Tuesday, 15 January 2019

John Dos Passos (1896 - 1970)

I was introduced to the work of John Dos Passos by my Dad. He told me, when I was a teenager, that the USA Trilogy by Dos Passos was his favourite book. It remains one of my favourites.

I have no idea when he had read it, though it was probably when he, my Uncle Terry, and their mate Pat Carmody lived together in London in the early 1950s (it was when he worked in a tyre factory near London that he first tasted ice-cold Coca-Cola from the classic bottle).

HERE is a great piece in the Paris Review on Dos Passos, that made me remember how good Dos Passos' work is.  

Friday, 4 January 2019

Brian Eno's definition of Scenius (1996).

Below is an extract from a letter sent by Brian Eno to Dave Stewart, included as one of the appendices of his diary: A Year with swollen Appendices (1996). 
A few years ago I came up with a new word. I was fed up with the old art-history idea of genius - the notion that gifted individuals turn up out of nowhere and light the way for all the rest of us dummies to follow. I became (and still am) more and more convinced that the important changes in cultural history were actually the product of very large numbers of people and circumstances conspiring to make something new. I call this ‘scenius’ - it means ‘the intelligence and intuition of a whole cultural scene’. It is the communal form of the concept of genius. This word is now starting to gain some currency - the philosopher James Ogilvy uses it in his most recent book.
Now I would love to be involved in making something to explore this idea - to support my thesis that new ideas come into being through a whole host of complicated circumstances, accidents, small incremental contributions made in isolation (as well as gifted individuals, of course) that in total add up to something qualitatively different: something nobody has ever seen before and which could not have been predicted from the elements that went to make it up.
One of the reasons I am attached to this idea is that it is capable of dignifying many more forms of human innovation under its umbrella than the old idea of ‘genius’, which exemplifies what I call the ‘Big Man’ theory of history - where events are changed by the occasional brilliant or terrible man, working in heroic isolation. I would prefer to believe thaf the world is constantly being remade by all its inhabitants: that it is a cooperative enterprise. Folk arts and popular arts have always been criticized because they tend to exhibit evolutionary, incremental change - because they lack sufficient ‘Big Men’ making shockingly radical and unpopular steps into the future. Instead the pop scene carries much of its audience with it - something the fine arts people are inclined to distrust: the secret question is, ‘How can it possibly be good if so many people like it?’
Of course it would be stupid to pretend that everyone’s contribution is therefore equal to every other’s, and I would never claim that. But I want to say that the reality of how culture and ideas evolve is much closer to the one we as pop musicians are liable to accept - of a continuous toing and froing of ideas and imitations and misconstruals, of things becoming thinkable because they are suddenly technically possible, of action and reaction, than the traditional fine-art model which posits an inspired individual sorting it all out for himself and then delivering it unto a largely uncomprehending and ungrateful world.
There are a few recent cultural moments where the scenius process is particularly clear: 1905-1915 in Russia; Dadaism in France; the experimental music scene in America through the late fifties and early sixties; the Anglo-American psychedelic scene of the sixties; punk in 1975-8 (the eclectic and cooperative nature of which is documented in Jon Savage’s book England’s Dreaming); and then perhaps something as specific as the evolution of ‘adobe style' in South Western American architecture, or even the mid to late eighties at Goldsmiths’! It could also be interesting to include some scenes that were less specifically artistic - for Instance, the history of the evolution of the Internet. In all of these sequences, there are sufficient gifted and eccentric individuals to satisfy anyone’s hero appetite, but the interesting thing is how they were fed and supported by a vigorous and diffuse cultural scene. That’s the process I would like to explore.

Available in its entirety HERE.

The (surprisingly long) history of the cut-up technique (2018)

From Austin Kleon's blog, a patchy but entertaining history of cut-up techniques applied in writing and music. It includes some examples of Caleb Whitefoord's cross-reading pieces.  


Art is everything that you don’t have to do (2015).

Art is everything that you don’t have to do.

From  the BBC Music John Peel Lecture by Brian Eno, which took place at the British Library as a part of the Radio Festival 2015.

The full transcript is HERE

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Home Life in Tokyo By Jukichi Inouye (1910)

The author of this volume set out to communicate to western readers some of the day-to-day realities of Japanese culture;
I am aware that there are already many excellent works on Japan which may be read with great profit; but as their authors are most of them Europeans or Americans, and naturally look at Japanese life and civilisation from an occidental point of view, it occurred to me that notwithstanding the super-abundance of books on Japan, a description of Japanese life by a native of the country might not be without interest.
The image shows a set of Hanafuda (literally flower-cards) which are used for games of chance that had originally became popular in Japan in the Edo period (1603-1867). The full set of cards are composed of twelve suits, each of four cards, with each suit matching a month of the year. The imagery for each suit is based on a flower, tree or grass that typically blooms in that month.

Matsu (Pine - January)
Ume (Plum blossom - February)
Sakura (Cherry blossom - March)
Fuji (Wisteria - April)
Ayame (Iris - May)
Botan (Peony - June)
Hagi (Bush clover - July)
Susuki (Silver grass - August)
Kiku (Chrysanthemum - September)
Momiji (Maple - October)
Yanagi (Willow - November)
Kiri (Paulownia - December)

The Hanafuda are descended from European playing cards that were introduced to Japan in the 16th century by Portuguese missionaries and sailors. 

These cards are smaller than a typical western playing card, but they are much thicker and more visually sophisticated. Each suit incorporates cards of different ranks, indicated with coloured ribbons or cultural allusions. Reading across left to right the top-most cards are called: Crane; Nightingale; Curtain; Cuckoo; Bridge; Butterflies; Boar; Moon; Sake Cup; Deer; Rain; Phonenix. Other cards have distinctive, but almost abstract, patterns. For example, the gaji card on the bottom row for November depicts the strong storms and hurricanes of this time of the year - the black and red shapes being the stylised outline of a tornado or waterspout. This card is often used in games as a wild-card.

Although Hanafuda cards were designed in the Edo period, many of the motifs that are used make allusion to the much earlier Heian period (794 - 1185) of Japanese culture. In his book Japan and the Culture of the Four Seasons, Haruo Shirane notes that;     
With the exception of the peony, which entered the poetic canon in the Edo period, all the images are from classical poetry of the Heian period and reflect urban commoners' knowledge of the poetic and cultural associations of the months.
Some of the pairings of symbols shown on the cards are considered to be particularly harmonious; pine & crane, plum blossom & warbler, cuckoo & wisteria, and butterfly & peony.  

The Hanafuda are a concentrated visual summary of many aspects of Japanese culture. The top card of the Willow suit refers to a well known story about perseverance that features a willow, a leaping frog and the famous Heian era calligrapher Ono no Michikaze (894 - 966), one of the founders of Japanese style calligraphy. 

Scanned copy of Original HERE.

Image Caption: A complete set of Hanafuda cards arranged left to right in month order (January - December). The top row shows the highest value cards in each suit.


Baird, M.C. (2001). Symbols of Japan: Thematic Motifs in Art and Design. Rizzoli, New York.

Shirane, H. (2012). Japan and the Culture of the Four Seasons: Nature, Literature, and the Arts. Columbia University Press. New York.

What are Computers For?

Peninsula living (2015)

Peninsula means almost-island; a tongue or languet of land that is not-quite-surrounded by water. Peninsulas are otherworldly places that are neither mainland nor island. Concatenated together, their names form a lyrical prose-poem;

Monterey, Pilio, Mols,
Anaga, Dingle, Yamal.
Baja, Pinellas,
Natkusiak, Scania, Grenen.

The Wirral peninsula is roughly rectangular, about fifteen miles long and seven wide. At high tide, three sides of the rectangle are bounded by an unbroken stretch of water incorporating the River Dee, the Irish Sea and the River Mersey. The tide dominates the weather on the peninsula to such an extent that locals talk with pride of its beneficial micro climate. Pride is a common failing of peninsula dwellers the world over.

The psycho-geography of peninsula living is in its infancy. No doubt a sensitive enough observer would discern a gradient in the psychological effect that a peninsula has on its inhabitants. Those who live at the base of the peninsula are almost main landers. Those living at its head are effectively islanders. Much further from the towns and cities of the mainland, their lives and daily rituals are dominated by the tidal rhythms of the sea. It is only in recent history that it has become easier for those at the head of a peninsula to make a journey by land than by sea.

Life at the head of a peninsula is a life in the transition zone between sea and land. Ambiguous. Disorienting. Tempting though it is to always look out, away from the mainland, a living here needs to be made from what is available on the land behind and the sea in front.

Image of Caldy Hill from HERE.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Happy New Year (2019)

Monday, 31 December 2018

Some Do, Some Don't: There's not much Difference: It's more complicated that that (2018)

Many of the founding principles of physics as a science are built on frameworks and ideas that have been around for hundreds of years. These 'laws of nature' and working principles, along with much more recent speculation, theory, observation and experiment are so attractive as a body of human knowledge that for science, we often try to read physic(al) science. Researchers in other fields often show signs of physics envy - with biologists and social scientists being most guilty of this type of behaviour (it is interesting perhaps to note that chemists, though less in the limelight these days that they used to be, on the whole are rarely envious of physicists).

Physics envy is a most wasteful emotional condition. The simple fact is that no other scientific field will have the same structure or dynamics as physics, because they study different phenomena, subject to different laws. In addition, many of the other sciences are so very young compared with physics that their relative immaturity does not help. I suspect that time, and the application of serious levels of effort and hard work, will be one of the most important factors required to create more solid foundations for psychology, sociology, ecology, biology and genetics. Unfortunately for everyone, including the tax-payers who fund the majority of scientific research, modern science is performed in a state of perpetual hyper-competitiveness. Although this is an understandable need from the point of view of the career development of individual scientists, for the overall health of human knowledge it is corrosive.

As an example, HERE, is a summary by Ed Yong in The Atlantic of the results of ManyLabs 2 - a serious attempt to replicate the findings of 28 well known psychological experiments. Unsurprisingly, half of them are not-reproducible. What is perhaps more interesting, is the author's take on the study: 
Ironically enough, it seems that one of the most reliable findings in psychology is that only half of psychological studies can be successfully repeated.
From this, I suggest that it is clear enough that we might want to formulate Yong's Law of psychology:
No more than one-half of the results of published psychological studies will ever be replicated.



The Colour of London, Historic, Personal, & Local. By William J Loftie & Yoshio Markino (1910)

In June 1892, Arthur Conan Doyle published The Adventure of the Copper Beeches in the Strand Magazine. The tale is set in the early 1890's and features his famous detective Sherlock Holmes. The story begins in 221B Baker Street: 
It was a cold morning of the early spring, ... A thick fog rolled down between the lines of dun-coloured houses, and the opposing windows loomed like dark, shapeless blurs through the heavy yellow wreaths. 

Thick pea-souper fogs were a common experience in London throughout the Victorian and Edwardian eras. They formed when natural mists and  fogs from the Thames estuary mixed with the smoke from millions of domestic and industrial coal fires. The distinctive colouring of the fogs is thought to be due to the dissolution of coal tars from smoke that is typical of incomplete coal combustion. 

London fog gave rise to a range of unique and dynamic optical experiences, many of which were commented on, or recorded by, artists and writers. The French impressionist painter Claude Monet (1840-1926) often mentioned in his letters the unique optical effects of London fog. Although his multiple paintings of the Houses of Parliament, Waterloo Bridge and Charing Cross Bridge were reworked for many years after he first painted them, they remain important visual records of his attempts to capture the fleeting effects of colour and light caused by London fog.  Monet commented that `... objects change in appearance in a London fog more and quicker than in any other atmosphere'. Other artistic responses to British fog include the Manchester cityscapes that were painted by the French impressionist Pierre Adolphe Valette (1876-1942), who taught at the Manchester School of Art between 1906 and 1920. 

The Japanese artist Yoshio Markino (1869-1956) arrived in London in 1897, after having spent four years studying art in San Francisco. Markino was captivated by the mist and fog he found in both San Francisco and London and developed a technique for soaking his paper prior to watercolour painting,  so that he could paint the backgrounds of his pictures whilst the paper was still damp: 
London in mist is far above my own ideal ... Whether it is unhealthy or not, is not the question for me. The colour and its effect are most wonderful. I think London without mists would be like a bride without a trousseau .. The London mist attracts me so that I do not feel I could live in any other place but London.
Markino stayed in London for forty years and became well known in artistic and bohemian circles. He used his outsider's view of London to render even the most ordinary of scenes as mysterious and beautiful. In this painting, the structure of London's Tower Bridge is shown at high tide with a colour contrast softened by evening light and London fog. 

The Japanese essayist and poet Yone Noguchi (1875-1947) became an important bridge between the traditions of Japanese literary culture and the West. Noguchi lived in New York for a number of years before visiting London in 1903 where he stayed with Yoshio Markino. He shared with Markino a keen appreciation of London fog: 
I do not quarrel with the Englishmen when they hate the fogs; but I should like to impress on them their strange beauty ... I often thought of the London fogs as of a great artistic problem ... The beauty of the fogs can only appeal to one whose aestheticism is older than life; their grey effect is a far more living thing than darkness or death.
Yoshio Markino created a large body of work based on his life in London. His watercolours are recognisably of London landmarks, but rendered with an aesthetic reminiscent of Japanese wood block prints.

Scanned copy of Original HERE.

Image Caption: The Tower Bridge


Noguchi, Y. (1915). The story of Yone Noguchi. G.W. Jacobs. Philadelphia.

Novakov, A. & Novakov, T. (2006). The Chromatic Effects of Late Nineteenth-Century London Fog. Literary London Journal. Vol. 4 Number 2.

Rodner, W.S. (2011). Edwardian London through Japanese Eyes. Brill,  Leiden.

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Engraving and Etching: a handbook for the use of students and print collectors. By Friedrich Lippmann (1907)

Engraving is a print making technique, in which the artist cuts their design into the smooth, flat surface of a metal plate or woodblock. There are two related techniques. In relief printing, the uncut surface of the engraved block is inked and these areas transfer ink onto the final print. The material that was cut away by the engraver does not accept any of the ink and so these areas of paper in the final print remain without ink.  The intaglio technique is the direct opposite of relief printing. This method also uses a line cut into a metal surface, but now it is the cut line that accepts the ink. After the surface has been wiped with a cloth and the palm of the hand, an impression of the cut design is then made onto dampened paper. Impressions taken from either of these methods are usually called prints or engravings. 

Intaglio printing is a technically demanding process. The engraver sketches out a mirror image of the composition onto a prepared copper plate with an engraving needle. The final engraving is then created on this drypoint sketch with a burin or graver -  a sharpened tool of square or diamond shape that creates a v-shaped groove in the metal surface. Mistakes are removed using a burnisher.  

Two related techniques are used in intaglio engraving to create texture and shade. Hatching involves the cutting of closely spaced parallel lines. Cross-hatching involves the cutting of lines at an angle to a set of hatched parallel lines. By varying the length, width, angle and closeness of the lines that are hatched or cross-hatched, an engraver can create brightness, texture, form and volume. The intaglio technique can be used to create exquisite details as it allows a much finer line to be printed than is possible from a relief printed wood block. 

Claude Mellan (1598-1688) was born in Abbeville in Picardy. As a youth, Mellan was sent to Paris by his father to study drawing with the artist Simon Vouet (1590-1649). However, Mellan became increasingly interested in the art of  engraving and at 16 he went to Rome to further his study of Italian engraving techniques. By the time he was in his early twenties, Mellan had developed a new technique for creating shade in his engravings. Instead of using cross-hatching with lines of equal thickness, he developed a way of regulating tone simply by varying the breadth and closeness of a system of undulating parallel lines. Joseph Strutt describes his technique as follows;  
... he adopted a new mode of working with single strokes only, without any second strokes laid upon them; and the shadows are expressed by the same strokes, being made stronger, and brought nearer to each other. The effect, which he produced by this method of engraving, is soft and clear.

One of Claude Mellan's most celebrated works is the Sudarium of Saint Veronica which he engraved in 1649. Although a sudarium was originally a `sweat-cloth' used for wiping the face, it is better known as a religious image that bears the likeness of the face of Jesus Christ. The Sudarium image by Mellan shows the face of Christ, with long flowing hair, a beard and wearing a crown of thorns. What is extraordinary about this engraving is that Mellan has created the whole image by unfurling a single line that spirals outwards from the tip of Christ's nose. The contrast in the image is created solely by varying the thickness of this single line and the distance between lines. The author of this volume notes that: 
His technical skill is so extraordinary that the bravura of his style almost drives into the background his undeniable artistic talent. He expresses form by bold, sweeping lines, without the aid of cross-hatching, and obtains his modelling merely by widening his lines in the shadows and making them finer towards the light.

Between 1635 and 1637, Claude Mellan worked with the gentleman scientist Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc (1580-1637) and the astronomer Pierre Gassendi (1592-1655) to make a detailed lunar map based on observations made through Gassendi's telescope. This was part of a larger project to make a detailed annotated map of the Moon's surface.  The technical difficulties in this endeavour were substantial. 

The three engravings that resulted from this collaboration were finalised in 1637. They were the clearest and most detailed observational records of the moon then available. In part, their quality was due to the high quality optical components from Galileo that they had used for the observations. Scott Montgomery describes these images as follows:
Mellan's images, with their near-photographic precision, are such a startling leap beyond everything that had gone before -- even Galileo's pictures -- that we are left almost breathless ... Gassendi, Peiresc, and Mellan presented art as a domain of expertise within science.    
The exquisite quality of these images of the Moon's surface was primarily due to the artistic skills and superb engraving technique of Claude Mellan. This was high art in the service of high science.

Scanned copy of Original HERE.

Image Caption: A detail from a portrait of Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc that was engraved by Claude Mellan in 1637.


Montgomery, S.L. (1999). The Moon and the Western Imagination. University Arizona Press.

Strutt, J. (1785). A biographical dictionary: containing an historical account of all the engravers, from the earliest period of the art of engraving to the present time. Robert Faulder, London.

The Excellency of the Pen and Pencil (1668)

In September 1940,  several young lads and a dog stumbled upon a remarkable cave near Montignac, a small village in the Dordogne region of France. The walls of the cave were full of beautiful pre-historic images depicting animals, humans and abstract symbols. The animal depictions in the Lascaux caves are stylish and accomplished and some of the symbols include non-figurative dot clusters that may be rudimentary star charts. 

Lascaux is a rare time capsule of human mark-making from about 20,000 years ago. The images are beautiful evidence of the sophisticated mark-making skills of the Homo sapiens who had come from Africa and who were living in Europe from about 40,000 years ago.  To modern humans the antiquity of the Lascaux images is daunting. Although the images were made at least 1,000 generations ago they show that our ancestors had cognitive capabilities that were essentially identical to our own. 

Even more daunting is the fact that the Lascaux images are relatively modern examples of human symbolic mark making. The oldest known evidence of deliberate human mark making is a 70,000 year old piece of ochre from South Africa that was polished and then engraved with a distinctive, angular geometric pattern. 

The abstract representations engraved into these Blombos ochres are composed of fine geometric patterns. They are the product of manipulative skills and fine motor control that is essentially the same as that of any modern engraver, calligrapher, typographer, watchmaker, artist or scientific instrument maker.

As a species humans are blessed with exquisite manual dexterity, in the form of a tightly integrated eye-brain-hand system. Because we are dominated by our visual sense, it is easy to make the assumption that within the eye-brain-hand system, the eye guides the hand. However, this assumption underestimates the importance of the hand. In some specific and important instances we find that the hand guides the eye.  

Humans naturally use a number of different hand grips. A range of power grips are useful for holding on to an object whilst forcefully hammering or throwing. More important for mark-making is a range of specialised, precision grips. These are not used to deliver force, but rather to exploit the very fine control our hands are capable of. 

An immediately recognisable and distinctive human precision grip is the pen-hold grip which is shown most clearly in the top-right panel of the image. This grip is the most important precision grip that we habitually use for mark-making. Using this grip, humans can delicately control a sharpened stick, pen, pencil, burin or brush. Historically, this grip has allowed medieval scribes, ancient Chinese calligraphers and modern engravers to create exquisitely controlled movements that were recorded onto parchment or paper or into blocks of wood or metal. 

It is easy to be tricked by the ubiquity of this grip into thinking that it is commonplace, it is not, this is a uniquely human grip; 
In particular, the way one holds a pen (and other, similar objects) is known as the precision grip - and even our closest primate relatives cannot manipulate objects with such delicacy and skill.

This book was published in 1668 in Little Britain, an area at the north of the City of London that is close to the Lame Hospital (St. Bartholomew's) and the Aldersgate within what remained of the city's Roman walls. It was published soon after London's Great Plague (1665, 1666) and the Great Fire of London (1666).  

In the 17th Century, Little Britain was dominated by booksellers. In 1664 alone, nearly five hundred pamphlets were published there. The writer Roger North describes Little Britain in the reign of Charles II as;
... a plentiful and perpetual emporium of learned authors, and men went thither as to a market. This drew a mighty trade, the rather because the shops were spacious, and the learned gladly resorted to them, where they seldom failed to meet with agreeable conversation. 
Two editions of this anonymous volume were published in 1668. It is a disjointed collection of illustrations and passages that explain a wide range of mark-making techniques: Drawing; Etching; Engraving; Painting in Oyl; Washing of Maps & Pictures; Limning (painting miniatures); copper plate etching with Aqua Fortis and in the second edition an explanation of mezzotint.

Scanned copy of Original HERE.

Image Caption: Clockwise from top left the panels show: an artist sketching a foot; an engraver copying an image; a painter working at an easel with a palette and mahl stick and a cartographer finishing a map using pots of ink or colour.}


Breuil, H.(1941). `A Remarkable Painted Cave on the Estate of Lescaux.'  Nature. 147, 12-13.

North, R (1984). General Preface & Life of Dr. John North. Ed. P. Millard. UTP, Toronto.

Staski, E. & Marks, J. (1992). Evolutionary Anthropology. Harcourt Brace, Fort Worth, Texas.

The Social Life of Animals by Warder Clyde Allee (1938)

On the west coast of Mexico, between the mainland and the Baja peninsula, is a long narrow body of water known variously as the Gulf of California, the Sea of Cortez, Mar de Cortes and the Vermilion Sea. This narrow sea has a coastline of about 2,500 miles and a number of major rivers run into it, including the Colorado river that runs through the Grand Canyon. It is home to a unique marine ecosystem with an incredible variety of species. 

Although there were earlier expeditions, the first thorough ecological study of this sea was a trip made in 1940 by a famous author and his marine biologist friend;
... modern marine biology in the Gulf of California had its birth with the remarkable pioneering expedition of Ed Ricketts and John Steinbeck aboard the Western Flyer.

Ricketts and Steinbeck began their six week trip from Monterey and passed key points at San Diego, Point San Lazaro, Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Refugio. During the trip Ricketts, Steinbeck and the crew collected from 24 sites and catalogued more than 400 species. A year after their trip they published their findings in Sea of Cortez: A Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research. One expert on the marine biology of the area says; 
For more than thirty years, their expedition report was the only place anyone could turn for a synoptic view of invertebrate life in the Sea of Cortez.

Ed Ricketts (1897-1948) was born and brought up in Chicago. In 1917, towards the end of the first world war, he was drafted into the Army Medical Corps. After the war he was discharged and then attended a wide range of classes at the University of Chicago including zoology, philosophy, Spanish and German. However, it was the ecology lectures of Warder Clyde Allee that had the most profound impact on him. The last formal college class that Ricketts  took was Allee's course in animal ecology in 1922. Soon after, Ricketts left Chicago for the Monterey peninsula on the California coast. 

Warder Clyde Allee (1885-1955) was a pioneering ecologist who made a number of detailed studies of the causes and types of animal aggregation and cooperation.  One of his seminal observations in the late 1920's was that goldfish grew faster in water that had previously held goldfish than in fresh water. This observation and later experiments became known as the Allee Effect, a counter intuitive effect in which there is a positive correlation between population density and individual fitness. 

In a recent monograph dedicated to the Allee Effect, it is defined as the idea that `the more individuals there are (up to a point), the better they fare'. The authors of the monograph explain that;
The Allee effect is an ecological concept with roots that go back at least to the 1920s, and fifty years have elapsed since the last edition of a book by W.C. Allee, the `father' of this process. Throughout this period, hardly a single mention of this process could be found in ecological textbooks ... The situation has appeared to change dramatically in the last decade or so, however, and we now find an ever-increasing number of studies from an ever-increasing range of disciplines devoted to or at least considering the Allee effect.

This volume is a transcription of a series of lectures that Allee gave at Northwestern University in Chicago in 1937. It is an attempt by this pioneering ecologist to present in plain language the results of his long term research project on animal co-operation, social behaviour and aggregation.

Scanned copy of Original HERE.

Image Caption: One of Allee's original figures: a Brittle starfish aggregate readily when put into a bare vessel of sea water. b shows conditions ten minutes after a was taken.


Brusca, R. C. (2007). 'Invertebrate Biodiversity in the Northern Gulf of California'.  pp. 418--504, in, R. S. Felger & W. Broyles (Eds.), Dry Borders. Great Natural Reserves of the Sonoran Desert.  University of Utah Press.

Courchamp, F., Berec, L.\& Gascoigne, J. (2009). Allee Effects in Ecology and Conservation. Oxford University Press.

Rodger, K.A. (2006). Breaking Through. Essays, Journals and Travelogues of Edward F. Ricketts. University of California Press, Berkeley.

The Colour-prints of Japan: an Appreciation and History (1906)

Woodblock printing has been used in China since at least the fourth century AD.  The earliest Japanese examples of block printing dates from several hundred years later in the reign of Empress Shiyau-toku (764-770). 

The woodblock technique reached its highest level of excellence and popularity in the Ukiyo-e style of prints that were popular from the 17th century until the early 19th century. These popular prints depict actors, sumo wrestlers, beautiful women, landscapes, trees, flowers, erotica and scenes from folk history. The prints were created by a collaborative quartet: the artist who conceived the composition and drew the image; the engraver who carved the design into multiple blocks of wild cherry wood, one block for each colour; the printer who inked the blocks and made the printed impressions and the publisher who financed the work and marketed the results.  

Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) was an artist who painted more than thirty thousand designs. He was also a master designer of Ukiyo-e prints. One of his favourite subjects was the distinctive peak of Mount Fuji. This was painted from different vantage points, in different seasons and under different weather conditions. Sometimes the mountain completely dominates the scene. In others, it almost disappears into the background behind an old man working on a barrel, or a busy river crossing or an agricultural activity.  Even the best known of Hokusai's prints, the The Great Wave off Kanagawa, although dominated by a huge okinami wave that is threatening to engulf several boat loads of sailors, has in the background the snow-capped peak of Mount Fuji. 

The image shown here, Hodogoya on the Tokaid0, is from the set of 36 Views of Mount Fuji by Hokusai that was first published in 1830.  This original series of prints was so popular that Hokusai later added another ten views of Mount Fuji to the series. 

This scene shows a small group of travellers who are making their way along a tree lined avenue near to Hodogoya on the Tokaido highway, leading away from Edo.  At the left is a traveller being carried in a litter or kago, who is waiting for one of the bearers to mop his brow and the other to tie his sandal.  At the centre of the composition the man who is leading the horse is pointing his herding stick towards Mount Fuji in the background. The form of the horse borne passenger with a domed hat mirrors the peak of Mount Fuji and the horse blanket incorporates designs derived from the seal of the publisher.  At the right is an itinerant monk wearing a sedge hat and bearing a flute in his clothing. Behind this scene of everyday movements on the road sits the imperious and immobile Fujiyama.   

During his long artistic career Hokusai used thirty-one pen names (including: Katsukawa Shunro, Gummatei , Tawaraya Sori, Hyakurin Sori, Kako, Tokimasa, Taito & Manji). By his mid seventies he called himself Gwakio-rojin, the old man, mad about drawing and he wrote the following:
From the age of five I have had a mania for drawing the forms of things. From about the age of fifty I produced a number of designs, yet of all I drew prior to the age of seventy there is truly nothing of great note. At the age of seventy-two I finally apprehended something of the true quality  of birds, animals, insects, fish and of the vital nature of grasses and trees.  Therefore, at eighty I shall have made some progress, at ninety I shall have penetrated even further the deeper meaning of things, at one hundred I shall have become truly marvellous, and at one hundred and ten, each dot, each line shall surely possess a life of its own. I only beg that gentlemen of sufficiently long life take care to note the truth of my words. 
Hokusai was one of Japan's most prolific artists, but until recently only a small number of his preparatory sketches and drawings for illustrations were known.  The recent discovery by M. Bertrand Rousseau of a private European collection of 24 sheets of preparatory sketches and drawings for illustrations printed between 1807 and 1815 has filled a void. Meticulous examination of these works has shed some light on the period when Hokusai was at the peak of his artistic mastery, and has led to a series of striking discoveries about his working methods. Hokusai developed a visual shorthand to indicate to the engraver how they wanted particular details, such as the decoration of items of clothing or clumps of pine needles, to be rendered.  For me one of the most interesting aspects of this study is a series of very detailed comparisons between the published prints and corresponding preparatory sketches. 

This book was written by Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Fairbrother Strange CBE (1862-1929) a British civil servant who worked at the South Kensington Museum from 1889, where he headed the department of Engraving, Illustration and Design for a long period and later became Keeper of Woodwork.  Strange was an expert who wrote numerous museum catalogues and popular books on Japanese arts and crafts.

Scanned copy of Original HERE.

Image Caption: Hodogoya on the Tokaido by Katsushika Hokusai.


Amsden, D. (1905). Impressions of Ukiyo-ye. Elder & Co. San Francisco.

Lane, R. (1978). Images from the Floating World. Putnam, New York.

Rousseau, B. (2009). `Drawings by Hokusai: Groundbreaking discoveries'. Orientations Magazine Vol. 40. No. 6.

The Crayfish; an Introduction to the Study of Zoology (1880)

The remarkable English biologist Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895) was a self-taught comparative anatomist, paleontologist and geologist. He published widely the results of his own technical work on the anatomy and physiology of both vertebrates and invertebrates and their evolutionary relationships. He also become known as Darwin's Bulldog due to his robust public defence of Charles Darwin's work, whilst remaining critical of some aspects of Darwin's theory. Once Huxley had understood the theory of Natural Selection, he remarked; `How extremely stupid not to have thought of that!'  

Huxley was a well known public intellectual who actively tried to educate the Victorian public about  the methods and joys of natural history and biology. In this volume he gives a detailed examination of the crayfish, a class of common freshwater invertebrates related to the lobster, as a means to illustrate his approach to science;
Many persons seem to believe that what is termed Science is of a widely different nature from ordinary knowledge, and that the methods by which scientific truths are ascertained involve mental operations of a recondite and mysterious nature, comprehensible only by the initiated, and as distinct in their character as in their subject matter, from the processes by which we discriminate between fact and fancy in ordinary life.

But any one who looks into the matter attentively will soon perceive that there is no solid foundation for the belief that the realm of science is thus shut off from that of common sense; or that the mode of investigation which yields such wonderful results to the scientific investigator, is different in kind from that which is employed for the commonest purposes of everyday existence. Common sense is science exactly in so far as it fulfils the ideal of common sense; that is, sees facts as they are, or, at any rate, without the distortion of prejudice, and reasons from them in accordance with the dictates of sound judgment. And science is simply common sense at its best; that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic.

Huxley tried to show that science was simply common sense at its best by delivering public lectures, many of which were later published. His method was to take an apparently obscure or abstract issue and explain it using commonplace objects that ordinary readers might reasonably be able to relate to. In 1868 he delivered a lecture On a piece of Chalk to the working men of Norwich. In 1870 he spoke at the Philosophical Institute in Bradford On the Formation of Coal.  In 1861 he gave a lecture to the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria & Albert Museum) on A Lobster; Or, the study of Zoology, which was both a precursor to this volume on the crayfish and an explanation of how the various elements of the physical and biological sciences were related. 

In this beautifully illustrated volume, Thomas Huxley aimed;
... to show how the careful study of one of the commonest and most insignificant of animals, leads us, step by step, from every-day knowledge to the widest generalizations and the most difficult problems of zoology; and, indeed, of biological science in general.  
Between 1862 and 1884 Huxley served on eight Royal Commissions, including; trawling, contagious diseases, scientific instruction, vivisection and medical law. Huxley is often referred to as a loyal supporter of Darwin, but he was an outstanding comparative anatomist in his own right.

Scanned copy of Original HERE.

Image Caption: The Australian crayfish. Huxley does not give the full latin name for this specimen, but indicates it is probably Astacoides nobilis or Astacoides armatus.


Holdich, D.M. (Ed.) (2001). Biology of Freshwater Crayfish. Blackwell Science. London.

Huxley, T.H. (1896). Discourses Biological and Geological. Appleton and Company, New York. 

Apollo Mission 17 Lunar Photography Index Maps (1973)

Just after midnight on December 7th 1972, the Apollo 17 mission launched from the  Kennedy Space Center in Florida with three crew; Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans and Harrison Schmitt. The launch was the first to be made during the night. The science fiction writer Isaac Asimov was watching the launch from a cruise liner off the coast of Florida;
It lit the sky from horizon to horizon, turning the ocean an orange-grey and the sky into an inverted copper bowl from which the starts were blanked out.
The 12 day long Apollo 17 mission was the sixth and final mission to land humans on the surface of the Moon. In total only 24 people have ever left Earth orbit, and of those only 12 have stepped on the surface of the Moon. Since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972 nobody has ventured further from the Earth's surface than low Earth orbit (160-2,000 kilometres). 

One of the lasting legacies of the Apollo missions is the huge archive of high quality photographic images - over 30,000 in total. Apollo missions 15,16 and 17 deployed a high quality Panoramic camera, that could obtain pictures of narrow strips of the Moons surface as the service module orbited the Moon. At the scale of the Moon's surface, these images were 20 kilometers wide and nearly 320 kilometers long,  with high resolution that could be used to identify features down to about 2 meters in size. During Apollo 17, the panoramic camera was used on nine orbits and obtained nearly 1600 usable images. 

The Panoramic camera automatically recorded images, but the Apollo 17 crewmen could intervene to control the camera power and operational modes. The film cartridges were retrieved from the external location. 

The image shown here is part of an index map, on which the locations of the image strips were plotted. This index map shows the Moon's surface close to the crater Copernicus (which can be seen on a clear night from the Earth using binoculars). The crater is located slightly left of and above 20° W, 10° N, which is at the centre of the side of the Moon that faces the Earth. Further south is the Mare Cognitum (literally the Sea that has become known). Several spacecraft have landed on, or near to, Mare Cognitum, including; Luna 5, Ranger 7, Surveyor 3, and Apollo 12. The landing site of Apollo 14, the Fra Mauro formation, is also close to Mare Cognitum.

Many of the features on the surface of the moon are named after pioneering astronomers or optical scientists. These names are not well known outside of astronomy, but when the names of these pioneers are collected together they form surprisingly lyrical stanzas; 
Kepler, Flamsteed, Wolf.Marius, Milichius.Lalander, Loewy. Gassendi, Euclides.Gambart, Lippershey, Kies.

In the the early 1990's the American landscape photographer Michael Light obtained permission from NASA to work with the archive of original photographic negatives from all of their Moon missions. The result of this collaboration included the publication of a book by Light called Full Moon in 1999. This was his imagined photographic narrative of a single Moon mission created by composite. Light also created very large digital prints from the images and made a travelling exhibition of them. A selection of these prints are on permanent exhibit at the America Museum of Natural History in New York.

Scanned copy of Original HERE.

Image Caption: Part of sheet 2 of the Apollo Mission 17 Lunar Photography Index map. This map provides a spatial index of the strips of large format black and white images that were taken by the 610 mm focal length ITEK panoramic camera used on the mission. The high-resolution panoramic photographs were recorded in stereoscopic and monoscopic modes. The orbital altitude for the panoramic images was 111 kilometres above the moon's surface.


Asimov, I. (1975). The tragedy of the Moon. London.

Light, M. (1999). Full Moon. Jonathan Cape Ltd. London.

Smith, A. (2005). Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth. Harper Collins. London.

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