Friday, May 30, 2008


Perspectiva (Lautensack) 1564 e

Perspectiva (Lautensack) 1564 j

Perspectiva (Lautensack) 1564 f

Perspectiva (Lautensack) 1564 g

Perspectiva (Lautensack) 1564 h

Perspectiva (Lautensack) 1564

Perspectiva (Lautensack) 1564 a

Perspectiva (Lautensack) 1564 b

Perspectiva (Lautensack) 1564 c

Perspectiva (Lautensack) 1564 d

Perspectiva (Lautensack) 1564 i

Perspectiva (Lautensack) 1564 k

"First edition of this rare treatise on perspective and draughtsmanship, important for its use by artists, architects, and goldsmiths. The woodcuts are all the author's original work, though he was clearly influenced by Leonardo and Dürer.

The text begins with elements of linear geometry, and moves towards more detailed presentations of two-dimensional figures and the construction of stereometrical bodies. The third part, on human proportion, owes much to Dürer's 'Vier Bucher von Menschlicher Proportion' (1525); this section also includes woodcuts illustrating the proper proportions of a horse.

Lautensack's discussion of perspective is accompanied by illustrations of basic geometrical forms, ending with a fine folding plate depicting the Emperor's Hall in the Römer, Frankfurt's city hall and the site of the coronation of the Holy Roman Emperors. An early imprint from the famous Feyerabend publishing dynasty, the author's preface indicates that the printing of this work began on July 26, 1563.

[Heinrich] Lautensack (1522-68), an artist, goldsmith, and woodblock-cutter, lived in Frankfurt am Main. He was influenced by his father, Paul, and by his brother, Hans Sebald Beham*, both skilled painters and engravers. This book is extremely scarce; few copies have survived the constant use by the artists who utilized this work for their profession." [source]

This bookseller quote (repeated at various sites) in relation to Lautensack's 1564 treatise on artistic perspective, 'Des Circkels und Richtscheyts, auch der Perspectiva und Proportion der Menscher', constitutes - as best I can tell - the major online commentary with regards Lautensack's life and career.

I have obviously lifted the above illustrations - relating to biological perspective - from the latter section of this (164pp) book. My attention was primarily drawn to the style of representation seen for example in the first image above in which the geometric shapes are substituted for the figure's body parts.

Much of Dürer's voluminous works on perspective are online (see links below) and I think I've skimmed through the bulk of the illustrations. As the quote above suggests, Lautensack had relied on Dürer as a source and indeed, quite a few of the illustration styles in Lautensack's work are very very similar, although not actually copied as far as I can tell.

But what I didn't see in Dürer's work - and this is the part that intrigues me - is this removal of the underlying body parts and their replacement with block shapes. Schematics are overlaid on bodies frequently - the perspective lines - and occasionally geometric shapes are illustrated alone or in combination, but not really in a way as to suggest an underlying bodily form. They are just piles of blocks to a viewer's first glance although, no doubt, the detailed accompanying text would assign them greater meaning.

The reason I find this intriguing, which may turn out to be just another of my random musings with no basis in reality, is that when I see a woodcut like the first image above, I'm reminded of the brilliant proto-surrealist work of Braccelli who took this body part-as-shape design to the extreme, substituting real world objects, like screws and plates and bandages, in addition to simple geometric shapes, for his 1624 album of paired fanciful figures, 'Bizzarie di Varie Figure' (linked below).

Did Lautensack's 'Perspectiva' from 1564 make it as far as Florence prior to 1624? Who knows? But it amuses me to think of Braccelli doodling at his kitchen table in a standard artistic reference book from his age and ultimately producing one of the most uniquely innovative suite of prints in the last five hundred years.

I'm not sure I want to know if I'm wrong. It's these kinds of imagined connections that make the continued quest for esoteric imagery that much more enjoyable. So, let me down gently, if at all.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Histoire des Oiseaux


vulture head


owl head

Chinese birds




Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill head









buzzard head

"François Nicolas Martinet engraved illustrations of birds for books by some of the most influential ornithologists in 18th-century France. Born in 1731, Martinet was trained as an engineer and draftsman. Engraving illustrations for books probably began as a secondary profession, but as his popularity and output grew it must have consumed the majority of his time. Martinet's son Alexandre eventually assisted him and made many engravings, as is known from signatures and dates on the prints. Martinet also had two sisters, Angélique and Marie Thérèse, who were engravers as well, but it is not known if they worked with him. Towards the end of his career, Martinet drew upon his experience in engraving birds for others to publish his own ornithology books, producing plates until his death sometime in the late 1780s or early 1790s (sources disagree on the year).

To understand the significance of François Martinet's work, it is important first to recognize the difficulties involved in producing illustrations of birds in the 18th century. This provides a foundation for viewing the development of Martinet’s bird illustrations and their contribution to works that became classics in the history of ornithology and makes possible a fuller appreciation of the beautiful hand-colored plates in Ornithologie, the folio reproduced in this digital edition."

The detailed historical and bibliographic article about Martinet's legacy (by Leslie K. Overstreet and Kathryn E. Zaharek) provides an overview and introduction to a marvellous (and old) website from the Smithsonian Institution: 'Ornithologie by François Nicolas Martinet'.

The above images (extensively background cleaned) are a small selection from the more than one hundred and seventy plates available in large size format at the Smithsonian site. I'm fairly sure I've posted a couple of them before from their original publications - under a different author - but I can't seem to locate them. At least my tastes are consistent.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Multiplicity in Time and Space

Fishes of Ceylon 1834 a

Fishes of Ceylon 1834

Fishes of Ceylon 1834 b

These stunning hand-coloured engravings of exotic fish from Sri Lanka (extracted from a .pdf) are from:
'A Selection from the most Remarkable and Interesting of the Fishes Found on the Coast of Ceylon from Drawings made in the Southern Part of that Island from the Living Specimens by John Whitchurch Bennett, 2nd Ed. 1834'.
The work contains thirty illustrations in total and the Harvard University edition is available at the Internet Archive. (See related: html version of Tennant's 'Natural History of Ceylon' from 1861 - alas, the images are photocopy quality)


'An Account of Indian Serpents, collected on the Coast of Coromandel' by Patrick Russell, 1796. Russell was the botanist to the East India Company in Madras (Chennai). This is apparently the first book devoted to Indian snakes. The image, spliced together from screencaps, comes from somewhere in the Books, Manuscripts & Maps category at Christies (inadvertently following from a comment by Michael some weeks ago).

All the World Going to See the Great Exhibition of 1851

'All the World Going to See the Great Exhibition of 1851' by George Cruikshank.
"This image first appeared in Henry Mayhew’s 1851 or The Adventures of Mr. and Mrs. Sandboys and Family, Who Came Up to London to ‘Enjoy Themselves,’ and to See the Great Exhibition (London: David Bogue, [1851])."
[image and quote from this entry - where there is more info. - at one of my favourite sites: Princeton Graphic Arts Blog.]

satirical cartoon - London in 1851

'London in 1851' by George Cruikshank.
View from the Circus looking up Piccadilly - Proof for an illustration to be included in: '1851, or, The Adventures of Mr and Mrs Sandboys' by Henry Mayhew (from the British Museum Prints Database)

Overland Journey to the Great Exhibition (composite)

Overland Journey to the Great Exhibition

'An Overland Journey to the Great Exhibition. Showing a Few Extra Articles & Visitors' by (at one time) Punch Magazine illustrator, Richard Doyle. The book contains no text and the satirical parade of humans and animals on their way to Crystal Palace measured nine feet in length when all of the illustrations were joined together. The composite image is from PBA Galleries and the second illustration comes from the Great Exhibition Humorous Asides page at Kansas University's Spencer Library.

'The Arts and Manufactures of Ireland'

'The Arts and Manufactures of Ireland'
One of several designs for political caricatures on the Great Exhibition of 1851 drawn by George Augustus Sala (from the British Museum Prints Database)

Th' Greyt Eggshibishun

'O Ful, Tru, un Pertikler Okeaawnt o bwoth wat aw seed un wat aw yerd, we gooin too Th' Greyt Eggshibishun, e Lundun, an a greyt deyle of Hinfurmashun besoide'
by Oliver Ormerod (penned under his Rochdale, Lancashire pseudonym, Felley from Rachde).
"The title of the book (translated from the Rochdalian) is "A full, true and particular account of both what I saw and what I heard when going to the Great Exhibition, in London, and a great deal of information besides." (image and quote also from Kansas U.)

editorial cartoon: Britannia's Great Party - Punch on the Prince Consort and the Exhibition 1851

'Britannia's Great Party'
Punch Magazine on the Prince Consort and the Exhibition of 1851 (from Victorian Web) [See also: Punch Magazine illustrations by John Leech: Memorials of the Great Exhibition]

The prompt that made me look around for some satirical prints on the Great Exhibition of 1851 was receiving a (requested) copy of the catalogue (available online) from Melbourne's Monash University Library exhibition (until August 31) - Fifty Books for Fifty Years. "This is an exhibition of fifty books chosen by Monash academics and researchers.[..] The fifty participants have chosen items they have consulted in the course of their work. The result is a fascinating variety of books, many of which have never been displayed." If not for the thousand-or-so kilometres, I would definitely go.

Cover of Meanjin 1949 - Australia

cover of Meanjin Literary Magazine 1965

Speaking of Melbourne, Sophie Cunningham is a publisher, journalist, writer and current editor of Meanjin, an Australian literary and culture magazine established more than sixty years ago. Sophie has posted a set of photographs of Meanjin covers to Flickr. Both the stylised Aboriginal figure in ceremonial* attire and emu head cover illustrations above remain under copyright and have been posted here with permission.

Harp and Pneumatic Organ


These engravings come from the first of Johann Forkel's ambitious 2-volume work, 'Allgemeine Geschichte der Musik' (General History of Music) [1788-1801]. These, together with a couple more similarly interesting illustrations can be found on the last pages of Tome I at the Universities of Strasbourg Digital Library (very little of visual interest in Tome 2). I presume the schematic in the first illustration above is a pedal control unit for a pneumatic organ. It's too early for steam. Forkel was a biographer of Bach and is often regarded as the founder of modern musicology. He was never able to complete the planned third volume in the series so this first German attempt at documenting the history of music stops at the beginning of the 16th century. (See: i, ii, iii)

Zincgref, Julius Wilhelm - Facetiae Pennalium 1622 (HAB)

Titlepage from 'Facetiae Pennalium', 1622, by Julius Zincgref from HAB. I know nothing about this book although I suspect it is philosophical in nature. Somewhere around I have a couple of links to emblemata books by him which might materialise here in the future.

Een Gesigt van de Zuyker mool te Pasoeroeang met het Gebergte Artjoeno

'Een Gesigt van de Zuyker mool te Pasoeroeang met het Gebergte Artjoeno'

De Tempel van Madjanpoeti van Binnen te Zien

'De Tempel van Madjanpoeti van Binnen te Zien'

De Berg Mirabie bij Banjoewangi

'De Berg Mirabie bij Banjoewangi'

Batavia 1656

Batavia 1656

Despite the terrible rendering of online translation of Dutch, I'm fairly confident all four images above relate to the Java region of Indonesia and are all* the first three are approximately from the second half of the 17th 18th century [*see the comments at the end of the post]. They are spliced screencaps from a new cartographic database of several hundred images relating to the Dutch East India Company (VOC). The collection consists mostly of maps (of course) - many fort outlines and lots of interesting and artistic map sketches - but there are the occasional scenic watercolour pictures as well. The material is hosted by the Image Bank at the National Archives of Holland, accessible from the advanced search page. From the 'Collectie/Archief' drop down menu, select 'Kaarten van de VOC', change the number of thumbnails you want to display per page down the bottom and then hit 'zoek'. It's all easy. [via/via]

D'Haazendans 1868

'D'Haazendans' engraved by FW Zürcher, 1868.
Spliced from screencaps [Dutch National Archives Image Bank]

De Muizenvreugd

'De Muizenvreugd' engraved by FW Zürcher, 1868.
The Joy of Mice spliced from screencaps [Dutch National Archive Image Bank]

World map from 1300 - Monialium Ebstorfensium Mappamundi

'Monialium Ebstorfensium Mappamundi'
This chromolithograph world map [spliced together from two sections] was made by Konrad Miller in 1896 and is a reproduction of a mappamundi produced in Hanover (I think) in 1300. Although the largest version doesn't quite magnify all the details, it nevertheless remains an interesting map. Note that Christ's head, hands and feet mark the vertical and horizontal axes. The digital version is hosted by MDZ.

Now, as I'm posting this entry, I've found a decent write up at the Henry Davis site. They advise that the map - the German equivalent of the 'Hereford Mappamundi' - is known as the 'Ebstorf Mappamundi' (image) and was produced in 1234 by Gervase of Tilbury.

Kermis of geen Kermis

'Kermis of geen Kermis?'
[I think: Village Fair or Not?]
This lithograph, with it's unusual scalloped vignettes, was produced by Joseph Vürtheim sometime between 1843 and 1875. The print imagery seems to imply that village fair recreation will lead to death and despair. The image was spliced from screencaps from the Amsterdam Archive Image Bank.

 squid from Bible der Natur by Jan Swammerdam

mosquito from Bible der Natur by Jan Swammerdam

These fabulous squid and mosquito engravings come from Jan Swammerdam's classic 'Bibel der Natur' (1752). The whole book is (finally!) online at Berlin's Humboldt University E-Doc server. (note the thumbnail link top left; the text may be photocopy quality but the engravings are great: 'Höhere Auflösung'=high resolution)

The Dutch microscopist, Jan Swammerdam, conducted groundbreaking research into the development of insects and made significant contributions to human anatomy and scientific methodology. (see: i, ii, iii)

Mathesis Caesarea - Albert von Curtz 1662 (HAB) c

Mathesis Caesarea (composite)

Mathesis Caesarea - Curtz/Schott 1662 (HAB)

I jagged these odd engravings from 'Mathesis Caesarea' (1662) just because the idea of adding putti (cupids) to an otherwise rather dry reworking of Albert von Curtz's 'Amussis Fernandea' by Gaspar Schott (the book being about mathematics, geometry and military architecture) seems amusingly incongruous. The book is online at HAB. [Schott was assistant to Athanasius Kircher] See: Polybiblio.

Flora of the Cashmere - Gossypium herbaceum + G. arboreum

Gossypium herbaceum and Gossypium arboreum

Flora of Cashmere - Rheum Webbianum + Balanophora dioica

Rheum webbianum and Balanophora dioica

These plates (extracted from a .pdf) come from the beautiful book, 'Illustrations of the Botany and other Branches of the Natural History of the Himalayan Mountains and of the Flora of Cashmere' by J. Forbes Royle, 1839. The book was digitised by Missouri Botanical Gardens and is available through the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Allegorie op de vrede (Allegory of Peace)

Allegorie op de vrede (Allegory of Peace) (detail)

'Allegorie op de Vrede' (Allegory of Peace) is by A. Zürcher 1814 (not sure if there's any relationship to the engraver of the rabbits and mice satires up above). The main image is fairly small but I managed to cobble together a fair sized detail of the spectacular ornamental typography from screen caps. This image comes from the Amsterdam Archive Image Bank and is definitely worth seeing in high resolution snippets within the constraints of the flash magnification box at the site.

anthropomorphic Polish satire

'Zoilus' by Cyprian Norwid (search on his name at the Polish Digital Library - they have a large number of his works. As previously noted, Matt from Rashomon made a beautiful five minute collage-film from a range of Norwid prints)

Many, but not all, of the above images have been spot or background cleaned as the mood took me. As usual, click through the images to flickr and then click 'All Sizes' for larger format versions.

The title of this entry - Multiplicity in Time and Space - was a phrase I first heard used years ago by a physician describing the unique profile of symptoms associated with Multiple Sclerosis (the syndrome erratically affects various parts of the body for varying amounts of time).

There is no intended reference here to MS at all, but I've always thought it was an elegant turn of phrase and adequately describes the eclectic array of images above: produced by many people at different times in history and obtained from a range of sources. It was also the first thing that came into my head today when I was trying to summons forth a title.

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