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The Golden Age of the Illustrated Book Dust Jacket

Spines of books from the collection of Martin Salisbury (photo by Simon Pask)
Spines of books from the collection of Martin Salisbury (photo by Simon Pask)

In the 19th century, dust jackets on books were just protective paper wrappers, thrown away after a book was purchased. The prized cover was the leather underneath, and although some of these bindings had elegant designs, the dust jacket rarely referenced the interior contents. The Illustrated Dust Jacket, 1920-1970 by Martin Salisbury, out November 21 from Thames & Hudson, chronicles how this once disposable object became a major creative force in publishing.

“In view of its origins as a plain protection to be discarded on purchase, and the relatively recent acceptance of the detachable jacket as an integral part of the book and its identity, it is ironic that for today’s book collectors the jacket is key — the presence of an original jacket on a sought-after first edition now greatly adds to its value,” Salisbury writes in the book. The Illustrated Dust Jacket concentrates on the 20th-century heyday of the dust jacket, when artists were experimenting with printing and illustration techniques, and publishers were recognizing its advertising potential. Although the first known illustrated dust jacket dates to the 1830s, this was the era in which it was actively designed.


Uncanny Images from an Investigation into Gef, a 1930s Talking Mongoose

"Harry Price commissioned artist George Scott to draw a sketch of Gef, based on the Irvings' descriptions of him. But on being shown the sketch, Gef strongly objected, saying: 'That ain't me! Looks more like a llama!'," from <em>Gef!: The Strange Tale of an Extra-special Talking Mongoose</em> (courtesy Strange Attractor)
“Harry Price commissioned artist George Scott to draw a sketch of Gef, based on the Irvings’ descriptions of him. But on being shown the sketch, Gef strongly objected, saying: ‘That ain’t me! Looks more like a llama!’,” from Gef!: The Strange Tale of an Extra-special Talking Mongoose (courtesy Strange Attractor)

“I am the ghost in the form of a weasel and I shall haunt you,” proclaimed Gef, a spectral creature that became part of the Irving family’s daily life in 1931. James Irving, age 58, Margaret, age 54, and their daughter Voirrey, age 13, collectively experienced the manifestation of Gef at their farmhouse on the Isle of Man. As James would later describe, what started as a “tap, tap, tap at night” within their walls developed into an ongoing conversation with this astute, and often snide, “man-weasel” who had decided to make their isolated home his own abode.


n514_w1150 by Biodiversity Heritage Library Via…


n514_w1150 by Biodiversity Heritage Library

Via Flickr:

Report on the scientific results of the voyage of H.M.S. Challenger during the years 1873-76 under the command of Captain George S. Nares ….
Edinburgh :Neill,1880-1895..

By: Scientific Illustration
Via: Feedbin Starred Entries

Joel Meyerowitz’s Still Life Photographs of the Objects in Cézanne’s Studio

Joel Meyerowitz, grid of photographs from <em>Cézanne's Objects</em> (courtesy the artist and Damiani)
Joel Meyerowitz, grid of photographs from Cézanne’s Objects (courtesy the artist and Damiani)

In his final years, Paul Cézanne worked from a quiet studio in Aix-en-Provence, having returned to live in his hometown as his health waned. He had long been nomadic, traveling between Paris and the south of France, and this studio of his own design was packed with objects from his life. Pitchers, glass bottles, and ceramic containers lined an overhead shelf, presided over by a crucifix (a sign of his return to Catholicism); outside was a view to Mont Sainte-Victoire, which he painted numerous times. The studio even had a specially-designed portal so Cézanne could move big canvases like his “Les Grandes Baigneuses” to the garden, to paint in the natural light.


Daring Escapes and Sensational Illusions: Posters from the Golden Age of Magic

"Thurston — Do the Spirits Come Back?" (Strobridge Lithographing Co., 1915) (© McCord Museum)
“Thurston — Do the Spirits Come Back?” (Strobridge Lithographing Co., 1915) (© McCord Museum)

The “Golden Age” of magic coincided with the heyday of the lithographic poster, and acts involving levitation, decapitation, escapes, hypnotism, and other illusions were lavishly advertised. Illusions: The Art of Magic, out now from Abrams, features 250 examples of these illustrated posters, dating from the 19th to early 20th centuries, as well as a series of essays exploring the history and visuals of magic.

The book, edited by Suzanne Sauvage, Christian Vachon, and Marc H. Choko, is published in conjunction with an exhibition of the same name currently at the McCord Museum in Montreal. The museum holds the Allan Slaight Collection, which includes over 600 posters, along with more than 1,000 documents related to Harry Houdini. The legendary escape artist does appear in Illusions, upside down in the water-torture cell or escaping after being buried alive, but there are numerous names that are now obscure. Ersy Contogouris, assistant professor at the Université de Montréal, explores the women whose names “have largely been left out of magic histories.”


Sky-Watcher’s Stargate Truss-Tube Dobsonian Telescopes

Sky-Watcher USA
310-803-5953 ext. 306

Sky-Watcher unveiled its Stargate Truss-Tube Dobsonian Telescopes at NEAF. These large 18- and 20-inch f/4 reflectors (starting at $5,999) are constructed around conical fused-borosilicate primary and cellular secondary mirrors with 94% reflective aluminum coatings. The modular truss design divides the total weight of each scope into manageable sections that assemble quickly in the field. The base model includes a 2-inch dual-speed Crayford focuser, 9×50 finder scope, as well as 28- and 10-mm LET eyepieces. Additional accessories include three 2.3 lb. counterweights, a truss shroud, and tool-free truss clamps. Both scopes are also available with motorized Go To and a SynScan hand controller at additional cost, featuring dual encoders that permit manual slewing without losing alignment. See manufacturer’s website for additional details.


A Forgotten V-1 Flying Bomb Launch Site in Rhineland-Palatinate

Abandoned V-1 launch site in Germany's Rhineland-Palatinate(Image: Spielvogel. Abandoned V-1 launch site in Germany’s Rhineland-Palatinate)

They may look like any other peaceful woodland ruins of days gone by. But these seemingly-anonymous concrete foundations reflect a vengeance unleashed on Britain and Belgium by Nazi Germany during World War Two. For it was from here that countless V-1 flying bombs were launched into England, with the goal of striking fear into the hearts of the civilian population.

Just after 4 am on June 13, 1944, residents in northeast London reported a strange droning sound that eerily cut out before the craft that it belonged to fell to earth. Six residents were killed in the borough of Hackney, and the ‘doodlebug’ menace had begun. In the days that followed, dozens of V-1s, or ‘buzz bombs’, as they were also dubbed, reigned down on London, killing and wounding hundreds.


How High is Blue? (1851)

JF Ptak Science Books   Quick Post

What struck me in this technical illustration is the cross-section of the ocean of air, and the attempt to depict the characteristics of the atmosphere in receding qualities of blueness. This seems a natural thing to attempt, but I can’t really remember seeing anything quite like this from the mid-19th century–sure there there are images showing the height of the atmosphere, but I just can’t recall the point being made in shades of blue. The image itself is a large detail from “Illustrations of Natural Philosophy, Pneumatics”, a colored lithograph by John Philipps Emslie, and made in 1851.  This copy is from the Wellcome Collection, London, and try as I might I have not yet been able to find out in what book (if any) in which this work was published. Emslie was very active, and composed a number of complicated technical and data visualization efforts like this one, but I can’t yet find publication details.  In the meantime, I’m posting this, concentrating on the atmosphere.


RIP Cassini: A Space Art Obituary

“Cassini Spacecraft Makes its Final Approach to Saturn” (artist’s rendering courtesy NASA)

After almost 20 years of collecting data on the sixth planet, the Cassini spacecraft plunged into Saturn’s atmosphere on September 15, leaving behind a wealth of photos and data, the most exciting of which point to the possibility of life on Enceladus, one of its many moons. As a tribute to Cassini and the valuable information it found on its mission, we decided to compile a timeline of its most significant events and discoveries, juxtaposed with the outer-space-related artworks created here on Earth in that same period of time.


Cassini (with the Huygens probe attached) is launched from Cape Canaveral aboard a Titan IVB/Centaur rocket early on the morning of October 15.