Edward Lear

Thanks to Project Gutenberg, many out-of-print publications are freely available online.

Edward Lear is mostly known for his nonsense verse, the first of which he published in 1846.  A Book of Nonsense was published when Lear was around 34 years old. It included short limerick verses like this one.

Book of Nonsense 1846 - Edward Lear

It wasn’t until around 1870, when Lear was approaching the age of 60, that his famous The Owl and the Pussycat appeared in the book, Nonsense Songs.

Owl and the Pussy Cat - Nonsense Songs 1871

His earliest work showcased his considerable talent as an artist. Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae was published in 1832, when Lear was just 20 years old. Forty-two colour plates of parrots are available for perusal via the link above. If you’re interested in some more biographical detail of this 20th child of 21 children, head over here to the Poetry Foundation.


Parrots - Edward Lear

Edward Lear - Rainbow LorikeetEdward Lear - sulphur-crested cockatoo

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Title: Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidæ, or Parrots
       The greater part of them species hitherto unfigured,
              containing forty-two lithographic plates, drawn from life,
              and on stone

Author: Edward Lear

Release Date: July 24, 2014 [EBook #46392]
This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net

Title: A Book of Nonsense

Author: Edward Lear

Release Date: October 8, 2004 [eBook #13646]

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net

Title: Nonsense Songs

Author: Edward Lear


the truth about opium

Cruising through the titles of e-books on Project Gutenberg (see link to this one below), I need go no further for a curious sense of amusement than some of the title pages. I give you:

The Truth About Opium

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almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
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Title: The Truth about Opium
       Being a Refutation of the Fallacies of the Anti-Opium Society and a Defence of the Indo-China Opium Trade

Author: William H. Brereton

farming skunks for profit

Fur farming cover Fur farming title page
Fur farming for profit

The Project Gutenberg EBook of Fur Farming For Profit, by Hermon Basil Laymon

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
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Title: Fur Farming For Profit
       With Especial Reference to Skunk Raising

book covers

I really like the beauty and simplicity of these inked fonts pressed into old cloth book covers.

That is all.

The Motor Boys - Clarence Young

Aunt Jimmy's Will - Mabel Osgood Wright

via Project Gutenberg

The Motor Boys – Clarence Young 1906

Aunt Jimmy’s Will – Mabel Osgood Wright 1903


Japanese print makers of the 18th and 19th century

This e-book includes the catalogue of Japanese prints on loan for an exhibition held at the Japan Society of New York in April-May 1911.  The accompanying lecture by Frederick Gookin was the opening event of that exhibition.

I’ve selected three of the prints in this informative work together with excerpts relating to each of the artists.

Japanese Color Prints

Primarily the charm of the Ukiyoé colour-prints is due to the fact that the leading masters of the school were artists of exceptional power. It is also due to the fact that most of them made print-designing their chief occupation, to which they devoted their thought, time, and skill, and that with rare exceptions they were less distinguished as painters.

Harunobu - Young Woman before Torii

The name of Suzuki Harunobu is familiar to every admirer of Japanese prints. It is in large measure to his genius that the development of full-colour printing is due. He was not only the first artist to make use of the new process, but he took advantage of it to bring out prints of a novel type. Very dainty and graceful these were, and in the poetic allusions or quiet humour with which they were charged, and in the quality of the brush-strokes with which the drawings were executed, they made a direct appeal to men of taste. Success was instantaneous. By the year 1765 Harunobu had come to the front and distanced all competitors for popular favour. The serenity and compelling charm of his compositions brought him wide fame. Realizing the possibilities that now lay before him, he proudly exclaimed, “Why should I degrade myself by the delineation of actors?” His ambition, he said, was to become “the true successor of the painters in the department of printing”; that is to say, to design prints that should be worthy substitutes for paintings. Instead of restricting himself to a few primary or secondary hues and the variations resulting from their superposition, he mixed his colours to get the precise tint desired, and he used as many colour-blocks as were needed for the effects at which he aimed. The Yedo-yé, or Yedo pictures, as the prints had been called from the fact that they were produced only at the eastern capital, were now denominated nishiki-yé, or brocade pictures, from the number of colours woven together in them. To the printing itself, the charging of the blocks with colour, the character and quality of the pigments and of the paper used, Harunobu gave careful attention, and these things were greatly improved as a result of his experiments.

FujiHokusai - Fuji

Best known for this image (via Wikipedia) – Great Wave off Kanagawa – created in 1820, Katsushika Hokusai was a master of wood block printing.

Great_Wave_off_Kanagawa2

Godkin describes his work in the lecture:

Either Hokusai or Hiroshige might well engage our attention for an entire evening. Both were extraordinarily prolific; Hokusai was the more versatile and has the wider reputation. Both are among the greatest landscape artists the world has ever known. Their numerous prints of landscapes are a revelation of the possibilities of originality in composition and variety of interest in this field. Unless one has studied these prints in fine examples, it is impossible to realize how great is their merit. This is true of all the prints, but particularly true of Hiroshige’s. Between the best impressions and the very good ones the difference is really astonishing. But the best are so extremely rare as to make it probable that because of the difficulty and the cost of printing, very few of them were issued—the publishers finding cheaper editions more profitable.

KiyonagaHoliday Group

All, however, were surpassed a few years later by Kiyonaga, the last great artist of the Torii line and the culminating figure in the history of the Popular School. He conquered by the rugged strength and marvellous quality of his brush-strokes, by the richness of his colouring and the ripe mastery he displayed over all the resources of his craft. But also he created a new type of design—that which found expression in the great diptychs and triptychs that stand as the triumphs of colour-printing. At the height of his power his influence over his contemporaries was so great that, without exception, the younger men among them copied his style as closely as they could.

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what ho, sport – life at Oxford University in 1894

It was certainly a man’s world (and an extremely elite one) at Oxford University as described by A D Godley in his book Aspects of Modern Oxford published in 1894 by Seeley & Co Ltd.

The plates in the book were produced by five artists.  They illustrate all aspects of a student’s life, in particular participation in a wide variety of sports including tennis, rowing, cricket and golf.  There was swimming too. The area called Parson’s Pleasure (see image 3 in this post) was a nude bathing area in the University Parks – men only, of course.  The selected images are by Lancelot  or Launcelot Speed, an illustrator of fiction and fairy tale books.  The picture of the rowers waiting for the coxswain begs for a caption competition!

For your interest, here’s a link to the history of women at Oxford (who were admitted as full students in 1920). It includes a list of some of the University’s more well-known graduates.

Lawn Tennis at Oxford - Launcelot Speed Waiting for the Cox - Launcelot Speed Parson's Pleasure - Launcelot Speed Cricket in the Parks - Launcelot Speed

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19th century songs for little children

I keep going back to Project Gutenberg’s e-books to discover the new treasures regularly added to their collection.

Take, for example, this 1883 French book of children’s songs – Vieilles chansons pour les petits enfants.

The better known Frère Jacques and Sur le pont d’Avignon are included in the selection of over 30 songs.  I’ve selected three of the rhyme illustrations.  The original book would be wonderful to see as many of the images were coloured wood engravings. The first is a simple rhyme about a dance in single file. The second is about a mean person in possession of good quality snuff (ground tobacco leaves) and not sharing it.  The third is a sad tale of Michael’s mother who lost her cat only to discover that it has been kidnapped and sold for a rabbit.

Vieilles chansons pour les petits enfantsLa queueJ'ai du bon tabacLa Mere Michel

The Project Gutenberg EBook of Vieilles chansons pour les petits enfants, by 
Charles Marie Widor

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org

Title: Vieilles chansons pour les petits enfants
       avec accompagnements de Ch. M. Widor

Author: Charles Marie Widor

Illustrator: Louis Maurice Boutet de Monvel