A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7000 images, 3 million hits| History of Science, Math & Tech | Press & appearances in The Times, Le Figaro, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places...
The Illustriete Zeitung, published in Leipzig beginning in 1855, was a popular, middle-road/middle-class Life-like
magazine. I have a long run of this big, well-written,
sumptuously-illustrated journal, beginning about 1870 and extending
though the end of the war in 1945, and at this point I've looked through just about every issue. It is fascinating on many levels,
and has proved to be a valuable source of historical minutiae as well
as an excellent resource for images and graphical displays of
quantitative data. One aspect that I've never looked at very
closely though are the advertisements--actually, the miniature
advertisements. There are thousands of them sprinkled throughout the magazine, the thyme on the rice, the za'tar on the bagel.
Here are three decent examples showing the complexity and superior design of these little bits: the top-right image is only an inch square, and was published in 1924; the slim image just above is only an inch tall, while the example below-right is smaller yet, about a third (!) of an inch 'round.
I've decided to begin to reproduce some of them here, mainly because
so many of them are gorgeous design elements, many of which just don't
exist past the pages of this journal.
One thing that I've done with them is to construct "Onkel Karl's Berlin Glass Diary", a series of microscope slides with these small images as specimens illustrating the imaginary diary of Karl Muefler as he strolls the streets of Berlin in 1925 looking for "missing paper". The original images are all very small, generally smaller than an American penny, and can be fantastic: sometimes there are thirty of them clustered on one of the Illustriete Zeitung's back advertising pages.
I'll return to this category from time to time and add more images, hopefully compiling several hundred or so examples.
Image is 1.5 inches tall and printed in 1930.
Image is 2 inches square, printed 1938.
Image is 2 inches square and printed in 1938.
(This image is less than half-an-inch tall, printed 1919)
This image measures about 1/3 inch, printed 1925.
Image meaures about 1.5 inches tall, printed 1919.
JF Ptak Science Books LLC an expanded post (#975) from 2010
[Faint of heart, stop here.]
This carefree stroll through the geology of death prep and care comes to us via the Embalmers’ Supply Company (ESCO) catalog, of 1941, serving and selling to members of the embalming profession since 1886.It provides the Practioner with all means necessary to scrape away facial muscle, cement the jaw, seal the eyes, color “old age” eyebrows, fill cancerous cavities, mold over gaping wounds, position the arms, contour the chin, scoop out the brain, replace the blood, pull out the bowels, and all other manner of removal/drainage/fillup, and then apply makeup to cover all suture wounds and other “deficiencies”.
It is a bit odd to compare these three relatively contemporary
works on the human heart and to see their points of correlation and (vast)
departure. The first belongs to Jean Senac, whose Traite de la Structure de Coeur…(published in 1749) was one of the
most valuable works on the 18th century on the heart, laying a firm
foundation for the study of its pathology.Senac
(1693-1773, born in Gascony
and later physician to Louis XV) was the first visitor to many aspects of the
heart’s physiology, describing delation (as the most common evidence of cardiac
pathology), correlated hydrothorax with cardiac failure, pericarditis, and much
more—he also published exquisite illustrations by Jacques Poitier to accompany
The next image is the first to properly describe the nerves
of the heart, and was published in the magnificent Antonio Scarpa’s Tabulae neurologicae ad illustrandam
historiam anatomicam cardiacorum… in 1794.Scarpa was a monumentally
accomplished anatomist who was also a gifted
artist, and it is his own work that illustrates this masterpiece.The original edition of this work is huge,
atlas-sized, and the images of the heart are life-size and float in plenty of
free, very wide and perfect margins.
On the other end of the spectrum we have this liturgical
philosophical anatomy of the stages of the heart in grace and disgrace. Mostly I’m interested in the foul part, which
shows the advanced mortification of the organ in seating the throne of Satan. The
edition here is The Heart of Man, either
a Temple of God or the Habitation of Satan1, and
is a very heavy-handed 1842 illustrated edition from Harrisburg (PA) version of
a French text of 1732.It is illustrated
with ten versions of the state of the heart, ranging from perfect grace to the installation
of the Beast, and several points in between, the degrees of gaining and losing
The first image shows the heart of man completely dominated
by Satan, with Man the sinner’s troubled face (along with the mark of Cain (dominating
his wayward organ.The emblematic
animals infesting his heart include the peacock (with its misleading
haughtiness), goat (“a lascivicious, stinking animal” representing “unchastity”
and impurity), hog (gluttony and intemperance), snake (seducer), tiger (cruelty
and ferocity) and tortoise (indolence). They chase from the hear the holy ghost
and an angel, and allow the presence of Satan (front and center).
The second image is interesting in that it shows the
movement of a bad/evil/wicked heart to a more pious one, though it is just in
the transition stages.In my experience
it is uncommon to see an emblematic illustration of a half-way point of, well,
anything; this woodcut seems to capture, to be a snapshot so to speak, of the
human heart undergoing transformation.
1. The original title was something along the lines of Spiritual Mirror of Morality, in which every
Christian, who desires his salvation, may view himself, know the state of his
soul, and profitably learn to regulate his life according to it. Hardly gender-neutral,
the title makes four specific gender references to men.
“When [the soul] is firmly fixed on the domain where
truth and reality shine resplendent it apprehends and knows them and appears to
possess reason, but when it inclines to that region which is mingled with
darkness, the world of becoming and
passing away, it opines only and its edge is blunted, and it shifts its
opinions hither and thither, and again seems as if it lacked reason.” Plato, The Republic book. VI, 508d
dipped deep into the myth/metaphor/parable/analogy/allegory of the cave,
contrasting it with the allegory of the sun, discussing the pursuit of
knowledge real and not-so.
like the idea of the half-displayed, semi-schematic, fade-away disposition of
the cave and how painters dealt with them and their hidden contents in early Renaissance
difficult to show a cave, a dark hole (occurring in all rock types and
topographic situations, btw) that really hadn’t been dealt with scientifically
yet—even if humans had been using them one way or another for thousands of
noticed these images time in and time out, and I’ve not really saved them, or
at least I haven’t segregated the odd etched or engraved images, though they
are all here somewhere, so I can add to this post from time to time.The image that I’ll use tonight comes from
Harvard’s FoggMuseum and is the work of the Master of
Osservanza (Sienese school, fl 1430-1450, manuscript illustrator).It is a popular image, “Christ in Limbo”,
though of the others working in this genre we see Christ generally at the
entrance to a tomb/cave-like place, standing just outside of the doorway (as with Mantegna, Durer, Pacher, Fra Angelico and others).The Master of Osservanza gives us an
exquisite cutaway view of the cave of limbo, showing both the outside and the
inside, which is an uncommon and beautiful perspective.
I should add that the tearingly odd "Saint
Anthony Abbot Tempted by a Heap of Gold", also painted by the Master of Osservanza (ca. 1435) depicts the least-likely-of-all-saints-to-be-tempted-by-gold reacting in horror to, well, nothing. Nothing at all. We see him reacting to what used to be there, but which for some reason was removed, painted-over at some dim point in the dusty past, for reasons that I do not know. (And so the painting could easily move into my Blank and Empty Things series.) But the desert landscape is so sparse and the sky so surreal with bent clouds that it is easy today to overlook the gold entirely.
[I know there's SO much more to this business with the caves--I just wanted to get this post started before it all went down the thought-hole.]
treadmill-powered French pontoon dredge, printed around 1745, looks for all the
world as though it is floating in mid-air, propelling itself along with two
bucket-ended legs, elegantly and impossibly moving its miracle-y-balanced self
forward against all forms of reason and logic, a clunky 18th century
non-transforming Transformer. The
profile actually and simply shows a dredge at work and just fails to show the water in which it
boat’s dredge is powered by four humans in two treadmills which would move the buckets
back and forth, scraping up the river silt and then emptying it into the shuttle
launch aft. Simple and ingenious—except when
taken out of context, where it begins to look like some advanced Age of Reason floating
boat which, although awkward-looking, is not without its charm.
Source: Charles Singer, History of Tecnology, volume IV,
pg. 634. Singer loftily notes that this machine
“is reminiscent of Goethe’s poem Der Zauberlehring
which inspired Paul Dukas’s well known symphonic poem L’apparenti sorcier” and which would be better known to most folks as
Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice gig in Fantasia.
Mark Twain said that Adam only took the apple not because it was delicious or attractive but because it was forbidden. I wonder why this operative of Satan was so interested in this artist (pictured below), who was seemingly and boringly making his way through a standard portrait of an imagined vision of the Holy Mother. She and the other holies (some of whom appear to be "simply" human and clerical compared to the rest of the iconic foundations of Christianity) are being bathed in pure holy light; an angel at left, seemingly with nothing else to do, unnecessarily points to the main attraction, making sure that the artists knew that it was the folks with the halos who were to be painted. . [It would be surreal and interesting to imagine a short sequence in which we see these two artists working busily on their unseen canvases, sweating as the oils fly, recording the celestial scene before them, golden and glowing people illuminated by the light of the creator; finished, the artists reveal their work, one painting the holy congress, while the other turns his godless landscape canvas featuring the odd tower at right-rear. "I could never paints hands" he might've said.]
The engraving is the work of Bortius a Bolwert (1580-1643 and a pupil of the much better-known Abraham Bloemaert) for A. Suquet's morality and Heaven/Hell peepbook, Den wech des eeuwich levens...which was printed in 1620. I don't know what the original message was for this image, unless it was something simple, some punishment for a less-than-pure artist painting purity; perhaps the devil took the artist at death, showing the reader that not only is death available to call at any time, but that the devil was right there, too, to whisk you away to the lake of fire even while your oily hommage to the creator was wet on your easel. It might well simply be in the dance of death tradition--so beautifully and haltingly executed by people like Albrecht Durer--showing Death visiting people of all ranks and professions, the moment of extinction coming at the time most perfectly illustrating the deathee's station of life.
Also appearing under such titles as Ars moriendi, Memento mori, Vanitas, Dancs Macabre, the Skeleton Dance, la Danza de la Muerte, Totentanz, and the Chorea Machabæorum, among others, the idea of the Dance of Death existed as morality plays and in literature for many centuries. In the years before printing in Europe, there were many versions of time's massacre in frescoes in churches and chapels all across Europe (see here for an interesting chronological listing) as well (of course)as in myriads of manuscripts. In addition to Durer, some of the early post-Gutenberg masters of this genre included Konrad Witz, (1460); Bernt Notke, (1463); Hans Holbein the Younger (1538), Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki,r Johann Elias Ridinger. (See here for an introduction to and explanation fo the Holbein cycle.) In music too the Dance of Death scenario is seen many times: the Danse Macabre (by Camille Saint-Saëns, 1874); Songs and Dances of Death, (by Modest Mussorgsky, 1875); Dance of Death in Symphony No. 4, 2nd Movement (by Gustav Mahler, 1901); Mattasin oder Toden Tanz, (by August Nörmiger, 1598); (Dance of Death), in Ballad of Heroes, (by Benjamin Britten, 1939); Dance of Death, in Trio in E Minor, op. 67 (by Dmitri Shostakovich, 1944); Totentanz ( by Franz Liszt, 1849 AND Felix Woyrsch in 1905 AND Arnold Schoemnber in 1914 AND Wilhelm Kempff in 1931, and on and on. I didn't mean to go on about this, but just wanted to make the point that the Looming Nature of Death really was so in Medieval and Renaissance Europe--and where death as waiting at virtually every turn, the Devil wasn;t too far behind.
(Also, see Bibliodyssey for a wonderful woodblock book of the dance of death.)
I was on my way to something else when I stopped to look at
this engraving by Ulrich Pinder, his last supper, the Speculum passionale, published in Nuremberg in 1507.It has a nice perspective, an interesting ceiling,
and a crowded table with very little on it in the way of food.And no forks.Knives—yes of course—and big containers of some sort of liquid, but no
forks.As it turns out, the fork really
hadn’t made a strong appearance in northern Europe until the end of the
century, brought back evidently from travelers in Europe.The first appearance in a painting, in
another Last Supper, I believe, occurs at least by 1599.
I know, there’s no spoons either, but they had been around
for a long time, and just didn’t make an appearance on this table for reasons
"I observed a custome in all those Italian Cities
and Townes through which I passed that is not used in any other country that I
saw in my travels, neither doe I think that any other nation of Christendome
doth use it, but only Italy. The Italian, and also most strangers that are
cormorant in Italy, does alwaies at their meales, use a little fork when they
cut the meate . . . their forkes being for the most part made of iron or steel,
and some of silver, but these are used only by gentlemen. The reason of this
their curiosity is because the Italian cannot endure by any means to have his
dish touched by fingers, seeing that all men's fingers are not alike cleane.
Hereupon I myself thought to imitate the Italian fashion by this forke cutting
of meate, not only while I was in Italy,
but also in Germany, and
often-times in England
since I came home."Thomas Coryate, Coryat's Crudities (1611)
Forbes, R. J. "Food and Drink," Charles Singer,
et. al. eds. A History of Technology. Oxford:
OxfordUniversity Press, 1956. Vol. II: The
Mediterranean Civilization and the Middle Ages, c. 700 B.C. to c. A.D. 1500:page 126.
Braudel, Fernand, Civilization and Capitalism 15th-18th
Century, vol. 1: The Structures of Everyday Life: The Limits of the
Collins, 1981: page 209.
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.
I wrote a little about this in 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
William Rimmer’s (1816-1879) Art Anatomy (1877 and subsequent
printings) is another such adventure.Rimmer was a very accomplished artist, and was also a fine
anatomist.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.
of these images is something else, sometimes.There is an undoubted Leonardoesque quality to many of his drawings, the
figures appearing with deft lines and interesting shadings, many times
surrounded by the author’s notes and explanationsBut there’s also something else—some of the
images are just, well, a little bizarre given the time in which they were
executed.Some of the details are
positively modernist, begging to be identified as a 1920’/1930’s creation, or
Dadaist, or something—just not 19th century.I’ve included some further examples below
JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post 477 In the history of questions, this ("Is the dance dangerous?") certainly must rank in the bottom tenth percentile. Or at least I hope it does. The question is the title of this small pamphlet, written by Porter Bailes (of the First Baptist Church of Tyler, Texas) in 1947, a work which is part of my Naive Surreal collection. "If it's doubtful, it's dirty" is the major maxim that floats it way through this work, and proceeds to attacks it subject of "the"dance on its unholy, immoral, unnatural, imprudent, prayer-defeating nature.
"Can any one stretch the imagination as to think of Jesus as being congenial and at ease in the atmosphere that the dance creates? No! Dancing is not to the glory of god. It never made anyone feel the nearness of god. It robs us of the desire to pray. A dancing foot and a praying knee are not found long on the same limb."
"There are many fine people who dance. They are fine not because they dance, but in spite of the dance."
"The dance does not involve any moral requirements. The more lewd the people are, the more proficient they may become. The gestures of the dance demand lewdness."
Lastly: "the tine of the dance makes it dangerous. Its hours are unearthly and abnormal"
And lastly last: " The position of the dance make it dangerous. For two normal people to place their bodies in the close personal contact that the modern dance demands and not have impure thoughts and unholy emotions stirred, would be very unnatural. In truth, it is against all the known laws of human nature."
This is last just for my examples: there are 20 pages of this. It is remarkable that, in this highly restrictive and judgmental work, the paper is allowed to bend.
And not to be outdone, the author tells us that 97% of professional gamblers "attribute their habit to the practice of playing cards at home". "The risk is too great, young people" Pastor Bailes tells us, "for you to start gambling--even at home". He began to warm to this subject but I guess was saving this subject for later.
thought a little further (from yesterday’s post) about van Eyck and settled in on his painting
of the newly married (The Arnolfini
Marriage, painted in 1434, depicting the union of Giovanni Arnolfini and
Giovanna Cenami, who married in Bruges in that year), and the very unusual image of
the scene as reflected in the convex mirror directly behind the couple. It is a wonderful painting of course,
lusciously and richly colored--the observer, though, is brought instantly to the
mirror. And in that reflection is what
is seen from behind the couple as well as what the couple is seeing--in a
sense, a 180-degree view of the room (if we considered the painter's
perspective towards the couple as 90-degrees). It is one of the first times that a mirror is used in this fashion and
is also offers a great instruction on the newly-rediscovered perspective. (The
inscription above the mirror, which is surrounded by ten scenes from the life
of Christ, reads “Jan van Eyck was present"--and probably was literal, as we
see the painter himself reflected in a tiny
portrait...along with another man, who may also have been involved with the
matter of fact, it is just 30 years earlier that Filippo di Ser Brunellesci
(1377-1446) used mirrors as a tool in
"creating" the first paintings in linear perspective in modern times--and he uses the
mirrors in such a way as to compare what he was seeing in front of him, rather
than using them to gain a sight-line for things that he couldn't see. But they did in a way do just that. Brunellesci set his position inside the
unfinished Santa Maria del Fiore (Florence), and used the apparatus (pictured
here from the linked website) to record the facade of San Giovanni de Firenze
(better known by its subsequent name, the Florentine Baptitstry, as all
were Baptized there well into the 19th century) which was
opposite his position across the Piazza del Duomo. He effort was a panel which
was finished between 1407 and 1410, and which is now lost to time and
It should be noted that the Baptistry, an 8-sided figure
(with another, triangular, form added later; and 8-sided to represent the
octava dies, the "eighth day," the day of the risen Christ, which would
be outside the scope of time and measurement) was decorated with colossal,
fantastically beautiful doors, some of which were created by none other than
Ghiberti, another (slightly later) master of linear perspective.
(The image below is taken from the very useful site which goes into
good detail about the Brunellesci pin/peephole experiment)