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The Oddment Emporium

A Cornucopia of Eclectic Delights

Posts tagged Books:

Fore-Edge Painting

Fore-edge paintingis the technique of painting the edges of the leaves of a book. From 1650 onward
binders practiced a new decorative method of fore-edge painting: floral scrolls or scenes were painted upon the fanned-out fore-edge of the leaves and concealed by a normal gilt edge when the book was closed; 
they became visible only when it was opened. This decorative device was continued 
in the 18th century, but by the late 19th century had begun to wane in popularity. 

Thomas H. Horne, in his 1814 “Introduction to the Study of Bibliography,” gives credit to the Edwards of Halifax bindery for creating a “method of gilding … and decorating the edges of the leaves with exquisite paintings.” The Edwards firm was founded by William Edwards (1723-1808) and Horne says that he has seen “landscapes thus executed with a degree of beauty and fidelity that are truly astonishing, and when held up to the light in an oblique direction, the scenery appears as delicate as in the finest productions of the pencil.”

There were also the more elaborate double fore edge paintings, in which the fore edge hides not one but two paintings, one appearing when the leaves are fanned to the left, the other when they are fanned to the right. The split fore-edge painting reveals both scenes at once when the volume is laid open at the middle, as in the central image above.

Stately homes and ruins – whether classical or medieval – were popular subjects [then] Later in the 19th century, fore-edge artists turned to more natural, everyday scenes, such as views of docks or harbor fronts, busy with activity and enlivened by the presence of workers. Less common were scenes like the winter scene, bare branches being much more tedious to paint than green, leafy clouds of trees. The imaginative design[s], rich detail, and expert execution indicate artist[s] of the highest skill. [Source]

(Source: dictionary.reference.com)

mediumaevum:

Behold - The Bonnacon

The Bonnacon is a beast with a head like a bull, but with horns that curl in towards each other. Because these horns are useless for defense, the Bonnacon has another weapon. When pursued, the beast expels its “dung” which travels a great distance (as much as two acres), and burns anything it touches.

(via odditiesoflife)

A Gentleman’s Library

One of the biggest private ‘gentleman’s libraries’ has been revealed, containing first editions from some of Britain’s most celebrated authors. The 4,000 book collection is the result of the life-long passion of lawyer, businessman and historian William Forwood, who died last year aged 84.

The sale, titled ‘A Gentleman’s Library’, is being held at the Cotswold auction house where Mr Forwood, who claimed to have read every page, bought some of his volumes. Interest is expected from all over the world in the collection which includes Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, Wilkie Collins, George Eliot and William Thackeray.

Auctioneer Dominic Winter said: ‘It is rare for a single library this size and of this importance to come up for sale. 'It is an old fashioned library that encompasses all that a well brought-up young man should know about.

(Source: Daily Mail)

Pocket Library of Lilliputian Folio Books. 1801.

The Pocket Library of Lilliputian Folio Books consists of eleven tiny volumes, each less that two inches high and about an inch wide. All of them fit snugly, in two layers, into a neat box designed to resemble a larger book.

There was something of a craze for miniature books in the early 19th century but The Pocket Library of Lilliputian Folio Books, published by R. Snagg are unusual for several reasons. First, the tiny dimensions of the books set them apart from the other miniature books. They are the smallest of any of the [miniature] books, except for those in a [another collection from c.1819] Doll’s Casket. Second, the set is unique in that it is stored in a box made to appear like a larger book. It was far more usual for the box to take the form of a small book-case. Third, Snagg apparently pirated and abridged existing texts for his books, rather than commissioning new ones. Thus, classics like Gulliver’s Travels or Perrault’s fairy tales appear. So determined was Snagg to cram the whole of existing texts into his miniature volumes that he adopted a system of abbreviation which is detailed on the opening pages of each volume. In his prefatory address he boasted that his abbreviation system meant that his books ‘may have more reading than such diminutive books would be thought to contain.’

[MORE - each miniature book has all of its pages scanned]

Anthropodermic bibliopegy is the practice of binding books with human skin:

“Such volumes are the Hannibal Lecters of cultural objects…There is the whiff of the occult about them, but also of the slaughterhouse. It is the twinning of the human hide (more graphic evidence of death and bodily obliteration would be hard to find) with that most potent symbol of human culture and learning — the book — that creates a dissonance at once fascinating and repulsive.” [Source]

The above images show Leonard Smithers's edition of Hans Holbein’s Dance of Death bound in human skin. Smither’s owned a vast collection of books and this particular entry, entitled “Human Skin Binding,” is described thus in his catalogue:

The front cover of the binding, in human skin, is inlaid in orange, red, brown, white, green, yellow, and purple leathers; the back cover, in human skin, is in red, brown, green, white, yellow and pink inlay; and the double in dark brown morocco shews a crimson inlaid Gallic devil, with a ghastly grin on its white skull, dancing and beating a yellow and white tambourine.”

Human skin binding is not as rare as one might think, it has been practiced on and off for hundreds of years, often using the skin of criminals and often, as here, to bind books which might seem particularly appropriate. 

(Source: callumjames.blogspot.co.uk)

P. L. Travers, the author of Mary Poppins, starring in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Apparently she hated the Disney version of her novel! MORE.

P. L. Travers, the author of Mary Poppins, starring in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Apparently she hated the Disney version of her novel! MORE.

The Brontes invented imaginary realms, and created some of the first fan-fiction.


The Brontë sisters are best known as the authors of literary gothic tales like Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, but in their childhood, they worked with their brother to invent the made-up realm of the Glass Town Federation.
According to the British Library, which is featuring the Brontë’s hand-written Glass Town sagas as part of its new exhibition on science fiction, the four Brontë siblings invented the kingdoms of Angria and Gondal, and the capital city of Glass Town. “They became obsessive about their imaginary worlds, drawing maps and creating lives for their characters and featured themselves as the “gods” (“genii”) of their world. Their stories are in tiny micro-script, as if written by their miniature toy soldiers.”
The storytelling started with the toy soldiers and became their own publication, the Young Men’s Magazine, as explained by Branwell Brontë in his book, The History Of The Young Men From Their First Settlement To The Present Time.
Charlotte and Branwell Brontë created the kingdom of Angria with their younger sisters Emily and Anne — but the younger Brontë sisters broke away and created their own kingdom, Gondal, when the older siblings assigned them “inferior parts” in their group storytelling. Originally, these kingdoms were pure made-up fantasy worlds, but over time the Brontë sisters started adding characters from popular fiction and real life. 

Tales of Glass Town, Angria and Gondal on Google Books!

The Brontes invented imaginary realms, and created some of the first fan-fiction.

The Brontë sisters are best known as the authors of literary gothic tales like Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, but in their childhood, they worked with their brother to invent the made-up realm of the Glass Town Federation.

According to the British Library, which is featuring the Brontë’s hand-written Glass Town sagas as part of its new exhibition on science fiction, the four Brontë siblings invented the kingdoms of Angria and Gondal, and the capital city of Glass Town. “They became obsessive about their imaginary worlds, drawing maps and creating lives for their characters and featured themselves as the “gods” (“genii”) of their world. Their stories are in tiny micro-script, as if written by their miniature toy soldiers.”

The storytelling started with the toy soldiers and became their own publication, the Young Men’s Magazine, as explained by Branwell Brontë in his book, The History Of The Young Men From Their First Settlement To The Present Time.

Charlotte and Branwell Brontë created the kingdom of Angria with their younger sisters Emily and Anne — but the younger Brontë sisters broke away and created their own kingdom, Gondal, when the older siblings assigned them “inferior parts” in their group storytelling. Originally, these kingdoms were pure made-up fantasy worlds, but over time the Brontë sisters started adding characters from popular fiction and real life. 

Tales of Glass Town, Angria and Gondal on Google Books!

‘It was then that the thing of terror happened. There were some odd noises from a human throat somewhere in the crowd behind me. Instantly the triumphant feeling left the place and was succeeded by on of fear. A man was possessed, it seemed, and began crashing things and people as he cavorted toward the centre of things. There was a whisper that an evil spirit has materialized, and from appearances, this might well have been true, for the face of the man had lost itself in a horrible mask. It was unbelievable in its frightfulness. But that was not all. A feeling had entered the place. It was a feeling of unspeakable evil. A menace that could not be recognized by ordinary human fears, and the remarkable thing was that everybody seemed to feel it simultaneously and recoiled from the bearer of it like a wheat field before wind.’

—Zora Neale Hurston’s description of a Voodoo ceremony in Haiti during the 1930s from Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica