Sunday, November 30, 2014

Caricature in the Service of Building of Socialism

Krokodil editors - Caricature in the Service of Building of Socialism (1932)

Metropolitan Museum of Art link

The editors of the famous satirical magazine Krokodil put together an exhibition and this is the result.  I couldn't resist posting it largely on the title since for those of us who can't read Russian it's a bit lightly illustrated.  There are probably studies of this but all I found quickly was David King and Cathy Porter's Blood and Laughter: Caricatures from the 1905 Revolution (1983; the US title is the less promising Images of Revolution: Graphic Art from 1905 Russia).

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Claimants to Royalty

John H. Ingram - Claimants to Royalty (1882)

Open Library direct link
Open Library main page

A look at imposters throughout history who claimed to be royalty.  Chapters such as "The False Charlotte of Russia", "The False Zaga Christ of Abyssinia", "The False Nero of Rome", "The False Richard the Second of England" and "The False Alexis, Emperor of the East" should give an idea. There's an entire chapter on false Dauphins - I remember reading that there were around a hundred or so total.  I even once saw a book on Masonic history that stated the Dauphin was an American Mason.

Another of Ingram's books, on haunted houses of England, was previously posted.  I'm sorry there doesn't seem to be an online version of his The Philosophy of Hand-Writing.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Woman's Mysteries of a Primitive People

D. Amaury Talbot - Woman's Mysteries of a Primitive People (1915)

Open Library direct link
Open Library main page

There are a lot of early ethnographic and travel books from this period but this seems interesting due to its focus on women and their roles in the Ibibio tribe written by a woman.  D. Amuaury Talbot was the wife of anthropologist Percy Amaury Talbot and I haven't found much about her except that she died in Nigeria the year after this appeared and also wrote a book about plants of that region.  A contemporary review of Woman's Mysteries from the journal African Affairs praised it for readability and avoiding technical terms (and also notes that the Ibibio can hardly be called "primitive") and all other reviews are highly positive (though the one in The Theosophical Path was quasi-racist).  And for what it's worth James Frazer mentions the book in a footnote to his translation of Apollodorus.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

La Aventuroj de Alicio en Mirlando

Lewis Carroll - La Aventuroj de Alicio en Mirlando (1865, trans. 1910)

Open Library direct link
Open Library main page

In case you ever wanted an Esperanto translation of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland here you go.  There seems to have been another, more recent translation as well.

Only tangentially related but when Artaud was in the asylum one of his doctors recommended he translate Alice into French as therapy, not knowing that Artaud loathed the book.  As a result Artaud did a complete hatchet job that is well worth seeing - the point comes through clearly even if you can't read French.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Holiday gift suggestions

This blog is all about public domain ebooks but you can't really give those as gifts.  Below are some recent physical books that I think will appeal to anybody who reads this.  As always support your local bookstore.

The Public Domain Review: Selected Essays 2011-2013 - The wonderful people at PDR have put together their first physical book, mostly reprinted from the site but with some new material. I think it's only available directly from them.

C.D. Rose - A Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure - From the ever-cool Melville House comes the book I most want to read at the moment.  Yes, I was a bit disappointed to learn that these mini-bios of "history's least accomplished writers" weren't real but then I read an excerpt that not only made me laugh out loud but was much smarter and satirically on-target than I'd expected.  [I've since read this and can't recommend it enough.  Though there's a bit of satire directed at literary criticism it's much more affectionate than mean and if anything the book is a tribute to writers, to readers, to publishers.  Plus it's genuinely funny.]

Robert Damon Schneck - Mrs. Wakeman vs. the Antichrist: And Other Strange-but-True Tales from American History - This kind of compilation can be hit or miss in terms not just of strangeness but even basic accuracy.  Flipping through this, it looks like it's on the good end.  [Well not completely.  After reading I see that some pieces recover forgotten but curious historical episodes but others mostly embrace Bigfoot, psychics and other fringe material which makes the history a bit dubious.]

Frances Larson - Severed: A History of Heads Lost and Heads Found - Can you imagine pitching this - "I want to write a book about severed heads."

Hugo Ball - Flametti, or the Dandyism of the Poor - One of the original dadas wrote a quasi-autobiographical novel that actually sounds quite peculiar.

John Ehle - The Land Breakers - Reprint of a 1964 historical novel about the Appalachians compared to Norse sagas and book of Genesis. This is the kind of thing that's likely to be either one of the best books I've ever read or completely ridiculous.

Antal Szerb - Journey by Moonlight - I pick up almost anything put out by NYRB Classics and this 1937 Hungarian novel newly translated sounds very promising.  "Utterly individual mix of magic, madness, eros, and menace" according to the publisher.

Georges Perec - I Remember - Perec's version of Joe Brainard's work of the same name.  "An affectionate portrait of mid-century Paris and a daring pointillist autobiography" now in English with notes.

 Ian Lowey & Suzy Prince - The Graphic Art of the Underground: A Countercultural History - A few decades of alternative design.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Vocabulary of Criminal Slang

Louis E. Jackson - A Vocabulary of Criminal Slang (1915)

Open Library direct link 
Open Library main page

Though the introduction says the intention is to fight crime (well actually "the destruction of cankerous moral growths") a century later this reads more like third-rate hard-boiled fiction.


Tin Ear - "To eavesdrop: to listen impertinently. Example: 'Chop the wheeze, we've got a tin-ear on our hip.'"
Artillery - "Firearms of any description. See Rod, Roscoe, Smokewagon."
Tumble - "A discovery. Example: 'It's a bad idea to work without fall dough, for it's a ten-to-one jig on the first tumble.'"
Paper Hanger - "Current principally amongst forgers and utterers of false paper. Example: 'There's a bunch of paper hangers plastering the town from A to Izzard.'"

Monday, November 24, 2014

De Monstris

Fortunius Licetus - De Monstris (1665)

Open Library direct link
Open Library main page

I read enough Latin to understand the title and, well, that's about it.  The reason for including the book is the illustrations, a few of which are shown below.  Though they seem imaginative along the lines of "there are people elsewhere who have faces in their chests" at least some of the later ones are apparently taken from actual bodies.  In any case I find them all a bit unsettling.

Liceti was a doctor, professor and general intellectual with an extensive output (over 50 books).  He was a buddy of Galileo, Thomas Browne might have attended his lectures and there's a crater on the moon named after him.  As far as I can tell nothing has been translated into English.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Illustrations of the Birds of Jamaica

Philip Henry Gosse - Illustrations of the Birds of Jamaica (1849)

Open Library direct link 
Open Library main page

Another book I'm including mainly for the nice illustrations - there's practically no text. Gosse was a naturalist, preacher and prolific author perhaps best known for the creationist Omphalos.  Both Borges and Stephen Jay Gould wrote essays about him while his son was the critic Edmund Gosse.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Radio Alphabet

CBS - Radio Alphabet (1946)

Open Library direct link 
Open Library main page

Brief glossary of radio and some TV terms that's notable for nice illustrations.  Don't miss the sign language guide in the back.

Some samples:

Crawk - An animal imitator.
Fairy Godmother - An unimaginative musical director.
Groan Box - An accordion.
Hillbilly - A quasi-musical interpreter of regional folk-lore.
Hog Calling Contest - A strenuous commercial audition for announcers possessed of pear-shaped tones of voice.
Laugh It Up - An order to the cast to laugh at their own lines.
Madame La Zonga - A performer who dances nervously in front of a microphone.
Pancake Turner - A technician who controls the playing of double faced records.
Quonking - Disturbing side chatter by persons not on the program. It sounds like that.
Town Crier - A vocalist who sings too loudly.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Dickens and his Illustrators

Frederic George Kitton - Dickens and his Illustrators (1899)

Open Library direct link
Open Library main page

An overview of the illustrations to Dickens (with an appendix on the "cheap editions").  If there's another book on this topic I couldn't find it though there's likely journal articles.  Kitton was an illustrator himself, serving on The Graphic staff for many years.  He became interested in Dickens and compiled many books about him.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Early Poems of William Morris

William Morris - Early Poems of William Morris (1914)

Open Library direct link
Open Library main page

The text isn't any kind of rediscovery but I'm including this book for the illustrations and design by Florence Harrison.  Though she seems to have had no actual connection to the Pre-Raphaelites Harrison was clearly working through that style.  She also illustrated works by Tennyson and Christina Rossetti along with several childrens' books.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Scatalogic Rites of all Nations

John Gregory Bourke - Scatalogic Rites of all Nations (1891)

Open Library direct link
Open Library main page

The title page notes "Not for General Perusal" and considering that the book is about exactly what the title says that warning is still true.  Its seriousness may be judged by the fact that Freud wrote an introduction to a 1913 edition (which is included in his Complete Psychological Works) and the American Anthropological Society reprinted it in 1934.  The list of people who contributed information include Franz Boas, Havelock Ellis, James Frazer and Andrew Lang.  Chapters include "Obscene Survivals in the Games of English Rustics", "The Onion Adored by Egyptians", "Poisonous Mushrooms Used in Ur-Orgies" and "The Mushroom in Connection with the Fairies" along with numerous others that I don't feel like quoting.

Bourke was a Medal of Honor recipient who served as a cavalryman in the New Mexico territory.  He wrote several books about American Indians

Monday, November 17, 2014

Sport in War

R.S.S. Baden-Powell - Sport in War (1900)

Open Library direct link 
Open Library main page

You probably recognize Baden-Powell as the founder of the Boy Scouts but may not have known he was a prolific author.  This book collects pieces from Badminton Magazine (yes really) and is the kind of imperialist gung-ho stuff you'd probably expect.  Modern readers probably won't find it as thrilling - just take a sample about following the enemy as "this man-hunting afforded us plenty of excitement and novel experience" like it was a fox hunt.  "The Sport of Rajahs" is about something called "pig-sticking" which seems to be boar hunting or very similar stuck with an unfortunate name.  All in all not the kind of thing we expect from Boy Scouts nowadays.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The World's Greatest Military Spies and Secret Service Agents

George Barton - The World's Greatest Military Spies and Secret Service Agents (1917)

Open Library direct link
Open Library main page

An assorted collection of light-reading stories covering King Philip's War, the American Civil War, the Napoleonic wars and others.  Barton wrote a similar book about the first world war and then several fictional stories about a retired spy named Bromley Barnes that appear to be little read even by fans of the genre.  (About the only non-bibliographic reference I can find called the stories "obvious".)

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Girlhood of Shakespeare's Heroines

Mary Cowden Clarke - The Girlhood of Shakespeare's Heroines (1850)

Open Library direct link
Open Library main page

Clarke compiled one of the first concordances to Shakespeare and along the way clearly decided we didn't know enough about the past of a few characters.  So she wrote fifteen short prequels about, well, the girlhood of Shakespeare's heroines.  Ophelia, Dedemona, Rosalind, Juliet are here though apparently no Lady Macbeth or Cressida (unless they're under other names - I haven't yet read but a bit of this book).  I fervently hope for a future manga adaptation.

Note that the link is to a condensed 1897 edition by the author's sister.  The originals were issued in three volumes and I not only didn't feel like tracking down appropriate links but the available copies were somewhat hard to read.  Besides, I suspect this may benefit from being condensed.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Shakespeare in Time of War

Francis Colmer (ed) - Shakespeare in Time of War: Excerpts from the Plays Arranged with Topical Allusion (1916)

Open Library direct link
Open Library main page

Selected excerpts from Shakespeare or indeed many authors have been something of a publishing constant for two or three centuries so it's no surprise to see another one.  This goes one up, however, since it's not merely inspirational or relevant passages for wartime but is keyed to very specific events.  Want to know what Shakespeare might have said about the torpedoing of the Lusitania?  That's here (from King John, Richard II and Macbeth if you're curious.)  Zeppelin raids?  What about "German atrocities at Louvain and Other Belgian Towns"?  Or George V's court along with a list of other politicians, commanders and some neutrals (including President Wilson and Mr. Charlie Chaplin)?  Though I'm trying to sell this with a somewhat flip tone on its oddness, the prologue is different in showing people grasping for hope in a a dark and unsettling time.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Counting-Out Rhymes of Children

Henry Carrington Bolton - The Counting-Out Rhymes of Children: Their Antiquity, Origin and Wide Distribution: A Study in Folk-Lore (1888)

Open Library direct link
Open Library main page

From the author who last post described the early development of the thermometer we now have something completely different.  Bolton was a chemist by both training and profession but also dabbled in folk lore.  This short book is one of those wonderful late 19th century compilations of assorted material from around the world, done often in the belief that all cultures are the same they just express themselves differently.  So this look at children's rhymes runs from New York state to Germany to Hawaii to Madagascar, taking time along the way to look in on the Pilgrims, ancient Greeks, necromancers and even a rumor about one rhyme coming from the Druids.  The last half of the book has the rhymes in the original languages.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Evolution of the Thermometer, 1592-1743

Henry Carrington Bolton - Evolution of the Thermometer, 1592-1743 (1900)

Open Library direct link
Open Library main page

This could be the least popular book ever posted here [actually it's turned out to be one of the most popular] but I couldn't resist that title - though actually at well under 100 pages and large type this is likely worth checking out, at least for the antiquarian types among us.  This covers exactly what the title says and it's interesting to see that while we're so used to two temperature scales there actually have been many - a chart at the back lists 35.  The author also did a Index to the Literature of Manganese, 1596-1874 which is really just a bibliography.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Bookbinding Terms, Materials, Methods and Models

Yale University Library - Bookbinding Terms, Materials, Methods and Models (2013)

Download page

Wonderful illustrated booklet from Yale's special collections that focuses on medieval books but I think anybody reading this blog will want to see it.  They did another on ink and pigment recipes.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Dictionary of Sects, Heresies, Ecclesiastical Parties, and Schools of Religious Thought

John Henry Blunt - Dictionary of Sects, Heresies, Ecclesiastical Parties, and Schools of Religious Thought (1874)

Open Library direct link
Open Library main page

This is one of those books that invites long browsing, at least for certain types of readers.  From a historical point of view it's extensive, almost obsessive, documentation that Christianity has always been a contentious mix of varying viewpoints.  If like me you're not quite so interested in the theology it's the constant parade of oddities and peculiar beliefs that make it worthwhile.  The effect at times is almost Borgesian with the references and wayward information and almost off-hand tone to the strangest statements (and don't forget that "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" opens with discussion of a heresiarch and an encyclopedia).

Let's flip through just "A".  Even right at the start we encounter "Abelonites" from 4th or 5th century who "adopted the eccentric practice of marrying wives without procreating children, in supposed imitation of Abel, who was stated to have had a wife, but not to have known her; and in lieu of the consummation of marriage, and at the same time to enable them to perpetuate their sect, the husband and wife adopted two children of different sexes, who in their turn were to abstain from all intercourse, and on the death of their foster-parents to resort to the same plan of adoption."  No wonder the Abelonites died out.  (And seriously was the general level of writing ability just that much better in the late 19th century?  Or do I just have a weakness for long sentences?)

"Agoniclites" were a "fanatical sect of the seventh and eight centuries, whose distinctive tenet was the condemnation of kneeling as the attitude of prayer. They are said also to have used dancing as a devotional custom."

And how many bookish people (or ones interested in the synoptic problem) would not read the long entry on "Alogi" who "denied St. John's doctrine concerning the Logos, and who consequently rejected St. John's writings."

"Artoryritae" "used cheese as well as bread in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist".  The "Artemonites" had a confessor who recanted "on being warned of his error by a severe flagellation (attributed to angelic hands) during his sleep".  The "Ascodrugitae" "danced around a richly-vested inflated wine-skin placed on an altar in their fanatical revels".  The "Apoctactics" didn't just give up private property but "held that a renunciation of property is necessary to salvation".  The "Abecedarians" "claimed to have direct inspiration from God, and maintained that this inspiration was obstructed by human learning. They carried this theory to such a length as to declare that it was desirable never even to learn ABC, since all human learning is founded on the alphabet".

Then there's "Angelici" mentioned by Epiphanius who knew nothing except the name. That didn't stop him from speculating about what they might have believed or Blunt from speculating further in some detail about whether they worshipped angels.  Basically two writers centuries apart heard a name only and then invented further information though at least they were clear that's what they were doing.

Blunt was a professional chemist who gave that up to study then become a Church of England priest.  He wrote an annotated Book of Common Prayer and several histories and commentaries.  Perhaps because he was a practicing priest is why he seems to pay particular attention to heresies related to the sacraments in this book though overall he seems pretty even-handed even if very clear where he stands.