The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities


Cover design by James Iacobelli.

The sequel to The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases is published next week in the US but we have permission to write about it before the official release. The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities is a chunky hardback of 320 pages with a host of contributors including Holly Black, Greg Broadmore, Ted Chiang, Rikki Ducornet, Amal El-Mohtar, Minister Faust, Jeffrey Ford, Lev Grossman, N.K. Jemisin, Caitlín R. Kiernan, China Miéville, Mike Mignola, Michael Moorcock, Alan Moore, Garth Nix, Naomi Novik, James A. Owen, Helen Oyeyemi, J.K. Potter, Cherie Priest, Ekaterina Sedia, Jan Svankmajer, Rachel Swirsky, Carrie Vaughn, Jake von Slatt, Tad Williams, Charles Yu and others. I provided title pages for the various sections of the book, as well as a variety of found and bespoke illustrations. And seeing as how I seldom miss an opportunity to take a dig at Rupert Murdoch (especially this week), it would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention that it’s published by an imprint of HarperCollins which means I’m currently feeling somewhat tainted by the Evil Empire. Mea culpa. When you sup with the devil, use a long spoon.


My title spread.

That aside, this is a treat for anyone who enjoys the more experimental, eccentric and surreal end of the fantasy spectrum:

After the death of Dr. Thackery T. Lambshead at his house in Wimpering-on-the-Brook, England, a remarkable discovery was unearthed: the remains of an astonishing cabinet of curiosities. Many of these artifacts, curios, and wonders related to anecdotes and stories in the doctor’s personal journals. Others, when shown to the doctor’s friends, elicited further tales from a life like no other. Thus, in keeping with the bold spirit exemplified by Dr. Lambs­head and his exploits, we now proudly present highlights from the doctor’s cabinet, reconstructed not only through visual representations but also through exciting stories of intrigue and adventure. A carefully selected group of popular artists and acclaimed, bestselling authors has been assembled to bring this cabinet of curiosities to life.

From what I’ve read so far the general tone is a lot less overtly wacky than the first book, and if set beside some of the more clichéd and pedestrian fantasy works being jobbed out at the moment will probably seem downright avant garde. Editors Ann and Jeff VanderMeer have been at pains to emphasise that this isn’t another steampunk collection although seeing as how many people now equate steampunk with any kind of antique graphics that’s the way some may take it. Alan Moore aficionados should know that Alan’s piece, Objects Discovered in a Novel Under Construction, is a riff on some of the contents of his forthcoming novel Jerusalem. My illustration for that entry is below.

Jeff had some blog posts this week related to the book, one looking back at the Disease Guide, the other with details of the US tour he and Ann will shortly be undertaking. A couple of my other contributions follow.


One of the section titles. After writing about John Dee earlier this week I’d forgotten that I’d put Dee’s Sigillum Dei Aemeth into the background of this design. The Elizabethan scholar and magus receives a mention in Caitlín R Kiernan’s piece.


An untitled sculpture/fetish/object that I made in 1995 and which is printed in black-and-white in the book. The skull is a real one, a gift from a student nurse I knew for a while. The embellishments are razor blades, scalpel blades, kitchen knife blades, nails, Blu-Tack, plastic tape, pheasant feathers, and (of course) peacock feathers. I’ve given up trying to keep this dust-free, deciding, like Marcel Duchamp did with his Large Glass, that any dust it accumulates is part of the composition.


In Alan Moore’s piece he mentions a book about a group of ghost children, The Dead Dead Gang. Once again this is printed in black-and-white but here you get an exclusive look at the colour original.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Portuguese Diseases
The specimens of Alex CF
Walmor Corrêa’s Memento Mori
Pasticheur’s Addiction
The art of Ron Pippin
Custom creatures
Jan Svankmajer: The Complete Short Films
The Museum of Fantastic Specimens

5 thoughts on “The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities”

  1. Murdoch is a corrupt robber-baron who has even given away his family for the janus-faced affections of a young chinese wife ‘on the make’. He fails every test of humanity.

  2. Phantasmagoric stuff my man! I’ve been buying far too many books this year already but I think I can make my budget stretch to this piece o’ work. I think the Dead Dead Gang are going to be part of Alan Moore’s forthcomng opus Jerusalem so you, John, are the official first illustrator of it! Bet you’re proud, I would be too.

  3. Thanks, everyone.

    Rossco: Yes, Alan was telling me about the Dead Dead Gang some time ago. It hadn’t occurred to me that this was (inadvertently) the first illustration for his book until you mentioned it. I’m hoping we get to read Jerusalem soon.

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