Sunday, August 24, 2014


I have to start writing here because I try not to editorialize on my tumblr site. There I have been obsessed with the Internet Archive in general and old books on emblems in particular. Yes, lately it has been the emblems. I've seen some before but the one's I have been looking at lately are fantastic. They are surreal. They would make fabulous tarot cards. (As much as I like tarot cards, I know very little about their history. Are they, in fact, based on emblems?) I'm perhaps unclear on the purpose of emblems. I like them because they are engraved. I can see how Edward Gorey might have been influenced by them. Some seem like precursors to Alice In Wonderland.

In general, the Internet Archive is my favorite place to spend time. I am obsessed with it like some become sucked in by Television. It's my form of Gaming, perhaps. I take images and manipulate them into patterns. But that aside, I am impressed by the works, with the sheer volume of works accessible via the archive. There is so much old beautiful material that is available to anyone. Every so often I hit on a category that fascinates me. Emblems totally fascinate me.

Some of the material is very old and rare. Before the archive I would have to travel to various cities with academic libraries, gain permission to access each facility, use their card catalog, make appointments to see particular items, and show up with nothing more than an index card and a pencil. I would not even be allowed to touch some of these volumes. There would be a staff page turner.

And how would I even know these things existed before the archive? I just stumbled upon the first example. Then through the miracle of subject indexing I found the rest. I don't really care about the language: Latin, French, Dutch, whatever--its the illustrations that I am after and they transcend language. It's a universal language--that of the symbol. See more here.

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