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The Curious Case of the "Livre des Sauvages"
July 28, 2011 8:33 AM   Subscribe

Circa 1850. A curious document that had been filed away in a box for over a century. Hundreds of pages of strange, crudely drawn figures, resembling stick figures, many of them appearing to be urinating, copulating, whipping each other, and displaying enormously swollen genitals. An extremely important document that revealed much that was previously unknown about Native American history and culture?? The scribbling book of a German child, "the leisure pencillings of a nasty-minded little boy"?? We may never know.

In 1860, French abbé, missionary and author Emmanuel Domenech published a curious book of pictograms brought to him by a librarian at the Bibliotheque de l'Arsenal in Paris. Domenech came to believe it was an extremely important document that revealed much that was previously unknown about Native American history and culture (he had been posted in Texas and had traveled through Mexico). Others disagreed, saying it was "the leisure pencillings of a nasty-minded little boy."

To me, the images look more consistent and symbolic than what a child could produce. Perhaps a documentation of daily events by an illiterate adult?
posted by ecorrocio (44 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite

 
rule 34 on the Voynich Manuscript
posted by LogicalDash at 8:36 AM on July 28, 2011 [16 favorites]


the more things change, the more they stay the same?
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 8:38 AM on July 28, 2011


Half the Voynich Manuscript already is rule 34.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:39 AM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wurszd. Manuscript. Ever.
posted by everichon at 8:43 AM on July 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


A playbook for some strange sport.
posted by stinkycheese at 8:44 AM on July 28, 2011


Hilarious example of the problem of history in general. You can't get out much more than you brought in.
posted by DU at 8:47 AM on July 28, 2011


BUTTS LOL
posted by stinkycheese at 8:48 AM on July 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


How to prove, once and for all, that the document is a series of doodles: Look through it for that pointy S that people used to draw in their notebooks in elementary school.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 8:49 AM on July 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


I keep expecting to see the Human Centipede drawing as I click through these. (I won't, will I?)
posted by Gator at 8:51 AM on July 28, 2011


I really like the graphic style of these, but I did notice this:

Livre des Sauvages image

Cyanide and Happiness image
posted by benito.strauss at 8:51 AM on July 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's gotta be a joke. Whoever did it even wrote "lol" on everything.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:53 AM on July 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Cutest. Crucifixion. EVAR.

"Dudes! Don't leave me hangin'!"
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:54 AM on July 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


4chan 0.1
posted by CynicalKnight at 8:56 AM on July 28, 2011


This is the most elaborate game of Hangman I have ever seen.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:57 AM on July 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Well, Mr. Holmes, what do you make of these?" he cried. "They told me that you were fond of queer mysteries, and I don't think you can find a queerer one than that. I sent the paper on ahead, so that you might have time to study it before I came."
- Doyle, Arthur Conan. "The Adventure of the Masturbating Men"
posted by pracowity at 8:58 AM on July 28, 2011 [14 favorites]


Great story, and the drawings are also fantastic.

I have often thought that the 'fertility goddess' explanation for a lot of old pornographic images and sculptures is bullshit, anyway. Porn is porn, and I imagine people used it for the same reasons 10,000 years ago that they use it today.
posted by empath at 8:59 AM on July 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


The odd thing is that these aren't crude. The figures are roughly the same size, the shapes are smooth and not the drawing of a child (source, found randomly on Google image search). They're drawn by a practiced hand, young or old.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:00 AM on July 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


They even have the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:01 AM on July 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


You guys, you can download the original from Google Books! It's in French, but still!
posted by Gator at 9:07 AM on July 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


I misread the title as the "Livre des Saucisses", and it seems I wasn't far wrong.
posted by scruss at 9:11 AM on July 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oho!
posted by everichon at 9:15 AM on July 28, 2011


Even if Domenech couldn't read German, those "alphabetic symbols" clearly belong to the Roman alphabet. Was he perhaps entirely illiterate?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:29 AM on July 28, 2011


I'm pretty certain these are the U of Mich. football playbook diagrams from last year. The guy holding the rod is, of course, Rich Rod.
posted by tomswift at 9:30 AM on July 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


What, there were no nasty-minded little girls back then? Shame.
posted by LordSludge at 9:31 AM on July 28, 2011


And using the "plain text" feature of Google Books, one can copy and paste Domenech's text over to Google Translate for further entertainment.
posted by Gator at 9:32 AM on July 28, 2011


The nasty-minded little girls of yester-year did not leave evidence.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:40 AM on July 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


The sexual images aside (if you can), there are certainly some curious things going on. Conflict for sure. Who knows on this one. This one's pretty funky... a snake in the playground? This guy seems to be carrying an assault rifle.
posted by ecorrocio at 9:48 AM on July 28, 2011


Considering some of the doodles I make during boring meetings, I think this is in much of a kindred spirit. The text at the top probably reads "blah blah think outside the box blah" and the stuff lower down is "die die die die die." Plus a little smiley face. Or maybe I have revealed too much of my own psyche....
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:21 AM on July 28, 2011


The nasty-minded little girls of yester-year did not leave evidence.

Interesting that people assume this was drawn by a male.
posted by odinsdream at 10:21 AM on July 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


I know this will be my fate. I will be sent back in time to some fantastic and interesting era, and I still won't be able to draw. People will look at my drawings of, say, the Battle of Artemisium, and say "tee hee look at all the willies."
posted by chavenet at 10:30 AM on July 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Now here, I couldn't finish Lee's cock on the front so I put it on the back"
posted by nathancaswell at 10:55 AM on July 28, 2011


I was looking at these and thinking, these look kind of familiar... and then it hit me. This one in particular reminded me of Beanworld.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 11:25 AM on July 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


fuzzy monster : Pod’lPool Cuties, the Chowdown Pool, Notworms, something vaguely like Beanish... wow, i am 100% on board with your analysis.
posted by radiosilents at 11:51 AM on July 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


The cake is a lie.
posted by Nixy at 12:02 PM on July 28, 2011


The odd thing is that these aren't crude.

I was just going to remark on this. If you flip through the Wikimedia link and look at the pages, there really does seem to be some careful diligence to these drawings. Even the little symbols seem to follow a pattern. I don't think these were a child's drawings. And if they were, I really hope he grew up to become a high priest in the Golden Dawn.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:29 PM on July 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's gotta be a joke. Whoever did it even wrote "lol" on everything.

That's not "lol," those are obviously TIE Fighters, duh.
posted by jbickers at 12:32 PM on July 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


I totally misread this as "Book of Sausages" at first because you know, penises, look like..so anyway, it's SAVAGES.
posted by pointystick at 12:51 PM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hee hee, evidenceofabsence, I am wearing a shirt I painted back in high school (mid-nineties, in case you wondered), and there is a pointy S on my person *right now*. I had no idea it was a Thing. If it helps, the shirt I am wearing is also in mirror-writing. (It always takes me aback for a moment when I look in a mirror and it's right-way-round.)

OH yes I was One Of Those Kids.
posted by Because at 2:50 PM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


In other news, I read a small fragment of the Codex Seraphinianus (it's on archive.org!) has been cracked! A chain of clues through the book (encoded ISBN numbers, etc) led to a paper-folding exercise on one page that revealed a line of French literature.

Unfortunately, the page on which I read this was in French, and my google-fu fails me now.
posted by Devonian at 3:06 PM on July 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Way more interesting than Linear B.
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:53 PM on July 28, 2011


Is it just me, or are these "sauvages" clearly holding sabers?
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Livre_des_sauvages_p123.jpg
posted by czyz at 5:14 PM on July 28, 2011


Yes, definitely. I'm really surprised that these would be interpreted as native American... they look like they have lots of Christian and military details.

In this one, for example, the Holy knight (helmet, shield) is telling the other guy to get his own fucking blog.
posted by taz at 8:44 PM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


strangely compelled to guess - 1850's researchers notebook of cave drawings - to study later . . .
posted by epjr at 11:48 PM on July 28, 2011


Wow. The drawings that look like TIE-fighters and two people standing in a closet are clearly an alphabet of some kind. I'm actually kind of shocked that the Internet Puzle Squad hasn't sat down and cracked it yet.
My guess is it's some kind of medical text explaining how is babby formed and other mysteries.
posted by bleep at 12:24 AM on July 29, 2011


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