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.
[Please be aware that there were 75 blog posts and another 30,000 words made on this blog in June, 2015--check them out by going to the Recent Posts block at right]
I found these fascinating full-color plates from the dullish-sounding Manual for the Identification of Automobiles, (1940) and I know that someone out there in the vast land of the Interwebtubes will be very happy to see these images. I was, and I have no pressing use for them.
[Please be aware that there were 75 blog posts and another 30,000 words made on this blog in June, 2015--check them out by going to the Recent Posts block at right]
Meat, seaweed, "beef fluid", corn, pasta, spices, shrimp, bananas--have all served as a bases for the construction of maps--not maps of _____-producing areas, but the maps themselves being made of the actual thing (or image of it) itself. Antique examples of this semi-anti-accomplishment are tough to find, with the Moderns being a little more common (as we can see on the Time magazine site, the background of the maps being negatives of antiquarian maps).
And so I just had to stop and collect up this image found on Flickr of the rectifying and emboldening Bovril "fluid beef" holding up the world, like an Atlas constructed of water and suspended beef-ish squeezings, which is a lot less appetizing than the original myth. I can't think offhand of another atlas-like entity made of meat-things holding up the world.
I do not know what the land mass is off the African west coast, except that it shouldn't be there. Probably it was supposed to be a too-close South America.
Also I should point out that the idea for constructing non-food things from food does go back a long way--there are numerous sculptural items in art and architecture that employ food/foodbits going back many century. The most famous of these maps, I guess, is the semi-magnificent The Porcineograph, produced by the Forbes Lithographic Manufacturing Company of Boston in 1876 or so, which defines the states and territories of the U.S. in terms of their regional foods.
And before proceeding any further, I must at least make reference to another master in this field, an earlier, perhaps revolutionary figure (without producing a revolution), Giuseppe Arcimboldo (also spelled Arcimboldi; 1527-1593), who painted (in his non-conventional works) fantastic portraits and images using fruits, vegetables and other natural objects as the sole source of representation. On the other hand his influence may not have been so very well known, as many of his works were stolen during war time in the mid-17th century, and he fell rather deeply into obscurity until being revived and resurrected by the Surrealists in the 20th century.
Also in a nearby carrot patch lives some of the work of Nicolas de Larmessin (1640-1725)--an enormously creative and productive artist--who in his way created a genre similar to the great and ancient Dance of Death/.Danse Macabre/Totentanz--though his was the Dance of Life, and in some cases he used mostly food to construct and decorate his portraits.
There are more of these examples, to be certain, but that's all there is time for today. It is probably some sort of bona fide sub genre, although not a big one, and even there it may all be invisible.
The "Pantography of Modern History" packs a lot of information into a relatively small space, surveying a good chunk of the history of the West from the year 14 to 1800. (It is very similar and may be a pirated English version of a French effort that I describe in this post, earlier on this blog.) The sheets are 16x20" making the full pantography 32x20" or so--I reckon that there are about 1000 data points on the four square feet or so of paper. There are some descriptions of events but most of the effort is keeping the ruling heads in order. This version is a little easier to follow than the French because the design is somewhat sparser, making the bits easier to discern.
I'm a big fan of this sort of data display.
Published in Lavoisne's Complete ....Geographical Atlas, printed by J. Barfield, 1815. "Pantography of Modern History. Or, a Description of the relative Situations of the States and Sovereigns of Europe, during the first Ten Centuries of the Christian Era" Accompanied by "... from the Beginning of the Eleventh Century to the Year 1828".
On the heals of two water-related posts in the last two days (one of the waterless Jornada del Muerto in New Mexico and the other on the well at the Turin citadel as a reverse-tower) comes this fine image of a geological/hydrological cross section of London, from the Illustrated London News for July 20, 1929.
All elements of this collage are very (screen-filling) clickable, and sharp:
This square-within-a-square appears in a table of squares in several pages of square collections. They represent "Bullion product per capita" for U.S states and territories, and published in the U.S. Geological Survey Annual Report for 1881 (plate XLIX). The "bullion" is silver bullion, and as we can there twelve leading states for silver production worth discussing before the rest become melded into one solid whole in square 13. It is a beautiful display, in its pre-non-representational-art sort of way. Kandinsky was still more than 30 years away from calling this sort of thing "art", and the representation itself was 95 years after the first graphic displays to convey info (in Playfair's Commercial and Political Atlas of 1786)and still, it is very captivating in a simple, squarey sort of way.
Sometimes maps have an unusual ability they can Maps can record human achievement and anti-achievement and show human impact on the environment and vice versa, which is standard, especially if you can see a little deeply into it. Sometimes though there are the little bits--extras--that find their way onto the paper that opens a window to the emotional involvement of people and space, added by the artist or engraver or whoever it might be that last touches the plate before prints are made from it.
This certainly seems to be the case in this cross-section of tough New Mexico earth.
That little adobe building represents the Dona Ana Land Grant back in 1855, when those pioneers had a few decades of roots in the very hot ground there in New Mexico, across from the Rio Bravo, commanding the Mesilla Valley. In the original print, published in the great U.S. Pacific Railroad Survey1 in 1855, the structure is only about 3mm long--very easy to miss until you start looking closely at the sheet, which itself is only 2x2.5 cigarettes high and wide.
I thought the structure had a personality, and looked stolid, strong, and maybe even proud with its long fluttering banner, sitting there in the heights above the river, a strong place perched at the edge of the Jornada del Muerto ("The Dead Man's Journey" or more prosaically and according to Mr. McMurtry, "The Dead Man's Walk")
1. The full title of the eight-volume publication, which was an exhaustive treatment of the U.S. west from the mud below to the birds above, Reports of Explorations and Surveys to Ascertain the Most Practicable and Economical Route for a Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean Made Under the Direction of the Secretary of War, which was published by the U.S. government from 1853-6.
The main object in this engraving--the presentation of two globes, one terrestrial and one celestial--is perhaps less interesting than secondary figures accompanying it. The two small insets of solar and lunar eclipses are instructive and pretty, while the compass rose is full and surprisingly stubby, making that example fairly uncommon--and much more attractive when isolated and cleaned up a bit. So too for the rudimentary but elegant comparison of the sizes of the planets compared to the Sun that surrounds the celestial globe--again, isolated and defined, the image is striking.
The original map is available here at the blog's bookstore.
"All the roots hang down Swing from town to town They are marching around Down under your boots Below the gopher holes Where they all unfold There's a world going on underground Underground"--Tom Waits ("Underground", with audio)
Dirt isn't just the stuff that one gets rid of, of course--it is the basis of all that we are. Varieties of dirt are the stuff of the connoisseur and the expert, and when laid out properly, and particularly in a scientific manner, dirt is exceptionally beautiful. For example, this exceptional and large illustration appears in the Atlas of American Agriculture, which was printed in a very unpretty/dustbowly year for soil, 1936. (The image is clearer once you click in and expand.)
The lithograph is also available for sale at the blog's bookstore, here.
Hutchinson's Splendour of the heavens; a popular authoritative astronomy, by Theodore Philips and William Steavenson, was a splendid popular work filled with fine images, some of which were rather unusual. One that I thought I had to share was the f=one below, which contains the first time that I have seen the phrase "Our Puny Earth!" in a non-comic book. It is also a nice graphical display of data underneath the "puny Earth" bit--enjoy.
[Source: Internet Archive, https://archive.org/stream/hutchinsonssplen01philuoft#page/418/mode/thumb]
The moveable book (flapbook) has long been interesting to me--unfortunate though that in my own fields they weren't used very often. There are some very notable exceptions--early geometries would occasionally be published with many of the geometric illustrations made to pull out a little with the tug of a string to show you the construction in 3-D. Then of course there are the paper dissection manikins, where you can find nearly-life-sized paper anatomies with hundreds of movable/liftable flaps, and smaller examples of the body and specific organs that can be simple or not simple whatsoever. These were time-intensive efforts, and in their own way they provided a sort of pre-MRI MRI by revealing the various layers of 3-D objects with 2-D tools--and they're beautiful and captivating objects.
(And this example is for sale at the blog bookstore, here.)
This plate appears in Der Maschinenbau. Modelle.Zeichenerklärungen zu den Modellen des Werkes, by R. Georg, printed by Heinrich Killinger in Nordhausen in 1925. The major detraction here is an old 5-inch tear that has been repaired verso with aacid-free tape, otherwise in nice condition.
JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post--revisited and expanded
[Small detail from the quantitative display, below; measures 2x2 3/4".]
I wrote about this earlier on this blog but went back to it today to expand it a little and add to the illustrations--and to also place it in the for sale section of the blog.
Generally the dozens of maps/charts showing the comparative heights of mountains and lengths of rivers maps that have come through the store part of this blog have been somewhat large--or at least larger than the present example, which may be about the smallest (at about 11x8") detailed representative of this genre that I have seen.
"Tableu de la Hauteur des Pricnipales Montagenes du Globe" was published in Guillemin's Atlas universel de Geographie Ancienne et Moderne, and published by Langlume in 1845. It is also at the beginning of the more-modern heyday for publishing maps and charts such as these. (The practice began modestly at the end of the 18th century, came into a high tide in the 1850's/1860's or so, and then pretty much disappeared by the 1880's.)
There's a lot of comparatively-displayed information presented on 88 square inches, including the lengths of 30 rivers and the heights of about 500 mountain peaks distributed over Africa, Europe, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas. And for as much imagery and data there is on this sheet, the whole is very nicely designed, a real success in the display of quantitative data.
Starting at the year 14 (ACE) with the reign of Augustus Caesar this large two-sheet chronology organizes the rulers of the Western world so far as it was known into the early 19th century. ("Geographie de l'Histoire. ou Situation Relative des Etats et Souverains de l'Europe (in two parts), published by Molini and Landi, in Florence, in 1806.) There are 15 major divisions from the year 400-1800, with a short bit at the top of the first chart covering the previous 386 years or so. The columns show the rulers of reach century for Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain (then subdividing as necessary). There is one column for the "nations barbares" that covers everyone else in about 2" per century; there is another column for the chronology of Popes; one column for a general history of the Christian church, one column for celebrated and famous people, and then a final column for literature and the arts.
You can own these! Check them out on the blog's bookstore, here.
At the very least the chart helps you keep your rulers straight, so to speak--it is also the sort of engaging display of data that if it was hanging up and accessible that people would read it all the time in passing.
The sheets are large (27x21" or 68x53cm, and combined (as I have done in the past) they make a very imposing display 42x27" (106x68cm). The coloring (except for the odd darkish green) is fairly subtle but evident and useful in distinguishing the blocks of data at an easy glance.
I' a big fan of this sort of arrangement and display of data, trying as I used to in graduate school (and still do now) to fit the appropriate memory triggers on any given subject onto one sheet of 8.5x11" paper. It is a highly useful memory exercise, creating your own memory palace.
These charts appear in A. Le Sage (Comte de La-Casas) Atlas historique chronologique et géographique ou Tableau général de l histoire universelle présentant un moyen sûr et facile de classer avec fruit tout ce qui s est passé depuis la création jusqu à Jésus Christ espace de 4004 ans....
This map may be simply named ("Mountains & Rivers") but the information it displays is hardly so. As a matter of fact there are probably a thousand data points in this flowing, pleasingly-design comparative display of information--and the closer you look, the more there is.
In the mountains section there are hundreds of pieces of data locating the elevations at which cities and towns are found, and the altitudes of the extent of different types of trees, and of course the comparative heights of enumerated mountains set off by the continents. Above the mountains floats the fantastic display of the lengths of rivers, listing 43 in all, showing cities at the various stages of each river's progress.
It really is a glorious thing.
"Maps & Rivers" was printed and published by Johnson & Ward in 1862 and appeared in Johnson's New Illustrated Family Atlas; there is at least one earlier version that appeared in 1856 with a different background and with ornate Celtic-inspired borders, though I prefer this version with the simple border and the full blue-sky-and-clouds background. For my experience this is one of the richest of the genre published in the mid/late 19th century.
The original map is available for sale at the blog's bookstore, here.
This is another in a series of posts on images found in the glorious Fr. Athansius Kircher's masterpiece, Mundus Subterraneus, printed in 1668. (One of the main posts on these images occurs here; there are many more if your search under Kircher's name in the Google box at left.)
This fine example of the depth of his observation finds the great Jesuit finding things in rock and mineral samples like agate--in this case he looks at a collection of samples that display found letters of the alphabet and geometrical shapes.
The original of this image may be purchased via the blog bookstore, here.