The Raven in Folklore.

A distinct black shape, tumbling in the updrafts of a mountain crag – a raven at play. The ‘gronking’ call of a raven is one of the most evocative sounds of Britain’s uplands. The raven is probably the world’s most intelligent and playful bird. In the world of myth, it is a bird of paradox, […]

The First Children’s Picture Book, 1668.

John Comenius’ Orbis Sensualium Pictus (or The World of Things Obvious to the Senses drawn in Pictures) is, according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, “the first children’s picture book.” Originally published in 1658 in Latin and German, the Orbis — with its 150 pictures showing everyday activities like brewing beer, tending gardens, and slaughtering animals — […]

Book of Kells,Trinity College, Dublin.

One summer a few years ago I stayed in student rooms in Trinity College. Although the accommodation was rather spartan with the traditional blue tack scars on the walls, it was so atmospheric to be able to wander around the old buildings of the Dublin university long after all the tourists had gone. Best of […]

Russian Fairytales, trans. Robert Bain (1915).

Russian fairy tales from the Russian of Polevoi, by R. Nisbet Bain, illustrated by Noel L. Nisbet; 1915; Frederick A. Stokes Co., New York. A collection of Russian fairytales translated from the Russian of Nikolai Polevoy, a notable editor, writer, translator in the early 19th century. The translations were made by Robert Nisbet Bain, a […]

The Model Book of Calligraphy, circa 1561–1596.

Pages from a remarkable book entitled Mira calligraphiae monumenta (The Model Book of Calligraphy), the result of a collaboration across many decades between a master scribe, the Croatian-born Georg Bocskay, and Flemish artist Joris Hoefnagel. In the early 1560s, while secretary to the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I, Bocksay produced his Model Book of Calligraphy, […]

Antonio Basoli’s Architectural Alphabet.

Antonio Basoli was an Italian artist that lived between the 18th and the 19th century working mostly in Bologna. Among other things, he created these beautiful architectural alphabet engravings called Alfabeto Pittorico. I wish there was a place called Alphabet City* where all these buildings were real. See more images at SPLOID via Beautiful architectural […]

Fortinio Liceti’s Monsters, 1665.

Highlights from the illustrations in the 1665 edition of Fortunio Liceti’s De Monstris, originally published, without the illustrations, in 1616. Liceti’s work, although not the first on the topic of deformities in nature, was perhaps the most influential of the period. In the wake of the book there was a huge rise in interest throughout […]

Truly Terrible Book Covers.

We might want to revise that age-old saying about judging books by their covers. The TerribleBookCovers subreddit has a few recommendations for you. Highlighting the best of the worst in book design, title choice and overall presentation, the subreddit features a stunning collection of bad photoshop, creepy models and — err — niche hobbies. From […]

The London Guide to Cheats and Swindlers, 1819.

A comprehensive guide to help the unwitting visitor avoid falling victim to the various and nefarious crimes abound in early 19th-century London. Written by “a gentleman who has made the police of the metropolis an object of enquiry for twenty-two years”, the book is split into six main chapters: “Out Door Delinquencies”, “Inn Door Tricks”, […]

‘Hells Bells’ or ‘I’ll be dipped’: Notes on Swearing.

In 1904, Roland D. Sawyer launched a crusade against obscenity. No one ever heard my grandmother, in all her eighty-three years, utter a bad word. I can only once remember her even raising her voice. “It’s all fouled up!” she cried then, shaking a broken TV set. She said it with such frustration and despair […]