"Anthropodermic bibliopegy, or books bound in human skin," writes Megan Rosenbloom in Lapham's Quarterly, "are some of the most mysterious and misunderstood books in the world’s libraries and museums. The historical reasons behind their creation vary [...] The best evidence most of these alleged skin books have ever had were rumors and perhaps a pencil-written note inside that said 'bound in human skin'...until now." Anthropodermic biblipegy on Metafilter previously and previously. Warning: links may contain details disturbing for some. [more inside]
Wunderkammer is a collection of high resolution images from old books in the Hagströmer Medical Library. Some of my favorites are sea anemones, nerve cells, rooster chasing off a monster, 16th Century eye surgery, muscles and bones of the hand and arm, elephant-headed humanoid and cupping. It can also be browsed by tag, broken up into subject (e.g. beast), emotion (e.g. strange), technique (e.g. chromolithography) and era (e.g. 18th Century). Once you've exhausted the pleasures of the Wunderkammer, venture into the Bibliotheca Systema Naturae, with scans from more books in the Hagströmer Medical Library, such as portraits of patients and Goethe's theory of optics.
The New York Society Library maintains an elegant online database of its circulation records from 1789 to 1805, a period that includes its stint as the first library of the United States Congress. To help you get a handle on the data trove (assembled from 100,000 records tracking every book that every patron checked out), the Library offers visualization tools and two curated lists of interesting readers: 57 representative women and 40 Founding Fathers.
‘For over two millennia,’ Ian Johnson writes, ‘all our knowledge of China’s great philosophical schools was limited to texts revised after the Qin unification.’ Now a trove of recently discovered ancient documents, written on strips of bamboo, ‘is helping to reshape our understanding of China’s contentious past.’ [more inside]
Why do male authors and subjects dominate history books? Digging into bestselling history books in the United States. (SLS) [more inside]
The Macabre Practice of Binding Books in Human Skin: Whether a reminder of mortality, a strange souvenir, or a punishment for a crime, the impetuses behind anthropodermic bibliopegy are as varied as the lives of their skin donors.
In preparation for the upcoming exhibition Scholar, courtier, magician: The lost library of John Dee at the Royal College of Physicians (January 2016), the RCP museum's twitter has posted some gifs showing details from some of the books that will be on display for the first time. [more inside]
On the Nature of Things Humanity Was Not Meant to Know: Cosma Shalizi considers Lucretius' De Rerum Natura ('On the Nature of Things') as a "real-life Necronomicon, a book full of things humanity was not meant to know."
The Internet History Sourcebooks Project is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted historical texts presented cleanly (without advertising or excessive layout) for educational use. The main sourcebooks cover ancient, medieval, and modern history. Subsidiary sourcebooks cover African, East Asian, Global, Indian, Islamic, Jewish, Lesbian and Gay, Science, and Women's history.
"HH [Henry Hauser]: Ryan and Nina are right on target. The Ray-Dave sibling rivalry sparked many of The Kinks' most spontaneous (and brilliant) musical moments. The Storyteller, Ray's riveting account of early life in the Davies household and his band’s rise to prominence, has him describing how he and Dave exchanged scornful looks while recording "You Really Got Me". The elder Davies swears that if you listen closely, you can actually hear Dave yelling "Fuckkkoffff" right before his guitar solo. Ray salvaged the track by covering up Dave's profane exclamation with his own unscripted outburst ("Owwwww noooooo!"), and the impromptu rock scream turned into one of the most memorable quirks in Kinks history. It perfectly captures the animalistic agony that accompanies hopeless infatuation. Without the Ray-Dave rivalry, it would never have happened."
Henry Hauser, Ryan Bray, Nina Corcoran, and Stevie Dunbar at Consequence of Sound hold a round-table discussion in "Dusting 'Em Off: The Kinks – The Kinks". [more inside]
Henry Hauser, Ryan Bray, Nina Corcoran, and Stevie Dunbar at Consequence of Sound hold a round-table discussion in "Dusting 'Em Off: The Kinks – The Kinks". [more inside]
Abdel Kader Haidara awarded Germany's 2014 Africa Prize for rescuing Timbuktu manuscripts. Under his direction centuries' worth of texts were smuggled out when the city was taken by book-burning religious conservatives in 2012. The collection is currently in Mali's capital Bamako where it is being preserved and digitized. More text, slideshow, video, previously previously previously [more inside]
The New York Review of Books recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of its founding (previously), growing out of an alliance between Harpers editor Robert Silvers and writer Elizabeth Hardwick to find a place for what she called "the unusual, the difficult, the lengthy, the intransigent, and above all, the interesting." Known as the New York Review or the NYRB, it is also known to fans as the best magazine in the world. Next Monday, HBO will air The 50-Year Argument, a documentary by Martin Scorsese about the history of the magazine and what makes it special. [more inside]
If you have a good cat and you don't want to lose it, you must rub its nose and four legs with butter for three days, and it will never leave the house. [more inside]
This fall, the South Dakota Historical Society Press will publish Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder - apparently full of "not-safe-for-children tales includ[ing] stark scenes of domestic abuse, love triangles gone awry and a man who lit himself on fire while drunk off whiskey" (or, more academically put, "full of the everyday sorts of things that we don't care to think about when we think about history"). They've been blogging the process of research, annotation, and publication at The Pioneer Girl Project, as well as stories about crabs, a new letter from Pa, really useful books, as well as photos and a series of interviews with the researchers involved via.
Animal Land where there are no people was a children's book released in 1897, written by Sybil Corbet, who was four years old, and illustrated by her mother, Katharine Corbet. "Animal Land where there are no People is quite near, only you can't see it... They live by the North Pole and in the leafy places near. It is always light there, always day, they climb the poles and always play." [more inside]
Without You I'm Nothing: The Believer looks at the memoirs of the wives and girlfriends of rock stars.
Bonfire of the Humanities. "Nobody goes to Timbuktu, right? Patrick Symmes did, to discover what happened when jihadi rebels set out to burn one of the world’s finest collections of ancient manuscripts. Bouncing around by truck, boat, and boots, he got an intimate look at West Africa’s most mythic locale." [Via] [more inside]
Visiting the Big Apple? "Don't ask a pedestrian where a certain street is. He is usually too busy to stop, and if polite enough to stop, won't know. No New Yorker knows anything about New York." And another kind reminder: "Don't gape at women smoking cigarettes in restaurants. They are harmless and respectable, notwithstanding and nevertheless. They are also smart." Advice from Valentine’s City of New York: A Guide Book, published in 1920. [more inside]
"....many a tragic episode in family life is superinduced by the baleful influence of a tortured stomach. Mighty is the hand that holds the ballot-box, but mightier is the hand that wields to advantage the pepper-box, the salt-spoon, and the sugar-shaker." read the entirely of Maud C. Cooke's, Breakfast, Dinner and Supper; or, What To Eat and How To Prepare It (1897) online and enter a world of home remedies, large scale recipes, sound advice, leftover wizardry, squirrel stews, scientific digestion, and horrible things done to vegetables.
Welcome to a tumblr of wonders. Special Collections, archives, and libraries have many wonderful items, but getting to them all can be a bit like trying to walk into Mordor, unless you have unlimited time and grants. But now, thanks to Tumblr, you too can explore collections around the world, and one of the best comes to us from the University of Iowa. Want a Hamlet quote on a miniature book that unfolds into a tiny Globe Theatre? Of course you do. Actual flying squirrels? Adventure with Alice! Get close to illuminations? Catch a glimpse of hipster frames circa 1504? More awesome librar* tumblrs inside. [more inside]
The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim offer 474 free art books online. 99 art catalogs from the Guggenheim. 375 MetPublications. An example: Masterpieces of Painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art [more inside]
A wonderful, generous and free selection of authors, collections and books online at Lit2Go for awake times or drowsy ones. The Count of Monte Cristo from the Adventure collection | or perhaps a Just So Story from the Fantasy collection | Beowolf from the Here Be Dragons! collection | Aladdin from Andrew Lang's Fairy Books of Many Colors or The Heart of Happy Hollow from the African American collection. Also practical for children. Previously. [more inside]
The American Historical Association just released a statement that "strongly encourages graduate programs and university libraries to adopt a policy that allows the embargoing of completed history PhD dissertations in digital form for as many as six years." The statement is aimed at publishers who are disinclined to consider books based on dissertations that have been made freely available in open access databases. Some responses cite a 2011 survey, "Do Open Access Electronic Theses and Dissertations Diminish Publishing Opportunities in the Social Sciences and Humanities?," that found most publishers self-reported they would indeed consider publishing such dissertations, but also suggested university libraries are refusing to buy books based on dissertations that have previously been available online. "The Road From Dissertation to Book Has a New Pothole: the Internet," a 2011 article from the Chronicle of Higher Education, quotes editors who are wary of publishing such books, and discusses the process by which students can restrict access to their work at companies like ProQuest, "the electronic publisher with which the vast majority of U.S. universities contract to house digital copies of dissertations." [more inside]
"During his days as Harvard’s influential president, Dr. Charles W. Eliot made a frequent assertion: If you were to spend just 15 minutes a day reading the right books, a quantity that could fit on a five-foot shelf, you could give yourself a proper liberal education. Publisher P. F. Collier and Son loved the idea and asked Eliot to compile and edit the right collection of works. The result: a 51-volume series of classic works from world literature published in 1909 called Dr. Eliot’s Five Foot Shelf, which would later be called The Harvard Classics." (Via) [more inside]
The School of Venus, or the Ladies Delight, Reduced into Rules of Practice (digitized by Google Books) is a delightfully raunchy sex manual from 1680, captured in wonderfully engaging detail. [more inside]
"On a beautiful sunny day last week, the Turning Over a New Leaf project team decided to take a day off from the office to visit a spectacular chained library in the small town of Zutphen (located in the eastern part of the Netherlands). Built in 1564 as part of the church of St Walburga, it is one of only five chained libraries in the world that survive ‘intact’—that is, complete with the original books, chains, rods, and furniture."
Mining books to map emotions through a century. Emotion words aren't consistently used through time, it seems. Things got scary in the 80's.
The Secret Lives of Readers Books reveal themselves. Whether they exist as print or pixels, they can be read and examined and made to spill their secrets. Readers are far more elusive. They leave traces—a note in the margin, a stain on the binding—but those hints of human handling tell us only so much. The experience of reading vanishes with the reader. How do we recover the reading experiences of the past? Lately scholars have stepped up the hunt for evidence of how people over time have interacted with books, newspapers, and other printed material.
"People haven’t been fascinated by this book because the translation is mellifluous or beautiful,” said Michael F. Suarez, a professor of English at the University of Virginia who directs the Rare Book School there. “People haven’t been attracted to this book because the presswork is beautiful. It’s not.” Instead, the Bay Psalm Book is treasured for being the first surviving piece of printing done in the British North American colonies. Only 11 copies, many incomplete, today survive. Remarkably two of those copies belong to the same owner, Boston's Old South Church. This month, the church made the controversial decision to sell one (the first such sale in 65 years), and it could bring as much as $20 million for the church's endowment.
"Reading is always an act of empathy" - John Green of Crash Course (previously) explains "How and Why We Read" (... and recommends his favorite books). [more inside]
A Guide to Houses No Gentleman Would Frequent, and more artifacts of history and archaeology that shed some light on the largely-unwritten world of nineteenth-century prostitution in Boston, New York, Washington, DC, and Paris, among other locales. Lest it appear too amusingly salacious, the miserable side.
A Guide to Writing Sherlockian-Tea Habits. In which EnigmaticPenguin (of death) schools fanfiction authors in correct English tea theory and practice. Follow up: Biscuits.
Alan Moore and David Lloyd designed it 30 years ago. The V for Vendetta mask appropriated by Occupy protesters the world over. The Guardian recently asked Alan what he thought about the masks. Now Channel 4 news takes him into Occupy territory to face that face. But who is the true anarchist?
The Written World is a five part radio series put together by Melyvn Bragg as part of the In Our Time BBC radio project. The programmes look at the history of written word, and how it has shaped our intellectual history. Each episode is available as a podcast and has an accompanying page (1 2 3 4 5) with images and links for further exploration. Also: The books that shaped history (narrated slideshow); the British Library page. [more inside]
How Computers Work. Recently recovered & scanned in by the good folks at BoingBoing, this was an early textbook explaining the fundamental concepts & inner workings of modern computing systems. I believe a slightly different edition of this book was my own introduction to computers when I was in 6th grade or so, which explains a lot about my approach to using them.
The Nuremberg Chronicle is one of the earliest printed books. The author, Hartmann Schedel, sets out a history of the world as understood at the time, relying heavily on the Bible. It is perhaps best known today for its wealth of images (some favorites: Creation of Birds, Map of the World, Half Horse, Stoning of St. Stephen and Apocalypse). The Beloit College website has a lot more information about the book and its context. They even have an English translation which is fully searchable.
Smithsonian.com lists the top 10 books lost to time.
Was your favorite childhood book written by a radical lefty? Scholars reveal the socialist history of 20th century American children's literature. Discover the myriad connections between midcentury American socialism and Crockett Johnson (Harold and the Purple Crayon), Syd Hoff (Danny and the Dinosaur), and the authors of many of the Little Golden Books and I Can Read Books.
Biomedical Ephemera, or, a Frog for your Boils is "A blog for all biological and medical ephemera, from the age of Abraham through the era of medical quackery and cure-all nostrums. Sometimes featuring illustrations of diseases and conditions of the times, sometimes fascinating ephemeral medical equipment, and sometimes clippings and information about the theories themselves." The archive page is also a useful starting point. via Things Magazine.
Free PDFs of The History of Cartography, vol. 1 and 2, from University of Chicago Press.
Larry Gonick is a veteran American cartoonist best known for his delightful comic-book guides to science and history, many of which have previews online. Chief among them is his long-running Cartoon History of the Universe (later The Cartoon History of the Modern World), a sprawling multi-volume opus documenting everything from the Big Bang to the Bush administration. Published over the course of three decades, it takes a truly global view -- its time-traveling Professor thoroughly explores not only familiar topics like Rome and World War II but the oft-neglected stories of Asia and Africa, blending caricature and myth with careful scholarship (cited by fun illustrated bibliographies) and tackling even the most obscure events with intelligence and wit. This savvy satire carried over to Gonick's Zinn-by-way-of-Pogo chronicle The Cartoon History of the United States, along with a bevy of Cartoon Guides to other topics, including Genetics, Computer Science, Chemistry, Physics, Statistics, The Environment, and (yes!) Sex. Gonick has also maintained a few sideprojects, such as a webcomic look at Chinese invention, assorted math comics (previously), the Muse magazine mainstay Kokopelli & Co. (featuring the shenanigans of his "New Muses"), and more. See also these lengthy interview snippets, linked previously. Want more? Amazon links to the complete oeuvre inside! [more inside]
Medicine in the Americas is a digital library project that makes freely available original works demonstrating the evolution of American medicine from colonial frontier outposts of the 17th century to research hospitals of the 20th century. [more inside]
Out Of This World: Science Fiction But Not As You Know It is an exhibition at the British Library exploring the origins of Science Fiction, running until September. China Mieville takes a look at the exhibition for the BBC. (Out Of This World postcards - images from the exhibition) [more inside]
The Sad, Beautiful Fact That We're All Going To Miss Almost Everything. The vast majority of the world's books, music, films, television and art, you will never see. It's just numbers.
Stephen Biesty is an award-winning British illustrator famous for his bestselling "Incredible" series of engineering art books: Incredible Cross-Sections, Incredible Explosions, Incredible Body, and many more. A master draftsman, Biesty does not use computers or even rulers in composing his intricate and imaginative drawings, relying on nothing more than pen and ink, watercolor, and a steady hand. Over the years, he's adapted his work to many other mediums, including pop-up books, educational games (video), interactive history sites, and animation. You can view much of his work in the zoomable galleries on his professional page, or click inside for a full listing of direct links to high-resolution, desktop-quality copies from his and other sites, including several with written commentary from collaborator Richard Platt [site, .mp3 chat]. [more inside]
The library of King Matthias I of Hungary, the Bibliotheca Corviniana, was "the second greatest collection of books in Europe in the Renaissance period, after that of the Vatican." Destroyed following the 15th century Turkish invasion of Hungary (despite the efforts of Matthias' vassal Vlad III the Impaler), a few surviving codices have been digitized by the National Széchényi Library and the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. [more inside]