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The Book of Miracles

August 6, 2017 1 comment

The recently reformatted and republished Taschen version of “The Book of Miracles” is truly a wondrous thing.

A mirror to the hopes, beliefs and fears of the northern European Renaissance mind, it is a collection of nearly 170 mesmerising watercolour and gouache paintings, that illustrate through a fantastic combination of bold images and vivid colors, a cornucopia of long accepted visions, miracles and wonders from both biblical and secular life.

Astral happenings, dragons & multi-headed monsters, plagues and visitations, spectral apparitions, birth defects, messages from the heavens and other unfathomable acts of God, are all beautifully captured with imagination and skill.

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Commissioned, written and illustrated by wholly unknown sources, the book was originally produced as a folio of images and published in Augsburg, Southern Germany in the mid 1550’s.

How well it was received, how popular it became is not recorded, what is obvious however is that it effectively disappeared from history. That is until an almost intact copy of the manuscript came to light less than 10 years or so ago.

It is this amazing find, along with a handful of previously known pages that can now be seen as being obviously part of the original publication, that Taschen have used to create this latest edition.

The miracles depicted range chronologically from the early stories of the Old Testament and The Book of Revelations, right through to contemporary 16th Century Europe, with the spires and towers of Augsburg itself clearly playing a key part in setting the narrative.


Many of the miracles collected in the book are clearly based on earlier, popular and widely distributed woodblock illustrations by the likes of Albrecht Durer, Hans Holbein and Cranach the Elder, and it seems likely that whoever commissioned this amazing work, was looking to collect and document in a consistent and easily understood style, all the miracles that were known up to that time.


Although these images look undoubtedly dated through our 21st Century eyes (I used the word naive previously) they still have the power to inspire & intrique. I can’t help but wonder if the people that drew these monstrous and fantastical pictures, really believed in them fully. Did their overwhelming faith and fear of the Almighty drive them unquestioningly on, or was there a little voice in the back of their mind saying.. “hang on a sec, five suns in the sky at the same time? Really?.. 

 

The Scary Mind of Guillermo del Toro…

November 3, 2013 Leave a comment

61YVRAr+-MLI read a short article over the weekend about a recently published book by Guillermo del Toro, the hugely talented Mexican film director and writer who’s brought such strangeness as Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth and The Orphanage to life on the big screen…

This new book entitled Cabinet of Curiosities takes pages from his many and ever present note and sketchbooks and uses them to explain how, why and where the various monsters, deformities and horrors that he creates, fit into his filmic vision…

What’s made me stop and think, are the similarities of some of these pages, to the books made by the protagonist of David Fincher’s 1995 film Seven. With their intense and finely detailed drawings surrounded by dense areas of almost illegible text, they are a dead ringer for the leather bound volumes that were found when the police broke into John Doe’s flat. The image below is a compilation of pages from John Doe’s books I found online…

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In case you haven’t seen the film, John Doe (played by a very detached Kevin Spacey) is the coldly calculating, highly intelligent, deluded and misguided individual who sets out to create his life’s masterpiece via a series of killings arranged over a year long period that reflect each of the Seven deadly sins. It’s a great film with the ultimate revelation of the sins of Envy and Wrath still having the power to shock…

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I obviously need to be careful here. My intention is not to cast any aspersions in Mr. del Toro’s direction (who always comes across as pretty nice guy in the interviews I’ve read and seen). But if it wasn’t for it’s output via his films and writing, what might such a highly creative and let’s be honest, warped imagination be capable of? The differences between a mind like del Toro’s and John Doe’s, must be relatively small, with only del Toro having the moral control aspects required to be a valuable and productive member of society…

It’s probably not a book I’ll be buying however, it’s all a bit on the dark side for my tastes. I like Sci-Fi, fantasy and graphic novel escapism, but I’m not much into horror, tortured souls and deformity…

Guillermo Del Toro

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Guillermo Del Toro

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Is this all there is? Strange feelings on my daily commute…

February 28, 2013 8 comments

I don’t mind commuting. I’ve lived in London all my working life and a journey on the tube is just another part of my day.

This morning though, I had a very strange moment. I got off at a different station to my usual one and I as queued for the lift to get to the surface, an image from Fritz Lang’s masterful film Metropolis from 1927 came rushing unbidden into my conscience…

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There must have been twenty or thirty of us all waiting for the lift. One of the two lifts was broken and the wait seemed to take ages. We all had dark coats and clothes on, most had hats and headphones and some if not all, were looking down either at phones, books or newspapers.

Apart from the clanking of the lift cables and the echo of trains along the dirty, tiled corridors, there was silence. No one talks in this situation… And when the lift finally arrived, we all silently shuffled along into the space vacated by those leaving via the other doors…

I suddenly had these overpowering feelings of futility and helplessness, that we’re moving inexorably towards the end, all in grey, all the same, relentless and unchanging, with little or no say in what drives us on…

It quite took me by surprise. I really am not given to existential worries like this. I love life and genuinely try to make the most of every day. I don’t believe in fate, our futures are not laid out before us in some predetermined plan and we can make of it what we want…

Deep, dark thoughts for a Thursday morning. Hopefully after a good night out with my little A and our friends tonight, I’ll be back to normal tomorrow.

Tell you what though, I don’t think I’ll be getting off at the Elephant & Castle again. Far too intense a start to the day for my liking…

Is that an airplane in Russell Square?

December 20, 2012 11 comments

I was using Google Maps to look for a pub in the Bloomsbury area of Central London, when I came across what appears to be an airplane parked in Russell Square, not far from the British Library (that’s the rather beautiful turquoise cushion shaped building at the bottom)

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If you assume the plane (which I think is an Airbus A330) is somewhere between 5000 and 10000 ft (i.e less than 2 miles) above the ground, it gives you some idea of not only how high the actual satellites are that take all of the Google Maps aerial photos, but also some sense of how unbelievably powerful the cameras and lenses must be to capture such staggering levels of detail at that height…

A scary thought…

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There is a whole page of conjecture about this image here if you fancy knowing more… but the chatter on the internet seems to suggest that this kind of thing happens quite frequently on Google Maps, especially in and around airports.

Google usually make an effort to remove such strangeness however, so if you’re reading this post much after December 2012, you may be out of luck if you follow this link and try and find the plane for yourself…

Club 27

July 25, 2011 2 comments

So poor Amy Winehouse has surprised few of us and opted (whether by accident or intent we may never know) to join one of the most select clubs around.

The number of musicians and artists that have died at the age of 27 is truly remarkable, a who’s who of unquestionable and precocious ability that was just too unruly and ultimately came with too high a price or too many strings attached for its owner to keep on top of it all….

Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Pete de Freitas, Kurt Cobain, Richey Edwards, and now Amy Winehouse all sadly checked out in their own way at the tender age of 27.

I don’t think there’s anything significant about the age of 27, or that any of these deaths are in any way connected, although it would appear that most of them died in either controversial or unexplained circumstances, and mostly related to drugs and excess (which in itself could tell us something about what it takes to be a genius). There are obviously thousands of very talented people who don’t die at 27, so I think that it’s more one of those strange coincidences that anything else.

I wont lie to you, I’ve never been a fan of Amy Winehouse. It’s sad that someone who obviously had talent, couldn’t seem to cope with the successes that it offered, but it would be hypocritical of me to put her picture up on my blog. Hence the rather excellent photos of Messrs Hendrix, Cobain and Basquiat.

The Lattice of Coincidence…

June 16, 2011 7 comments

I’m writing today’s post in honour of my good friend Dan, who when we were talking about my interest in synchronicity in the pub last night, was definitely rather sceptical about the whole random connections thing, and fair enough…

As if to push his point home, this morning he sent me a link to this clip from Alex Cox’s finest moment, Repo Man from 1984, and a quote from the mild mannered janitor, Miller who thought a lot about this kind of stuff, mostly on the bus because as he says “the more you drive, the less intelligent you are…”

“A lot o’ people don’t realize what’s really going on. They view life as a bunch o’ unconnected incidents ‘n things. They don’t realize that there’s this, like, lattice o’ coincidence that lays on top o’ everything. Give you an example; show you what I mean: suppose you’re thinkin’ about a plate o’ shrimp. Suddenly someone’ll say, like, plate, or shrimp, or plate o’ shrimp out of the blue, no explanation. No point in lookin’ for one, either. It’s all part of a cosmic unconsciousness.”

I’d forgotten all about Repo Man, an excellent film involving LA punks, mad scientists, aliens and car repossession. I haven’t seen it for many, many years, something I intend to rectify this very afternoon as those lovely people at Amazon will sell me the DVD for £3.35 + postage… not much more than the price of the beer we were drinking last night!

I must say, I really like the phrase “The Lattice of Coincidence” and I’m very tempted to make it the new subtitle of this blog… Cheers Danny.

Ancient Astronauts

June 15, 2010 Leave a comment

In September of last year, I was lucky enough to get to Nazca in Peru and fulfill an ambition spanning back to my teen years when I first read a book by Eric von Daniken called The Chariots of the Gods. The book suggested many fantastic theories but as I recall, the main thrust was that earth had been previously visited by alien beings and that our primitive ancestors, not understanding who or what they were, assumed them to be gods.

Von Daniken had undertaken research across the globe and found many examples of images from ancient civilisations that he suggested depicted naive interpretations of space men. These ideas struck a chord with me at the time, especially the idea that the shapes on the plains of Nazca were related to airstrips for landing space craft.

Age generally has a sobering and cynical effect and although I no longer believe Von Daniken’s theories, the plains of Nazca were an opportunity not to be missed and do indeed provide a very moving experience what ever you believe them to represent.

We hired a plane for half an hour and flew over this strange landscape, looking down on patterns that had been created in some cases, over 3000 years ago. The shapes are both familiar (humming birds, monkeys, condors and dogs) and strange: the strangest perhaps being the one von Daniken focused on, the famous astronaut figure. Having now seen it myself, I have to say that I did’nt see an astronaut. I just saw a figure with big friendly eyes wearing Wellington’s, waving to us as we flew by….

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