A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7500 images, 3.9 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... 4,000+ total posts
Wow. These are some pretty weighty images--I'm not going to pretend that I know much about the symbolism and O.T. history of them at all, and will just stay with admiring what looks to be serious audacity from the simple design and presentation perspective.
They appear in Frederick W. Childe's Prophecies of Daniel and Revelation Compared (1927), and were "drawn and designed" by Clarence Larkin. They have a strong sense to them, and are at the same time kind of aerodynamic and sweeping, streamlined in a way that would take on design a few years later.
In my heaping pamphlet collection there is a sub-collection of works with impossible, outsider-y, and stubbornly semi-confused titles that simply cannot be ignored--I mean the titles can't be ignored, though most of the time their texts beg to be.
Scorn Not That Which You Do Not Understand
is about as ungainly a title for a book that you could construct in eight words or less. Then there's
Total Omitters of Realities
a title which is as anti-compelling as the first but accomplishing that feat in half the words, and uses the plural of "reality" just for good measure. Creating another competing title in two words would be fairly improbable.
Then there are the pamphlets that have no titles on their covers, though they do have title pages, though they really don't look like it, even though they are. And even when they are what they seem to be not, they really aren't even that. Such is the case of
When Where and How do you see RED ask me one of the Million.
I have no idea what this pamphlet can be about.
Opened to a random page, I see in heavy underline "The human knower's point of view inside your head and mine and the power of the pen".
It is a mystery--it is also one of the few title pages I have seen that asks for the signature of a "witness".
There appeared on this blog last week a post regarding a library cataloguer who was not threatened or defeated by a work with an enormous and meandering title. The good librarian got right to it, recorded the deed, and moved on. Today's installment of card catalog magic presents a Library of Congress librarian who decided that enough-was-enough, and that there was simply too-much-title to record, and so simply left the rest of it to dots and to the imagination.
Now for the pamphlet itself and the rest of the title:
The author of this 1938 pamphlet simply started to write on the cover and continued through the rest of the work, and ended on the back cover. There was no title page, no chapter headings, just a collection of ideas with lots of lists and seemingly nowhere to go. For a short work (36 pages) the author could've dedicated another quire to some blank space, which really doesn't exist in the pamphlet but which is surprisingly helpful even if the message you are trying to deliver is somewhat, well, outre. There is a lot of very compressed talk about multi-dimensional spirit and conscience and bank deposits and replacing the dollar and tax collection with "circulation of values", and so on, deep into itself and a closed system of interpretation of the existence of the universe, harmony of spirit, and economic interpretations of "radio bulbs" and the (often misspelled) fourtth [sic] dimension. The writing is exhausting and enumerated, and even though by its colossal subject matter and the complex brevity it should be a reliably porous document, it is fairly rigid and brittle. It is a visionary work that somehow worked its way into print, and I'm happy for that, and even it is impossible to keep up with its runaway logic it is still a good ride.
The author's representation of a semi-vitruvian spiritual anatomy of humans, called Spirisoulman:
A detail of the fabulously-decorated heart region:
And of course part of the plan for universal economics which somehow wraps up the theory of in I.R., or the Inductive Rightousness of Inductive Truths:
Early on in the history of printed books there was a practice of extended title pages, where there would be the title, and then "support literature" further explaining the title to sometimes some great detail, occasionally winging its way into a title 200 words long. But that was pretty much before the 18th century and mostly before the 17th and mostly a not-common practice. The gigantic title in the 20th century seems to be mostly relegated to the less-traveled-road variety of public thinking.
And the card catalog for the undefeated librarian mentioned above:
Simply put, this is easily a first-percentile title and title-page design, the work of a man who set out to discover the world for/by himself and wound up taking a very long inner journey of Some Outsider-y Influence, and then felt the need to share it:
That is a lot of unnecessary information to share, particularly on the cover of your book.
This is a very good example of the combination of two main threads of odd title pages that have been slowly accumulating in a series of posts on this blog (a good example of which can be seen in the post "Little Bizarredness: Bland Hyper-oddness in Published Works", here) about books with "simply difficult" title pages: (a) those that are swift and contra-subtle, wispy cloudy bits that lack a cohesion and make them a little impenetrable, and (b) those that are bold and straightforward and mostly nonsensical. Here we have a composite, the elusive "(c)" category, which is a combination of a+b (where a+b=a+b, only)--both light and dense, simple and complex, all adding up to a little bit of bold almost-nothing.
When we open the pamphlet we see that Capt. Miles tries again with the title page of the book, changing the title on the cover but with high accomplishment is able to retain the overall largesse of mystery about what the book is about:
Evidently Capt. Miles did make a grand expedition, and he was away for a long time, and he did build himself an absolutely beautiful boat--and brought back with him the idea of some sort of international straight- and not bent-thinking ferocious logical thinking political party. His was the Peoples Party (I'm not so sure why he chose this name when it was taken by several other groups already), the "patriot's preportional [sic] part of the New International Party" ("a recorded reality"), that "with non-secret straight thinking New Independent International Political Party the Third Party within All Nations will collectively end all empires" and so on. He also referred to his political party by yet another name: "Miles International Practical Brotherhood". Its hard to take the "practical" part of this seriously, especially when Miles' own political party gets referred to by so many different names.
Cap't. Miles excuses himself right at the beginning for his grammatical and spelling errors, which is a good thing because there are so very many of them, as he "had little of the artifica [sic] education (schooling)". He does recount his voyage but it is riddled with internal Socratic monologues that lead the reader to question many things, not the least of which is the simplest of questions: "why?"
In any event Cap't Miles does drag teh reader through 175 pages of poorly written and badly spelled oddnessment. His outre design capacity and presentation though makes this a fine example of outsider thinking.
Deep in the book Miles takes a deep breath and dips into the snipe-like "(d)" category, which is a very rare occurrence of reproducing the title page of a book deep within the text and not getting the title correct, which is a peculiarly beautiful agony:
Evidently there is no distinction between the 'first" page and the 'front" page, both of which are different, anyway.
There are also bits like this half-page announcement laced throughout the book, looking like salty sprinkles in a foamy Guinness:
And just when you think that you're through the book and its brilliant cloudiness you find this:
It is all really quite breathtaking, in a way.
The book--whatever its title--was written and published by Capt. Edward Miles and issued in 1942 as a first edition "Series A"--no doubt this was supposed to be the first of many such installments. I'm trying not to imagine the disappointment that Miles must've felt when there was no need for more. I guess he could've blamed it on the war...
My copy is the copyright deposit copy, no doubt sent by Miles as part of the process to secure a copyright for his work in the United States. I can find only one library in the world (via the OCLC) with a copy of this book--the hometown Newbury, in Chicago--the record for which states that their copy was "number 105 of the first edition". Perhaps Miles numbered the pamphlets as they went out, and perhaps the numbering was truthful. In any event, this is not the solo-lonely outcome of big and lonesome high-seas thinking, and at least one other copy exists 515 miles from here.
I think this is one of those works that is best appreciated at a distance, and that a reading of it would only ruin things by the accumulation of painful and what looks like embarrassing detail. Looking at the large font aspect of the book is good enough to allow this work to be treated as a kind of artwork which would only be obscured by weed-prone narrative.
I stumbled upon this fantastic leap into science affliction, an attempt to display the absolutely enormous idea of draining the Earth of all water revealing its ultimately rocky structure. And this in the relatively young modern cartographic days of 1694.
This map ("Den Aardkloot van water ontbloot, na twee zijden aante sien", published in Amsterdam in 1694 by Wilhelm and Jan Goeree in a Dutch edition of the expansive and imaginatively suggestive cosmo-theo-geographical work, Telluris Thoeoria Sacra) reveals the half-believed idea of California being an island was we can clearly see the enormous canyon separating it from the North American mainland. On the other hand, the "opposite" (in a way) belief takes place in the north, showing a large and towering land mass at the North Pole.
All-in-all, given the state of geographical knowledge for the unseen stuff of the Earth, this was an excellent attempt to reveal the structure of the globe. Sure, the depths of the oceans are a little off, the idea and the attempt to depict it was an extraordinarily interesting display for the time, especially with limited hard data. This is even a more-remarkable series of observations considering the theoretical framework in which all of this was taking place.
Burnet (1635-1715) poured out his pounding heart into the pages of his sacred history, teaching people about the structure and history of the Earth with generally little or unsuccessful regard to science--but no matter. (Burnet did try to figure out where all of the water came for the flood, which is a great question. It is impossible for it to come from a natural rain of any sort, and Burnet probably came to the conclusion this the answer for the flood couldn't come from the surface of the Earth. So to keep things in compliance with his faith, Burnet established that the water necessary for the flood came not from the surface of the sphere, but below it, in the hollow Earth which was actually filled with water.) This was a work of structured faith and a belief system, and wasn't seen as much more than that except to the initiated. But a resulting map of the structure of a waterless Earth seems to me a more powerful piece of imaging than an Earth simply covered by water.
[Black and white image source Barry Lawrence Ruderman Rare Maps, here.; color version from Oldmaps.com, here]
JF Ptak Science Books Post 2019 (expanding an earlier post)
I am very attracted to the innocence and softly bizarre category of my store’s Outsider Logic Collection, like this little pamphlet that was published in New York in 1944. The pamphlets in this category are odd but still understandable, and the "what the ____!" response to the subtle ones isn't quite so high and the exclamation points not so many as in the cases of the Outsider Logic titles. Bizarre is different from that, certainly not hiding behind any lesser or ambiguous title--it stretches the category a bit as it is intended to be a parody of the more-popular magazines and their advertising sponsors, but it is really quite a bit different from a simple humous and pun-laden trip into dead-end future visions. It was copyright by the very far-reaching Hugo Gernsback, who in 1926 started the first magazine dedicated to the genre of science fiction (Amazing Stories) and for whom the World Science Fiction Society’s annual award for Science Fiction Achievement is named (the “Hugo”). Gernsback evidently had a taste for cheeky parody, producing similar magazines to this called Quip, Forecast, Jolliers, Tame and Newspeep--it seems though that Bizarre may have ultimately morphed into Forecast.
I guess that this was deeply weird for mass-production publication, and it was probably funny--now it is just weird, odd, and somewhat discomforting--a successful and intentional reach for being part of the Uninentional Outsider right from the start.
Most of the magazine is dedicated to imaginary electronic delights--analog electronics (though it is still fairly early to be having such dreams and using the word "electronics", as it was just barely two decades old at this point). One of the oddest of these inventions of the near future was the Electronic Odoranalyzer, which was necessary for reasons I couldn't discern. (I'd like to assume that odors are calculated and calibrated and a scent is chosen specifically for them, or it.)
The advertising was unusual as well: there were hats you could potnetially purchase of weeping willow Platina fox tails; some hats had tanks (as with the Le Chapeau Tank hat, modeled for the magazine and "worn pugnaciously at a slant"), and other hats had simple canons (as with the French Mitrailsuese). While wearing your tank hat you could also theoretically relax to your favorite tunes in style with a $125,000 radio--it was made for war profiteers who couldn't find banks enough to hold their cash and was billed as too expensive to steal.
Then there's the EBC--the Electronic Bed Company--with their magnificent new product, an invention "by the great sage of Hackensack" so spectacular as to make ordinary sleeping obsolete. The bed was an air-conditioned, self-washing, self-adjusting, self covering, fiberglass-cushioned, telephone-capable, air pillowed, air conditioned masterpiece that looked like it was about ready for anything but sleep, which I guess would make it revolutionary.
"Ist der Weltraum absolut leer, oder nicht?" ("Is outer space absolutely empty, or not?")
Carl Kutter challenged Isaac Newton on the 1st law of motion. Or at least that is what it looks like to me, the story presented in a slim but attractively designed pamphlet, published in Basel in 1944. Die Weltraumreibung presents the issue of "space friction", and I frankly could not make my way through that much of it--not even to the point of understanding whay Halley's Comet is illustrated on the front cover. But the design is interesting, and the issue was certainly very highly unexpected.
Dr. C. Sterling Cooly wrote an incredibly-titled pamphlet of
slim means called Should Insanity be Cured?How could anyone proceed further than this?Dr. Cooley wasn’t a eugenic apologist, nor
was he an accountant for a life insurance firm—he was advocating a drugless
cure for all different sorts of “insanity”, which was a term he doesn’t really
stop to identify and classify, which of course is deeply problematic.
Or it is so until you hear how one can treat the insane via
his new drugless method:chiropractic.I didn’t see that
one coming.“An insane mind is a sick
brain, a sick body is an insane body” writes Dr. Cooley with leading
confidence, claiming that chiropractic can release “the power within…marvels of
healing are performed not only in mental cases but in virtually ALL forms of
disease”.That’s a lot to live up to in
theory, let alone in practice.
Dr. Cooley was evidently a deeply important founder father of modern chiropractic, with a 50-year career in the area (1908-1957), and who was also very prolific--this is one work that he probably shoud've edited out of the publishing phase.
I don't know why the eyes are so very prominently featured--except I guess to enhance some understanding of the subject area,
"Sometimes a book is just entirely bad, and sometimes it is entirely nothing. It is impossible for a book to be both very bad and very nothing. Impossible. Except for this book, whose badness is exceeded only by its nothingness, and vice versa". --Oscar Wilde
And so into this black hole of imaged Wildeian description we go, into a very real-ish book.
I found a novel tonight, bought long ago and long ago mostly lost. It was written by a doctor who worked in the District Hospital in Lima, Ohio, and written in 1934. The Lima Hospital was the largest poured concrete structure in the world when it was built in 1915, and stayed so until the Pentagon was completed. The hospital was established for the criminally insane, had 14"-thick walls, and reinforced steel bars laid into the walls that went "right down to bedrock".
It was somewhere in there that this doctor wrote something that was really so toweringly bad that it escapes comprehension. I own the carbon copy of the unpublished work, which is typed on 14x8.5" sheets of paper, front and back, running 94 pages. It is a very crowded affair, with 90 lines of single-space typed lines, making the work about 115,000 words long.
There wasn't enough space evidently for paragraphs, which gives the work a kind of insistent, casket-cramped cruelty. To read it takes your breath away for its dullness--the book moves so weirdly and at the same time so very slowly that it doesn't move at all even while moving.
A few months ago I found the seven-foot-long scroll of the book's plan--a work of crowded magnificence of nothing and confusion, being very orderly at the same time. It went to a friend of mine who created artwork around it, and as it happens made a very noticeable appearance in a very significant yearly show in NYC last week. I was stunned to find that there was actually a text to go with the scroll-outline--it emerged from the warehouse this week, so perhaps this too will find a very celebrated life as art as well. Certainly the book would go nowhere on its own as a book, though it stood a chance at surviving on the grounds of its considerble design weirdness, which is of a complexified beauty.
In the meantime, before all of the letters slide themselves off the page from sheer boredom and before the thing is resurrected as a magnificent artistic effort, I'll share some ianges of the extra-ordinary book of reversed brilliant badness. I've also culled a few imaginary descriptions of the book from writers known and not:
"He couldn't speak. He could barely see. Blinded by the flames ignited inside his eyeballs from the novel in his lap. The words were like molten lead, sucked off the page by his eyes, forming a vacuum in his brain. It was a bad book".
The first-time published novelist's approach:
"He couldn't speak the words of the thoughts in his head, because they and all of his breath were stolen by the magic of the complete badness of the book in his lap".
"The book was bad and bad, and bad was the book. Even the badness of the bad was bad, a whole new insight into being bad. It was the bad book by which bad books are called bad".
"He didn't read the book so much as he looked through it. It was easy--there was nothing there. As bad as it was, it could get no worse. So he shot it, and poured a drink".
Well. This item is of course lost on me, but the new “wonder-worker comb" somehow did an anti-crushing something to the scalp and the hair root that promoted/restored and fictionalized hair health. The secret to understanding it all, evidently, is that "bad scalp" is “crushed thin”. This is brought about by “HAND pressure”, from “strong fingers that mash and force the elastic scalp to become thin and such” causing hair to be “more crowded, flattened”. For some reason the inventor didn’t speculate on whether other sorts of combs did this, or not; it looks as though he/she was targeting only those who combed their hair with their own non-plastic fingers, clearly elucidating this primal contest in a "wonder worker comb" vs. crushing/flattening comb fingers vocabulary.
The comb with the adjustable fingers “pulls, exercises, stretches, thickens and loosens the scalp as it passes through” (the hair, the scalp?). It makes the scalp “roomy inside”, allowing the extra room that the hair needs “to function”. These hair restorative miracles is the result of the simple use of the comb, providing “complete results all by itself, no wasted efforts…”.
The comb also, it seems, controls dandruff, and improves “thin, Lifeless, Dry-hair (sic)”. That’s a lot to ask of a piece of plastic.
This somewhat-scary item is a photographic postcard sent to the Library of Congress as a Copyright Deposit copy--part of the process of securing protection from intellectual theft via American copyright. One is set to wonder about who--and why--this idea would be stolen. It would make an interesting story about Really Bad Ideas that were appropriated to no good end.
It is difficult to lose your reader right in the very title of your text. But I do think that John Penn ("the Greatest of Living Authors" accomplishes this in his
Right from the Star-Chamber! Wholly Moses Another Coutnry Heard from Another Presidential Candidate declines the Nomination! Big Little Franklin Puts in its Disclaimer and Begs to be Heard Before the Big--(June)--Bug Convention... And on and on.
I can find nothing for Mr. Penn, who claims that this is Volume 3 Number 2 of a magazine called The Revelator (June 1888), a magazine that doesn't seem to exist in the holdings of the massive WorldCat/OCLC. The message of the slim and fragile pamphlet is--in the most kind appreciation possible--unclear. There seems to be a lot of political something going on, though it is a tangled webby road. Much of the center stage seems occupied by the election of 1888, when President Cleveland was renominated in a peaceful convention, but then bested by Republican challenger Ben Harrison in the electoral college in one of those elections where most stuff seemed to be going relatively fine in the United States. (Cleveland would come back to defeat Harrison in 1892.) So references to something like "Big Little Franklin" might actually refer to Benjamin Franklin Jones (1826-1903) who was the chair of the RNC from 1884-188 and the force behind the failed James Blaine nomination in '88. Some references are obscure but solid, and some are just obscure and unsolid, and others turn the deep corner of obscure and fly into the arms of mondo bizarro.
Perhaps it was all just theatre. And perhaps it was the work of someone who had some money and insisted of giving a platform to his black-and-white kaleidoscope, and had the thing printed (if not published) there in Concord, Pennsylvania, in 1888 (also known here as "J.P. 6600").
Here's the last page--the pamphlet is too delicate to open and scan any of the interior--perhaps this is enough:
Vision from the inside out, or from another version of the outside-in, from the very Outside, can be very fruitful things, idea-engineers, inspirations. They might have real insight of lasting applied value, or imaginary insight into the unexpected and imagined, with nothing of immediate or future values save for sense impressions that might trigger thinking in unexpected ways or areas.
There are occasionally great finds in mounds of experimental thinking that find a foothold in the outside world, such as in the case (further) below of Robert Fludd. Fludd (1574-1637) was a Welsh-born, London-based (and Oxford- and Padua-educated) astrologer, Paracelsian physician, occultist, Qabalist, hermeticist, semi-cosmologist and energetic thinker who found inspiration and solution in many ususual areas, some of which didn't really exist.
For example, a visionary of a different sort, as his celestial sphere will show:
Fludd’s (1574-1637) features a complicated astrological existence well beyond the point of Copernicus. In addition to everything else, real and imagined, Rosicrucianism and astrology and puffy-birds, Fludd looked deeply into the real stuff of the world in this book in addition to all of the other make-believe--optics, the musical intervals, perspective drawing, hydraulic engineering, construction of lifting machines, military engineering and many other interesting, physical science topics. But this drawing, right there on the title page, reveals Fludd’s real interests and shows what governs what he does. Everything else, the math and and the physics, services this need. Of course the image is beautiful, which is why it is here, but it is also a deeply personal, exploitative, cover-all for the things that Fludd *wanted* to find.
So in the middle of all of this, Fludd wrote his Pulsus seu nova et ARcana Pulsuum Historia e Sacro Fonte Radicaliter Extrata...(Published in Frankfurt in 1630), which was a tall but realtively skinny work on what at the time was a skinny topic: the pulse. In addition to discussing an listing all manner of data and observations ancient and modern on the subject, Fludd visits the newish and vastly important work of William Harvey, De Motu Cordis (1629), and gives it the first published favorable review. This was a big deal at the time as Harvey's epochal work was still feeling its way around for support. And here it was, in an unlikely place, a book filled with useful and not information, its writer claiming a certain association with mystical medicine and universal knowledge and getting the whole deal with Harvey right.
There are some other more recent contributions in our Outsider Logic collection that reach the limits of outside, reaching far into the aspects of knowledge that lies more or less completely hidden and inaccessible to the vast majority of readers. Sometimes bumping into outré thinking like this is very useful because it is just so very different; and sometimes this thought process is just and only that: very different.
This is last bit is probably the case for W. Clarissa Christeen’s (“D.D.A.T.O.M.”)The Universal Color Keyboard for Body Building. But what Ms. Christeen absolutely does have going for her is her artwork, which is, in its own special way, quite sensational—I’m really sorry that the pamphlet is limited to only two pieces of her work, as I’d really like to see more.
Her philosophy is at the very least odd, though it may spring from a synesthesia.Or not.
"Syn" (Greek, "together" and "Aisthesis" ("sensation") combine to form this very interesting word and ability, being an automatic response to a stimulus by one sense when that stimulus is usually associated with another sense. For example, there are "synesthetes" who perceive color as an auditory input, basically hearing yellow and so on; more famously are the musicians composing tone poems associating sound with color. There are letter-color and number-color associatons, as well as taste-senses from colors and sounds and so and on. For example in Kandinsky's On the Spiritual in Art there is an attempt to relate color theory to touch and smell; Franz Liszt wrote color music; Isaac Newton attempted to establish the common distribution and association between color and tone frequencies; Rameau constructed a clavencin oculaire while Rimington made a color organ; Richard Feynman spoke of colored equations, and Nabokov recorded (Speak, Memory) letter/color visions. THese are just a few examples of some of the more well-known practicing synesthetes.
In any event Ms. Christeen may be of that mold, and is attempting the universal perfection of mind and body through the combination of color and music (and scent), which “is valuable in building body-tissues of a harmonized order…the music chosen for social functions, the key notes being for the planet ruling or governing the day or the hours etc..This brings celestial and terrestrial vibrations in direct contact, without interrupted angles which produce in harmony; in other words the creative powers which produce these various waves f light and sound or color or tone, acts upon the lower octave, matter or material manifestations recreating it, transforming it, and raising the vibrations of the said matter or material manifestations, thus, refining the temperature and quality of germ or tissue, etc.”
This is a long passage, but I include it because, well, I just had no idea when an abrupt turn was going to be made in the discourse; nor did I have any idea of what the principles were of what was being discussed.And this is still all on page one.Sometimes passages like these are breathtaking, as in leaving you without breath, because their foundation for understanding is so elusive.All you’re left with, sometimes, is a “wow!” reaction, like appreciating a pitcher who has just struck you out on three roughed-up-greasy-spit-laden nastiness pitches that were invisible and illegal, and didn’t matter at all.(What the figure in the cover illustration is saying. by the way, is "Ether air motions creates cell activity", with a couple of Biblical references, somehow.)
I do know that the major divulged secret is the Universal keynote (and “keyboard”) and its control through music and fragrance of all that is, “each individual is to harmonize his or her astral colors to the universal keynote that he or she may be surrounded by a correcting aura, which sends out its streamers of light rays into the cosmos”.Things get more deeply possessed after this, stretching into the Old Testament and astrology, which we don’t need to get into here.
As I said, perhaps Ms. Christeen was a synesthete, and perhaps multiply so.In 1925, when this book was written, there mayn’t’ve been a place for people to go who had advanced sensibility of seeing colors in music, and perhaps colors in fragrance. Perhaps Ms. Christeen was working out there in Los Angeles completely alone, trying to figure out just what her special and very different gift actually was.Perhaps her life was greatly enlivened by her synesthesia, and sent herself out on a mission to the world to have other people experience it, too,, with the help of her color-relational charts.I do feel for her, though I have absolutely no connection to what she was trying to explain.I do find the artwork fascinating—a true “outsider” contribution.
(By the way, I don't think that we ever got to the "body building" part in this work. Also, I think the "DDATOM" after Ms. Christeen's name meant something like "Doctor of Divinity of the Atom" or something like that--it wasn't mentioned in the text.)
And so there you have it. I think that I'm just making the point that the outcome of some of this very provocative work doesn't necessarily come into play in its ultimate evaluation, and that it should all be judged by what short of thinking that it excites in its reader.
As these things go, this mechanical device is awfully pretty in an Outsider-y kind of way, and I have no doubt that I'd want to own one if for nothing else than for its explicit implied-complexity (whatever that is). [Source: US Patent and Trademark Office.]
This is the frontispiece to the delightful work with the luscious title of The Slang Dictionary; or, the Vulgar Words, Street Phrases and Fast Expression of High and Low Society… printed in London by John Camden Hotten, in 1870. It is a hobo or “cadger” (“a mean or vulgar fellow who would rather live on other people than work for himself”) map (or the map of “a tribe of vagabonds”) of Maidstone, in Kent, drawn by a “screever” (a sidewalk chalk artist who normally would draw religious images for money), and showing the various chalked and etched signs that the hoboes (“and other mendicant marks”) would leave for one another, being a key to the town, for what was practicable, safe, dangerous, and the like.
Recorded antiquarian hobo and tramp symbols like these are really quite rare, given their ephemeral nature to begin with; of course the need to record these obscure signs by polite society was not on a high order. There are many indications that signs such as these existed, but not many illustrations. For example in the book The Triumph of Wit; or, Ingenuity Display'd in its Perfection, edited by John Shirley. (1724), as well as works by Holyland and Borrow there is a description of English gypsies and their travels, and a short description of their use of boughs and sticks, set out for each other, so that a duplication of effort by different bands or families would not occur.
(The figure of the woman, wonderfully named “3/4 Sarah”, probably connects this Sarah to a sort of popular dance.)
Hotten also published the following interesting and title-bending work in 1874: THE ORIGINAL LISTS OF PERSONS OF QUALITY; EMIGRANTS; RELIGIOUS EXILES; POLITICAL REBELS; SERVING MEN SOLD FOR A TERM OF YEARS; APPRENTICES; CHILDREN STOLEN; MAIDES PRESSED; AND OTHERS WHO WENT FROM GREAT BRITAIN TO THE AMERICAN PLANTATIONS 1600-1700, WITH THEIR AGES, THE LOCALITIES WHERE THEY FORMERLY LIVED IN THE MOTHER COUNTRY, THE NAMES OF THE SHIPS IN WHICH THEY EMBARKED, AND OTHER INTERESTING PARTICULARS.