollection.

This is one of about 90 illustrations of snow crystals from the early 19th century in 3 volumes at Waseda University Library, Japan. Somewhere around there is an english description, alas I can't refind it at present. Those of you in the northern hemisphere may not wish to know anyway.

Octonaries upon the Vanitie and Inconstancie of the World created in 1609 by Esther Inglis - a very short handcrafted manuscript at NYPL.

Aeroplane Train Car 1930's - one of more than 200 prints on display in the AE Haliwell collection at the University Arts and Humanities Data Service, UK.

Vetter-Kilian Rose of Bohemia 1677 at Barron Maps.

No recollection.

Leopold, Josef Friedrich, Der in ein Schwein Verwandelte Polnische Edelmann, 1701, Flugblatt, Nürnberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Graphische Sammlung, HB 24544.

No recollection.

Just uncluttering the desktop. Click images for larger versions.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The History of Colour Systems

"The law of proportion according to which the several colours are formed,
even if a man knew he would be foolish in telling, for he could not give any
necessary reason, nor indeed any tolerable or probable explanation of them."
Plato Timaeus
Pythagoras ~550BC

Aristotle ~350BC

Aron Sigfrid Forsius 1611

Athanasius Kircher 1646

Sir Isaac Newton 1704

Ignaz Schiffermüller 1772

Tobias Mayer 1775

Philipp Otto Runge 1810

Michel Eugène Chevreul 1839

Albert Henry Munsell 1915

Michel Albert-Vanel 1983

When doing a physics course once, we were allowed to basically dismiss one of the subject components in relation to assessment. Reading around about colour systems reaffirms my original belief that optical physics is not really my strong suit. So on this occasion I think I'll refrain from crafting any sort of summary - it's very interesting stuff for sure but, well...I'm not so sure I've comprehended it all well.

The above illustrations come from The Colour Museum (in english, french and german) which gives a reasonably detailed overview of the history of the human conceptualization of colour. Many of their images are originals but it's a little hard to be sure at times. I suspect the contents of the site doesn't rise to the level of 'scholarship' but it is actually pretty fascinating nonetheless.
The University of Mannheim have a modest selection of original book illustrations on this subject.
Wikipedia on color.
Addit: more from the (excellent) Blanketfort.

Murder Most Foul

Confessions and execution of the pirates Gibbs & Wansley: on Ellis' Island in the harbour of New-York on 22d April 1831, under the direction of Thos. Morris, Esq. U. States Marshal. An interesting account of their lives will be found within, but the individual crime which brought them to the gallows was the murder of the captain and mate of the brig Vineyard at sea bound from New Orleans to New-York.
[confessions, African Americans, Blacks, sailors, cooks, pirates]

Horrid brutish and bloody murder: trial & sentence of James Ransom for the murder of his wife, Who was executed on the 7th of January 1932.
[uxoricide, trial report, dagger, slit throat, alcoholism, wife abuse]

"This Plate represents the described Position in which Mrs Budge was found, also the extent and character of the Wound in her Neck....The Position of the Stains of Blood about Bed and Body" in A review of the case:The people agt. Rev. Henry Budge, indicted for the murder of his wife Priscilla Budge..
1862 [uxoricide, trial report, minister, priest, clergy, wife abuse, pathology, knife]

Hunter-Armstrong tragedy: the great trial; conviction of Benj. F. Hunter for the murder of John M. Armstrong; Hunter secures insurance policies on the life of Armstrong amounting to $26,000 and lays a plot to murder him...this book contains the only likenesses of Hunter, Graham, and Armstrong.
1878 [trial report, insurance policy, greed, music publisher, ax, hatchet]

The poison fiend: life, crimes & conviction of Lydia Sherman., (the modern Lucretia Borgia), recently tried in New Haven, Conn, for poisoning three husbands and eight of her children; her life in full!
1878 [biography, trial report, mass murder, serial killer, spouse abuse, child abuse, insanity, poison, arsenic]

The beautiful victim of the Elm City: being a full, fair, and impartial narrative of all that is known of the terrible fate of the trusting and unfortunate Jennie E. Crammer, giving all the evidence that led the jury to hold Jamey Malley, Jr. as her murderer and to denouce Walter E. Malley and Blanche Douglass as aiders and abettors in the terrible social tragedy.
1881 [sensationalism, drugs, drowning]

Narrative of the pious death of the penitent Henry Mills...
1817 [biography, confession, execution sermon, child abuse, alcoholism, fiction]

Man or Monster - Merchandising Murder in the Nineteenth Century American Popular Press from the New York State Historical Association.
Direct link to the thumbnails .
[the bracketed words above are the library classifications]
Some things never change.
Addit: See also misteraitch's fascinating post on Gallows Literature.

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