Saturday, 19 December 2009

Horse in Motion - Again

A small multiple that shows movement in time. The classic "The Horse in Motion" by Eadweard Muybridge. "Sallie Gardner," owned by Leland Stanford; running at a 1:40 gait over the Palo Alto track, 19th June 1878.

The full caption provides a host of interesting technical information;

'The negatives of these photographs were made at intervals of twenty-seven inches of distance, and about the twenty-fifth part of a second in time; they illustrate consecutive positions assumed during a single stride of the mare. The vertical lines were twenty-seven inches apart; the horizontal lines represente elevations of four inches each. The negatives were each exposed during the two-thousandth part of a second and are absolutely "untouched".' 

This is great information - detailed technical data including a calibration standard in each frame. Many modern photos and series are not so well annotated. 

However, what is really intriguing is that if you search on Google for this image you will find a number of 'Horse in Motion' sequences by Muybridge with different horses which is understandable. More interesting are the images that also appear to refer to Sallie Gardner 19th June 1878 but are quite different to the one I attach here with slightly different text and modified calibration grid. For example the image you see on Wikipedia 'The Horse in Motion.jpg' and which I show in an earlier post - is not the same as the one I attach here. Could the real Muybridge stand up please. 

Jan Tschichold- Penguin Composition Rules

I have been reading up on Jan Tschichold ( and in particular his 'Penguin Composition Rules' which was a very short set of rules he articulated for the UK Penguin imprint in about 1947. 

I have had trouble finding them either physically or electronically. There is a set of rules for web pages derived from Tschichold's rules here ( and I have a rather thinly referenced electronic text of them from here ( My intention is to typeset them in LaTeX using the rules themselves as a style guide, thereby showing by example the rules in action. 

2010 Update:

I checked with Penguin who still hold copyright and they have given me permission to set them for my own use but not to distribute further.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Six Guidelines for Good Typography

A short set of guidelines for Good Typography from the Hand & Eye website - Typeset by Matt in the built in Bookman font using TexNicCenter.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Making Books Beautiful Again

Here is a very thoughtful essay by Australian philosopher Adrian Heathcote extolling the virues of LaTeX, especially for small publishers, and some of its clever capabilities;

'There are, however, many other aspects of LaTeX that facilitate high quality typesetting.
For one, the lines are not justified individually, as they are in Pagemaker and Quark, but in
entire paragraph blocks. This simulates the decision making of the master typesetters of old,
who would set a page so as to get the greatest evenness of word spacing. LaTeX—or rather the
underlying TeX hyphenation-justification algorithm—is able to produce that evenness
automatically (see fig. 1). This has been so successful an implementation of this old technique
that it has been borrowed now for Adobe’s InDesign program, where it is called the multi-line
composer. '

Below is his fig 1.

Figure 1: Even text due to hyphenation algorithm. Also note margin kerning and ff
ligatures. (Font: Adobe Garamond)

Thursday, 10 December 2009


From the maker of the film Helvetica here is his latest project Objectified

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Daniel Danger

One of my favourite print makers is a young artist called Daniel Danger working in New England. His website is here and a 3 x3 collection in the form of a Tuftean 'small multiple' created by Art Lies is shown above. Danger is a very accomplished young print maker working in New England who has been very succesful illustrating gig posters and CD covers for bands. I have a couple of his prints and the density of colour he uses and attention to fine detail make them very special pieces to own.

XKCD's Powers of Ten

Here is a complete order of magnitude comic strip from XKCD: the obserable universe in 2647 pixels (using log scale).

"I think". Charles Darwin July 1837.


Page from Dawins notebooks around July 1837 showing the first-known sketch by Charles Darwin of an evolutionary tree describing the relationships among groups of organisms. This was drawn about a month after he began his first full transmutation notebook. This drawing is the first in which Darwin seeks to explain evolutionary ancestry - above the tree he wrote "I think."

The Horse in motion - 1878

Here is a superb example of what Tufte calls a small multiple.

The Horse in Motion by Eadweard Muybridge. "Sallie Gardner," owned by Leland Stanford; running at a 1:40 gait over the Palo Alto track, 19th June 1878.

Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division; 

 Here is the set of stills in an animated GIF.

John Ruskin

My last post mentioned John Ruskin (1819 - 1900) - he was a superb draughtsman - here is my favourite example of his work.

John Ruskin's Study of Gneiss Rock, Glenfinlas, 1853. Pen and ink and wash with Chinese ink on paper, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, England.

Visual Observation and the Camera Lucida

I have been thinking about the link between optical resolution and science. One of the key tools of science remains detailed visual observation. Until the late 1500's the ability of experimental scientists to detect differences visually was limited by the resolving power of the human eye. In addition, their ability to make detailed records of what they observed was limited by the artistic ability of their eye-brain-hand system. Although our image recording technology is now mainly digital, even today some specialised fields of science rely on the ability of humans to visually resolve differences and make hand drawn records.

For microscopic specimens or macro specimens with very fine detail a camera lucida attachment can be added to an ordinary light microscope. This allows you to view the field of view and trace and draw what you see. Having used one I can recommend it. 

I think that we under-appreciate the power of forcing ourselves to draw, it commands us to really see what is going on and to focus on the essentials of the object under scrutiny. In fact it was precisely this aim that motivated the noted English art critic and social thinker John Ruskin (1819 - 1900) to enthusiastically teach workingmen how to draw. He believed that learning to draw would teach people to really see and understand nature and thereby be happier. He told a Royal Commission on Drawing in 1857 that, "My efforts are directed not to making a carpenter an artist, but to making him happier as a carpenter". 

The camera lucida is no longer mainstream but research paleontologists such as Simon Conway-Morris (one of key scientists in the re-interpretation of the Burgess Shale fossils) still rely on camera lucida attachments on their light microscope to record the fine details of their fossils. These are great examples of what ET calls Mapped Pictures in Beautiful Evidence. For a recent example see, "New Malacostracan Crustacea from the Carboniferous (Stephanian) Lagerstatte of Montceau-les-mines, France" by Patrick R. Racheboeuf, Frederick R. Schram, and Muriel Vidal in the Journal of Paleontology 83(4):624-629. 2009. This paper includes excellent hand drawn camera lucida images of their newly discovered fossil Crustaceans.

Figure Caption

Palaeocaris secretanaeSchram, 1984, MNHN-SOT 12595, Assise de Montceau, Saint-Louis open cast, bed 0. Camera lucida drawings from latex casts; 1-2, latex cast of the left side of the exoskeleton exhibiting the thoracic and pleomere segments; note the occurrence of possible (?) epibiontic organisms on the thoracic segments (bold arrows); the thin arrows indicate the pereion/pleon limit; 3, latex cast of the right side of the anterior part of the exoskeleton; 4, tentative partial reconstruction of the exoskeleton showing only three pleomeres with posterior spinose margin; compare with Fig. 12 of Perrier et al. (2006). Scale bar = 2 mm

Integrated text, drawings and images

I think readers would very probably appreciate a very famous series of hand drawn walking guides to over 200 individual walks in the "fells" and hills of the English Lake district (Beatrix Potter country). These were made by Alfred Wainwright who lived in the lake district and was a passionate walker. 

They are superb examples of data integration. They include (all hand drawn) text descriptions of the walk, views from the start, views from the summits including angular arrangement of key features visible and distances, topographic information, maps, personal commentary and humour etc. A typical (but by no means the finest) image is shown below from Wikipedia. His book series (A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells: being an illustrated account of a study and exploration of the mountains in the English Lake District) is still in print and over 2 million copies have been sold. The books were made by him to be used as the walker progressed through the walk and are therefore very nice examples also of "Instructions at the point of Need".

A nice collection of Wainwrights own favourite walks has been published recently (see = including some nice "Look Inside pages").

Brain imaging skewed?

I thought readers would be interested in this paper recently published in Nature Neuroscience that throws some doubt on the analysis used in fMRI studies as published in the World's top Neuroimaging journals.


When I was working on Placenta with a PhD student (Charlie Orton) at the University of Liverpool. We wanted to represent for a cohort of cases all the information relating to a placenta from the mother (age, smoking or not, number of previous pregnancies), via the baby (sex, Apgar score, weight) to the macroscopic condition of the placenta (weight, size, condition) to the microstructure of the various components of the placanta in three layers (e.g. total surface area of terminal villi etc). The resulting display was based on finest Edward Tufte principles and we were very proud of it. I called it the Placentogram. The diagram therefore showed data on over 6 orders of magnitude in length (metres to microns) and allowed clinicians the chance to relate the clinical data they were used to seeing (e.g. Apgar score) with microstructural information that they were unused to.

Here is a real example. This plot shows the data from 14 births each individual birth is a column top to bottom. This was a subset of the Normal Birthweight - Non-smoking group. At the top is the mass of the baby in grams, then gender (I used international symbols for male and female), parity (how many confinements the mother has had at this birth)and the centile for the babys weight. The mass plot shows the max and min to the extreme right with mean and +/- 2 Standard errors. Next down is placental mass in grams, again with with mean and +/- 2 Standard errors, at right. I ordered these in increasing mass as the placenta was the key structure in the study. 

Below this is two boxes of data relating to the microstructure of the fetal capillary bed within the placenta. The terminal villi are anatomically defined and are the finest villi. The volume refers to total volume of terminal villi within the placenta and the three grey boxes indicate how this is distibuted in three equal volume tertiles. The maternal side is uppermost and fetal side lower. The dark grey indicates most volume of terminal villi in that tertile, mid grey the middle rank and white the lowest. The next box refres to the surface area of the terminal villi using same coding as the volume box. 

Comments: I produced this in MS Powerpoint! Which was a drag but the output doesn't look bad I think. The data moves from baby/mother at top to placenta below. Each parameter can be compared across the cohort and each individual up and down. The microstructural data is obtained with rigorous quantitative techniques called stereology (REF: Unbiased Stereology; Three-Dimensional Measurement in Microscopy by C.V. Howard & M.G. Reed Bios 2005). As you might expect there is a higher volume of the terminal villi nearer the maternal side of the placenta and likewise with the surface. The plot is worth looking at closely as one can make connections and comparisons in different ways. I am interested in the microstructural data first but a clinician may well come at it top down. 

Source: All data from an unpublished but excellent PhD thesis by my friend and colleague Dr Charlotte (Charlie) Orton - Stereological analysis of human placental microstructures from pregnancies complicated with intrauterine growth retardation and maternal cigarette smoking: a prospective case-controlled study. University of Liverpool 2002. Charlie looked in detail at about 150 placentas in total. 

Sports Balls

This is a great fun website - I particularly liked the poster below that shows the sizes of different sports balls ( The downside of this one as a piece of analytical design is that it's lacking a scale of measurement. The upside is Craig Robinson's very honest statement about his sources; "Sources: for some stupid reason, I didn't keep a note of where I got this information; I do seem to remember, though, spending a lot of time on the web sites of various sports' ruling bodies." 

Himalayan Panoramas

Here is a link to the Guardian newspaper which is a superb matched pair of Himalayan vistas taken 50 years apart (

The originals were taken by Fritz Muller and Erwin Schneider in the 1950s to map, measure and photograph the glaciers of the Himalayas. The American mountain geographer Alton Byers has returned to the precise locations of the original pictures and replicated 40 of the panoramas from the original 1950's expedition. This article shows a paired vista of the Imja glacier - as the paper says;  "the juxtaposed images are not only visually stunning but also of significant scientific value".

In particular this pair of images shows the transformation of the Imja glacier in the 1950's to the present day Imja lake. 

A classic Ed Ricketts List

This is a great list made by John Steinbecks long time collaborator Ed Ricketts. Ricketts was the model for at least 6 of Steinbecks most memorable characters, most notably perhaps "Doc" of Cannery Row. 

Ricketts was not fictional. He was a ground breaking marine biologist, ecologist, traveller and philosopher. I would recommend the interested reader to find the recently published collection of his travelogues "Breaking Through" (edited by K.A. Rodger) which has some of the best lists I have come across.

One of the most interesting pieces of writing in "Breaking Through" is a "Verbatim Transciption" of the trip that Ricketts and Steinbeck took to Baja and subsequently retold in "Log from the Sea of Cortez" by Steinbeck. Ricketts recorded things as the trip progressed and Steinbeck later tidied it up for publication. There are some excellent lists but the one below is one of my favourites and describes the blend of human and biological impressions made on Ricketts whilst in the La Paz area on Friday March 22 1940 (this appears on page 151 of Breaking Through).

"The peso is 5-1/2 or 6 to 1 here. I bought swank-looking huaraches for one dollar and one peso (7 pesos) and a fine iguana belt for 2.50 pesos; Epsom salts at a clothing store, Casa Gomez, one peso per kilo. I liked the blonde daughter. The girl in the pharmacy, I found entirely charming. The people are wonderful here. Ice is cinco centavos per kilo; not very good ice, tho. A quarter liter of Carta Blanca beer is 30 centavos per bottle, about 10 pesos per case, with 2.50 peso bottle return. I got 3 cigars from Sr. Gomez from his personal stock for 60 centavos, twisted - not wonderful, but satisfactory - Vera Cruz tobacco.
Borette is the poisonous puffer fish; its liver is said to be so poisonous that people use it to poison cats and flies.
Cornada is the hammerhead shark.
Barco is the red snapper.
Caracol (also Burrol) is the term for snails in general, particularly for the large conch for blowing like a horn.
Erizo is urchins, both kinds.
Abanico is sea fan, gorgonian.
Broma is barnacle.
Hacha is pinna, large clam."


I would recommend that you also read the Wikipedia entry on Pareidolia, which is defined as "a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus being mistakenly perceived as recognizable". Its interest in the psychological literature is as the basis of the famous Rorschach inkblot test. It is also the basis of the "Virgin mary on toasted cheese sandwich" and "Jesus christ on an Oyster shell" type of images you can find via Google image search. It was nicely discussed by Michael Shermer in Scientific American May 2005 ( My belief is that during evolution the cognitive ability that Pareidolia is based on was of high selective value for early humans (its about seeing patterns in a noisy background). 

In my own field of quantitative microscopy this phenomena is particularly pervasive and has to be dealt with rigorously and early in training. Researchers are very adept at seeing a particularly microstructural feature at high magnification and then rationalising what they see as being in favour of or against their pet hypothesis. Beware the pretty pictures! Key evidence that a pretty picture is about to be used in a scientific paper includes the phrase; "A typical micrograph is presented in Figure 1". It is almost never a typical micrograph. Really good analytical reasoning for any inference based on microscopic images must (at least) answer the following issues;
(1) What process was used by design to obtain the sample that was imaged. (2) What precautions has the researcher taken to ensure that representative images were used for measurement. (3) How many measurements were taken and has any consideration been given to the number required to establish good evidence of the conclusion. (4) If the image represents a 2D section through the 3D structure has the researcher given a good explanation of how the 2D measurements she has made relate to the 3D structure of interest. (5) What have the image analysis tricks (PhotoShopping) done to the images and evidence within them.
The scientific discipline of drawing high quality evidence based conclusions from microscopy is known as stereology (pretty good Wikipedia entry on it). And as one famous stereologist Prof Luis Cruz-Orive once put it "Quantifying is a committing task" (Toward a more objective biology. Neurobiology of aging Vol 15 pp 377-378).

Map of the Area surrounding our Holiday Home

A Tom Gauld map of his holiday home. Complete with extensive key.

The extent of Sea Ice at the North Pole

Here is an link to images taken from a high resolution video posted at Bremen University. The data is based on ASMR-E sensors that can be used to compute the extent of sea ice. The videos are quite high resolution and they show the flow patterns of the sea ice. 

I like the unusual way of looking down at the Earth to the North Pole. 

Natural History of Manhattan

This NYT article gives a slideshow about a Natural history of Manhattan over the past 400 years. The new map-based exhibit opened at the Museum of the City of New York. It is called, "Mannahatta/Manhattan: A Natural History of New York City." The exhibit consists of historical accounts, maps and computer models that explore the ecology of Manhattan from the time before it became a city. The project has also its own website HERE and a book. This is a pretty good multi-media site that gives layers of meaning to those who now live in Manhattan. 

Tabula Peutingeriana

Here is a story about  the Tabula Peutingeriana which is a copy of an ancient Roman roadmap of Europe. It is not on display due to its fragility and light sensitivity, however, it was displayed for one day as part of Unesco's Memory of the World Register ( The map is almost a linear East-West mapping of important roads and destinations across Europe and Asia. 

Wikipedia has a good entry ( including a high resolution facsimile that can be downloaded.


This website ( has a great collection of high resolution images of rare books covering arts, history and science. For each book there is a viewer with thumbnails that allow you to browse through two page spreads. You can then zoom in to quite a high resolution. The books are phtographed from start to finish so you can appreciate the bindings, frontispiece, diagrams and text and how thay all interrelate.
This is quite a treasure trove. As an example, you can find a complete set of page view images from Robert Hookes splendid book on microscopy, Micrographia, which was published in London 1664. 

I have seen some of the images from this book before, but never in their proper context, nor at such high resolution. The images below show the spread of pages 114 and 115. The text on page 115 shows some of his explanation of how he obtained these images of cork cells.The figure on page 114 shows Hookes drawings of longituidinal and transverse sections through cork and where he obtained the sample (Hooke found these small separated structures reminded him of the cells of monks and he used that term to describe them - they have been called cells ever since). 

Caslon Letter Founder 1728

Here is a very high resolution scan of a specimen sheet issued by William Caslon, letter founder, from the 1728 edition of Cyclopaedia (
The book itself is here (

Further to my last post here is a picture diary describing exactly how the Old School Press made their first book - "The Bricks of Venice" by John Ruskin =

The image below is one of the first pages of chapter 3, Crenellations. It has some large Bembo italic for the chapter number and title. 

Old School Press

Here is a link to a small British printing press, the Old School Press in Bath, that is using traditional letterpress and binding techniques to make small runs of high quality books - both re-prints of older material and new books. 

This link = is to a book published by them called "The story of the revival of the Fell types in the 125 years from 1864" by Martyn Ould and Martyn Thomas, which describes and uses the type punches and matrices designed by John Fell and used by Oxford University Press - these original punches and types were rediscovered at O.U.P. in the the 1860s and this tells the story of how they were used and shows some of the output.

On Growth and Form

I was browsing my books recently and found my modern reprint copy of 'On Growth and Form' by the great naturalist D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson. Thompson  was a classicist, mathematician and zoologist. The book, originally published in 1917, is a brilliant collection of data graphics, prose and quantified images. 

One of his best know ideas is that simple physical deformations of complex systems can give rise to whole families of apparently unrealted natural forms. The image shown below is page 744 of the first edition (you can find the whole book in electronic form at the Internet Archive = It shows how a complex shape representing the 2D shape of a crabs carapace can after simple geometric transformations give rise to a family of different carapace shapes.

Book typesetting with LATEX

I taught myself LATEX this summer to get some lecture notes in shape. Having originally used the LATEX Book class I have now moved to the memoir class and can thoroughly recomend it. The attached is a two page spread chosen pretty much at random and it shows that you can integrate text, math and figures easily with a pretty professional looking book layout that is the default in memoir. 

The learning curve is reasonable and all the fancy headers, figure numbering, contents etc etc defaults are well chosen. The TEX set up on a PC was easy and free - I use the LED editor and the MikTex 2.7 package.
This is typeset onto B5 paper in PDF format and I have now found a pretty good quality short print run digital printers in the UK (this is not POD which is generally low quality, the shortest print run is 50 copies) to produce final book output. I'll keep you posted how the whole process goes.

The attached JPG is deliberately low resolution - its mainly to show the two page spread.

The elements of typographic style

Here is a nice interview with Robert Bringhurst, author of the book 'Elements of typographic style'( He comes over as a passionate and uncompromising person dedicated to high quality in typesetting and book design more generally. 

An example;

Q: In your opinion, what developments or trends in the design industry look dangerous?
Bringhurst:   The same developments and trends that look dangerous elsewhere: namely, ignorance and greed. The cult of personality and power, and the religion of money. These diseases are as visible in the typographic world as they are in the world of politics.

and a quote;

"The masters of the art, it seems to me, are those who never stop apprenticing".

Scaling images with well known objects

Here is a nice example ( of how to scale an object of interest (a mobile phone) by showing it next to other well known objects; an iPod, a pack of playing cards and a pad of Post-It notes.
This also acts as a link to the blog of Matthew Ericson ( the the deputy graphics director at The New York Times, where he manages a department of journalists, artists and programmers who produce the interactive information graphics for, as well as all the graphics for the print newspaper.
He has some nice maps and interactives graphics - his multi-decade analysis of the #1's of Michael Jackson is also interesting (

Spiral mapped images

Here is an extensively mapped image database of Trajans column ( The site maps the continuous spiral layout of the column's artwork with cartoons that have annotations and links to high resolution images. The navigation allows you to move up and down the column and see either individual panels or a whole spiral piece around the column at a particular height. The image below shows the navigation mechanism. 

Trajans column is much bigger than I had imagined - the human figures are about 2/3 full size and the inside of the column has a spiral staircase.



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