A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7000 images, 3.6 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, The Paris Review, Le Figaro, MENSA, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places... 3,000+ total posts
What a simple and semi-magnificent map is this! A spaghetti map of the U.S. featuring road types, more than half of which were allocated as a "low type" of "MUD or DUST".
The map is in a disheartening and potentially numbing pamphlet on road improvement, which-- had there been a simple cover for the work I would have quickly skipped by--however, the maps, data, and the lurking insomnia of boredom is perfectly hidden by this:
Holy cow! This is marvelously striking--and just look at that "T"!
In any event, the pamphlet is loaded with small woodcuts and graphics illustrating its point, which was to take Depression-available workforces and put them to work on repair of old and construction of new roads.
The anonymous illustrator and/or designer certainly made a commendable and superior effort in making this fairly dry pamphlet, um, interesting.
JF Ptak Science Books (Expanding Post 667 from June 2009)
Looking at old prints sometimes reveals more than just their own history, simple or not:there are, from time to time, subtle bits of otherness that creeps into the image, if you allow yourself the time to see it.
And sometimes looking at images of the past reveal a little of the future, or the possibility of the future, as we can see here in these examples in the book by the art-anatomist William Rimmer (1816-1879). His work is superior, and spot-on, and has Leonardo-flourishes all throughout his work--he reaches deeply into the past to the great anatomical standards, and also employs newly established work too (as with Charles Darwin1). There is also--to me anyway--a certain quality of his work that predates modern art movements, like the Surrealists, and Dadaists, that melt into his work, giving it a very post-modern sympathy. The drawings sometimes have a great "unexpected" sense to them, which I think is not often found in anatomical artwork, given the nature of the exercise and all, giving Rimmer a sense of surprise and somewhat-removed fantasy.
(In another example of this idea of pre-dating a modern movement, I wrote a little about the odd art/color textbooks of the pre-Kandinskian Emily Vanderpoel , about whose color theory I still understand not at all, though the images that she produced as illustrations to these bizarre theories are stunning, pre-modernist, and unintentional creations.)
The images being discussed here are found in Rimmer’s Art Anatomy (1877 is the first edition and very rare for its process and for being destroyed in a printing house fire, and subsequent printings, this one being the subsequent 1884 printing). He was a very accomplished artist, and was also a physician and a fine anatomist, with a long career of having varied careers in the arts.He was very concerned and interested in what happens to the skin, forced into action by all of the stuff underneath it.He pursued the movement of muscle, and bone, and the interplay of the two, and produced a wonderful exponent of artistic anatomy.
Even the design of the book and the placement of drawings and text on the page--page after page--is both antique and pre-modernist, the images surrounded by the author’s notes and explanations, sometimes the very spacing and placement on the page is an evocative mystery.
Perhaps some of this "mystery" may be easily solved given the way in which the book came into being. According to Amy Beth Werbel in her Thomas Eakins: Art, Medicine, and Sexuality in Nineteenth-century Philadelphia (Yale University Press, page 61, here) Rimmer constructed most of the work while on vacation, using no models, and seemingly working without reference. That would be an extraordinary accomplishment, and might explain some of the "surprising" parts that I just spoke of, but it really doesn't necessarily address that dreamy quality of looking not-so-quietly into the future of art. (There are other odd and, well, bizarre, bits that Rimmer writes about that seem unrelated to this anatomy task, but I'll just have to chalk that up to "personality" at the present time.)
(I'll expand this quite a bit as I've got 50 or so of these lithographs that I'll be selling.)
1. Elliott Davis writes a very interesting article on Darwin and Rimmer and about the influence of the former on our artist. For example, Davis writes that Rimmer's work "represents the most comprehensive anatomy book issued in the United States at the time and provides new insight into the influence of Darwin's evolutionary theory on artistic practice." See: ”Life Drawing from Ape to Human: Charles Darwin's Theories of Evolution and William Rimmer's Art Anatomy” by Elliott Bostwick Davis, on the Nineteenth Century Art Worldwide blog http://www.19thc-artworldwide.org, here. Also from Davis' article is this good footnote on two further sources of information for Rimmer: "Marzio, 1976, p. 1. For information on Rimmer, see Truman H. Bartlett, The Art Life of William Rimmer: Sculptor, Painter, Physician. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1890. [And] Jeffrey Weidman, Neil Harris, and Philip Cash, William Rimmer. A Yankee Michelangelo, Exh. Cat. Brockton, Brockton Art Museum/Fuller Memorial (Hanover and London: University Press of New England, 1985).
Say "hello" to the "telescope house", an unusual idea in small house design, found in Popular Mechanics for the March, 1945 issue, just before the end of WWII in Europe. It was designed by F(rank) J. Zavada (1916-1998?), and it is a tidy little place: four rooms on the first floor and two bedrooms on the second, the house is made to collapse and expand vertically and horizontally. I don't see area mentioned, but it looks to be on the order of 400 sq ft or so.
This design put me in mind of a much-inferior idea: the rolling house of the future (offered in the September, 1934 issue of Everyday Science and Mechanics). Etienne Boullee it is not. The house does, however, roll, for whatever that is worth, and if that is a positive thing then that would be one advantage it would have over a non-rolling house. (I don' get to write that phrase very often.) And it rolls exclusive of some rolling platform, which somehow seemed like a better idea than just having a more-traditional house with wheels. Presumably the rolling house would be filled with E. Lloyd Wright nothingness, so there will be no displacement issues.
[Read more about the Rolling Houses and Glass Homes of Futurlandia here.]
These are two full-cover pamphlets that promise a compelling amount for the ten-cent admission fee. The first is newer, published for ten cents in 1932; the second was printed in 1908, and for the same amount (and worth about 14 cents in 1908 monies, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator). They are each Outsidery-flavored efforts in their fields, so far as I can tell--they are also not quite interesting enough to spend any time with outside of remarking on their remark-able covers, which is sometimes that is all you need. (The second pamphlet is actually by a very well known and influential theological person, Edward Hine, who may have achieved his greatest fame I try to establish that England is Israel, among other things, and developed a considerable following.)
I have other remarkable books with title similar to these in length, and composition--I'll need to pull them all together, someday. I think that the most glorious days of enormous titles are hundreds of years in the past, and mostly 17th century from my perspective; these more-modern examples are not only long, but they are challenging and promising, all at the same time.
"Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose."--G. Stein, (Sacred Emily, Geography and Plays)
"A rose is a rose is an onion."--E. Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls
By all measures, this window is of course a window. It is almost not a window because in the mass of the structure it is almost not there. But it certainly was--even if its height is great than ten times its width--when this cathedral at Asti was being built in the 13th century (and into the 14th). In any event, whatever the "is" might be here and in spite of the apparent isn'tness, it has a very appealing appeal.
--Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta, found in Cesar Daly (editor), Revue Generale de l'Architecture et des Travaux Publics, ca. 1860 (not sure of the volume).
1923 was a tough year for most Germans so far as chocolate was concerned, though Riquet (the advertiser in the striking graphic, below) was promoting their ("enchanting" and "irresistible") goods very prominently, so I guess there was still some good demand for it no matter what happened to the fabric of social/economic Germany. But it was in January--when this ad was published in Illustrirte Zeitung--that things started to go very badly for Germany. By the end of 1922 it was apparent in Germany that they could make their next reparations installment payment (in January, 1923); the French and Belgians, among others, didn't believe it and got very quickly pissed, and within days responded very aggressively, militarily occupying the Ruhr district. The Ruhr was home to German industry and electrical production, and manufactures in general, and the government-led response to the invading force was peaceful though it did call on the workers to go on a general strike. And so it came to pass that no production to speak of was happening, and the tight-cashed German government, which was still under obligation to pay the strikers, did so, but created the money out of nothing, just printing it as necessary. This would be the start of a disaster that would lead to a greatly debilitating and damaging hyper-inflation, which helped pave the way to a failure of the Weimar government, and finally helping to give rise to Adolf Hitler--it was all downhill from there.
Chocolate of course had been around for a long time by this point--especially in Central and South America, where it reaches back about 3700 years to to Olmecs, and carried forward to the Aztecs. Christopher Columbus bumped into it during his fourth voyage, but chocolate as "chocolate" really didn't make it to high society consumption until the late 16th century; then some more years, until in the early 17th century came the chocolate craze, eventually winding its way to anyone with a little disposable income, to the modern day when some chocolates (like Hershey Kisses) are hardly chocolate anymore, but have the near-scent of it.
At this point in 1923, five years after the war, and more years than that into a crippled economy, it would have been a luxury for most people in Germany to be able to afford some of this Riquet chocolate. It was certainly not uncommon to see advertisements for luxury goods during hard times, though. Having looked at every page of the popular weekly magazines like the Illustrated London News, Illustrirte Zeitung, and Scientific American for the 1914-1918 period, I can safely but not experimentally say that there was plenty of advertising revenue collected by these mags for the sale of luxury goods. This extends too to Life magazine for 1936-1945, where there was also "a lot" of advertisement for common and semi-luxurious goods that wrapped themselves up in patriotic war efforts (cigarettes are among the most conspicuous of these win-the-war/smoke-Lucky-Strikes ad campaigns).
I'm not taking issue with Ricquet, not at all--I think that the ad was simply "standard". But it did strike me as being somewhat loaded with potential zeitgeist, like the ad I found for traveling to Czechoslovakia for "wintertime fun!" dated October 1, 1938.
D.B. Smith's "On Medicinal Leeches", which appeared in the Journal of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy (January, 1833, pp 265-271), may or may not have the first illustration in a U.S. journal of a medical leech. Or at least that's according to what D.B. Smith says, who claims that an image of the little critters with multiple jaws and lots of teeth "appeared here for the first time". It seems to be a little late for that to be happening for the first time, as using leeches in medical practice to prevent disease and infection goes back a long way before this article, far beyond the earliest written mention of it goes (in a Galen manuscript, about 2,000 years ago). On the other hand the medical journal was still a pretty new idea at this point in the history of science in the U.S.A--the very first medical (and scientific) journal in general does not appear until 1797 (with the Medical Repository) so it is possible that in the 36 years of scientific/medical journal publishing history to this point it is entirely possible that this short article can claim its "firsts".
The article is not without its very muted bells and whistles, but what attracted me instantly was the bit in it about the leech explorers. The Leech Explorers of 1833--it is an exploit-ish title, perhaps even needing a bit of a Busby Berkeley dance routine to support it in a Leechy Atlas sort of way.
We find out that at about that time, in the 1820's and 1830's at least, there was a bit of a European leech mania. Of course, manias are difficult to explain in their appearance but not so much in their disappearance, and the leeches just got in line with the rest of the other manias, like the dancing mania, tulip mania, bibliomania, arithomania, fortune telling, magnetism mania, and so on.
What happens with the leeches at 1833 is there was a definite leech supply failure--in Paris alone 5 million leeches were used every year, emptying out 300,000 litres of Parisian blood (according to the Encyclopedia Britannica). The demand for leeches was so great that leech dealers would extend their range to Spain, Corsica, Germany, and even to the far reaches of Turkey, and finding no satisfaction, opened their hearts for new and true sources of leeches, and "explored".
For some reason this struck me as enchanting and exotic--images of leech dealers and leech dealer mule trains hauling large buckets of dirt filled with leeches, bumping slowly along at very slow speeds for thousands of miles. And since leeches are living things and need to stay that way in order to function in the medical sense, they need to make the long journey alive and well. I wonder if there were ever leech highwaymen? Or leech saboteurs--competing leech explorer/dealers making life difficult for their competitors, like you might encounter with gold miners. In any event, the Leech Explorers idea was a bright and confused point of light in an otherwise not terribly interesting story about American leeches of 1833.
See: Charles McKay, Memoirs of the Extraordinary Delusions and Popular Madness of Crowds, full text: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/24518/24518-h/dvi.html
In my haul of the 90,000-item Pamphlet Collection from the Library of Congress some number of years ago oh my brothers and sisters I created many standard and many odd categories into which the pamphlets would hopefully fall into some sort of wishful order. One of the straightforward categories was Titles with Questions, which was actually a combination of a great number of other categories, including the Found-Absurd, the Found-Surreal, and the Glibly Naive, including more-standard selections. The Question Marks could stand on their own, though, because they were ungainly, so stark, and bizarre, and unexpected--they just demanded a certain consideration for themselves.
Sometimes these question marks could easily be an exclamation point.
For some reason these three were separated from the pack, but they're good enough to stand as representatives of the collection, all of which gathered together might make for an interesting exhibition. But for now, three will do.
They bring up a larger though perhaps not-very-interesting issue of other more interesting works in other fields where the title is a question.
For example, here are some good questions, (one in translation):
"Is the inertia of a body dependent on its energy content?" ("Ist die Trägheit eines Körpers von seinem Energieinhalt abhängig?")1
"Can quantum-mechanical description of physical reality be considered complete"2
As a matter of fact, they're really good questions--and the person putting the question mark into the title of these papers was Albert Einstein in the first case and then Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky, and Nick Rosen in the second.
There are many others to be sure, but it is a difficult question to answer offhand, like this, and will take a much longer think. (Another good question comes in the title of Richard Courant's book, What is Mathematics?)
There is a recent paper3 of questionable use for someone like me that looks at the rise of the use of question marks in scientific papers over the last fifty odd years or so. (I must commend the author though as he utilized more than 2 million papers in the comparison.)
But then there are the great philosophical questions like "Why did the chicken cross the road?","Does God Exist?", "If a tree falls...?," "Is there Life after Death?", "Father, Why Have You Forsaken Me?", and "Where's Waldo?"
And of course great books have their fair share of questions--I can quickly come up with the following examples and no doubt some real thought will produce many more: P.D. Eastman's Are You My Mother?, Horace McCoy They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, Ed Albee Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, PK Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Political (Lenin, What is to be Done?), musical ("Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone?" by the Carter Family), and question marks in film ("O Brother, Where Art Thou?", "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?"), all need to be addressed for such a future post.
But not right now--for the moment, it is just these three delightful pamphlets.
1. One of the four miracle papers of 1905, published in the Annalen der Physik 18(13):639-641
2. This is the EPR Partadox, a great contribution to physics published in the Physical Review in 1935, 47(10):0777-0780
3. "The titles of scientific articles have a special significance. We examined nearly 20 million scientific articles and recorded the development of articles with a question mark at the end of their titles over the last 40 years. Our study was confined to the disciplines of physics, life sciences and medicine, where we found a significant increase from 50% to more than 200% in the number of articles with question-mark titles. We looked at the principle functions and structure of the titles of scientific papers, and we assume that marketing aspects are one of the decisive factors behind the growing usage of question-mark titles in scientific articles."-- "Scholarly communication in transition: The use of question marks in the titles of scientific articles in medicine, life sciences and physics 1966–2005", by Rafael Ball, in Scientometrics, June 2009, Volume 79 #3, pp 667-679,
I just wanted to take a moment and compliment those responsible for crafting these fine engine catalogs for the famous Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp engines. The 46 liter twin-row, 18-cylinder air-cooled radial engines were among the finest of their kind ever constructed, and were flown in some of the greatest aircraft produced by the United States (including the A-36 Invader, P-61 Black Widow, P-47 Thunderbolt (!), F4U Corsair (!), DC-6, C-46 Commando, and others).
The first of two catalogs here for the Double Wasp R-2800-CA was produced by Pratt & Whitney in 1946 and for its 112 pages looks like a superior maintenance catalog, with concise and well written explanations and clear illustrations. It also has a great cross section which utilizes a black background, making the image jump from the page. (You can compare it with a similar image taken from a Twin Wasp catalog four years later; I'm not sure more use of the black background is not made.)
The second manual (Twin Wasp 2SD13-G and D5 Engines) was a restricted document when produced in 1949, and was much chunkier (170+pp), and somehow seems a lot more accessible to the not-a-mechanic writer. There is even a six-page "Unpacking the Engine" chapter with many photo illustrations--now it seems like reading the table of contents and seeing the six pages dedicated to unpacking was a little over the top, it turns out when you read the section and see the gigantic wood en box it came in and the other packing bits around it, you actually could use an unpacking manual. It is just an impressive document.
If you had use for such thing they are both offered for sale in the blog's bookstore, here.
There's something about a strong design in brilliant red:
This striking work is the cover for a circular produced by the National Fire Protection Association in 1929. It is a simple folded sheet, with some basic data about joining the association, and someone did a very good job of creating artwork for the front cover of this simple publication.
Here are some other small designs for pamphlet covers that I've found, and scanned, and cleaned up, and made into 14x19 posters, which look pretty good and which are also crazily color-hungry:
And just at the last moment, another found design in red:
This is the cover of a small pamphlet by W. Howard Grady, published in Kansas City, in 1925. From what I can tell in a quick read there seems to be no overriding approach to the New America outside of faith, freedom, and "buy American".