Thursday, 24 September 2015


Sunday, 13 September 2015

Obata's Yosemite

More on Chiura Obata HERE.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Scientific Fraud - Peter Medawar

A great piece HERE - an old one - by Peter Medawar on scientific fraud.

"The number of dishonest scientists cannot, of course, be known, but even if they were common enough to justify scary talk of ‘tips of icebergs’ they have not been so numerous as to prevent science’s having become the most successful enterprise (in terms of the fulfillment of declared ambitions) that human beings have ever engaged upon."


Monday, 31 August 2015

Edward Tufte Graphics in R

R is one of the worlds most widely used statistical analysis and visualisation packages.
It is flexible and robust.
It is also freely available and has a broad and generous user community.
There are now a number of IDE's for working with the program (e.g. HERE).

Lukasz Piwek has just written some R code to implement the graphic layouts and design of Edward Tufte. HERE.


Sunday, 16 August 2015

Sunset August 2015

Bardsey Island 2015

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Hells Mouth

Monday, 3 August 2015

Panorama from Rhiw, Llyn July 2015


 Image Copyright M.G. Reed 2015

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Chinese philosophy by Paul Carus (1902)

A comparison of the binary numbers of Liebniz and those of the Chinese Sage Zhou Dunyi  [in older romanisations also known as Cheu-tsz'] who lived in the Song dynasty 1017-1073.

Further insights in The History of Binary by Anton Glaser  HERE.

From Chinese philosophy. An exposition of the main characteristic features of Chinese thought by Paul Carus (HERE).

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The Atoll of Funafuti (1904)

Volume available HERE

Delle case de' contadini : trattato architettonico (1770)

Image from HERE

Buttons & Pockets

Bernard Rudofsky was an American architect and observer of everyday life more HERE

Drawings by Bernard Rudofsky, 1940s. From HERE.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

The Early History of Personal Ornaments

Here is a great paper with detailed archeology of beads used for personal ornaments from 82,000 years ago!

Recent investigations into the origins of symbolism indicate that personal ornaments in the form of  perforated marine shell beads were used in the Near East, North Africa, and SubSaharan Africa at least 35 ka earlier than any personal ornaments in Europe. Together with instances of pigment use, engravings, and formal bone tools, personal ornaments are used to support an early emergence of behavioral modernity in Africa, associated with the origin of our species and significantly predating the timing for its dispersal out of Africa. Criticisms have been leveled at the low numbers of recovered shells, the lack of secure dating evidence, and the fact that documented examples were not deliberately shaped. In this paper, we report on 25 additional shell beads from four Moroccan Middle Paleolithic sites. We review their stratigraphic and chronological contexts and address the issue of these shells having been deliberately modified and used. We detail the results of comparative analyses of modern, fossil, and archaeological assemblages and microscopic examinations of the Moroccan material. We conclude that Nassarius shells were consistently used for personal ornamentation in this region at the end of the last interglacial. Absence of ornaments at Middle Paleolithic sites postdating Marine Isotope Stage 5 raises the question of the possible role of climatic changes in the disappearance of this hallmark of symbolic behavior before its reinvention 40 ka ago. Our results suggest that further inquiry is necessary into the mechanisms of cultural transmission within early Homo sapiens populations.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Contemporary Chinese Seals

 Copyright Li Lanqing

From an exhibition at the British Museum (now closed) on Contemporary Chinese Seals (HERE)

Sunday, 29 March 2015


A piece HERE on Robert Bringhurst and Mythology.

A myth is a theorem about the nature of reality expressed not in algebraic symbols or inanimate abstractions but in animate narrative form.... It is a means of understanding and elucidating the nature of the world.

Mythology. Robert Bringhurst p 791

Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada 2002
Edited William H. New
University Toronto Press

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Henry Ospovat

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

From Shakespeare's Songs 1901.  HERE

Sunday, 22 March 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, 14 March 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, 10 March 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, 6 March 2015

Seven Ravens (2)

Wednesday, 4 March 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, 20 February 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, 17 February 2015

Saturday, 7 February 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, 3 February 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, 17 January 2015


By John Milton 1634
Illustrated by Arthur Rackham 1921

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Tom Dixon Bookmark

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

Thursday, 8 January 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, 7 January 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, 6 January 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, 5 January 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, 1 January 2015

Happy New Year

George Bickham (Snr) Sot's Paradise 1707.


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

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

View from the Top

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

Image Copyright M.Reed 2014

Thursday, 4 December 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, 28 November 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, 27 November 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, 20 November 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, 18 November 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, 8 November 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, 30 October 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.


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