Monday, September 1, 2014

Central Teaching Lab - University of Liverpool

Image Copyright M.G. Reed 2014

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Treasure in the Forest

W.A. Dwiggins was an American commercial artist, calligrapher, type designer and book illustrator. 

A two page spread from The Treasure in the Forest H.G. Wells 1936 Press of the Wooly Whale, Boston. Image from HERE.

The essay / prose poem by Wells was published in The Stolen Bacillus and other Incidents - eBook version HERE

Monday, August 25, 2014

Seisho yoroku 1898

Bonsai from a catalogue of an exhibition Seisho yoroku that was organized by Kurokawa Shinzaburo and others in March 1897.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Poem about Sugar

The Japanese Zen master Kokan Shiren (1278–1347) inspired the development of the Japanese rock garden and Bonasai with his short essay; Rhymeprose on a Miniature Landscape Garden.
Kokan was also a renowned calligrapher. The image below is a Poem about Sugar from the mid 1300's. 

 For more on this poem see HERE.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Josef Albers - A Retrospective

Josef Albers was a German born artist (HERE).

Below is a two-page spread from an extensive retrospective of his work from 1988, which is of course available in its entirety on the Internet Archive.

Below is one of a long series of abstract works with similar titles, this one is called Homage to the Square (1963):

Monday, August 18, 2014

Pictorial Knowledge - page spreads

All text copyright M.G. Reed 2014

Friday, August 15, 2014

Pictorial Knowledge (2014)


This is my latest book project. 100 two-page spreads based around images from the Internet Archive.


In the late 1930's the British science fiction writer H.G. Wells described his vision of what he called a World Brain or World Encyclopaedia. He imagined that in the near future, scholars would have easy access to a complete catalogue of the World's knowledge;
The phrase `Permanent World Encyclopaedia' conveys the gist of these ideas. As the core of such an institution would be a world synthesis of bibliography and documentation with the indexed archives of the world. A great number of workers would be engaged perpetually in perfecting this index of human knowledge and keeping it up to date.
Until the late 1980's, the closest thing a scholar could get to an indexed archive of the world was one of the huge collections of material that had been amassed in the Library of  Congress, British Library or other National archive. These are immense repositories. The Library of Congress has 32 million books within a total of 150 million items and the British Library has a similar number of items. When archives get this vast they can be quantified more easily by the number of miles of shelving they have than the number of items; more than 800 miles in the Library of Congress.

Archives only reveal their secrets to those people who can physically get to them and learn how to penetrate the arcane rituals that seem to accumulate around such institutes. The experience of studying archive material first hand is lucidly described by the French historian Arlette Farge in her essay The Allure of the Archives (published in 1989 and recently translated into English). This book describes the author's experience of using the French national archives to understand daily life in the 1780's;     
The archivist, speaking very quietly, takes out a volume from behind him, and, with his fingertips, traces the printed lines of numbers preceded by capital letters. Then, softly, he leads the young man to the long row where the indexes are kept. He takes down six or seven volumes, picking them out without hesitation. He opens them up, points to the long columns of numbers, closes them, puts down the books, picks up others, explains, and returns to his desk to consult a set of file cards tightly squeezed into a beige shoe box. 
Locating documents by looking up numbers in large index tables is difficult and slow for human beings, but it is precisely what computers and the internet are good at. Now, more than six decades after H.G. Wells' first imagined it, the World Brain is beginning to become a reality.

Prompted by the widespread adoption of internet technology, major archives and libraries around the world are now digitising their book collections and making them available to a wider public. Perhaps 20 or 30 million books have already been scanned and digitised. The type of raw material that Arlette Farge describes - the traces of daily life tied up in tickets, receipts, court records and records of scientific expeditions and experiments - largely remain in physical archives, untouched by digitising machines.

On the basis of wholesale book scanning one organisation, the Internet Archive, has started to provide an interface to what may become a World Encyclopaedia. They have a mission of  providing universal access to all knowledge, and with some effort it is possible to find all sorts of gems. 

When I was growing up there was no Internet Archive (or Google or Wikipedia or the Internet). In order to learn about something you didn't understand, you needed to use an encyclopedia, by which I mean a set of bound volumes of printed papers. The most comprehensive encyclopedia that was generally available was the Encyclopedia Britannica, which prided itself on the quality and accuracy of its entries. Unfortunately, a full set of Britannica volumes was both expensive and difficult to navigate -- on average those families who owned the full set only opened the volumes once or twice a year.

We were the proud owners of a battered set of Newnes Pictorial Knowledge.  What the Pictorial Knowledge lacked in gravitas and authority versus the Encyclopedia Britannica, it made up for in pictures. The editors had decided that their intended audience of young readers would respond better to pictorial information than text and they had filled their volumes with illustrated entries. I would happily spend hours flicking through these volumes at random. To learn how a tennis  ball was made. Or look at a colour cut away of an early passenger aircraft. Or the latest in mechanical looms.

On the basis of this form of self-guided pictorial education, I can still remember how to use a straw filled pit to slow cook a meal, the deep sea explorations of the Bathyscaphe Trieste and how pioneering engineers had laid telegraph cables on the ocean floor. Some of my most vivid memories from the Pictorial Knowledge are the photos and text that described the Bell  X1 experimental planes flown by Chuck Yeager. The X1 looked like a bullet with wings and, perhaps appropriately, it became airborne by being dropped from the bomb bay of a modified B29 bomber. Yeager broke the sound barrier in the X1 in October 1947.

Aimlessly leafing through encyclopedias, books and dictionaries is an old fashioned way to learn new things. The brilliant American sociologist Robert K. Merton was casually flicking through volume nine of the Oxford English Dictionary in the early 1940's when he stumbled upon the word serendipity. His discovery of the word led him to write a book on the role that serendipity plays in scientific discovery. Modern familiarity with the concept tracks back to Merton's (serendipitous) discovery of the word, which had been coined in 1754 by the English gentleman Horace Walpole in a letter to his friend Horace Mann;
This discovery, indeed, is almost of that kind which I call Serendipity, a very expressive word, which as I have nothing better to tell you, I shall endeavour to explain to you: you will understand it better by the derivation than by the definition. I once read a silly fairy tale, called the three Princes of Serendip: as their Highnesses traveled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were were not in quest of...
I still enjoy flicking through encyclopedias at random; both physical and virtual. Although necessarily different from my readings of  Newnes Pictorial Knowledge, my self-guided journey through the Internet Archive is driven by the same desire to explore. The book is structured as a collection of two-page spreads. The images were often selected because of the visual impact they had on me as I searched. Each two-page spread matches the image with a deliberately non-encyclopaedic entry; a short comment, reflection or connection. I have begun to think of these two-page spreads as postcards from the archive.

Arlette Farge ends her book with a comment on what we should do with archives; We cannot bring back to life those whom we find cast ashore in the archives. But this is not a reason to make them suffer a second death. This book aims to help save the ideas, images and people we find in the Internet Archive from a second death, and in the process help readers to make their own discoveries of things that they were not in quest of


Farge, A. (2013). The Allure of the Archives. Yale University Press.
Finch, P., Shepherd, W. & Dover, C. (Eds).  (1951). Pictorial Knowledge. G. Newnes, London.
Merton, R.K. & Barber, E. (2003). The Travels and Adventures of Serendipity: A Study in Sociological Semantics and the Sociology of Science. Princeton University Press.
H. G. Wells (1938). World Brain. London: Methuen & Co., Ltd.

Cover Idea Below. Copyright M.G. Reed 2014

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The long and tangled story of the bagpipe

Although today bagpipes are most often associated with Scotland (and to a lesser extent with the Uilleann pipes of Ireland) they have a long and tangled history going back thousands of years. 

This illustrated volume, The Story of the Bagpipe, is from 1911 and is available in the Internet Archive.

Below a German bagpiper from 1514.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Accidental Renaissance Paintings

A great piece here from the Guardian on accidental Renaissance composition in news pictures. 

The following is a treated version of the Ukranian Parliament image shown in the piece.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Gassendi by Mellan 1637

A detail from an engraving of the scholar, priest and astronomer Pierre Gassendi by his collaborator the engraver and artist Claude Mellan. From the Met collection.

Image © 2000–2014 The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Primum Non Nocere — Above All, Do No Harm!

This motto is often used to describe the moral obligations of medics (though it isn't the Hippocratic Oath).

The earliest solid reference found so far for the motto is from 1879:
The maxim that our first duty is to do no harm — primum non nocere — is not intended to reduce us to the rank of simple spectators; it is to stimulate us to attain greater accuracy in diagnosis, greater skill in treatment, and quicker perception of indications.
Stimson LA. On abdominal drainage of adherent portions of ovarian cysts as a substitute for completed ovariotomy. Am J Med Sci. 1879;78: pp. 88-100.

For a full history of the motto see; Cedric M. Smith, ‘Origin and Uses of Primum Non Nocere — Above All, Do No Harm!’, The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology,  Vol. 45 (4), (2005), pp. 371–377.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Y Rhiw

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Old Postcards

A huge collection of old postcards HERE.

San Francisco below.

Château de Blérancourt. Bastille day 1989.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Reconstruction of the Worlds largest flying bird

A great piece here in the Guardian about the reconstruction of the worlds largest flying bird from fossilised remains.

The paper includes the following clear illustration, complete with scale-bar.


Skeletal reconstruction of P sandersi with a California condor (lower left) and royal albatross (lower right) for scale. Illustration: Liz Bradford/PNAS  

Full paper HERE.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Apollo Image archive: Apollo 17 Mission CSM during rendezvous

NASA Image. Apollo-17 Hasselblad Magazine AS17-145/D - high resolution image HERE.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Pantograph. 1653

The Pantograph was invented by Christoph Scheiner in about 1603, but his book on the subject, Pantographice, was not published until 1631. 

The following image is from a later reduced Italian version -Prattica del parallelogrammo da disegnare, which was published in Bologna in 1653.

Image from HERE

Friday, July 4, 2014

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Neil Optical Illusions

Neil Illusions were discovered by Allan Neil, of the Institute of Behavioral Research at Texas Christian University, in the early 1970's. They are notable for the subtlety of the illusion effect - very many people with minor degrees of nonsanopia cannot see the illusion at all. The following article from the New Scientist of 1971 describes a number of the more obvious Neil Illusions. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

A postcard from Twin Peaks

Paul Willoughby is a London based illustrater and graphic designer who has worked on Huck magazine and Little White Lies magazine. He recently created some altered postcards for the Twin Peaks 20th Anniversary Art Exhibition in the Menier gallery, London.


Image Copyright Paul Willoughby.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Bloomsday 2014

Bloomsday is celebrated on the 16th June by fans of the James Joyce book Ulysses.

Below are some of the elements of Ernest Reichl's design of the 1934 Random House edition of Ulysses.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Gassendi & Mellan

In 1637 the French engraver Mellan published three engravings of the Moon's surface captured by him from Gassendi's telescope HERE.

Image Copyright - The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1960

Monday, June 9, 2014

British Standard Whitworth

The British industrialist and entrepreneur Sir Joseph Whitworth (1803- 1887) was born in Stockport near Manchester. He was fascinated from an early age by mechanical engineering and was a great inventor and innovator.

Whitworth worked in London on screw cutting lathes, including  work at Joseph Clements workshop on Charles Babbage's Difference Engine. He returned to Manchester in 1833 to begin his own business making high quality lathes and other machine tools. 

Some of the innovations he came up with included the use of engineers blue and scraping techniques to make very flat metal surfaces. He devised a measurement technique capable of a precision of one millionth of an inch.

The innovation for which he is still remembered was the creation in 1841 of a  standardised screw thread which had an angle of 55 degrees. This became the basis of the first standard system of threads - British Standard Whitworth (BSW or "Whit").  

Image Copyright M.G.Reed 2014.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Birds of Asia - John Gould 1850

New York (1915) & New York Revisited (2002)

The Grolier club of New York was founded in 1884 to celebrate the graphic arts involved in making high quality books; page design, typography, illustration and book binding. The club is named after the renowned book collector Jean Grolier (1490-1565) the Treasurer General of France. Grolier was a patron of the Venetian printer Aldus Manutius and he had ornate bindings made for the volumes he bought. Both the British Library and the National Library in Paris have volumes from his collection.

The current home of the Grolier club is in an affluent part of Manhattan. They have a museum and large research library and host talks and seminars. They also occasionally publish limited editions of exquisitely designed, illustrated and printed books.
New York by Rudolph Ruzicka and Walter Eaton was published by the Grolier club in 1915. It captured a city in transition. Skyscrapers were transforming the city's skyline as it became one of the most populous and economically powerful city's in history. The book was beautifully designed and illustrated by the type designer and wood engraver Rudolph Ruzicka (1883-1978).  The colour wood engravings by Ruzicka were printed in Paris by Emile Fequet. 

Rudolph Ruzicka was born in Kourim, Bohemia in 1883. He moved with his parents to Chicago in 1894 and by 1897 he had became an unpaid apprentice in a wood engraving workshop. He studied at the Chicago Art Institute and New York School of Art. Ruzicka became well known as a type designer and worked for the Mergenthaler Linotype company. He designed the typeface Fairfield in 1940 and re-designed the Harvard Business Review in the early 1950's.

In 2002 Grolier published New York Revisited - a follow-on volume to the 1915 volume (in the world of fine art printing things can sometimes take time). The text in the book was written by a Grolier club member Kenneth Auchincloss and the book was designed, typeset, illustrated with colour wood engravings and hand printed by the fine-art printer Gaylord Schanilec.

In the Foreword to New York Revisited, the author refers back to the 1915 New York volume;
The highlight of the book is the wood engravings by Rudoph Ruzicka. Their muted colors and delicate line partially disguise the artist's reaction to the city, which one suspects was primarily alarm... His images are deceptively light, but what they convey is the enormous vertical weight of the city.  
A total of 250 copies of New York Revisited were printed. The first 50 were specially bound and each contained a portfolio of Ruzicka engravings that had been newly printed by Schanilec from the blocks that Ruzicka had cut in 1915 (the original blocks had been found in an old box by the Grolier club librarian).

Typical two-page spreads from (top) New York (1915) and (bottom) New York Revisited (2002) both published by the Grolier Club of New York.  





Friday, June 6, 2014

Long Grain White Oak - Schanilec print

Here is a piece on the work of fine book maker and wood engraver Gaylord Schanilec - in particular his book Sylvæ

Below a two-page spread from the book showing a piece of Long-grain white Oak on the foldout.

 Image copyright Gaylord Schanilec

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Rudolph Ruzicka

Hotel de Cluny

The Musee de Cluny is a museum of medieval art in Paris.

Recollections & Reflections - Yoshio Markino (1913)

Babar Maquette

The Morgan library also have a digital facsimile of a unique maquette created by Jean de Brunhoff in 1930/31 as a first draft of the first book in the Babar series: Histoire de Babar.  

The maquette (scale model or rough draft) is a small (20.5 x 15.5 cm) handmade booklet incorporating both text and illustrations.

 Image Copyright Morgan Library - HERE.

Rembrandt Etchings online

The Morgan Library in New York has just put its collection of 500 Rembrandt etchings online - HERE.

Below - one of the many self-portraits in the collection. 

Image Copyright The Morgan Library

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Rachel Carson is famed as the author of Silent Spring (1962) - a call to action about conservation and environment. 

Earlier though she had a career as a marine biologist with the US Bureaus of Fisheries. One of her technical monographs,Fish and Shellfish of the South Atlantic and Gulf Coasts (1944) is available here.

Original B&W image from Carson monograph

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Secret History of Hypertext

A great piece in the Atlantic on the Secret History of Hypertext HERE. It includes a good write up on someone I had never heard of before, the Belgian  Paul Otlet - the father of information science.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Everyone is totally just winging it

From Oliver Burkeman's blog in the Guardian today, a grand truth about human behaviour, dressed up in a semi-joking post:

Everyone is totally just winging it, all the time.

A Golden Plover - by Thomas Bewick from HERE

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Constructor - El Lissitzky

From Here.

Bioscience Illustrator

Illustration copyright Dr Maria Kuzma-Kuzniarska from HERE.

Compound Interest

Here is a blog offering a distinctively different view on chemistry.

Image Copyright Compound Interest

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Thinking Eye - Edward Tufte

The Thinking Eye - A Lecture by Edward Tufte 4th April 2013 Harvard University.

video platform video management video solutionsvideo player

See here as well

Friday, May 9, 2014

Home Life in Tokyo (1910)

 Copyright M.G. Reed 2014

Friday, May 2, 2014

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Seat of the Soul

Here is the catalogue for an exhibition of da Vinci's anatomical drawings that was held at Meteroploitan Museum of Art in 1984. All of these drawings are from the Royal Collection of nearly 600 priceless da Vinci drawings that are held at Windsor Castle.

Da Vinci dissected about 30 humans and his method was almost forensic. He made detailed notes and illustrated them as he went, applying his formidable skills as a draughtsman as well as his unrivaled observational technique.  More here.

Image copyright Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Country Life in a Big City

A panoramic view of New York from 1910, about twenty years prior to the completion of the Empire State Building.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Voyaging southward from the Strait of Magellan (1924)

Here is a copy of Rockwell Kents memoir of his sea journey in South America,Voyaging southward from the Strait of Magellan (1924).

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Golden Ratio (Divine Proportion)

The truncated octahedron is an Archimedean solid with 8 regular hexagon faces and 6 square faces.Here is Leonardo da Vinci's rendering of this shape in the 1509 treatise by Luca Pacioli De Divina proportione (divine proportion) including both mathematical and artistic proportion (HERE).


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Satsugu enso roku (1881)

The Internet Archive is an unusually rich source of high quality visual materials if you are prepared to search a little bit (I have found that using broad search terms such as "graphic" and "pictorial" uncovers the best material).

For example, here is Satsugu enso Roku, a stunning Japanese volume on tobacco growing from 1881.
The following notes are included in the volume:

Satsugu enso Roku (Tobacco Growing in Satsuma and Osumi Provinces).
5 vols in 1 (712pp). 156 figures in color, maps, charts, tables.  
Tokyo 1881.

This is a scientific work of that period and covers all phases of tobacco culture. It completely illustrates and discusses such subjects as morphology of the tobacco plant, planting, handling and care of seed beds, transplanting, weeding, use of wheat as a "nurse" crop, insect pests, tobacco diseases, harvesting, curing, etc. There is also an interesting illustrated section on the history of smoking.

The well known American botanist H.H. Bartlett says that "It is probably as interesting a monograph of a single crop plant as any nation could show at the same time."

It is lavishly illustrated with 156 figures in colour, most of which occupy a whole page, and many are tipped in and folded. Some of the illustrations of tobacco leaves are in natural size. Some of the illustrations are interesting from the view-point of printing. From a note by the author it seems that the outlines were printed from metal, colors were added with wooden blocks and some of these were overprinted by lithography for improvement. Bartlett says, "All in all, the printing of this copiously illustrated work with its effective coloring was a marvel of technical ingenuity".   

There is a ten - page English summary.

Friday, March 21, 2014


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...