Visualising Spheres of Knowledge

The Book of Circles Cover

In The Book of Circles, his companion volume to the popular Book of Trees, Manuel Lima takes us on a lively tour through millennia of information design. Three hundred detailed and colourful illustrations cover an encyclopedic array of subjects, drawing fascinating parallels across time and culture.

Here are a few of the spectacular images from The Book of Circles:

William Billings, Musical score for the song “Connection”, 1794 Credit: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
William Billings, Musical score for the song “Connection”, 1794
Credit: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

Frontispiece to The Continental Harmony (1794), a book by William Billings containing dozens of psalm anthems and hymns. Billings was a prominent early American choral composer. This illustration represents the score for the tune “Connection” as a four-stave, circular piece of music, which starts at the top of the outermost ring and works its way to the centre.

 Dave Bowker, One Week of the Guardian: Wednesday, 2008 Credit: Dave Bowker
Dave Bowker, One Week of the Guardian: Wednesday, 2008
Credit: Dave Bowker

Part of a series of experiments exploring how to visualise the content of the Guardian newspaper in an artistic and engaging way, a diagram showing the popularity of fifty-four news articles. The concentric circles group articles into colour-coded categories (e.g., life and style articles are shown by orange, technology by cyan, and science by blue), with the least popular category positioned in the centre. Word counts for each article are noted within speech bubbles.

Nicholas Felton, Feltron 2007 Annual Report, 2008 Credit: Nicholas Felton
Nicholas Felton, Feltron 2007 Annual Report, 2008
Credit: Nicholas Felton

Pie chart displaying the statistics for an average day of the author, plotting various data such as number of emails sent, miles run, or cups of coffee consumed. Between 2005 and 2015, information designer Nicholas Felton meticulously documented his daily activity to create his Personal Annual Reports, compilations of information graphics that give an overview of each year, set out in the style of corporate reporting. The project is an exploration of how to graphically encapsulate the activities of an entire year, as well as how we can glean data from rapidly changing technology

Anna Filipova, Lineage of Sin in the Bible, 2009 Credit: Anna Filipova
Anna Filipova, Lineage of Sin in the Bible, 2009
Credit: Anna Filipova

Chart measuring time through sins, as described in the Bible, displaying an inverse relationship between longevity and sin. Longevity decreases from Adam (the first man) to Moses at the same time that sin increases. The outer ring, read counter clockwise, moves through the major events of the Old Testament. Relevant biblical verses that reveal someone’s age are cited, and the average age for an epoch is shown underneath (coloured rings).

Ernst Haeckel, Drawing of an ophidea, 1904 Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Ernst Haeckel, Drawing of an ophidea, 1904
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Lithograph of an ophidea, a type of echinoderm similar to a starfish. Ernst Haeckel was a German biologist who published a series of detailed lithographs, Kunstformen der Natur (Art forms of nature), over the course of five years. These images of microscopic biology have been hugely influential on both the arts and science.


Click here to find out more about Manuel Lima’s books.

You Are Here: NYC

You Are Here: NYC

Maps are magical.

Every graphic, like every story, has a point of view, and New York is rife with map-making possibilities, thick with mythology, and glutted with history. You Are Here: NYC assembles some two hundred maps charting every inch and facet of the five boroughs, depicting New Yorks of past and present, and a city that never was. A Nightclub Map of Harlem traces a boozy night from the Radium and the Cotton Club to the Savoy and then the Lafayette; Wonders of New York pinpoints three hundred sites of interest, including the alleged location of Captain Kidd’s buried treasure; the Ghostbusters subway map plots the route from Astral Projections Place to Stay Puft Street; and a rejected proposal of ornate topiaries illustrates a Central Park that might have been.

Take a peek at a few of the maps included in this unique tour of NYC.

Jerinic-constellation-map
Katarina Jerinic: Brooklyn Constellations, 2007
Jack Shepherd: You Are Here
Tanner Greenring and Jack Shepherd: the Ultimate Nerd Guide to New York City, 2011
Paula Scher: You are Here
Paula Scher: High Line, 2005

You Are Here: NYC – Mapping the Soul of the City by Katharine Harmon is out now | Princeton Architectural Press

 

#FiveYearsOfBooks | Top Five Art & Design

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To celebrate our 5th Birthday we are taking a look at our Top Fives from across our list.

Take a peek at a few of our creative, unique and inspiring books from the past five years from all of our publishers.

Here are some of our Art & Design highlights.

V&A Pattern: William Morris
V&A Pattern: William Morris
Linda Parry
V&A Publishing

Number one in our spectacular Art & Design list in the William Morris Pattern Book from the Victoria and Albert Museum. Showcasing the work of William Morris and Morris & Co. These popular repeating patterns possess a timeless quality and have a modern appeal surprising in work created over 120 years ago.

This attractive series reveals the V&A’s spectacular and extensive pattern collections. Each title includes a free CD of high resolution images.

Graffiti 365
Graffiti 365
Jay Edlin
Abrams Books

It isn’t surprising that this one of a kind, insider’s perspective of the contemporary Graffiti scene and its antecedents, is in our Top 5 Art & Design titles. Authors, Zephyr and J.SON, have been both artists and historians of the graffiti movement and give us a wide-angle snapshot of the modern graffiti movement in this book.

Graffiti 365 is a fun, engaging, and wide-ranging survey of the international graffiti scene, using 365 rare images to introduce or describe important artists-from Taki 183 to Banksy-and styles-from bubble to wild.

 

Whatever You Are, Be A Good One
Whatever You Are, Be a Good One
100 Inspirational Quotations Hand-Lettered
by Lisa Congdon Art + Illustration
Chronicle Books

This inspirational, charming and beautifully illustrated little book is a heartwarming addition to our Top 5 Art & Design titles.

Whatever You Are, Be a Good One collects words of wisdom from history’s greatest creative minds–from Socrates to Lewis Carroll, Julia Child to Walt Whitman, Jane Austen to Nora Ephron–lettered and illustrated in Lisa Congdon’s signature hip hand-drawn style. Offering readers everywhere encouragement and hope.

Thinking With Type
Thinking With Type 2nd Edition
A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students
Ellen Lupton
Princeton Architectural Press

Thinking with Type is the definitive guide to using typography in visual communication, from the printed page to the computer screen. This revised edition, with it’s new and updated content has continued the success of it’s predecessor and easily found it’s place in our Top 5 Art & Design titles.

Throughout the book, visual examples show how to be inventive within systems of typographic form-what the rules are and how to break them. Thinking with Type is a type book for everyone: designers, writers, editors, students, and anyone else who works with words.

Edward Bawden's London
Edward Bawden’s London
Peyton Skipwith & Brian Webb
V&A Publishing

From Londoners to Anglophiles Edward Bawden’s London has universal appeal and sits happily in our Top 5.

This beautiful book, with almost 200 striking images, shows London as represented by Edward Bawden (1903-1989) in prints, posters, drawings, paintings, murals and advertising material produced during his long career.

The wide range of illustrations includes early work executed whilst a student in the early 1920s; the Morley College murals carried out in partnership with Eric Ravilious; advertising work for London Transport, Fortnum & Mason, Twinings Teas, Shell, Westminster Bank; the mural for the Lion & Unicorn Pavilion at the 1951 Festival of Britain; and a varied selection of his finest series of linocuts.

Unexpected Art.

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Graffiti made from cake icing, man-made clouds floating indoors, a luminous moon resting on water. Collected here are dozens of jaw-dropping artworks—site-specific installations, extraordinary sculptures and groundbreaking interventions in public spaces—that reveal the exciting things that happen when contemporary artists play with the idea of place.

Unexpected Art showcases the wonderfully experimental work of more than 50 innovative artists from around the world in galleries of their most astonishing artworks. An unusual package with three different-coloured page edges complements the art inside and makes this tour of the world’s most mind-blowing artwork a beautiful and thought provoking gift for anyone interested in the next cool thing.

Private Moon, 2011 The Moon in front Rangitoto volcanic Island, the Hauraki Gulf near Auckland, New Zealand Photo by Marcus Williams and SP5 Unitec

 

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You don’t have to buy a ticket to a public space. It’s yours. It’s not like going to a theater or a museum, where you are choosing to be exposed to a type of art. It is my job as an artist, if I am allowed the use of a public space, to connect the audience to my work. You have to involve the people. The audience is not only the spectators— it is part of the art.

Recently, I visited my hometown. It’s a small place, the kind of place where everyone knows one another. The neighbors were happy to see me; they’ve been keeping up with my career as I have become more well-known. One neighbor came up to me and said, “Do you remember, Florentijn, when you used to build scenes out of soapboxes and come around asking us to see what you had made?”

As a child of six or seven, I would create little worlds, adventurescapes, fantasy lands, out of soapboxes and take them around the neighborhood asking, “Have you seen what I made?” I always had the sense that if I was going to make art, it had to be big, and it had to touch many people. From my days as an art student, when I started a small business with two friends painting murals each summer, public artwork is what I fell into naturally. After I graduated, I continued my work with public space—I had a feel for it, a love for it.

I love the connection with people. And I love the unique challenges posed by working in a public space. There are clearly logistical considerations in work of this scope: dealing with the paperwork and the local governments, making a work “asshole proof,” as we call it in Holland; that is, protecting it from vandals. The challenges of public installations—the approvals, the safety standards—push you to be more creative. There are problems that you have to solve, issues to overcome. As a result, it becomes a collaborative process. Part of the strength of the work comes from this collaboration with the many hands that touch it.

When beginning a project, I start with a site visit. You have to take into account all of the ingredients—the history of the place, the demographics, who lives there, the buildings—everything that comes together to make the place what it is. A public space can become so familiar that a person doesn’t see it anymore. People pass through a space that they’ve been through dozens, even hundreds, of times before, and it has become completely invisible, utterly strange, to them. When I insert a new object into that space, it provides a bright new perspective to the viewers, so that all of a sudden, they experience their surroundings once more.

Changing the volume of the space is one way to make the familiar fresh and new. The materials I use are also key to providing the unexpected—I have used flip-flops, tiles, plastic bags, thatch. If I try to astonish myself first and foremost, I can feel confident about bringing the awe factor to an installation.

Slow Slugs, in Angers, France, took many hands to complete. I worked with dozens of volunteers who tied forty thousand plastic bags to the frames forming the slugs, which crawled up the stairs to the church. Seeing this location in Angers, a stairway to a church—to God, to religion, to death—as well the way to a commercial district behind the church, brought to mind a race to the finish. The slow race of slugs up the church stairs combined with the suffocating effects of plastic bags and commercialism all came together in this public work. As with many public pieces, it was up for only a short time—days—but if I have succeeded in changing the space, providing the audience with a new perspective, then the impact has been made. And the work will live on in publications and on the Internet.

A dozen years ago, I bought a world map. I fashioned stickers in the shape of a rubber duck, and I stuck them all over the map in the hopes that one day, I would bring my Rubber Duck project—a giant version of the child’s bath toy— to these places. Now, it’s happening. The Rubber Duck has been to more than twenty locations in eleven countries, and the momentum is growing. It’s an installation in which the audience reaction, the joy, the togetherness, is intrinsic to the experience. We all want to be amazed and astonished. The strong visual reference to a familiar object—an enormous rubber duck—draws the audience in. The scale of the Rubber Duck turns the harbor, bay, river into a giant bathtub and makes us all feel small. The audience becomes part of the installation, its reaction integral to the piece. You could be a CEO or a butcher, but we are all the same before this work. It interacts with all layers of society. It makes the world smaller. In my work, I play with scale. The effect of my work is to change your perception of reality.

Art doesn’t always have to be difficult; you don’t have to sweat to understand it. It can be a work that is all about relating, where we are all free to watch and investigate and discover. My sculptures don’t change reality. They reveal what is already there and make you part of it.

Text © Florentijn Hofman

Rubber Duck, 2013 Sydney, Australia Inflatable, pontoon, and generator 18 m × 18 m × 21 m Photo Credits Images courtesy of Florentijn Hofman
Rubber Duck, 2013
Sydney, Australia
Inflatable, pontoon, and generator
18 m × 18 m × 21 m
Photo Credits
Images courtesy of Florentijn Hofman


 

Wake Up Your Creativity with Art Before Breakfast.

9781452135472

Do you wish you could carve out a little creativity in your day, but are convinced there are not enough hours in the day?

We know the feeling.

But despair no longer! Artist Danny Gregory, creativity guru to thousands across the globe, is here to help with this unique guide. Serving up a hearty helping of inspiration, Gregory offers 5 to 10 minute exercises for every skill level that fit into any schedule – whether on a plane, in a meeting, or at the breakfast table – along with practical instruction on techniques and materials, plus strategies for making work that’s exciting, unintimidating and fulfilling.

So why should you make art part of your everyday? We will let Danny take the lead here…

art-before-breakfast

But not only that, art can fulfill so much more…

BE-HERE-NOW Art stops time. When you draw or paint what’s around you, you see it for what it is. Instead of living in a virtual world, as we do most of the time these days, you will be present in the real one. Instead of focusing on all the things whirring in your head, you will be able to stop, clear your mind, take a deep breath, and just be. You don’t need a mantra or a guru. Or an app. Just a pen.

TELL-YOUR-STORYLife is just a long succession of small epiphanies. You need to stop and seize them. By making art, you will be recording what you are living through and what you are learning about it. A drawing and a sentence or two in a sketchbook turns those everyday moments into something significant. Your art will set a frame around it and give you perspective on what really matters. Over time you will build up a book of memories—a true record of what’s important in your life.

WELCOME-TO-THE-WORLD It’s not perfect, but it’s beautiful. And the most beautiful things have character and walnutsexperience built into them. There’s a lot to learn and appreciate in a chipped mug, a half-eaten apple, the tiny lines in the leather of your dashboard. Making art will show you how much you already have. Your real treasures. A brand-new Maserati is a lot less beautiful to draw than a rusty old pickup.

SUDOKU You will never be bored or waste time again. Every day is full of those moments between activities. Waiting in the doctor’s office, watching mindless TV. Instead of reading tweets on your phone, you’ll make a piece of art. Every minute of your day counts. Make it worthwhile.

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We all live in chaos. It’s the natural state of things. Physicists call it entropy—everything is always changing and unraveling and ultimately turning into cosmic mush. That’s why your desk gets cluttered and your calendar gets filled. It’s physics.

Creativity is the act of shaping the mush of the world around us into something—of creating your own order. I’m not talking about going crazy and compulsive with a label maker and color-coded files. I’m talking about having a vision of what you want things to be like and moving toward it.

I assume that, deep down, you want to have more creativity in your life—that’s why you have this book in your hands. But you just don’t know how to fit it into the chaos of your day. There are always too many things to do, too many obligations and chores that take precedence over you. Maybe you think to yourself, “Sure, I’d love to make art, but I don’t have the time to indulge myself right now. Maybe on the weekend, on vacation, when I retire, etc.”

But creativity isn’t a luxury. It’s the essence of life. It’s what distinguishes us from the mush. And it’s why our ancestors survived while other less adaptive critters perished. They responded to change by being creative in some way, by inventing a new answer to the chaos.

And that’s what you need to do to make the most of your life, every day of it. To be inventive, open, flexible, in touch. To have perspective on what matters to you. To deal with change without being overwhelmed. And that’s what creativity offers you.

Creativity can become a habit that fits into your life, like Pilates or flossing, only a lot more fulfilling. You just need to shift your perspective on what it is to be creative. It doesn’t mean you have to be a full-time artist. It doesn’t mean you need lots of training or supplies. Or time. It doesn’t mean you need to be a so-called expert.

You just have to be you—and express what that means.

ART-BEFORE

Art Before Breakfast is out now,find out more about here.

Want to find out more about Danny Gregory? You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and on his Blog

Art Before Breakfast; the key to unlocking a more creative life.

Last week I was challenged to create Art Before BreakfastEveryday.

Let's Get Started

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yup, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I sat down with my coffee and toast and, with artist Danny Gregory’s guidance, completed a selection of drawing lessons. With the ultimate aim of ending the week able to incorporate new skills into making art part of my daily life. That is what Danny Gregory is trying to help you achieve with his new book. He want’s us to…

Wake up our creativity!

So there I was Monday morning, poised and ready for my first lesson with one of Louise Fili‘s Perfetto Pencils in hand.

Art before breakfast (2)Art before breakfast (3)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The lesson of the day was Contour Drawing. 

Contour Drawing is all about what you see. What you REALLY see before your brain tricks you into thinking something else. Where does the handle of the mug meet the body? How far was the pot of honey from the plate? Isn’t the plate more of an oval than a circle from where I am sitting? What other shapes are there?

It was a daunting task; everything started out looking, well, a bit of a mess! I looked down in despair at the odd shapes littering the page. But once I start filling out the drawing it was like magic! Suddenly the weird shapes took on form, a CUP! a Plate! a POT OF HONEY!  Day one compete, breakfast eaten, time to start my work day.

Day Two, another day, another lesson. Tuesday’s task was Negative Space. 

Art Before Breakfast: Negative SpaceArt Before Breakfast: Negative Space

 

 

 

 

 

 

I will admit up-front this was the task I found the most difficult. Negative Space is again about training yourself to draw what you see, not what you think you see. The instructions were to draw the shapes between the objects. But, I found myself drawing the objects not the space. I got there in the end, sort of…

Have a go yourself. Draw the shapes around the objects on your table and remember to trust your eyes your brain is telling you lies!

Wednesday’s lesson brought joy to my logically inclined brain. Day three of my project was all about perspective. I learned more about contour drawing, this time using measurements for depth and distance! It’s all about the attention to detail here.

At Before Breakfast Day Three

 

I think there was a marked improvement, what do you think?

For Thursday and Friday’s lessons we moved away from actually sketching breakfast – phew…there are only so many times you can draw a honey pot!

Artb4 Thursday (2)Art Before Breakfast - Friday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Thursday I was instructed to draw my bathroom cabinet, but as I was taking on this task at work I opted for our microwave. Continuing the lesson on outline drawing, I sketched the shapes I SAW. My level of confidence by this fourth day was much improved and it showed in the sketch I was able to produce in a quick 10 minutes (before I even finished my cup of coffee!). My hand felt more dexterous curving the edge of the toaster and I even managed some semi-convincing negative space! On Friday I was instructed to added depth to the outline I had drawn. Giving my microwave sketch life. It might not be the Sistine Chapel, but I finished my week of Art Before Breakfast with real pride.

Art before Breakfast Day five

 

My week of Art Before Breakfast proved two things to me. 

1. Even just a few lessons can make a real difference to your skill level.

2. There is always time for art.

So give it ago! Pick-up a copy of Danny’s Book and carve out some creativity in your life.

Bookstore of the Week – Salts Mill Gallery & Bookshop

Happy New Year ladies and Gentlemen!

We would like to introduce you to our first Bookstore of the Week of 2015…

*Drum roll Please* 

Salts Mill Gallery & Bookshop in West Yorkshire.

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Salts Mill Gallery & Bookshop is set in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Saltaire, in a Grade II Listed historic mill building built in 1853 by Sir Titus Salt. Home to four galleries (the Mill is home to a permanent exhibition on David Hockney’s work), a selection of places to eat and drink, and spaces to rent Salts Mill creates a hive of culture truly underpinned by history.

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The main bookshop is upstairs and has an eclectic mix of books on all subjects. Housed in a beautiful and spacious stone hall, it retains clear traces of its industrial past; the stone floor, cast iron columns, metal pulley and huge windows.

Little history trivia for you, the quality of light was important to the cloth-manufacturing processes in the mill.

Occupying half of one of the huge galleries on the second floor of the West Mill, the bookstore has the luxury of displaying a significant number of titles on tables rather than shelves. Exposing the eye to a rainbow of covers and encouraging even the most prudent to pick-up a book (or two).

Saltaire_Salts_Mill_1

It can be quite a busy place, especially at weekends, so there is a satisfying buzz about it, but it’s also a space made for quiet browsing. The shop is enhanced by all the artwork on the walls; many are Hockney prints but some are the work of other artists.

Inside-the-book-shop-Baljinder-Gill

Salts Mill Bookshop is the kind of shop you could linger in all day, the placement of everything is designed so that book covers and spines sit in intriguing harmony. We couldn’t recommend visiting more highly, but we do suggest taking someone with you, party to share the love, partly to make sure you don’t buy one of everything…

Follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

Planning a Visit?

Salts Mill,
Shipley,
Saltaire,
West Yorkshire
BD18 3LA,
UK

Tel: 01274 531163 (General Enquiries, Galleries, Cafe in to the Opera, Salts Diner)

Fax: 01274 531184


Email : post@saltsmill.org.uk

Find out more at http://www.saltsmill.org.uk/

Secret Sidekicks – D.James’s Personal Assistant

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The Who, The What, and The When; and illustrated love letter to the people (and pets!) behind some of histories most legendary figures.

Meet, JOYCE MCLENNAN 1943 – D. JAMES’S PERSONAL ASSISTANT

When Joyce McLennan takes a London bus to work, the slender woman with patrician features arrives at the Holland Park home of multi-award-winning English writer P. D. James, the queen of British mystery, creator of detective and poet Adam Dalgliesh. She is also known as Baroness James of Holland Park, OBE, FRSA, FRSL, recipient of seven honorary doctorates and four honorary fellowships, and a life peer in the House of Lords; but, after thirty-seven years of working together, to McLennan the esteemed author is simply “Phyllis.” McLennan was hired after the publication of James’s seventh novel.

McLennan’s intelligence and organisation complement her natural kindness. James notes in her autobiography, Time to Be in Earnest, that McLennan is “unfailingly good-tempered,” a quality James could count on as her popularity rose and, with it, the demands on her time: “She is high among the small group of friends on whom I can rely to keep me sane.” Their process evolved from McLennan’s original job as part-time typist, working from home and raising two young children. Then, James would dictate a tape from her handwritten notes. McLennan or her husband, Mike, who worked for James’s publisher, Faber & Faber, would often pick up the tape, sometimes hidden at James’s side gate in a large china pig. Today, McLennan transcribes into a computer and prints pages for James to edit, leaving the famed mystery author to concentrate on research, plotting, and writing.

The increasing time needed to attend to the business side of being a successful author found James and McLennan tackling the mail together, which soon spread to modern e-mails and includes requests for photos, autographs, signed books for charity auctions, interviews and advice. When James travelled, McLennan would deal with incoming mail and day-to-day matters in her absence, leading James to say: “What would I ever do without her?” In recent years she has taken to accompanying James on longer trips.

Working alongside a popular figure serving on various committees, McLennan’s support sees the baroness through all of these activities, from chairing the Booker Prize panel of judges to a sixteen-year tenancy as president of the Society of Authors. After James’s appointment to the Church of England’s Liturgical Commission, McLennan’s humour showed in her response to its bulging paperwork. She created a file labelled “God.”

McLennan has remained an unobtrusive ally to James, someone UK journalist Kate Kellaway terms “secretary, friend and all-round prop.” James hints at the closeness of their relationship in her Author’s Note from 2001’s Death in Holy Orders: “I am particularly grateful to my secretary, Mrs. Joyce McLennan, whose help with this novel went far beyond her skill with a computer.”

Both genteel women appear most unlikely a duo to be so steeped in murder and betrayal. Yet the work ethic to produce complex mysteries persists, and when James recuperated from cardiac issues in a private Oxford hospital, McLennan travelled from London twice a week to help finish work on the most recent Dalgleish novel, The Private Patient. James is known for her sense of setting and the psychological depths she brings to her mysteries, as well as her strong descriptions, as in this excerpt from that same novel: “There was only the crack of the smashed bottle, like a pistol shot, the stink of whisky, a moment of searing pain which passed almost as soon as she felt it and the warm blood flowing from her check, dripping onto the seat of the chair, her mother’s anguished cry.”

McLennan’s calm, steadfast backing has allowed the author to continue writing into her nineties, yet she is rarely photographed or interviewed. A native of Pinner in the Middlesex area, McLennan is now a widow, and with her boys grown and out on their own, she shares her home in the west London suburb of Ealing with two cats, Tyler and Rafferty.

After decades of Joyce McLennan’s service as James’s trusted aide, it should come as no surprise that when James combined her two lifelong enthusiasms—writing detective fiction and the novels of Jane Austen—to create her sequel to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, she chose this fitting dedication for 2011’s Death Comes to Pemberley:

To Joyce McLennan

Friend and personal assistant who has typed

my novels for thirty-five years

With affection and gratitude

written by MARNI GRAFF

www.auntiemwrites.com

illustrated by JULIA ROTHMAN

www.juliarothman.com

Secret Sidekicks – EDGAR ALLAN POE’S FOSTER FATHER

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Partners and Spouses,

Muses and Lovers,

Relatives and Assistnats,

Neighbours and Friends…

These are the unsung heroes of history.

Discover another literary #SecretSidekicks from The Who, The What, and the When:

JOHN ALLAN 1779 – 1834EDGAR ALLAN POE’S FOSTER FATHER

John and Frances Allan of Richmond, Virginia, brought Edgar Poe to live with them in 1811, when he was two years old. Edgar was an orphan. His father, David Poe, had died sometime during the preceding year, his mother, Eliza, early that December. At first, the informal adoption by an affluent businessman without children of his own seemed like a happy one: Frances

Allan and her maiden sister, who resided with the Allan’s, doted on the boy. Household accounts show that Edgar was well provided with books and toys, and in his correspondence John mentions Edgar often and with pride. In surviving early letters, Edgar addresses Allan as “My dear Pa.”

But by the time that Edgar Allan Poe was a student at the new University of Virginia in 1826, something in this relationship had gone wrong. The evidence is incomplete and conflicting, so it is hard to tell exactly what transpired. Poe claimed that Allan, having agreed to support him in his studies, left him without sufficient funds to pay his tuition, room and board. He was forced to turn to gambling, he said, as a last resort to pay his bills, and he ended up in debt. For his part, Allan seems to have formed a bad opinion of Poe’s character during the boy’s adolescence, calling him miserable, sulky, ill-tempered and without gratitude. He claimed that he had come to Charlottesville to pay all of Poe’s debts, apart from those incurred through gambling. It’s not clear whether he indeed did this, or whether he did or did not help Poe find employment later on that year.

What caused the rift? There is no satisfying answer to this question, though Allan’s own biography offers some clues. During Poe’s childhood, Allan suffered financial losses when his attempt to establish his trading business, Ellis & Allan, in London failed. Could this have made him feel less generous, or act less patiently toward his foster son? After the Allan family returned to Richmond, Allan was unfaithful to his wife. Poe, who was devoted to Frances, may have known about this, disapproved, and treated Allan coldly. Whatever the reasons, the fact remains that what started as a warm, supportive relationship devolved into fractiousness and mutual dislike, such that Allan in his “recommendation” for Poe to West Point wrote: “Frankly, sir, do I declare he is no relation to me whatever.” When Poe’s foster father was dying, he went to visit him. (John Allan was remarried by then and had a legitimate heir). Edgar had to physically push aside John’s second wife to get to him. As he approached, Allan raised his cane to strike Poe if he came closer and ordered him out of the room. This was the last time that they met.

Allan’s influence on Poe, then, is complicated, to say the least. He was the reason that Poe gained an education. He took Poe abroad, his first and only journey outside the United States. This encounter with the Old World, with the long settled, storied landscapes of England and Scotland, fed the settings of Poe’s fiction. But what about Allan’s rejection of Poe, whether justifiable or not? Allan was one of a list of parental figures to abandon Poe during his young life. So many of Poe’s stories center on houses and families that have turned from noble and grand to unfamiliar, decadent and broken, and on people who at first appear to be one thing but are actually something else entirely. The uncanny, the unheimlich, is most fundamentally a feeling that the skin may slip off the world at any moment, that what is familiar, homey, and welcoming may turn strange and hostile without warning. Clearly, Poe’s early experiences could have engendered such a sense of things. This cannot be attributed entirely to John Allan. But Allan’s apparent inconsistency, his inexplicably altered affections for his foster son, can’t have done anything to dispel this frightening outlook that so permeates Poe’s fiction.

written by EMILY MITCHELL

sites.google.com/site/lastsummeroftheworldbook

illustrated by BYRON EGGENSCHWILER

www.byronegg.com

Secret Sidekicks

 

SofieMagdeleneDahl

The Who, The What and, The When -A love letter to the unsung heroes of history. Including some literary geniuses…

Ever wondered who inspired Roald Dahl’s stories?

SOFIE MAGDALENE (HESSELBERG) DAHL 1885 – 1967

ROALD DAHL’S MOTHER

An old, wrinkled grandmother fills out every inch of an armchair, chewing with relish on a foul-smelling black cigar, in the Witches, one of the many popular children’s stories written by Roald Dahl. Smoke encircles her large body as she tells the young main character the “gospel truth” about how to identify witches. “She was a wonderful story-teller and I was enthralled by everything she told me,” the character narrates.

The description purposefully echoes how Roald thought of his own mother, Sofie. He based the grandmother’s character on her in a tribute to “undoubtedly the absolute primary influence on my own life,” Roald says in More About Boy, an expanded version of his memoir of his earlier years.

The Norwegian Sofie married Roald’s father, Harald, in 1911, and she moved to Wales to be with him and his two children from a previous marriage. She had three children of her own, two girls and Roald, before her seven-year-old daughter, Astri, died from appendicitis in 1920. Only three weeks later, Harald also passed away from pneumonia, leaving a pregnant Sofie alone to raise her soon-to-be five children.

Rather than return to Norway to live with her parents, she respected her late husband’s wishes that she stay in Wales and have her children educated in British schools. And despite her children’s mischievous activities while growing up, she was “a rock, a real rock, always on your side whatever you’d done,” Roald noted. “It gave me the most tremendous feeling of security.” Roald was her favourite child, and although the family called him “Boy,” she also called him “Apple.”

To entertain the children, Sofie told tales, pulling creative inspiration from folklore from her home country. “When we were young, she told us stories about Norwegian trolls and all the other mythical Norwegian creatures that lived in the dark pine forests, for she was a great teller of tales,” Roald wrote in More About Boy. “Her memory was prodigious and nothing that ever happened to her in her life was forgotten.”

Roald reciprocated this creative storytelling when Sofie enrolled him into boarding school when he was nine years old. He started writing letters to Sofie, telling stories about his life that meant to entertain and amuse.

In one letter in 1929, after Sofie gave him a pair of roller skates for his birthday, Roald tells his mother about skating in his school’s yard. “At one time I had eight chaps pulling me with a long rope, at a terrific lick, and I sat down in the middle of it,” Roald wrote. “My bottom is all blue now!”

From those very first letters until Sofie died thirty-two years later in 1967, he wrote her at least once a week whenever he was not home, including his time in school, when he worked with the Shell Oil company in Africa, and when he flew with the Royal Air Force in the Mediterranean during World War II.

Sofie secretly collected every single letter, amounting to more than six hundred from 1925 until 1945, into neat bundles with green tape, according to Roald. Only one term’s worth of letters are missing: the fall of 1928, which were damaged in a bombing in 1940. At the bottom of each letter, he signed his love with his given name—all except his first semester at boarding school, when he simply wrote “love from Boy.”

written by JACKI E LEAVITT

www.jackie-leavitt.com

illustrated by J ENSINE ECKWALL

www.jensineeckwall.com

The Who, The What and the When: 65 Artists Illustrate the Secret Sidekicks of History, reveals 65 people you’ve probably never heard of, but who helped shape the word as we know it. Muses and neighbours, friends and relatives, accomplices and benefactors, such as Michael and Joy Brown, who gifted Harper Lee a year’s worth of wages to help her write To Kill a Mockingbird. Or John Ordway, the colleague who walked with Lewis and Clark every step of the way. Each eye-opening story of these unsung heroes is written by a notable historian and illustrated by a top indie artist, making The Who, the What, and the When a treasure trove of word and image for history buffs, art lovers and anyone who rejoices in unexpected discovery.

Want to find out more? Follow the #SecretSidekicks hashtag!