‘Hitherto unvisited by any artist’

Artist Augustus Earle’s life was in many respects so remarkable that if it wasn’t true it would have had to be invented. Born in London in 1793, he exhibited at the Royal Academy from the age of 13 and is acknowledged as the first independent, professional artist to visit all continents. He documented his travels with candour and honesty. Loving travel and immersing himself in the worlds he encountered, he captured them in luminous watercolours.

Dad and Dave

Today the term ‘Aussie battler’ sits easily in the Australian vernacular, is used nightly on current affairs television programs, and in popular culture in characters such as the Kerrigan family in the 1997 film The Castle. For the first half of the twentieth century the Rudd family were the quintessential Aussie battlers; the working class family who continued fighting against the odds, always embracing their challenges with humour and optimism.

Rex’s selfies—portraits of a collector

It is interesting that Rex Nan Kivell (1898–1977), an art dealer who was so passionately interested in portraiture and in the representation of those that shaped our part of the world, only commissioned two artists to capture him in portrait form. He included these works in his compendium Portraits of the Famous and Infamous along with references to, and images of, his friends and those who had assisted him to produce his very time-consuming volume over nearly two decades.

End bands or head bands: those things on top of the book

I was lucky enough to win a Kenneth Binns Travelling Fellowship in 2012 to attend the London Rare Book Summer School. During the five day course on historical European bindings, I learned about endbands. An endband sits at the head (top) and tail (bottom) of the spine of a book.

During a visit to the rare book stack I took the opportunity to see what different types of endbands I could find.

Discovering a retchoso sewn book in the Asian Collection

Asian thread binding was invented in China many hundreds of years ago, well before the codex was invented in Europe. It was quickly adopted throughout South East Asia as it is a relatively easy binding to produce and does not require years of learning. The technique of asian thread binding has not changed over a millenia.

There are two main thread binding styles; in Japan these are called fukuro-toji, yamato-toji, each with their own peculiarities, and a little known one called retchoso (sometimes spelt recchoso), found only in Japan.

Glossographia—a very special dictionary

A question came through the Ask a Librarian service—"I found The Glossographia in your catalogue. I would like to see the original 1656 version. Can I see it online?"

Glossographia? This is not a word you can look up in a dictionary; rather it is the title of a lexicon or dictionary of unusual words put together by one Thomas Blount, published in 1656.

Glossographia; or, a dictionary interpreting the hard words of whatsoever language, now used in our refined English tongue – Thomas Blount 1656


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