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• • • Being a journal by artist and designer John Coulthart, cataloguing interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms.


 

Knapp’s Egypt

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One last post about American illustrator J. Augustus Knapp. Egypt (1900) is a slim volume by Laura G. Collins that presents a poetic remembrance of an Egyptian visit with embellishments and drawings by Knapp. The text is hand-written in that peculiar tree-branch style you often find in 19th-century literature, while Knapp’s illustrations look to have been copied from photos; the Sphinx is a familiar enough sight for us to see that the artist takes liberties with the perspective. I have a couple of Victorian photo-books of views of the world featuring Egyptian scenes that are almost identical to some of these. An odd volume with a stylish binding that includes Knapp’s monogram under the author’s name.

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The occult Knapp

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Yggdrasil, the World Tree of Norse mythology.

Following up the work of Etidorhpa‘s illustrator, J. Augustus Knapp (1853–1938), I realised that I’d already encountered some of his later paintings. After illustrating books by John Uri Lloyd, Knapp moved to California where he met occult historian, mystic and book collector Manly Palmer Hall. Knapp exchanged Lloyd’s fungi researches and weird fiction for Hall’s mysticism, illustrating The Initiates of the Flame (1922), and Hall’s magnum opus, The Secret Teachings of All Ages (1928). Knapp’s 54 paintings for the latter volume have since proved convenient for the occult encyclopedias that followed, many of which plundered Hall’s study for its illustrations. Knapp’s depictions aren’t always very successful—Odin’s wolves look silly rather than fierce—but they served Hall’s purpose of fixing mythological characters and metaphysical schemes in a colourful manner for a contemporary audience.

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Mithra in the form of Boundless Time.

Hall and Knapp also produced their own Tarot deck (see here and here) which can still be bought today from the University of Philosophical Research in Los Angeles. The UPR was founded by Manly Hall, and has a collection of Knapp’s paintings. They also sell Hall’s books, of course, and you can browse a copy of The Secret Teachings of All Ages if you visit the library, as I discovered in 2005 when Jay Babcock and I paid the place a visit.

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The Key to Dante’s Divine Comedy.

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Etidorhpa by John Uri Lloyd

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I wouldn’t usually post so many illustrations but these depictions by J. Augustus Knapp for Etidorhpa by John Uri Lloyd add a great deal to the attractions of this early work of science fiction. Lloyd’s book is subtitled The End of Earth; The Strange History of a Mysterious Being; The account of a remarkable journey as communicated in manuscript to Llewellyn Drury who promised to print the same, but finally evaded the responsibility. The novel was published in 1895, and shares features with similar works that concern travellers exploring the interior of the Earth. What sets it apart is a degree of imagination that generated enough interest for it to be reprinted many times.

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Science fiction and fantasy evolved so rapidly in the early 20th century that the products of previous centuries often seem uninventive in comparison. Whatever hidden cities, lost continents or subterranean kingdoms are promised, too many of them reveal a race of pompous individuals, usually clad in Greek, Roman or Egyptian attire with little variety to their civilisations unless their world is also populated by the odd monster or two. The manuscript in Lloyd’s novel relates a journey to the Earth’s interior by a bearded, white-haired character variously named I-Am-The-Man and The-Man-Who-Did-It who reads his adventures in a series of visits to the irresponsible Llewellyn Drury. I-Am-The-Man is kidnapped by a secret society who take him to a cave in Kentucky where he’s eventually delivered into the care of a mysterious, unnamed guide from the subterranean world:

The speaker stood in a stooping position, with his face towards the earth as if to shelter it from the sunshine. He was less than five feet in height. His arms and legs were bare, and his skin, the color of light blue putty, glistened in the sunlight like the slimy hide of a water dog. He raised his head, and I shuddered in affright as I beheld that his face was not that of a human. His forehead extended in an unbroken plane from crown to cheek bone, and the chubby tip of an abortive nose without nostrils formed a short projection near the center of the level ridge which represented a countenance. There was no semblance of an eye, for there were no sockets. Yet his voice was singularly perfect. His face, if face it could be called, was wet, and water dripped from all parts of his slippery person.

The illustrations by J. Augustus Knapp show the guide as naked but conveniently sexless. The pair descend into the Earth’s interior where they encounter a succession of wonders, from giant fungi (possibly derived from A Journey to the Centre of the Earth) and a sea of “crystal liquid” which the pair traverse in a metal boat, to a variety of strange fauna and flora. Knapp’s illustrations make the journey seem much more interesting than it is on the page where Lloyd spends far too much time lecturing the reader—there’s a chapter about the evils of drunkenness—or having I-Am-The-Man relate his continual bewilderment. “Etidorhpa”, it turns out, is “Aphrodite” reversed, and Etidorhpa herself appears as the embodiment of love at the culmination of what has become a spiritual journey rather like a weak precursor of David Lindsay’s extraordinary A Voyage to Arcturus (1920). Lindsay had the good sense to write a continuous narrative whereas Lloyd frequently interrupts his story with scientific speculations that seek to qualify some of the less outlandish features of his interior world. There’s also a curious note from the author on page 276 about the various properties of intoxicating drugs, and the possibility that they might be combined by a chemist to create strange visions for a writer. Lloyd was a chemist as well as a writer so the speculation that he might have experimented on himself—and thus produced this book—is understandable. Speculation aside, L. Sprague de Camp dismissed the novel as “unreadable” (despite its multiple reprintings) whereas HP Lovecraft apparently enjoyed it. You can judge for yourself here.

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The recurrent pose 55

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And still they come… These latest examples of the Flandrin pose are in the Flandrinesque category since they don’t quite match the figure in Flandrin’s painting. The one above is Spanish model Emilio Flores, photographed by Matteo Felici, one of a series featured at Homotography. The one below is another of those mystery pictures whose origin is difficult to determine. The source site is here but, as with many Tumblr sites, it’s so slow to load its hoard of endlessly scrolling high-res photos that I’m afraid I didn’t search very far. Lastly, there’s this photo by Santy Mito, a recommendation from a Twitter user.

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Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The recurrent pose archive

 


Heaven and Hell calendar

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Painting from the poster art for The Highbury Working (2000) by Alan Moore & Tim Perkins.

Unlike last year, this year’s CafePress calendar arrives on time, its creation being eased by the fact that it’s a reworking on an earlier version. The idea with the previous Heaven & Hell calendar had been to alternate various pieces of infernal Cradle of Filth artwork with contrasting imagery; as things turned out I had more offerings for Hell than for Heaven—no surprise there—so the reality wasn’t very satisfying.

This year I’ve managed to fill out the Heaven sequence with more recent works, all of which have been slightly adjusted to fit the square page ratio required by CafePress. So even though these are old pieces many of them are unique to this printing. Larger copies of the pages may be seen here while the CafePress purchase page is here. As always, my thanks to everyone who buys these things.

And as before, the calendars for previous years are now available all year round; see the full range here. Note that this means you need to select January as the starting month if you want the months to run for a single year only.

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JANUARY: Variation of the poster art for Angel Passage (2001) by Alan Moore & Tim Perkins.

Angel Passage was Alan and Tim’s album about the life and work of William Blake. I designed the CD, a poster, and also produced a video for the multi-media performance of the piece at the Purcell Room, London, in February 2001.

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FEBRUARY: Cover for Bitter Suites To Succubi by Cradle of Filth (2001).

My first piece of Cradle of Filth art. I was a little surprised when working on this that they really did want the wings and horns; Dani loved that kind of imagery. I was even more surprised when this cover was subsequently showcased in an entire window in Tower Records’ main London shop in Piccadilly.

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Coulthart Calendars

    Heaven and Hell Calendar
    Steampunk Calendar
    Cthulhu Calendar
    Psychedelic Wonderland Calendar
    Through the Psychedelic Looking-Glass Calendar

 


 

Books

    The Haunter of the Dark
    Reverbstorm

 


 

Previously on { feuilleton }

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