Archive for December 2003

The Feather Book of Dionisio Minaggio

Rock Dove, from Dionisio Minaggio's  Libro di Piume, 1618

Via evenings on the lake.

“Dionisio Minaggio, gardener to His Excellency the Governor of Milan was the creator, and he made [this] in the year 1618.” What he had made was a book of designs of birds and human figures, each picture composed entirely of birds’ feathers. Now in the collection of the Blacker-Wood Library of Biology at McGill University in Montreal, nothing is known of the history of the so-called Feather Book between the time of its creation and its turning up in a second-hand book sale in London in 1920.

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Written by Dave Lovely

December 31, 2003 at 9:26 pm

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A Miscellany…

From the pages of that redoubtable organ, the Otago Witness, lately arrived at the Ramage residence under the auspices of Papers Past, a resource of the National Library of New Zealand that showcases selected 19th century New Zealand newspapers and periodicals. The site currently contains digital images of over 600,000 pages from 30 publications.

The good denizens of Otago must have been no less than agog to learn, on June 6th, 1895, of “Some Remarkable Tastes and Customs” of certain European rulers:

The Grand Duchess of Baden prides herself on her coffee, which she prepares in a Russian coffee-pot with her own hands. Her husband, on the other hand, grows his own wine and his his own head cellar-master. His favourite dish is lentil soup, made toothsome with a little vinegar,and Frankfort sausages, while his wife is extremely fond of sweetmeats.


At King Oscar of Sweden's table a national dish, consisting of raw salmon preserved in earth, is almost invariably to be found. There is likewise a curious soup, composed mainly of boiled barley and whipped cream. No waste is allowed, and once a week the remainders of roasts are hashed, formed into balls, and fried in oil. This dish is served on large silver platters, the borders of which are garnished with fried eggs.

Their minds still reeling from this information, they might have gone on to be beguiled by the thought that

- In Persia the women of fashion ornament their faces by painting upon them figures of insects and small animals.

suitably astounded by the discovery that

 - Few people realise what the skin really is. They regard it as a body covering, and nothing more.remember that your skin is really a lung spread over the surface of your body.

frankly astonished to learn that

- It is estimated that altogether there are 400,000,000 mummies in Egypt.

and, no doubt, bewildered by the revelation that

- Corsets have been found on the waists of Egyptian mummies.

Surely not corsets like these??

 A corset. Click to enlarge.

Another corset. Again, click to enlarge.

Being stout fellows, however, rather similar to Lord Macfarlane here:

Lord Macfarlane as we waterproofed him for this winter.

they would have smartly pulled themselves together. Well, perhaps a tot of

Ayer's Cherry Pectoral has no equal

just to be on the safe side. Wouldn’t do to get like those fellows in Wellington, eh?

Nervous, weak, overworked, ambitionless...? Click here.

(This last from an advertisement for the Frikart Medical Alliance, Wellington, from the roughly contemporary pages of the Star (Christchurch).

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Written by Dave Lovely

December 28, 2003 at 10:41 pm

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A trip to Children’s Land

From Kodomo no kuni: Artists and Children’s Books in 1920s Japan, an exhibition at the International Library of Children’s Literature, part of the library of the National Diet, Japan’s national assembly.

Kodomo no kuni, (‘Children’s Land’), was an extremely forward-looking magazine, at least in the first decade after it was founded in 1922. Its edititorial policy, to quote the introduction to this fascinating exhibition, was “to encourage the free and unrestrained imagination of children by way of art and present fine works of decorative art that would foster the wholesome development of their best human qualities…” To that end, it featured work by many outstanding artists. Here are some examples:

Origami, by Takei Takeo, March 1927

Origami, by Takei Takeo, March 1927.

Goldfish at a Night Stall, by Hatsuyama Shigeru, July 1931

Goldfish at a Night Stall, by Hatsuyama Shigeru, July 1931.

Winter, by Koga Harue, January 1932

Winter, by Koga Harue, January 1932.

The Insects' Journey, by Kawakami Shiro, October 1927

The Insects’ Journey, by Kawakami Shiro, October 1927.

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Written by Dave Lovely

December 26, 2003 at 9:03 pm

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The holly and the ivy

English holly, from 'Traité des arbres forestiers..' by Jean-Henri Jaume de Saint-Hilaire

English holly, Ilex aquifolium, from ‘Traité des arbres forestiers: ou histoire et description des arbres indigènes ou naturalisés…..’ by Jean-Henri Jaume de Saint-Hilaire, Paris, 1824.

English ivy, from 'Herbarium Blackwellianum emendatum et auctum...', by Elizabeth Blackwell

English ivy, Hedera helix, from ‘Herbarium Blackwellianum emendatum et auctum…’, by Elizabeth Blackwell, Nuremberg, 1750-1773.

Images © 1995-2003, the Missouri Botanical Garden Library Rare Book Collection, where 2,050 botanical illustrations are online, and whither I was sent by Kosmonautentraum.

A very happy Christmas to all my friends, old and new.

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Written by Dave Lovely

December 25, 2003 at 1:01 am

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Celestial navigation

Joseph Cornell, born Christmas Eve, 1903:

Portrait of Joseph Corrnell by Duane Michals

Like Carlos at Mysterium, I too would commend to all and sundry Thames & Hudson’s magnificent new book ‘Joseph Cornell: Shadowplay Eterniday’, with its accompanying DVD-ROM, which offers you the oportunity to examine Cornell’s work, and, fascinatingly, his source material, in detail. It’s like you’re looking over his shoulder. Cognitive Applications, the company that put it together, should get all the awards going (and they’ve been nominated for a BAFTA) for this kind of thing. I can’t think of how interactive media about an artist’s work could be better done.

“At the very heart of the Grand Hotel Penny Arcade, encased in blue glass and pale as porcelain, floats a sleeping princess, gracefully coiling and uncoiling, clothed only in her own purity, her eyes open but unseeing.”

Robert Coover, ‘The Grand Hotels (of Joseph Cornell)’, Burning Deck, 2002.

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Written by Dave Lovely

December 24, 2003 at 9:30 pm

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What’s your bag?

Some sound advice, from Las Vegas of all places, courtesy of Houseplant Picture Studio:


They certainly have their own bag, but the nice thing is, they let you rummage around in it. Not just knitwear and houseplants, then, in case I didn’t make that plain. Three pages of peerless Americana, documenting a visit to Las Vegas, for starters.

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Written by Dave Lovely

December 22, 2003 at 11:00 pm

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Got a light, comrade?

The wonderful world of East German matchbox labels:


DDR-Phillumenie, via Kosmonautentraum.

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Written by Dave Lovely

December 21, 2003 at 6:09 pm

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