Saturday, October 21, 2006

Felix and Friends

Pugachevsky bookplate

Pugachevsky bookplate a

Pugachevsky bookplate b

Pugachevsky bookplate c

Pugachevsky bookplate d

The Pugachevsky Brothers traverse the gamut of styles and inspirations
in an extensive portfolio of bookplates, among their other artistic endeavours.

Tibet Anatomy gouache on paper 20th century
'Anatomy: the front of a male body showing the bones and organs'
Tibet - 20th century Thangka. Gouache on paper.
at 'Treasures from Tibetan Monasteries' via Plep.

Ritthaler coat of arms

Ritthaler coat of arms 1

Stammbuch painting

liber amicorum painting

I don't go out of my way looking for Friend's Books/Liber Amicorum - or in
this case, a german Stammbuch - but I do find them quite intriguing. This is
the Stammbuch of Michael Ritthaler and was compiled between 1675 and
1681 while he was at school and/or University. The majority of entries in this
454 page book at Wolfenbüttel Digitalen Bibliothek
are written tributes or
wishes in latin, with occasional german, hebrew and greek. Just a little more
artistic than: "stinky was here". [note the thumbnail menu in the sidebar]

Atelier Populaire
Atelier Populaire

Futura Broadsheet
Examples from the Futura Broadsheet (late 60s)

John Armleder - supernova
John Armleder: 'Supernova' 1973. lithograph

Edouardo Paolozzi
by Eduardo Paulozzi

The Museum of Modern Art have a new exhibition -
'Eye on Europe: Prints, Books & Multiples/1960 to Now'

(until January 2007) - with an extensive flash website featuring
everything from concrete poetry and artbooks to screenprints and
object art pieces to a sausage book. In other words, the often emotive
and occasionally mystifying world of contemporary art but with a
focus on prints. It's a worthwhile timesink, I promise.

Niebuhr Medina Mosque

Niebuhr - arabic script

Niebuhr dressed as Arabian local

Niebuhr - collection of Arabian shoes

Niebuhr - Yemen horseback fighting

The 6 year expedition to Egypt and Yemen (among other places) funded by the King of Denmark in 1761 was the stuff of romantic legend. Filled with death, womanising and general intrigue, Carsten Niebuhr - the only survivor - recorded a dispassionate account of the journey in 'Beschreibung von Arabien' (the first of 4 volumes) in 1772 - something of an historical classic in terms of educating Europe about the Middle East.

The whole book is online at the University of Göttingen but the illustration quality is mediocre for the mostpart (one or two of the above illustrations come from a now forgotten elsewhere). I've had these above examples uploaded for weeks and had considered flushing them altogether, but although the original book may sound a little disappointing, I remain intrigued by the story. This interesting review by Daniel Martin Varisco about a reprint of Niebuhr's work refers to Thorkild Hansen's 1964 publication, 'Arabia Felix. The Danish expedition of 1761-1767', which I wouldn't mind reading.

Surat - bird and squid - Swedish East India Company

Surat - drawing of mosque - Swedish East India Company

Surat - drawing of semicircular island - Swedish East India Company

Swedish East India Company - sketch at Surat

Swedish East India Company - sketch of squid and bat at Surat

Sketch of jungle at Surat - Swedish East India Company

Surat Mosque - Swedish East India Company

As with the previous set of images on 'Arabia Felix', I was debating whether
I should delete these 18th century journal sketches. But sometimes I'm persuaded
both by the timesink that goes into finding them in addition to their general rarity.
These images pertain to Surat in Gujarat in western India and come from what
(I guess) was the official ledger for the Swedish East India company. Although they
were primarily based in Canton in China, a company office was operating in Surat
during the whole time period (1731-1813) the Swedish East India Company was in
existence - or at least, I saw dates in this present journal covering that whole period.

The company was founded on the back of the successes of the British and Dutch
East India companies but there was no colonialist role in the case of Sweden.
A large database of digitized primary source documents are held in the company's
founding city - at Göteborg University Library in Sweden
. From memory I found
the above journal ('Beskrifning Pa SkeppetGothaLeijons Resa Till Surat Och Atsillige AndreIndienOrster') by using something in the properties or URL of the picture on the first page of the site. The main starter pages of the site are in english but that doesn't help much with searching. All the documents are in DjVu format necessitating a special browser plugin. It is mostly because of the format (plus age plus the original digital processing) changes from DjVu to jpg that the image quality deteriorates. A bit more about the project/company here (.pdf)

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Charles Darwin Repository

Mus longicauldatus Mus gracilipes

Phyllostoma Grayi

Upercerthia dumetaria

Mole Palace and Cathedral, Rio De Janeiro

Craxirex galapagoensis

Desmodus D'Orbignyi

Geological observations on the volcanic islands and parts of South America visited during the voyage of H.M.S Beagle

Living Cirripedia, A monograph on the sub-class Cirripedia, with figures of all the species

Bones of the Right Foot, Macrauchenia

Amblyrynchus Demarlii

mammal fossils

mammalian skeletal sketches

Pristipoma Cantharinium

It is remarkable just how often I take the difficult path when I dive into a new site. I went through systematically opening all of the books, manuscripts, pamphlets &c available at The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online, assiduously looking down page lists for illustrations and jagging random images that are posted above.

Subsequently I find that there is a much, much easier way to view the myriad illustrations available - near the bottom of this page, 'The Major Works of Charles Darwin'.

Press Release: "The largest collection of Darwin's writings ever published will appear on the website The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online ( on 19 October 2006. Never before has so much Darwin material, and so many rare and widely dispersed items, been brought together in one place and made available free of charge. This site currently offers more than 50,000 pages of searchable text and 40,000 images of both publications and transcribed manuscripts. Most of the materials are available both as fully formatted electronic text and colour images of the originals. Darwin's works are also available as free machine-read audio mp3 files. The project, designed and directed by Dr John van Wyhe of Christ's College, Cambridge, is hosted by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities at the University of Cambridge. The launch marks the end of the first year of the three-year's funding awarded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The website also includes the largest Darwin bibliography ever produced, based on the work of R. B. Freeman, and the largest catalogue of manuscripts (with over 30,000 entries) ever published. More than 150 supplementary documents are also provided, from secondary reference works to contemporary reviews, obituaries, published descriptions of Darwin's Beagle specimens and important related works for studying and understanding Darwin and his work. Each work containing illustrations or maps is provided with an overview page of thumbnail images allowing readers to see in seconds all the illustrations which are scattered throughout hundreds of pages. The thumbnails take readers directly to the larger version of the image in its context within the original work.

Most of the materials provided are appearing online for the first time such as the first edition of the Journal of Researches (1839) (or Voyage of the Beagle), The descent of Man (1871), The Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle (1838-43) and the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th editions of the Origin of species. There are also many newly transcribed and never before published manuscripts such as Darwin's Beagle field notebooks. One of these, the notebook in which Darwin recorded his immediate thoughts on the Galapagos, was stolen in the early 1980s and is still missing, but the text has been transcribed from microfilm. The many contributors and benefactors who have kindly helped to create this milestone in Darwin studies can be found on the website's acknowledgements.

As vast as the collection now is, there is much still to come. The site currently contains about 50% of the materials that will be provided by 2009, the bicentenary of Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Origin of species. Forthcoming materials include further editions and translations, images of the majority of the Darwin Archive at Cambridge University Library, more editorial introductions, notes, transcriptions and technical facilities for printing and larger images. New content is continually being added."

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Transporting the Vatican Obelisk

Eight suggested methods for raising the obelisk

'Eight suggested methods for raising the obelisk'

Descrittione della forma del castello fatto
'Descrittione della forma del castello fatto per alzare la guglia'

La pianta, e compartimento di tutti gli argani
'La pianta, e compartimento di tutti gli argani
con tutte le preparationi fatte per calar la guglia'

La gvglia dentro al castello
'La gvglia dentro al castello, nel modo che stava mentre calaua à basso'

La gvglia per la punta
'La gvglia per la punta, subito che fu colcata sopra lo
strascino, con tvtte le corde, che la sostentavano dentro al
castello fermato con ventole da tramontana, e ostro.'

La pianta, e compartimento di tutti gli argani
'La pianta, e compartimento di tutti gli argani con tutte le
preparationi fatte per calar la gvglia, come s'è detto di sopra'

Douendosi condur la guglia da questo lugo
'Douendosi condur la guglia da questo lugo, sino su a la piazza
San Pietro per distanza di canne cento quindici, e iui drizzarla..'

Monte armato a torno il castello
'Monte armato a torno il castello, che gli sorgeva sopra per drizzar la guglia..'

Tre guglie in piedi per poter mostrare
'Tre guglie in piedi per poter mostrare in vna vista
l'attaccatura delle traglie in tutte tre le facie sudette'

Il castello aperto in faccia
'Il castello aperto in faccia, con la pvnta della gvglia
tiratavi dentro, e i canapi, che la sostentauano.'

Della trasportatione dell'obelisco vaticano
'Della trasportatione dell'obelisco vaticano et delle
fabriche di nostro signore papa Sisto V fatte dal cavallier
Domenico Fontana, architetto di Sva Santita, libro primo.'

Guglia con i suoi adornamenti posta nel mezo della piazza
Guglia con i suoi adornamenti posta nel mezo della piazza;
Fabrica della chiesa di San Pietro nel modo, che starà, quando sarà finita..'

Il palazzo fatto nella vigna di nostro signore mentre era cardinale
'Il palazzo fatto nella vigna di nostro signore mentre era cardinale.'

La Capella del Presepio
'La Capella del Presepio.'

Il grand'obelisco di Costantio a S. Giouanni Laterano
'Il grand'obelisco di Costantio a S. Giouanni Laterano.'

La gvglia della Madonna del Populo
'La gvglia della Madonna del Populo - faccia uerso tramontana,
faccia uerso oriente, faccia uerso mezzogiorno, faccia uerso occidente;
Colonna Antonnia ; Colonna Traiana'

del tabernacolo di metallo
'Questo è il disegno del tabernacolo di metallo dorato à fuoco
per il Santissimo Sacramento collocato su l'altare posto sopra
il Presepio di Christo nostro nella capella di N.'

An 83 feet tall, 320 ton granite obelisk was brought by Caligula from Alexandria in Egypt to Rome aboard the largest ship ever built in ~37AD. It is reported that the ship - a barge - was later sunk on purpose to provide a foundation for a quay in the port of Ostia.

The obelisk - which folklore alleges contained the ashes of Julius Caesar in its metal crowning orb - was somehow erected by Caligula in the famed Circus Maximus.

During the renaissance, long after the Circus Maximus arena had disappeared, the monumental St Peters Basilica construction project, headed by Michelangelo and Giacomo Della Porta, was undertaken at the direction of a number of Popes. The idea of moving the obelisk a quarter of a mile to a place in front of the basilica was raised on several occasions but even Michelangelo declined to believe it was feasible.

Pope Sixtus V was insistent however, and in 1585 invited engineering proposals for carrying out the move. He was apparently persuaded to accept the submission of Domenico Fontana (one of the architectural engineers working under Della Porta) when a model of the engineering system allowed Sixtus to turn winches and successfully move the miniature version of the obelisk himself.

Fontana's project didn't introduce any new engineering techniques but the size and nature of the problem ensured it would be remembered as one of the most amazing technological feats of the 16th century. Reports vary but it seems the move took around 12 months in total to complete; half of the time being spent on scaffold construction and clearing buildings from the area. "The scaffold was operated with tuned precision by 900 men and 74 horses, harmoniously arranged amidst a myriad of pulleys, levers, and capstans".

The obelisk was exorcised, the (ashless, as Fontana advises) orb was replaced by a christian cross and it was erected at its present location on September 14, 1586 before a large crowd who were silenced by the Swiss guard.

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