On Hermits and Hermitages

Moritz von Schwind [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Moritz von Schwind [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In his recently published book, “The Hermit in the Garden: From Imperial Rome to Ornamental Gnome,” Gordon Campbell traces the strange and unbelievable history of the oft-fantasized hermit. The Boston Globe recently wrote a bit about Campbell’s new book and the history and origins of our modern take on the hermit lifestyle. Below are some amazing snippets of the Globe article, which are rich with lore and fact.

…For several decades beginning at the middle of the century, live hermits were the height of fashion for the British gentry. New trends in garden design—away from formal, geometric grounds and towards artificial Edens—created a new kind of cultural habitat, which some people filled with an actual occupant. Provided with a hut or grotto to call his own and a few simple meals a day, a garden hermit might live for years on a picturesque corner of the property. Wandering guests would marvel at this living, breathing symbol of rural withdrawal.

The hermit, Campbell argues in his book, was a public symbol of an emotion that we have since learned to bury: melancholy. Sadness was something one cultivated, a state that suggested emotional sensitivity and a kind of native intelligence. To employ a garden hermit—cloaked in rags, performing solitude—was to assert a fine sensibility, one keen to the spiritual benefits of privacy, peace, and mild woe.

And from Campbell’s interview:

The term is often seven years, the hermits are not allowed to wash their hair or cut their nails, which sounds horrendous. They had to live austerely, and when their term was up, they’d receive 4 or 5 or 600 pounds, enough to never work again. Landowners had enormous power. They could also say to one of their tenants, “I want you to be my ornamental hermit. Here is your druid costume.”


Captain Jeffrey Hudson, the Lord Minimus

Captain Jeffrey Hudson, who spent the first half of his life entertaining in the court of King Charles and Queen Henrietta Maria, was one of England’s most notable and loyal dwarves. Though the second half of his life was filled with combat, pirate abductions, and forced slave labor, his loyalty and love for those he met at court never wavered.

Lord Minimus, the historical biography written by Nick Page, is a tale of not only Captain Hudson, but of the Court, of England, and of the European culture at large. Though a quick read, Page delves deep into the dwarf’s life through secondary records of his friends and acquaintances sadly due to the fact that little remains of his personal effects.

Jeffrey Hudson and Queen Henrietta Maria, by Sir Anthony van Dyck; on view at the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.


Oh, the things you’ll buy (at auction)

Bonham’s Auction House concluded their Space and Aviation sale on Monday. Hundreds of amazing pieces of ephemera from the US, Europe, and Russia were on the block, and my oh my did I want them all! I usually attend auctions with a very distant interest, only looking and studying the items with a broad interest in book-selling and trading. This time, however, the space collection spoke to my personal interests, and I’m not ashamed to say that drooling was hard to avoid.

Here are some highlights from the items that were sold. Some surprising, some predictable–all enviable. Thanks to Bonham’s for hosting and thanks to Space History Specialist Cassandra Hatton for an amazing and informative catalogue!

[To enlarge or learn more about an item/lot, clicking on the image will take you to the full Bonham’s listing.]







“Do not open until war is over.”

via NYPL.org’s Explore blog:

In the early eighties, rare book librarian John Rathe pulled down a dusty box, wrapped in twine, from a remote corner of the Rare Book room. Attached to the box was a label that said: “Do not open until war is over.” Which war? The Civil War? The War of 1812? What he discovered was a box filled with disguised anti-Nazi tracts hidden in packets of tea and shampoo and concealed in miniature books both popular and scholarly.

Image courtesy of NYPL/ Jack Sherefkin

Read Jack Sherefkin’s full blog entry HERE, which discusses more about about this interesting discovery and the history behind it’s concealment. 

Where oh where…

Gah! So sorry I’ve been absent from this lovely place. Yes, the daily images have been rotating, but alas, Twitter has won over the long form of information sharing. In order for my fingers to get back into the swing of things, let’s simply recap with a few life highlights and some select Twitter findings that are rife for the clicking. Enjoy!

  • Started Interning at the Explorer’s Club, checking quality of previously processed collections and soon will begin some original processing of my own!
  • Gearing up for a fun trip to Austin to visit some friends. The bf and I see pinball, honky-tonk, bbq, line dancing, and the lovely Harry Ransom Center in our future!
  • Visited a great new Science Fiction bookstore in Brooklyn called Singularity & Co., which is filled with whimsy, dedication, and floor to ceiling copies of the most colorful novels I have ever seen. A MUST see.

Alrighty. Here come the Tweets:

Enjoy! Click away! I’ll return soon, I promise.



The History of the Olympic Pictograms

An amazingly articulate, informative, and insightful history of graphic design and our cultural history as it pertains to our beloved international meeting of the bodies, The Olympics.

Of all the instances in which graphic communication is necessary to transcend language barriers, the Olympic Games are, if not the most important, probably the most visible. We take the little icons of swimmers and sprinters as a given aspect of Olympic design, but the pictograms were a mid-20th Century invention—first employed, in fact, the last time London hosted the games, in 1948 (some pictographic gestures were made at the 1936 Berlin games, though their mark on international memory has been permitted to fade because of their association with Third Reich ideology).

The 1948 London pictograms were not a system of communication so much as a series of illustrations depicting each of the competitive sports, as well as the arts competition, which existed from 1912 to 1952 and included architecture, literature, music, painting and sculpture. In 1964, the Tokyo games took pictogram design to the next level by creating a complete system of typography, colors and symbols that would be applied across Olympic communications platforms.

Pictograms for the 1964 Tokyo Olympic, designed by Katsumi Masaru (image: Virtual Olympic Games Museum) [Smithsonian blog]

Read more here, at the Smithsonian blog. Hat tip to BoingBoing for the original posting