Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Henry Ospovat

Henry Ospovat (1877-1909) was a little known painter and illustrator of Russian extraction. He died at 31, having begun to be note for his illustrations of the poems of Matthew Arnold and Shakespeare's Sonnets and Songs.  

Poor Corydon. From Shakespeare's Songs 1901.  HERE

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Nature & Art of Workmanship

From David Pye. The Nature and Art of Workmanship. CUP 1968.
If I must ascribe a meaning to the word craftsmanship, I shall say as a first approximation that it means simply workmanship using any kind of technique or apparatus, in which the quality of the result is not pre-determined, but depends on the judgment, dexterity and care which the maker exercises as he works. The essential idea is that the quality of the result is continually at risk during the process of making; and so I shall call this kind of workmanship 'The workmanship of risk': an uncouth phrase, but at least descriptive.

More on Pye HERE  and HERE

Photo:  David Pye/ Crafts Council 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Scythe and the Rabbit

Just got a copy of The Scythe and the Rabbit (Simon de Colines and the Culture of the Book in Renaissance Paris) by Kay Amert, with an introduction by Robert Bringhurst (HERE). In addition to the great introduction, essays and details analysis, the book is beautifully designed and typeset in DF Rialto, designed by Giovanni di Faccio & Lui Karner in 1999 (HERE).

Below the frontispeice of Horae in laudem beatiss. semper virginis Mariae, published by Simon de Colines in Paris in 1525 from HERE


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Rue de la Sardine

 From Steinbeck, on writing.

In writing, habit seems to be a much stronger force than either willpower or inspiration. Consequently there must be some little quality of fierceness until the habit pattern of a certain number of words is established. There is no possibility, in me at least, of saying, “I’ll do it if I feel like it.” One never feels like awaking day after day. In fact, given the smallest excuse, one will not work at all. The rest is nonsense. Perhaps there are people who can work that way, but I cannot. I must get my words down every day whether they are any good or not.

John Steinbeck, Journals of the Grapes of Wrath

Below, cover of translation of Cannery Row.

Image from HERE

Interference Pattern 1958

Berenice Abbot (1898-1991) was an American photographer from Ohio, who was famous for her cityscapes (Penn Station, Manhattan Bridge, th Flatiron Building). In the 1950's she spent two years at MIT creating beautiful black and white photographs of basic physics experiments. Her images were displayed at MIT in 2012 in an exhibition HERE.

Also a write up in the Guardian HERE.

The image below is an interference pattern from 1958.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Seven Ravens (2)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Phylogeny of Little Red Riding Hood

Folklorists have a complex and internationally recognised system for classifying different folk tales - the ATU type index. This index has behind it the assumption that there are a discrete number of motifs from which different tales are constructed. For example, there are numerous folk tales based around the motif of brothers who were turned into birds (type 451).
Although there are commonalities between tales, a particular tale must begin somewhere. Told for the first time by someone. Because these tales are oral and have moved, diffused, changed, we will never know who. Or when. Or where.

The following paper uses advanced phylogenetic analysis, developed to analyse evolutionary relationships between species from molecular biology data, to analyse Little Red Riding Hood.

Researchers have long been fascinated by the strong continuities evident in the oral traditions associated with different cultures. According to the ‘historic-geographic’ school, it is possible to classify similar tales into “international types” and trace them back to their original archetypes. However, critics argue that folktale traditions are fundamentally fluid, and that most international types are artificial constructs. Here, these issues are addressed using phylogenetic methods that were originally developed to reconstruct evolutionary relationships among biological species, and which have been recently applied to a range of cultural phenomena. The study focuses on one of the most debated international types in the literature: ATU 333, ‘Little Red Riding Hood’. A number of variants of ATU 333 have been recorded in European oral traditions, and it has been suggested that the group may include tales from other regions, including Africa and East Asia. However, in many of these cases, it is difficult to differentiate ATU 333 from another widespread international folktale, ATU 123, ‘The Wolf and the Kids’. To shed more light on these relationships, data on 58 folktales were analysed using cladistic, Bayesian and phylogenetic network-based methods. The results demonstrate that, contrary to the claims made by critics of the historic-geographic approach, it is possible to identify ATU 333 and ATU 123 as distinct international types. They further suggest that most of the African tales can be classified as variants of ATU 123, while the East Asian tales probably evolved by blending together elements of both ATU 333 and ATU 123. These findings demonstrate that phylogenetic methods provide a powerful set of tools for testing hypotheses about cross-cultural relationships among folktales, and point towards exciting new directions for research into the transmission and evolution of oral narratives.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Seven Ravens

The Seven Ravens is a fairy tale that was re-told by the Brothers Grimm. The synopsis from Wikipedia is as follows:
A peasant has seven sons and no daughter. Finally a daughter is born, but is sickly. The father sends his sons to fetch water for her to be baptized. In their haste, they drop the jug in the well. When they do not return, their father thinks that they have gone off to play and curses them and so they turn into ravens.

When the sister is grown, she sets out in search of her brothers. She attempts to get help first from the sun, which is too hot, then the moon, which craves human flesh, and then the morning star. The star helps her by giving her a chicken bone and tells her she will need it to save her brothers. She finds them on the Glass Mountain. She has lost the chicken bone and chops off one of her fingers to use as a key. She goes into the mountain, where a dwarf tells her that her brothers will return. She takes some of their food and drink and leaves in the last cup a ring from home.

When her brothers return, she hides. They turn back into human form and ask who has been at their food. The youngest brother finds the ring, and hopes it is their sister, in which case they are saved. She emerges, and they return home.
The tale also inspired an early German stop motion animated film (Die sieben Raben) that was created by the Diehl brothers in 1937, shortly before Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Image from Dan North's blog  HERE.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Profile of the Industrial Revolution

By the incomparable Buckminster Fuller - Profile of the Industrial Revolution as exposed by the chronological rate of acquisition of the basic inventory of cosmic absolutes - the 92 Elements.

The Long Now

The Long Now Foundation is an American not-for-profit that seeks "to become the seed of a very long-term cultural institution. The Long Now Foundation hopes to provide a counterpoint to today's accelerating culture and help make long-term thinking more common".

The visualisation below shows their concept of now, nowadays and the long now (+/- 10,000 years from the present day - the year 02015).

Image Copyright Long Now Foundation.

On Kawara: Silence

A great review of an On Kawara exhibition called Silence at the Guggenheim in the Guardian HERE.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Pirates 1916

By Kendall Banning and Gustave Baumann

The Central Paradox of Data

The Central Paradox of Data states:

It is impossible to assess whether a given piece of data is any good or not, simply by inspection of the data alone.
In fact Data only has value when at least the following are true

It comes from a trusted source

You know how and why it was generated

It has not been corrupted

It is relevant to you

You are legally entitled to use it

If these are true then Data can become Information.

Saturday, January 17, 2015


By John Milton 1634
Illustrated by Arthur Rackham 1921

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Tom Dixon Bookmark

A very cool, gold anodised digitally cut bookmark by Tom Dixon.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Earliest Ever Slopegraph? (1883)

Prompted by my digging on Slopegraphs, I have pushed even further back than 1914 and found this - from Scribner's statistical atlas of the United States, showing by graphic methods their present condition and their political, social and industrial development by Fletcher W. Hewes and Henry Gannett. Published in 1883. 

The Statistical Atlas for the previous census, published in 1870, did not have a plot like this. 
Available on the Library of Congress website (HERE).

A low resolution version of the whole plot is shown below.

A high-resolution portion of the plot is shown below.

 This is a far more accomplished Slopegraph than Willard Brinton's simplified version from 1914. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Graphic Methods for Presenting Facts (1914)

An early example of a slopegraph, designed to highlight changes in population over time, created by Willard Cope Brinton - in his book Graphic Methods for Presenting Facts (HERE).

Edward Tufte has a discussion on this type of graphic HERE. According to Tufte a slopegraph; "compares changes over time for a list of nouns located on an ordinal or interval scale".


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Empire Bolt, Nut and Rivet Company

HERE is a hand illustrated history of the Empire Bolt, Nut and Rivet company. Below is a hand rendered and washed image of a Large Semi-Finished Nut.

The Uncommon Life of Common Objects

Akiko Busch is a writer on design, architecture and the everyday items that we live with. her 2005 book The Uncommon Life of Common Objects: Essays on Design and the Everyday has chapters on the design of everyday items; video camera, mobile phone, vegetable peeler, chair, a refrigerator. 

Here is a two-page spread from the book on the backpack.

Image Copyright Akiko Busch.


Monday, January 5, 2015

A Hand Illustrated Walt Whitman by Allen Crawford

A great piece in the Guardian about a hand illustrated and lettered version of Walt Whitman's long poem Song of Myself by Allen Crawford.

Image Copyright A. Crawford.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year

George Bickham (Snr) Sot's Paradise 1707.


A great write up HERE on this type of Medley Print.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

View from the Top

Looking across to Flintshire and the Welsh hills from Caldy Hill.

Image Copyright M.Reed 2014

Thursday, December 4, 2014


The Book of Tea  was written in 1906 was written in English by the Japanese writer Okakura Kakuzo. It reflects on tea and the relation between this important drink and elements of the aesthetic and cultural in Japanese life.

HERE is a beautiful 1919 version with illustrations.

Friday, November 28, 2014

With all that Sea and Skies and Land May Lend

I have just completed a book with a friend of mine called Jonathan.

We had both read Holloway by Robert Macfarlane, Dan Richards and Stanley Holloway during last year and over a meal last December set ourselves the target of writing and printing our own short illustrated book. 

I had already been writing a short personal essay on a circular walk that I had been doing for about 15 years and everything that I thought about and experienced on the walk. Prompted by my descriptions and the locations themselves, Jonathan went off and created about 15 pen and ink / watercolour illustrations for the essay.

The title of the essay is a line from the poem Careless by George Sterling (1869-1926), which was first published in the August 1921 edition of The Bookman. Sterling was an American poet and playwright who founded an artists colony in Carmel, on the Monterey peninsula in California. His friends called him the ‘uncrowned King of Bohemia’.

Below is the front cover, illustrated by Jonathan.

I designed the book and typeset the text using LATEX. A typical two-page spread is below. 

I have just had a short-run of the books digitally printed and bound by Imprint Digital in Devon. Some of the books will be given out this year as Xmas gifts, who knows, some may even be sold. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Seven essential qualities of Open Source

Seven essential qualities of open source - HERE.




Early French Photography

A volume published for an exhibition held at the Alfred Stieglitz Center, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Nov. 17-Dec. 28, 1969 (HERE).

Thursday, November 20, 2014



For more Animated Creativity see HERE.

Public Domain Review Essays

The Public Domain Review is an excellent website that specialises in long form pieces that are inspired by, and illustrated with, materials from long out of print and out of copyright books that are available online in the public domain - including materials from the Internet Archive. The site is reviewed (and praised) by the Guardian HERE.

They have just set up a publishing imprint to create physical books based on their essays and their first book is out - The Book of Selected Essays 2011-2013

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Norwegian Passport

The Norwegian design agency Neue has just finished designing a new passport and ID card for the Norwegian Government. The designs try and capture the essence of Norway.

Below an image of the inside of the passport normally and under UV light - when the Northern Lights appear.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Bickham's British Monarchy (1743)

The British monarchy: : or, A new chronographical description of all the dominions subject to the King of Great Britain. Comprehending the British Isles, the American Colonies, the electoral states, the African and Indian settlements. And enlarging more particularly on the respective counties of England and Wales. To which are added, alphabets in all hands made use of in this book. The whole illustrated with suitable maps and tables ... and engrav'd (1743) 


George Bickham





Thursday, October 30, 2014

Cross Section of Walled City of Kowloon

One of the strangest illustrations I have ever seen is this Japanese cross-sectional image of the Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong.

A hi-resolution version is HERE.

Alphabets, numerals & devices of the Middle Ages (1843)


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Venice 1904

The following collection of images is from Venice by the Australian artist Mortimer Menpes, 1904.

Friday, October 17, 2014

February by Viktor Olgyai

From HERE.

From the volume:
Viktor Olgyai studied under William Unger in Vienna and under Theodore Alphonse in Paris. As he originally intended to devote himself entirely to the graphic arts, and only later took up oil-painting, his technical knowledge of etching is remarkable. He is pre-eminently a draughtsman, and though his plates are finely toned, the most notable thing about them is their sense of line. Some of his best works are contained in an album of ten plates entitle 'Winter,' and other notable ones are The Oak, The Mill and Way of Cypresses
Further information about the artist from the Imperial War Museum:
Victor Olgyai (1870-1929) was born in Igló in Hungary. He worked as a painter and designer, and taught at the Graphics Department of the College of Fine Arts in Budapest. He died in Salzburg, Austria.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Everyman Wins Stirling Prize!

I have been going to the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool for 35 years. 
It is a key part of the cultural life of Liverpool. 
It was recently re-built from scratch and it is superb.
Tonight it won the RIBA Stirling award.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

There are 26 sheep and 10 goats on a ship. How old is the captain?

The ex Cambridge University physicist and educator Sanjoy Mahajan (of Streetfighting Mathematics renown), has been busy with an outfit called Center for Curriculum Redesign (CCR) which is here

Mahajan has continued his interests in teaching maths and physics without rote learning methods - building on the pioneering work of Louis Benezet (1935), Etta Berman (1935) and Harold Fawcett (1938) also re-counted in Flener (2001) HERE

His latest at the CCR is the following PDF - Maths, Methods & Tools. 

Earlier proposals and great references are HERE

It's great to see that he is still going strong and bringing our attention to the shortcomings of rote learning.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

La Tour St. Jacques

Eugène Béjot (1867 – 1931) was a French artist who specialised in drawing and etching.

Below - from Paris: a sketch book (1912)


Image Copyright M.G. Reed 2014


Copyright M.G. Reed 2014

Postcards from Google Earth

Here is a great site. A collection of wierd images from Google Earth - collected by the Brooklyn based artist Clement Valla. 

From the INFO:

I collect Google Earth images. I discovered strange moments where the illusion of a seamless representation of the Earth’s surface seems to break down. At first, I thought they were glitches, or errors in the algorithm, but looking closer I realized the situation was actually more interesting — these images are not glitches. They are the absolute logical result of the system. They are an edge condition—an anomaly within the system, a nonstandard, an outlier, even, but not an error. These jarring moments expose how Google Earth works, focusing our attention on the software. They reveal a new model of representation: not through indexical photographs but through automated data collection from a myriad of different sources constantly updated and endlessly combined to create a seamless illusion; Google Earth is a database disguised as a photographic representation. These uncanny images focus our attention on that process itself, and the network of algorithms, computers, storage systems, automated cameras, maps, pilots, engineers, photographers, surveyors and map-makers that generate them.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Four Hedges - Claire Leighton

Clare Leighton (1898 - 1989) was an English artist who created in the 1930's a number of beautiful illustrated books. The image below is from her book Four Hedges - A Gardener's Chronicle published in 1935. A facsimile edition is still available HERE.

Image from the incomparable fulltable.com


Costume for the Shibaraku interlude - Totoya Hokkei c 1850


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Photocopier in Art

The American author and artist Pati Hill (1921-2014) died recently. After writing a number of novels she became interested in the visual arts and focused on the IBM photocopier as an artistic device (later persuading IBM to lend her one). 

An obituary in the New York Times HERE and article in Paris Review HERE.

Below a detail from one of her famous installations from 1978 that comprised of 34 Black and White photocopies of a dead swan she had found.

Image from HERE - where in 2016 there will be a retrospective of her art.

Her book on Photocopying art Letters To Jill  was published in 1979 (HERE). 


Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Dimensions of a Hand

From the 1528 volume of human figure proportion by Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528). Full scan of the volume HERE.

For more studies by Durer of hands in various gestures see HERE.

For an article on what Durer was up to in his books of human proportion see HERE.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia is the high point of Byzantine architecture. The current structure was completed in 532, it remained the largest cathedral in the world for 1,000 years. 

Image from HERE

Basho's Haiku

An interesting piece HERE by the poet Mark McGuiness, on a book that was published in 1990 by Toshiharu Oseko that translates line by line, and word by word, what the Haiku of the famous Japanese poet Basho mean.

A review of the book from the Independent is HERE.

Image from HERE.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Keep It Simple (Stupid)

KISS is an acronym for Keep It Simple, Stupid, a design principle developed by the US Navy in the 1960's. "The KISS principle states that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated; therefore simplicity should be a key goal in design and unnecessary complexity should be avoided".  

Keep It Simple is also the title of a book by Hartmut Esslinger published in 2013. Esslinger founded Frog design and was the creator of Apple Computers design strategy. The book describes Esslinger's work with Apple, during which time they were transformed from a Silicon Valley start-up to a global player in consumer electronics. 

The book is available HERE.


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