Beatus of Liébana on the Apocalypse.

In a monastery in the mountains of northern Spain, 700 years after the Book of Revelations was written, a monk set down to illustrate a collection of writings he had compiled about this most vivid and apocalyptic of the New Testament books. Throughout the next few centuries his depictions of multi-headed beasts, decapitated sinners, and […]

The Little Book of Love by Pierre Salas, c.1500s.

A Valentine’s gift to top all Valentine’s gifts – the Petit Livre d’Amour (Little Book of Love) was an ornate bespoke book given by the 16th-century Lyon-born poet Pierre Salas to his then lover and future wife Marguerite Bullioud. It measures just 5 by 3.7 inches, hand-written by Salas with gold ink and beautifully illuminated […]

Lithographs of Locomotives, c. 1850s.

“The locomotive industry emerged in mid-nineteenth-century America with the development and rapid expansion of the railroad network. As the number of locomotive manufacturers increased, the industry became intensely competitive, and builders vied with one another to capture the attention of railroad companies, officials, and agents. The first locomotive builders’ prints were created in the late […]

The Story of ‘Hobson-Jobson,’ the Anglo Indian dictionary.

In 1872 two men began work on a lexicon of words of Asian origin used by the British in India. Since its publication the 1,000-page dictionary has never been out of print. Hobson-Jobson is the dictionary’s short and mysterious title. The subtitle reveals more: “A glossary of colloquial Anglo-Indian words and phrases, and of kindred […]

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 […]