Monday, September 19, 2011

A Short History of Pop-Up Books

The first movable books actually predate the print culture. The earliest known examples of such interactive mechanisms are by Ramón Llull (c.1235-1316) of Majorca, a Catalán mystic and poet. His works contain volvelles or revolving discs, which he used to illustrate his complex philosophical search for truth. Volvelles were utilized from Llull's time through to the eighteenth century for manuscripts and in printed books. They illustrated a variety of topics, including natural science, astronomy, mathematics, mysticism, fortune telling, navigation, and medicine. 


Other types of movables, in particular "turn-up" or "lift-the-flap" mechanisms, were in use as early as the fourteenth century. They were especially helpful in books on anatomy, where separate leaves, each featuring a different section of the body, could be hinged together at the top and attached to a page. This technique enabled the viewer to unfold, for instance, multiple depths of a torso, from ribcage to abdomen to spine. One spectacular example of an anatomical movable is Andreas Vesalius' De humani corporis fabrica librorum epitome, printed in Basel in 1543. It features a movable illustration in which the human anatomy is shown in seven detailed superimposed layers.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Modern Fiction: Fifth Business

"... those roles which, being neither those of Hero or Heroine, Confidante or Villain, but which were nonetheless essential to bring about the recognition or the denouement, were called the Fifth Business in drama..."
"... opera companies organized according to the old style; the player who acted these parts was often reffered to as Fifth Business.

These quotes from William Robertson Davies' brilliant and best-known novel, the first in the Deptford Trilogy, describe its premise. Dunstable "Dunny" Ramsey begins his life story as he ducks to avoid a snowball thrown by his boyhood friend Percy Boy Staunton. It hits a young woman and precipitates the premature birth of Paul Dempsey. At once, both Dunny and the event are established as "Fifth Business".

Dunny's guilt-induced relationship with the singular Mrs Dempsey sees her apparent decline into madness... or sainthood. Robertson Davies then explores how a saint would be received in a small town in Ontario in the early years of the 20th century. Paul, Percy and Dunny's lives remain intricately intertwined, leading Dunny to Europe, Percy to wealth and status, and Paul to run away with a travelling circus. Jungian archetypes, faultless, wryly humourous prose, erudition, magic and mythology characterize this Canadian masterpiece.

Irma Boom Book Design

The great DutchDFA network did a video profile of famous graphic designer Irma Boom. Blooms’ has made over 250 books, 50 of which are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Her ‘Think book’ for a giant coal company has become an international icon of Dutch design. She sees her books as objects, that communicate ideas and stories, and speak to all human senses.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Slang in history: London language in 16th and 17th century

Here is a short list of words and expressions used in Elizabethan's London.

  Argent, bit, cross, lowre - coin, cash
  abroad - out of doors
  amulet - omelette
  artificer - skilled workman
  Barbary - North Africa
  bellman - nightwatchman
  blue-coat - a servant
  brabble - quarrel
  bong, bung - purse, pocket
  broadsword - heavy old-fashioned sword for slashing
  cant, peddler's french - criminal slang
  cullis - meat broth
  cuttle - knife
  derrick - a hangman
  foister - a pickpocket
  french marbles - venereal disease
  garnish - a bribe given to a prison officer
  green goose - goose under four months old
  higgler - pedlar
  jakes - a privy
kickshaw - fancy snack, from French quelquechose (something)
laystall - a dung-heap or midden
napery - table linen
nipper - a cutpurse
nunchion - snack between meals

ordinary - eating house, with the fixed price, set meal
paled - fenced
pippin - apple grown from the seed
potboy - youth employed to clear away in a tavern
poor John - salted hake
rear-banquet - late night snack
sack - sherry
shoulder-clapping - arrest
stew - a brothel
sucket - sweet e.g. sugar-plum
traffic - whore
trull - person of low character
ware-bench - shop counter
winchester goose - whore
zany - a clown

Aardvark Books

Six years ago two career publishing professionals decided to start a book business that reflected their love of books and their combined half century of experience in the book trade. In 2007 they moved to their existing premises, in a beautiful 19th century barn on the borders of Herefordshire, Shropshire and Wales the building known as the Bookery.

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