Friday, September 30, 2011

Save some moolah!

First edition jacket: quite lugubrious, eh?
Herewith are some of my picks to help you take advantage of our 10% off sale, which ends today at midnight! (use code 11569 at checkout).

Thursday, September 29, 2011

"Crouching Tiger"

On today's date in 2000, Yo-Yo Ma premiered Chinese composer Tan Dun's "Crouching Tiger" Concerto, fashioned from Tan's Oscar-winning film score for Ang Lee's popular film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Tan was a young student of traditional Chinese music when he heard  Beethoven's Fifth Symphony for the first time. The occasion was a Philadelphia Orchestra concert in Beijing during the first American symphony orchestra tour of Communist China after the famous visit of Nixon. Tan decided on the spot to become a composer himself, and ever since his works—including an opera, The First Emperor, which he conducted at the Met—have combined elements of East and West. From the Silk Road to the Esterhazy court to a down-home Appalachian fiddle stomp, Yo-Yo Ma does it all. You can survey our CDs by this musical ambassador and polymath here. (And for today and tomorrow only, you can take 10% off your order by inserting the magic number 11569 into the appropriate slot at checkout!)
In the first video below you can hear an excerpt from the film score with Ma on cello; the second is a portion of the concerto by the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra with Andre Gaskins on cello.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Floral Romance

The contemplation of nature gives a foretaste of heavenly bliss, a constant joy to the soul and a beginning of its total rebirth, and is the highest point of human happiness. When the soul partakes thereof, it is as if man is awakened from an oppressive torpor and wanders around in bright light, forgetting himself and spending his life in a sort of heavenly land.De Curositate Naturali, 1748
Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus is best known for his two-name method for identifying plants and animals. Considered the “father” of modern taxonomy, Linnaeus named approximately 4,400 species of animals and 7,700 species of plants.

Edvard Koinberg has made it his grand project to photograph the flowers classified by Linnaeus in all of their tactile, sensuous, voluptuous beauty. These photographs come from his Herbarium Amoris (Floral Romance), which follows the structure of Linnaeus's pioneering floral calender of 1756. Using specimens of more than 20,000 plants from around the world, Linnaeus grouped them according to their blooming time and classified species by the number and arrangement of their sexual organs. In the world of plants, Linnaeus writes, these organs are not hidden: on the contrary, they are usually revealed for all to see! Above all other parts of plants, they are the most beautiful and lovely, awakening our solicitude, our affection, and our eager eyes.

“I think he would have admired these pictures” writes Henning Mankell in the introduction. “Not only because of their remarkable aesthetic qualities, but just as much because they would enable him to discover something unexpected in a flower he had studied endless times before. The pictures also inspire me to see something unexpected in the familiar.” Do you agree?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Depictions of writers

Certain writers never go out of style. Ernest Hemingway's portrait of the 1920s expatriate experience in A Moveable Feast is always apropos, as is F. Scott Fitzgerald's fictional account of the same period in Tender Is the Night. (Papa Hemingway looks quite affable at a bar in El Floridita, Havana, in the sculpture by Cuban artist José Villa Soberón.)

Mark Twain, by Gary Lee Price
Poor Poe, he never caught a break. The 1916 sculpture by Moses Ezekiel resides in Baltimore, where the destitute Poe died and was buried at the age of 40. In Wild Nights!: Stories About the Last Days of Poe, Dickinson, Twain, James, and Hemingway, Joyce Carol Oates delves into the personae of these five icons of American literature with the same psychological astuteness that characterizes her many novels.
We invite you to visit our pages of books by and about Henry James and these other classic authors before Friday, September 30, 2011 at midnight. Just click any of the links in this blog to start browsing, then use the code 11569 when you check out to receive 10 percent off of your entire order.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Stealth sculptor & more

Including the "poetree" at right and the gramophone and coffin below, an array of piquant little paper sculptures using books have been placed by an anonymous artist in various locations around Edinburgh as gifts "in support of libraries, books, words, ideas..... (& against their exit)."

The worldwide response to the psychology study that put the squeeze on SpongeBob has been intense. Witness these headlines:
Bob l’éponge est nuisible pour les enfants
Studie: „SpongeBob“ führt zu Lernproblemen
Rodičia, pozor: Táto rozprávka spôsobuje deťom problémy!
SpongeBob fa male ai bambini!
Typically, in raising a furor the media distorted things. As the lead researcher remarked, “Saying that SpongeBob is making you dumber is very different than saying a child’s attention is temporarily impaired and that we don’t know what the long-term impacts are.” Nickleodeon defensively proclaimed that “SpongeBob SquarePants isn’t for 4-year-olds anyway.” As if the intended demographic has ever really mattered where tv is concerned!

If enjoyment of Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris is sending you back to 1920s works by the authors portrayed therein, you can pick up a nice edition of Fitzgerald's The Beautiful and Damned for the proverbial song. In addition, you can take 10% off of anything on the Daedalus website if you use source code 11569 at checkout before September 30!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

All things orchid

Victorian society was enraptured by the many types of orchids being discovered and brought back by collectors from exotic lands. In his notebooks, horticulturist John Day painted thousands of exquisite watercolors of these unique flowers, which range from the elegant to the odd. You can pore over hundreds of them in A Very Victorian Passion: The Orchid Paintings of John Day, the large-format reproductions of which are beyond lavish!
Except for deserts, orchids live all over the world. Some thrive on the ground, whereas others grow on trees or rocks. What makes a plant a member of the Orchidaceae family? Kew Gardens gives the following criteria:
All orchids have protocorms, and these are not found in any other family. A protocorm is the structure formed after the germination of the seed and before the development of the seedling plant. The protocorm has no radicle and instead has mycotrophic tissue (and hence differs from other flowering plant seedlings).
Other important characters shared by most orchids include:
* The fusion of the male and female organs into a single structure, called the column.
* A large number of small seeds per ovary.
* Stamens are found on the abaxial side of the flower (the side facing downwards/away from the stem).
* The lip/labellum (a modified petal) occurs opposite the fertile stamen(s).
* Flowers are often resupinate (have twisted through 180° during development).
* Pollen is usually bound together to form large masses (called pollinia).

Aren't they fabulous?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Shakespeare's orthography

Kept in the strongroom of the British Library is this only known sample of Shakespeare's handwriting on a text of his own creation. Not part of his 37 canonical plays, it's from Sir Thomas More, to which he contributed a scene between More and the rioting citizens of London. The Master of the Revels' refusal to license the work actually helped this fragment survive, since it was never printed. (When plays were printed, the original manuscripts were customarily thrown away, but this one just sat around until it was discovered in the 1870s.)

I wish I could spring this on an unwary handwriting analyst and see what they'd say about the characteristics of its author!
Amongst our current Shakespeare offerings is Bardisms: Shakespeare for All Occasions, a cut above the common herd of books culling quotes from WS. So prithee, get thee to our webpage and fling down a few pence for its purchase ... "the readiness is all"!

Friday, September 23, 2011

From Aesop's Fables to Zeno's Conscience

"'The life so short, the craft so long to learn.' Chaucer's musings can be applied to the reading, as well as to the writing, of books. For many people, reading fiction remains the supreme pleasure. Many recall it as a first milestone reached and the great joy of childhood, only eventually partially obscured by the forced education of school and university, when reading all too often becomes a painful duty rather than a delight. But somehow, the joy of the novel remains. It is the silent pleasure, the offspring of loneliness or absorption, the nurse of daydreams and reflections, the mistress of the passions, the instigator of adventure and change. And it can literally change lives."
So begins Peter Ackroyd's introduction to 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, with which I heartily concur. But jeepers, my sense of how much time I have left to address all the books I want to read has been seriously compromised! I now have 861 more items to add to the several thousand tomes in my home waiting to be devoured. Opening up to a typical sequence, I encountered Lampedusa's The Leopard, Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's, Boll's Billiards at Half-Past Nine, and Spark's Memento Mori. All seem eminently shelfworthy (in fact I have yards of Muriel Spark's fiction owing to an excessive fondness for British women writers). In any event, I look forward to the great enjoyment, learning, and insight that will ensue merely from perusing the choices, which are each presented in several succinct paragraphs. You wouldn't expect a digest of this sort to have such stupendous illustrations, but the mostly full-page ones that accompany nearly every spread of this hefty but compact volume are marvelous, colorful, and very well chosen.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Phil Black, aka Cora

Poking around (virtually) in the Bonnie and Semoura Clark collection of black vaudeville photographs and ephemera from 1909-1958 (Yale's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library), I found these two images of yesteryear. The first is a fetching chorus line, but the second is more intriguing still ... a black female impersonator whose printed promo card shows him in very convincing drag! 

If you're interested in African American arts and artifacts, have a look at Charles Alston: The David C. Driskell Series of African American Art, Volume VI, as well as our notecards of Romare Beardon, Buffalo Soldiers, and more.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Female knights and pages in medieval Italy

A recent post about artists' tarot cards sent me back to the 15th century's Visconti-Sforza deck, one of the oldest and arguably the most opulent ever created. One nearly complete set resides in the Cary Collection of Playing Cards at Yale's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Commissioned by two successive Dukes of Milan, the cards were known then as Trionfi ("trumps") and were used for card games as opposed to fortune telling ("cartomancy").

Attributed to Italian fresco artist Bonifacio Bembo, the deck includes eleven trump cards and six court cards, including the King, Queen, Male Knight, Female Knight, Male Valet, and Female Valet/Page. The unique addition of the female knight and page (Page of Swords and Knight of Batons are shown above) may indicate that this set was made for a female member of court.
At a mere 9 by 19 cm, these resplendent cards remind one of book illuminations of the period in their rich colors and costly gold leafing. Below are the Knight of Coins, Judgment (Coins), and Love (Swords).

A gaming tradition from another culture is found in Otedama: Traditional Japanese Juggling Toys and Games. Because of the Japanese tradition of creating exquisite fabrics, these everyday beanbag objects can be quite lovely.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

“Set in Stone: The Face in Medieval Sculpture”

Head of an Apostle
Upper Rhineland, probably Strasbourg, ca. 1280–1300
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
"One of those revelatory close-ups at which the Metropolitan Museum of Art excels" wrote the New York Times of the show from which this beauteous book was drawn. They described these truncated statues as "immensely appealing, somewhat battered orphans in white limestone: heads that were lopped off stone figures and reliefs that cover facades or interiors of European cathedrals and abbey churches. Depicting everything from Old Testament kings and prophets and angels, saints and apostles, to actual kings and clerics as well as devils and grotesques, these carvings turned churches into Bibles in stone. They were sometimes removed when tastes changed, but were more often the victims of iconoclasm during protracted struggles like the Hundred Years’ War, the Thirty Years’ War, the Protestant and English Reformations and the French Revolution."

Head of an Angel
France, Paris, ca. 1250
possibly from Notre-Dame Cathedral
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Proscribed from showing undue expressiveness in their venerable subjects (except for angels!), sculptors poured their creativity into intricate rivulets of hair, beard, mustache, and headdress. These limestone, marble, painted wood, and silver gilt objects represented French, German, Italian, Byzantine, English, and Iberian traditions. The essays are engrossing, and although the subject is a tad esoteric and the book from a university press, Set in Stone: The Face in Medieval Sculpture will satisfy anyone interested in sculpture and the cultural influences that shaped—and almost succeeded in destroying—these commanding works.

Head of Saint John the Baptist on a Charger
Germany, Munich, ca.1330
Polychromed sandstone
Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich
Head of a Woman (ca. 1500-25). Limestone. Provenance unknown. Private collection.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Oh no they didn't!

Fashion Week is always good for a few laughs. You really must view this Salon slide show (with captions) of more risible outfits. If this creation doesn't even look good on a model, can you imagine it on an ordinary person? The group on the right looks dead serious; the incredulous pair on the left look are on the verge of a guffaw.

Moving along to birds of a different feather, here's a video done by David Attenborough of the phenomenal lyre-bird, a complete special-effects department unto himself!

For more birding lore, click through to this page of our website. A lot of value for the beak; I mean buck.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

An eye for photo books, by Judy Rolfe

The Cleveland Museum of Art opened in 1916, and in their elegantly produced, nearly five-pound Catalogue of Photography 28 photographers are accorded full-page reproductions of signature works, accompanied by the artist's profile and a discussion of the image. The first of the book's three sections is a summary of the history of photography and the other two are biographies and a glossary of nondigital photographic terms. The book is both a catalogue of the museum's holdings and a tooting of its own horn, as it reflects on what the museum has accomplished since making a curatorial and financial commitment to photography almost 20 years ago. Represented are some of the finest artists of the last 150 years: Ansel Adams, Diane Arbus, Eugène Atget, Margaret Bourke-White, Mathew Brady, Julia Margaret Cameron, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Francis Frith, Lewis Hine, André Kertész, Dorothea Lange, Richard Long, Duane Michals, Irving Penn, Aaron Siskind, Edward Steichen, Joel Meyerowitz, Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, William Henry Fox Talbot, Jerry Uelsmann, William Christenberry, Edward Weston, Minor White, and Imogen Cunningham. (I was lucky enough to have purchased a wonderful image of Miss Cunningham at work on her very last project, a book of portraits of people over 90 years of age. She was 93 at the time.) Above right: Dorothea Lange, "Funeral Cortege, End of an Era in a Small Valley Town, California." Gelatin silver print, 1938.

Detail of cover from The Contact Sheet; images by Elliott Erwiit.
Being a photo editor for USA Today back in the day, I thoroughly enjoyed The Contact Sheet. When a photographer submitted images from a shoot, it would fall to me to choose the "one" image that would tell the story. Hundreds of photos wound up on the cutting-room floor (now the "trash can" of our computers). The images are not discarded for technical flaws or poor composition but because one frame manages to edge them out. Contact Sheet lets us view 40 iconic images by world-famous photographers through the eyes of a photography editor, revealing the rarely seen contact sheets from the original photo sessions and the story behind the shot. Among the 40 photographers are two favorites of mine: Joel Meyerwitz and Elliott Erwiit. At 83, Mr Erwitt is still making memorable photographs and was just honored by the International Center for Photography (ICP) with this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

—A freelance photographer, Judy Rolfe received her first camera from her parents at age 14 and has been shooting pictures ever since in locales ranging from all over the US to Central and South America, China, Indonesia, the Balkans, and West Africa. Her images not only reflect her peripatetic lifestyle but also the early influences of growing up on a farm and the Delaware Coast, where she developed a love for the ocean and its environs.  

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Hildegarde von Bingen

On today's date in 1179, in the German convent of Ruppertsberg near Bingen, the mystic writer, composer, artist, and abbess Hildegard died at the age of 81. "When I was 42 years and seven months old," she wrote, "a burning light of tremendous brightness coming from heaven poured into my entire mind, like a flame that does not burn but enkindles. All at once I was able to taste of the understanding of books—the Psalter, the Evangelists, and the Books of the Old and New Testaments."
You can sample some of her rapturous, visionary music in the selection below by Anonymous 4. The latest CD by these mistresses of polyphony—Secret Voices: Chant & Polyphony from the Las Huelgas Codexexplores equally beautiful music from the same period.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Families were allowed to take only what they could carry.
During the winter of 1942, in the first months of the war with Japan, the US government incarcerated more than 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry—two-thirds of them American citizens—in internment camps supervised by the Army.  In a chilling and grotesque parallel to what was happening to Jews in Germany, the media and government deliberately manufactured mass hysteria with demeaning propaganda and grotesque racial stereotypes (The LA Times used the conceit of "viper" to describe the lurking threat of ancestral ties: "A viper is nonetheless a viper wherever the egg is hatched — so a Japanese-American, born of Japanese parents — grows up to be Japanese, not an American.")

Tanforan horse stalls converted into housing.
The unspeakable conditions they encountered included wretched food (Western, of course), common toilets with no privacy, extended families in one room (or horse stall as in the infamous Tanforan, a former racetrack), no grass or trees, rats, mice, and fleas, extremes of heat and cold, forced labor, fake executions, and having to walk through a gauntlet of soldiers who pointed bayonets at them. As well as the trauma and persecution, they experienced billions of dollars in losses from thriving businesses and had to sell their possessions for pennies on the dollar.

One-half of a unit that housed an extended family.
Dorothea Lange was hired to photograph the process of moving the Japanese Americans to the camps. However, she was forbidden to speak to detainees or to take photos of guards, watchtowers, or barbed wire, and she experienced constant and arbitrary interference from camp commanders. Upon receipt of her 800 images, the government promptly hid them from view in the National Archives where they remained unseen until several years ago. Many of them—including those on this page—appear in Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment. I highly recommend it.
A grandfather teaches his grandson to walk.