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Japanese Designs (1902)

Friday 1 June 2012 at 12:01

Selected pages from Shin-Bijutsukai, a Japanese Design Magazine, issues from 1901 and 1902.

(All images extracted from the magazine via Internet Archive which you can also see in its wonderful entirety here in the PDR Texts collection).













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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/06/01/japanese-designs-1902/


Coloured Engravings of the Fugger Family

Thursday 31 May 2012 at 14:14

Throughout the course of the 15th and 16th century The Fugger Family from Augsburg became became one of Europe’s most powerful merchant dynasties. They replaced the de’ Medici family as probably Europe’s most influential family, taking over many of the Medici assets as well as their political power and influence. Ennobled at the beginning of the 16th century, the Fuggers began to withdraw step by step from business during the second half of the century and as the 1600s began adopted an aristocratic lifestyle. Jakob Fugger, who died in 1525, is considered to be one of the richest persons of all time, and is today referred to as Jakob Fugger ‘the rich’. The series of images below are a selection from the Fuggerorum et Fuggerarum. Quae in familia natae. Quaève in familiam transiervnt. Quot extant aere expressae imagines, a limited edition of highly elaborate coloured engravings, published exclusively in 1593 and 1618 for the family members which they depicted. The work was commissioned by Philipp Eduard Fugger and carried out in the most part by the Augsburg engraver Dominicus Custos (see also his Atrium Heroicum)

(All images from the Bayerische Landesbibliothek Online via Wikimedia Commons. See the Wikimedia Commons link for more info on persons depicted and higher resolution images).














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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/05/31/coloured-engravings-of-the-fugger-family/


The Krakatoa Sunsets

Monday 28 May 2012 at 15:18

When a volcano erupted on a small island in Indonesia in 1883, the evening skies of the world glowed for months with strange colours. Richard Hamblyn explores a little-known series of letters that the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins sent in to the journal Nature describing the phenomenon – letters that would constitute the majority of the small handful of writings published while he was alive.

Lithograph from 1888 showing the Krakatoa eruption, author unknown.

During the winter of 1883 the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins descended into one of his periodic depressions, “a wretched state of weakness and weariness, I can’t tell why,” he wrote, “always drowsy and incapable of reading or thinking to any effect.” It was partly boredom: Hopkins was ungainfully employed at a Catholic boarding school in Lancashire, where much of his time was spent steering his pupils through their university entrance exams. The thought that he was wasting his time and talents weighed heavily upon him during the long, brooding walks he took through the “sweet landscape” of Ribblesdale, “thy lovely dale”, as he described it in one of the handful of poems he managed to compose that winter. He was about to turn forty and felt trapped.

Such was his state of mind when the Krakatoa sunsets began. The tiny volcanic island of Krakatoa (located halfway between Java and Sumatra) had staged a spectacular eruption at the end of August 1883, jettisoning billions of tonnes of ash and debris deep into the earth’’s upper atmosphere. Nearly 40,000 people had been killed by a series of mountainous waves thrown out by the force of the explosion: the Javan port of Anjer had been almost completely destroyed, along with more than a hundred coastal towns and villages. ““All gone. Plenty lives lost”, as a telegram sent from Serang reported, and for weeks afterwards the bodies of the drowned continued to wash up along the shoreline. Meanwhile, the vast volcanic ash-cloud had spread into a semi-opaque band that threaded slowly westward around the equator, forming memorable sunsets and afterglows across the earth’’s lower latitudes. A few weeks later, the stratospheric veil moved outwards from the tropics to the poles, and by late October 1883 most of the world, including Britain, was being subjected to lurid evening displays, caused by the scattering of incoming light by the meandering volcanic haze. Throughout November and December, the skies flared through virulent shades of green, blue, copper and magenta, “more like inflamed flesh than the lucid reds of ordinary sunsets,” wrote Hopkins; “the glow is intense; that is what strikes everyone; it has prolonged the daylight, and optically changed the season; it bathes the whole sky, it is mistaken for the reflection of a great fire.”

Gerard Manley Hopkins in 1866, detail from a photo by Thomas C. Bayfield. National Portrait Gallery

In common with most other observers at the time, Hopkins had no idea what was causing the phenomenon, but he grew fascinated by the daily atmospheric displays, tracking their changing appearances over the course of that unsettled winter. At the end of December he collated his observations into a remarkable 2,000-word document, which he sent to the leading science journal, Nature. The article, published in January 1884, was a masterpiece of reportage, a heightened prose poem that mixed rhapsodic literary experimentation with a high degree of meteorological rigour:

Above the green in turn appeared a red glow, broader and burlier in make; it was softly brindled, and in the ribs or bars the colour was rosier, in the channels where the blue of the sky shone through it was a mallow colour. Above this was a vague lilac. The red was first noticed 45º above the horizon, and spokes or beams could be seen in it, compared by one beholder to a man’s open hand. By 4.45 the red had driven out the green, and, fusing with the remains of the orange, reached the horizon. By that time the east, which had a rose tinge, became of a duller red, compared to sand; according to my observation, the ground of the sky in the east was green or else tawny, and the crimson only in the clouds. A great sheet of heavy dark cloud, with a reefed or puckered make, drew off the west in the course of the pageant: the edge of this and the smaller pellets of cloud that filed across the bright field of the sundown caught a livid green. At 5 the red in the west was fainter, at 5.20 it became notably rosier and livelier; but it was never of a pure rose. A faint dusky blush was left as late as 5.30, or later. While these changes were going on in the sky, the landscape of Ribblesdale glowed with a frowning brown. (from G. M. Hopkins, “The Remarkable Sunsets”, Nature 29 (3 January 1884), pp. 222-23)

Hopkins was a gifted empirical observer with a near-forensic interest in the search for written equivalents to the complexity of the natural world. Such interest in the language of precision was shared by many scientists at the time, science, like poetry, being an inherently descriptive enterprise. Anyone who reads the official Royal Society report on the Krakatoa sunsets (published in 1888) will find flights of poetic prose to rival those of Hopkins, who described such language as “the current language heightened and unlike itself,” a dynamic written form that was particularly suited to the expression of what he called “inscape”: the distinctive unity of all natural phenomena that gives everything in nature its characterising beauty and uniqueness. The force of being that holds these dynamic identities together he termed “instress”, instress being the essential energy that enables an observer to recognise the inscape of another being. These post-Romantic notions formed a kind of personal poetic creed, a logocentric natural theology that was rooted in the work of Duns Scotus, the medieval Christian philosopher.

Photograph taken in 1928 of the destroyed Krakatoa island resurfacing, forming what is known now as 'Anak Krakatau', or 'Child of Krakatoa'. Tropenmuseum of the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT).

For Hopkins, inscape and instress lay at the heart of his religious and poetic practice, as well as being vital means of apprehending the natural world. In a journal entry for 22 April 1871, for instance, he records “such a lovely damasking in the sky as today I never felt before. The blue was charged with simple instress, the higher, zenith sky earnest and frowning, lower more light and sweet.” Note that he felt the damasking as well as saw it, and note, too, his calibrated descriptions of the banded blues of the sky, the higher “earnest and frowning”, the lower “more light and sweet.” His journals are full of such poetic quantifications, which he used as notes towards a quintet of articles that he published in the journal Nature, all on meteorological subjects. The first two, published in November 1882 and November 1883, were letters describing anti-crepuscular rays (cloud-shadows that appear in the evening sky opposite the sun), while the following three were all on the subject of the Krakatoa sunsets, which had evidently furnished the melancholy Hopkins with a much-needed source of distraction.

He was not alone in his interest; all over the world, writers, artists and scientists responded to the drama of the volcanic skies. The poets Algernon Swinburne, Robert Bridges and Alfred Tennyson (then poet laureate), wrote lengthy descriptive strophes prompted by the unearthly twilights, although, as the historian Richard Altick pointed out, “the only good poetry that resulted from the celestial displays is found in Hopkins’ prose” (Richard D. Altick, “Four Victorian Poets and an Exploding Island”, Victorian Studies 3 (March 1960), p. 258). This is a fair assessment, though I do have a sneaking fondness for Tennyson’s blank-verse approximation of the cadences of Victorian popular science:

Had the fierce ashes of some fiery peak
Been hurl’d so high they ranged about the globe?
For day by day, thro’ many a blood-red eve . . .
The wrathful sunset glared . . . (“St. Telemachus”, pub. 1892)

Visual artists also found themselves extending their colour ranges in awed emulation of the skies. Painter William Ascroft spent many evenings making pastel sky-sketches from the banks of the Thames at Chelsea, noting his frustration that he “could only secure in a kind of chromatic shorthand the heart of the effect, as so much of the beauty of afterglow consisted in concentration.” He exhibited more than five hundred of these highly-coloured pastels in the galleries of the Science Museum, in the repository of which they remain to this day, little known and rarely seen.

Three of the hundreds of sketches carried out by William Ascroft in the winter of 1883/4 - used as the frontispiece of The Eruption of Krakatoa, and Subsequent Phenomena: Report of the Krakatoa committee of the Royal Society (1888), ed. by G.J. Simmons.

In Oslo, by contrast, the sunsets helped inspire one of the world’s best-known paintings: Edvard Munch was walking with some friends one evening as the sun descended through the haze: “it was as if a flaming sword of blood slashed open the vault of heaven,” he recalled; “the atmosphere turned to blood – with glaring tongues of fire – the hills became deep blue – the fjord shaded into cold blue – among the yellow and red colours – that garish blood-red – on the road – and the railing – my companions’ faces became yellow-white – I felt something like a great scream – and truly I heard a great scream.” His painting The Scream (1893), of which he made several versions, is an enduring (and much stolen) expressionist masterpiece, a vision of human desolation writhing beneath an apocalyptic sky, as “a great unending scream pierces through nature.” As it happens, the final eruption of Krakatoa on 27 August 1883 was the loudest sound ever recorded, travelling almost 5,000 km, and heard over nearly a tenth of the earth’s surface: a great scream indeed.

As for Hopkins, the publication of his Krakatoa essay coincided with the welcome offer of a professorship in classics at University College Dublin. He left Lancashire for Ireland in February 1884, relieved to have made his escape. It didn’t last. Homesick, lonely and overworked, Hopkins succumbed to his worst depression yet, his misery traced in the so-called “terrible” sonnets of 1885 (“I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day”). He died of typhoid fever in June 1889 (aged 44), and was buried in an unmarked grave. Only his close friend Robert Bridges was aware of his greatness as a poet, and the bulk of his work remained unpublished until 1918. In fact, apart from a handful of minor poems that had appeared in obscure periodicals, the five Nature articles were the only works that Hopkins published in his lifetime.




Richard Hamblyn’s books include The Invention of Clouds , which won the 2002 Los Angeles Times Book Prize and was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize; Terra: Tales of the Earth (2009), a study of natural disasters; and The Art of Science (2011), an anthology of readable science writing from the Babylonians to the Higgs Boson. He is a lecturer in creative writing at Birkbeck, University of London.


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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/05/28/the-krakatoa-sunsets/


The Whole Booke of Psalmes collected into Englishe Metre (1584)

Sunday 27 May 2012 at 12:24


The Whole Booke of Psalmes collected into Englishe metre, by T. Sternhold, W. Whitingham, J. Hopkins, and others, conferred with the Hebrue, with apt notes to them withall; 1584; John Daye, London.

Thomas Sternhold published his first, short collection of nineteen Certayn Psalmes between mid-1547 and early 1549. In December of 1549, his posthumous Al such psalmes of Dauid as Thomas Sternehold … didde in his life time draw into English Metre was printed, containing thirty-seven psalms by Sternhold and, in a separate section at the end, seven psalms by John Hopkins. This collection was taken to the Continent with Protestant exiles during the reign of Mary Tudor, and editors in Geneva both revised the original texts and gradually added more over several editions. In 1562, the publisher John Day brought together most of the psalm versions from the Genevan editions and many new psalms by John Hopkins, Thomas Norton, and John Markant to make up The Whole Booke of Psalmes, Collected into English Meter. In addition to metrical versions of all 150 psalms, the volume included versified versions of the Apostles’ Creed, the Magnificat, and other biblical passages or Christian texts, as well as several non-scriptural versified prayers and a long section of prose prayers largely drawn from the English Forme of Prayers used in Geneva. Sternhold and Hopkins wrote almost all of their Psalms in the “common” or ballad metre. Their versions were quite widely circulated at the time; copies of the Sternhold and Hopkins psalter were bound with many editions of the Geneva Bible, and their Psalms were used in many churches. The Sternhold and Hopkins psalter was also published with music, much of it borrowed from the French Geneva Psalter. (Wikipedia)

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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/05/27/the-whole-booke-of-psalmes-collected-into-englishe-metre-1584/


The Faerie Queene (1596)

Sunday 27 May 2012 at 11:05


The Faerie Queene – Disposed into twelue bookes, fashioning XII. morall vertues, by Edmund Spenser; 1596; William Ponsonbie, London.

Original 1596 first edition of the second part to Edmund Spenser’s epic poem The Faerie Queene – disposed into twelue bookes, fashioning XII. morall vertues – a book published, according to Spenser, to “fashion a gentleman or noble person in virtuous and gentle discipline.” It is a highly allegorical tale, the adventures of several medieval knights, dragons, damsels in distress, etc., in a mythical “Faerie land” ruled by the Faerie Queene, all used to explore moral issues and what makes for a life of virtue under the reign of his ‘Queene’ Elizabeth. The language of his poetry is purposely archaic, reminiscent of earlier works such as The Canterbury Tales of Geoffrey Chaucer and Il Canzoniere of Francesco Petrarca, whom Spenser greatly admired. He originally indicated that he intended the poem to be twelve books long, so the version of the poem we have today is incomplete.

Read the first 3 books in Part 1 in this later (and slightly more legible!) edition from 1859.

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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/05/27/the-faerie-queene-1596/


Scott Joplin

Friday 25 May 2012 at 15:33




Scott Joplin (1867? – 1917), “The King of Ragtime”, wrote 44 original ragtime pieces, one ragtime ballet, and two operas. One of his first pieces, the Maple Leaf Rag, became ragtime’s first and most influential hit, and has been recognized as the archetypal rag. He was born into a musical African American family of laborers in Northeast Texas, and developed his musical knowledge with the help of local teachers, most notably Julius Weiss. While growing up in Texarkana he formed a vocal quartet, and taught mandolin and guitar. During the late 1880s he left his job as a laborer with the railroad, and travelled around the American South as an itinerant musician. He went to Chicago for the World’s Fair of 1893, which played a major part in making ragtime a national craze by 1897. In 1894 he moved to Sedalia, Missouri, and earned a living teaching piano and going on tour across the Southern US. During this period he taught future ragtime composers Arthur Marshall, Scott Hayden and Brun Campbell. Joplin began publishing music in 1895, and publication of his Maple Leaf Rag in 1899 brought him fame and had a profound influence on subsequent writers of ragtime. It also brought the composer a steady income for life. During his lifetime, Joplin did not reach this level of success again and frequently had financial problems. In 1901 he moved to St. Louis where he continued to compose and publish music, and regularly performed in brothels and bars in the city’s red-light district. By the time he had moved to St. Louis, Joplin may have been experiencing discoordination of the fingers, tremors, and an inability to speak clearly, as a result of having contracted syphilis. The score to his first opera, A Guest of Honor, was confiscated in 1903 with his belongings due to his non-payment of bills, and is considered lost. He continued to compose and publish music, and in 1907 moved to New York City, seeking to find a producer for a new opera. He attempted to go beyond the limitations of the musical form which made him famous, without much monetary success. His second opera, Treemonisha, was not received well at its partially staged performance in 1915. In 1916, suffering from tertiary syphilis and by consequence rapidly deteriorating health, Joplin descended into dementia. He was admitted to a mental institution in January 1917, and died there three months later at the age of 49. (Wikipedia)

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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/05/25/scott-joplin/


Turtle Anatomy (1821)

Wednesday 23 May 2012 at 15:58

Images from Anatome Testudinis Europaeae (1819-21) by the German physician and naturalist Ludwig Heinrich Bojanus (1776–1827). Bojanus was born at Bouxwiller in Alsace and studied at Darmstadt and the University of Jena. In 1806 he became professor of veterinary medicine at the University of Vilnius, switiching to comparative anatomy in 1824. As well as his anatomy of turtles, he was also the author of several scientific discoveries, including a glandular organ in bivalvular molluscs that is now known as organ of Bojanus, and the aurochs. In 1821, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. (Wikipedia)

(All images extracted from the Biodiversity Heritage Library via the Internet Archive. A mention also to BibilOdyssey where we first came across the images).



































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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/05/23/turtle-anatomy-1821/


Freedom Highway (1956)

Tuesday 22 May 2012 at 21:01



In this film from the Prelinger Archives, a Greyhound bus rides from San Fransisco to Washington D.C, transporting us at the same time through the landscape of American mythology (and unwavering patriotism). The cast of bus riders include: Fred Schroder who, embittered by the death of his son in Korea, is riding to Washington to accept a posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor on the son’s behalf; Jimmy Rollins, a Scout, heading to Washington for his first Jamboree; Mary (a young Angie Dickinson) and Bill Roberts, a basketball star on the make; actor and country star Tex Ritter, playing himself, taking a short ride on the bus as it passes through Texas, singing about the Alamo and the “freedom road.”; and most importantly, a black-suited mysterious stranger who appears, as if from nowhere, to transform the outlook of the passengers. Greyhound Lines and America have never looked so good. Winner of the Freedoms Foundation Special Award.

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Note this film is in the public domain in the US, but may not be in other jurisdictions. Please check its status in your jurisdiction before re-using.










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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/05/22/freedom-highway-1956/


Fortification Theory (1600)

Thursday 17 May 2012 at 23:16

Images from Jean Errard’s Fortification Réduicte Art and Démonstrée (Paris, 1600), a seminal work in fortification theory. Errard (1554-1610) was a mathematician by training, and used his love of geometry (he made several translation of Euclid’s Elements) to develop a comprehensive theory of military fortifications. He developed a series of geometric designs, based on polygons of various kinds, which were optimised for defence. The most important of his rules stressed the reliance on infantry for defence of a fortress, who, with their potential rapid rate of fire, were better suited than the artillery, which at this period, given its enormous consumption of gunpowder, was only suitable for providing enfilade fire, not engaging in frontal action.

(All images from Deutsche Fotothek via Wikimedia Commons).



























































































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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/05/17/fortification-theory-1600/


The Practical Magician and Ventriloquist’s Guide (1876)

Wednesday 16 May 2012 at 13:21


The Practical Magician and Ventriloquist’s Guide, a Practical Manual of Fireside Magic and Conjuring Illusions, also Containing Complete Instructions for Acquiring & Practising the Art of Ventriloquism; 1876; Hurst & Co., New York

Ex. 1. The Suffocated Victim – This was a favorite illustration of Mr. Love, the polyphonist. A large box or close cupboard is used indiscriminately, as it may be handy. The student will rap or kick the box apparently by accident. The voice will then utter a hoarse and subdued groan, apparently from the box or closet.

Student (pointing to the box with an air of astonishment) : “What is that ?
Voice: I won’t do so any more. I am nearly dead.
Student: Who are you ? How came you there ?
Voice: I only wanted to see what was going on. Let me out, do.
Student: But I don’t know who you are.
Voice: Oh yes, you do.
Student: Who are you ?
Voice: Your old schoolfellow, Tom. You know me.
Student: Why, he’s in Canada.
Voice (sharply): No he aint, he’s here; but be quick.
Student (opening the lid): Perhaps he’s come by the underground railroad ? Hallo !
Voice (not so muffled as described in direction): Now then, give us a hand.
Student (closing the lid or door sharply): No, I won’t.
Voice (as before): Have pity (Tom, or Jack, or Mr_____, as the case may be), or I shall be choked.
Student: I don’t believe you are what you say.
Voice : Why don’t you let me out and see before I am dead ?
Student {opening and shutting the lid or door and varying the voice accordingly): Dead ! not you. When did you leave Canada?
Voice: Last week. Oh ? I am choking.
Student : Shall I let him out ? {opening the door). There’s no one here.


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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/05/16/the-practical-magician-and-ventriloquists-guide-1876/