Giovanni Battista Pian’s Pictorial Alphabet

muller1.jpg

Another recommendation from Paul Rumsey (thanks, Paul!), these are from a series of lithographs dated 1842–43 by Leopold Müller based upon paintings (?) by Giovanni Battista Pian, or Giovanni Battista de Pian (1813–1857). Shades again of (Giovanni Battista) Piranesi in the name, although the pictures are a lot less Piranesian than Antonio Basoli’s; the only time Piranesi bothered with wooden materials was as a support for building stone arches, and in the spars and torture engines of his Prisons. See more of the series here.

muller2.jpg

muller3.jpg

Continue reading “Giovanni Battista Pian’s Pictorial Alphabet”

Antonio Basoli’s Pictorial Alphabet

basoli1.jpg

My thanks to Paul Rumsey for reminding me of the Alfabeto pittorico (1839) by Antonio Basoli (1774–1848). This is the same idea as yesterday’s pictorial alphabet but with an architectural theme. Basoli’s series of prints depicts each letter in an architectural style which matches the initial: A is for Arabia but also for aranciera (orangery). The attention to detail and the rendering of light and shade is very Piranesian, and it so happens that Piranesi had earlier designed a small number of capitals for use in books, the letterforms being created by architectural scenes. It’s tempting to see Basoli’s series as an elaboration of this idea done in the manner of Piranesi’s Prima parte di Architettura e Prospettive.

Given how much I enjoy this kind of thing I would have posted something about them by now, but seeing as they’d already been covered by the late-lamented Giornale Nuovo I stayed my hand. Mister Aitch’s post on the subject is still worth a look for the detail he supplies regarding the prints and their creator. For scans of the entire volume, go here.

basoli2.jpg

basoli3.jpg

basoli4.jpg

Continue reading “Antonio Basoli’s Pictorial Alphabet”

The Library of Babel by Érik Desmazières

library1.jpg

The print work of French artist Érik Desmazières has featured here on several occasions, and I’ve also had reason to mention more than once his aquatints and etchings which illustrate Jorge Luis Borges’ celebrated short story The Library of Babel (1941). The prints were produced in 1997 with a small book edition being published in 2000. Copies of that volume now sell for upwards of $100, and at a mere 36 pages this somewhat exceeds my acquisitiveness threshold. Hence this post which gathers some of the better online reproductions, one or two of which have only come to light in the past couple of years.

library2.jpg

Borges’ description of the architecture of the universe-size Library is sketchy so Desmazières opens out some of the spaces to give a Piranesian sense of space to what would otherwise be little more than views of the same small rooms and corridors, endlessly repeating. MC Escher could have made something of those infinite perspectives—the hexagonal chambers are the closest to the story descriptions—but the larger rooms convey without words an impression of colossal spaces filled with nothing but people and an infinitude of books. The volumes in Borges’ Library don’t contain illustrations but one of them at least would describe this very book. Another would describe this book with a minor variation in one of the plates; another would describe MC Escher’s depictions of the Library, and Piranesi’s, and Salvador Dalí’s, and on and on…

library3.jpg

library4.jpg

Continue reading “The Library of Babel by Érik Desmazières”

Weekend links 144

thomas.jpg

Ruins 3 by Rachel Thomas and Dan Tobin Smith.

“Dan wanted to do something on a really large scale and was looking at a lot of Piranesi and started talking to me about ruins. I then started looking at modern interpretations of this idea, I was obsessed with the post modern architecture of SITE, Disney fantasy settings, Busby Berkeley, Sotsass ceramics, Art Deco motifs in general, Giorgio de Chirico’s paintings, Arabic temples and on and on…” Rachel Thomas talks to Daisy Woodward about Imaginary View, an exhibition currently showing at Somerset House, London.

• A brief description of The Yokel’s Preceptor (1855), a guide to Victorian London’s gay underworld by William Dugdale. When do we get to see a facsimile of this document? The slang is a treat.

• Mix of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 054, a great selection by Biosphere of doomy ambience from the Post Punk/early Industrial era, 1979–1981.

fannyandstella.jpg

Stella (Ernest Boulton) with Fanny (Frederick Park) (c. 1860–1870).

While Stella and Fanny might be the most terrible show-offs, not to mention industrious sex workers, even they drew the line at coupling in public places. Over the course of the subsequent trial, and despite bribing witnesses, the prosecution failed to prove that sodomy had ever occurred, either between the two young men themselves, or within their circle of genteel “sisters”, or even in a dark corner behind the Haymarket with a passing guardsman. Eventually, and only after a second trial a year later, the young men were found not guilty and allowed to slip back into their lives of pro-am theatricals, touring together and separately in such limp pieces as A Comical Countess and A Morning Call.

Kathryn Hughes reviews Fanny and Stella: The Young Men Who Shocked Victorian England by Neil McKenna. Related: photographs of the pair.

The Twilight Language of Nigel Kneale, a book of essays and a cassette tape dedicated to the television dramatist.

Sheltered and Safe from Sorrow: “Victorian mourning rituals, tombstones, epitaphs, and other creepy things”.

Crate digging and the resurgence of vinyl. Related: Men & Vinyl, a Tumblr devoted to men and their discs.

• Designer Shirley Tucker talks about her cover for the first edition of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

• More Will Bradley at The Golden Age (formerly Golden Age Comic Book Stories).

The Mirror Reflecting (Part 2), a new track by The Haxan Cloak.

Psychedelic Press UK | Related: Catnip: Egress to Oblivion?

Paris in colour circa 1900.

Twilight (1983) by Pete Shelley | Twilight (2000) by Antony and the Johnsons | Twilight (2005) by Robin Guthrie & Harold Budd

Weekend links 133

woods1.jpg

Lower Manhattan (1999) by Lebbeus Woods.

RIP Lebbeus Woods, an architect and illustrator frequently compared to Piranesi not only for his imagination and the quality of his renderings but also for the way both men built very little from a lifetime of designs. Lots of appreciations have appeared over the past few days including this lengthy piece by Geoff Manaugh at BLDGBLOG. (Geoff interviewed Woods in 2007.) Elsewhere: A slideshow at the NYT, Steven Holl remembers Lebbeus Woods and Lebbeus Woods, visionary architect of imaginary worlds. See also: Lebbeus Woods: Early Drawings and this post about Woods’ illustrations for an Arthur C Clarke story collection. Woods was at his most Piranesian with Gothic designs for an artificial planet that would have been the principal location in Vincent Ward’s unmade Alien 3.

Arkhonia draws to the end of a year of blogging about and around the Beach Boys’ errant masterwork, Smile (1967). Witty, discursive and frequently scabrous accounts of how Brian Wilson’s magnum opus was derailed and marginalised until it became convenient for commercial interests to exploit its reputation. Anyone following those posts won’t have been surprised by Wilson’s sacking from his own group by Mike Love in September.

• “We’ve been underground for 27 hours now. Everyone is caked in mud, with grit in their hair.” Will Hunt explores the catacombs and sewers of Paris.

I think the only remotely interesting drug was acid. I had a slightly peculiar attitude towards it I think. Just about everything about hippydom I hated. I liked the 60s up to about ’65 or ’66. I liked the mod clothes, I liked the look. I wasn’t a keen taker of speed because I didn’t like the comedown from it. Then everything changed and became looser, I didn’t like the clothes at all. I felt rather out of step with it. The acid thing was interesting though. I come from Salisbury and from the age of 12 I had a friend who was 30 years older than I was who I saw regularly up until when he died a couple of years ago, whose obituary I wrote in The Times. This man was called Ken James and he was deputy head at the chemical warfare unit at Porton Down [the MOD’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory]. He then became head of the scientific civil service; he was the man who introduced computing into the civil service and he had taken acid as early as 1950. This was long before Aldous Huxley.

Sharp Suits And Sparkle: Jonathan Meades On Acid, Space And Place by John Doran. Marvellous stuff. Meades’ new book is Museum Without Walls.

• In New York later this month: A Cathode Ray Séance – The Haunted Worlds of Nigel Kneale.

• More acid: Kerri Smith talks to Oliver Sacks about his drug experiences.

• “It starts with an itch”: Alan Bennett (again) on his new play, People.

nymag.jpg

Lower Manhattan last Wednesday. Photo by Iwan Baan.

• Back issues of OMNI magazine can now be found at the Internet Archive.

• Alan Moore & Mitch Jenkins present their new film, Jimmy’s End.

• At BibliOdyssey: Atlas title pages part one & part two.

• Raw Functionality: An interview with Emptyset.

Athanasius, Underground

Vintage Caza

Stormy Weather (1979) by Elisabeth Welch.