The Beautifully Illustrated Atlas of Mushrooms: Edible, Suspect and Poisonous (1827)

Two cen­turies ago, Haiti, “then known as Saint-Domingue, was a sug­ar pow­er­house that stood at the cen­ter of world trad­ing net­works,” writes Philippe Girard in his his­to­ry of the Hait­ian war for inde­pen­dence. “Saint-Domingue was the per­le de Antilles… the largest exporter of trop­i­cal prod­ucts in the world.” The island colony was also at the cen­ter of the trade in plants that drove the sci­en­tif­ic rev­o­lu­tion of the time, and many a nat­u­ral­ist prof­it­ed from the trade in slaves and sug­ar, as did planter, “physi­cian, botanist, and inad­ver­tent his­to­ri­og­ra­ph­er of the Hait­ian Rev­o­lu­tion” Michel Eti­enne Descour­tilz, the Pub­lic Domain Review writes.

Descour­tilz’ 1809 Voy­ages d’un nat­u­ral­iste “chron­i­cles, among oth­er adven­tures, a trip from France to Haiti in 1799 in order to secure his family’s plan­ta­tions.” Instead, he was arrest­ed and con­script­ed as a doc­tor under Jean-Jacques Dessalines.

The expe­ri­ence did not change his view that the island should be recon­quered, though he did admit “the germ” of rebel­lion “must secret­ly have exist­ed every­where there were slaves.” Decour­tilz chiefly spent his time, while not attend­ing to those wound­ed by Napoleon’s army, col­lect­ing plants between Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haï­tien.

In the dense trop­i­cal growth along the Art­i­bonite riv­er, now part of the bor­der between Haiti and the Domini­can Repub­lic, Decour­tilz learned much about the plant world — and maybe learned from some Haitians who knew more about the island’s flo­ra than the French­man did. Res­cued in 1802, Decour­tilz returned to France with his plants and began to com­pile his research into tax­o­nom­ic books, includ­ing Flo­res pit­toresque et med­icale des Antilles, in eight vol­umes, and a lat­er, 1827 work enti­tled Atlas des champignons: comestibles, sus­pects et vénéneux, or “Atlas of mush­rooms: edi­ble, sus­pect and poi­so­nous.”

As the title makes clear, sort­ing out the dif­fer­ences between one mush­room and anoth­er can eas­i­ly be a mat­ter of life and death, or at least seri­ous poi­son­ing. “Fly agar­ic, for exam­ple,” writes the Pub­lic Domain Review, “can resem­ble edi­ble species of blush­ers.” Con­sumed in small amounts, it might cause hal­lu­ci­na­tions and eupho­ria. Larg­er dos­es can lead to seizures and coma. One can imag­ine the num­bers of colonists in the French Caribbean who either had very bad trips or were poi­soned or killed by unfa­mil­iar plant life. Just last year alone in France, hun­dreds were poi­soned from misiden­ti­fied mush­rooms.

To guide the mush­room hunter, cook, and eater, Decourtiliz’s book fea­tured these rich, col­or­ful lith­o­graphs here by artist A. Cornil­lon (which may remind us of the pro­to-psy­che­del­ic sci­en­tif­ic art of Ernst Haeck­el). He alludes to the great dan­gers of wild mush­rooms in a ded­i­ca­tion to “S.A.R., Duchesse de Berry” and promis­es his guide will pre­vent “mor­tal acci­dents” (those which “fre­quent­ly occur among the poor.”) Descour­tilz offers his guide, acces­si­ble to all, he writes, out of a devo­tion to the alle­vi­a­tion of human suf­fer­ing. Read his Atlas of Mush­rooms, in French at the Inter­net Archive, and see more of Cornillon’s illus­tra­tions here.

via Pub­lic Domain Review

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ernst Haeckel’s Sub­lime Draw­ings of Flo­ra and Fau­na: The Beau­ti­ful Sci­en­tif­ic Draw­ings That Influ­enced Europe’s Art Nou­veau Move­ment (1889)

1,000-Year-Old Illus­trat­ed Guide to the Med­i­c­i­nal Use of Plants Now Dig­i­tized & Put Online

Dis­cov­er Emi­ly Dickinson’s Herbar­i­um: A Beau­ti­ful Dig­i­tal Edi­tion of the Poet’s Col­lec­tion of Pressed Plants & Flow­ers Is Now Online

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

A 13th-Century Cookbook Featuring 475 Recipes from Moorish Spain Gets Published in a New Translated Edition

Some of the dis­tinc­tive­ness of Spain as we know it today comes as a lega­cy of the peri­od from 700 to 1200, when most of it was under Mus­lim rule. The cul­ture of Al-Andalus, as the Islam­ic states of mod­ern-day Spain and Por­tu­gal were then called, sur­vives most vis­i­bly in archi­tec­ture. But it also had its own cui­sine, devel­oped by not just Mus­lims, but by Chris­tians and Jews as well. What­ev­er the dietary restric­tions they indi­vid­u­al­ly worked under, “cooks from all three reli­gions enjoyed many ingre­di­ents first brought to the Iber­ian penin­su­la by the Arabs: rice, egg­plants, car­rots, lemons, sug­ar, almonds, and more.”

So writes Atlas Obscu­ra’s Tom Verde in an arti­cle occa­sioned by the pub­li­ca­tion of a thir­teenth-cen­tu­ry Moor­ish cook­book. Fiḍālat al-Khiwān fī Ṭayyibāt al‑Ṭaʿām wa-l-Alwān, or Best of Delec­table Foods and Dish­es from al-Andalus and al-Maghrib had long exist­ed only in bits and pieces. A “mad­den­ing­ly incom­plete car­rot recipe, along with miss­ing chap­ters on veg­eta­bles, sauces, pick­led foods, and more, left a gap­ing hole in all exist­ing edi­tions of the text, like an emp­ty aisle in the gro­cery store.” But in 2018, British Library cura­tor of Ara­bic sci­en­tif­ic man­u­scripts Dr. Bink Hal­lum hap­pened upon a near­ly com­plete fif­teenth- or six­teenth-cen­tu­ry copy of the Fiḍāla with­in a man­u­script on medieval Arab phar­ma­col­o­gy.

The Fiḍāla itself dates to around 1260. It was com­posed in Tunis by Ibn Razīn al-Tujībī, “a well-edu­cat­ed schol­ar and poet from a wealthy fam­i­ly of lawyers, philoso­phers, and writ­ers. As a mem­ber of the upper class, he enjoyed a life of leisure and fine din­ing which he set out to cel­e­brate in the Fiḍāla.” The Chris­t­ian Recon­quista had already put a bit­ter end to all that leisure and fine din­ing, and it was in rel­a­tive­ly hard­scrab­ble African exile that al-Tujībī wrote this less as a cook­book than as “an exer­cise in culi­nary nos­tal­gia, a wist­ful look back across the Strait of Gibral­tar to the ele­gant main cours­es, side dish­es, and desserts of the author’s youth, an era before Spain’s Mus­lims and Jews had to hide their cul­tur­al cuisines.”

That descrip­tion comes from food his­to­ri­an Naw­al Nas­ral­lah, trans­la­tor of the com­plete Fiḍāla into an Eng­lish edi­tion pub­lished last month by Brill. In some of its sec­tions al-Tujībī cov­ers breads, veg­eta­bles, poul­try dish­es, and “meats of quadrupeds”; in oth­ers, he goes into detail on stuffed tripe, “edi­ble land snails,” and tech­niques for “rem­e­dy­ing over­ly salty foods and raw meat that does not smell fresh.” (The book includes 475 recipes in total.) Though much in the Moor­ish diet is a far cry from that of the major­i­ty in mod­ern Eng­lish-speak­ing coun­tries, inter­est in his­tor­i­cal gas­tron­o­my has been on the rise in recent years. And as even those sep­a­rat­ed from al-Tujībī by not just cul­ture but sev­en cen­turies’ worth of time know, what­ev­er your rea­sons for leav­ing a place, you soon long for noth­ing as acute­ly as the food — and that long­ing can moti­vate impres­sive achieve­ments.

via Atlas Obscu­ra

Relat­ed Con­tent:

What Did Peo­ple Eat in Medieval Times? A Video Series and New Cook­book Explain

An Archive of 3,000 Vin­tage Cook­books Lets You Trav­el Back Through Culi­nary Time

A Data­base of 5,000 His­tor­i­cal Cook­books — Cov­er­ing 1,000 Years of Food His­to­ry — Is Now Online

Dis­cov­er Japan’s Old­est Sur­viv­ing Cook­book Ryori Mono­gatari (1643)

Tast­ing His­to­ry: A Hit YouTube Series Shows How to Cook the Foods of Ancient Greece & Rome, Medieval Europe, and Oth­er Places & Peri­ods

Down­load 10,000+ Books in Ara­bic, All Com­plete­ly Free, Dig­i­tized and Put Online

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

A Beautifully Illustrated Edition of On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, the Bestselling Book by Historian Timothy Snyder

For all its talk of lib­er­ty, the US gov­ern­ment has prac­ticed dehu­man­iz­ing author­i­tar­i­an­ism and mass mur­der since its found­ing. And since the rise of fas­cism in the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry, it has nev­er been self-evi­dent that it can­not hap­pen here. On the con­trary — wrote Yale his­to­ri­an Tim­o­thy Sny­der before and through­out the Trump pres­i­den­cy — it hap­pened here first, though many would like us to for­get. The his­to­ries of south­ern slav­oc­ra­cy and man­i­fest des­tiny direct­ly informed Hitler’s plans for the Ger­man col­o­niza­tion of Europe as much as did Europe’s 20th-cen­tu­ry col­o­niza­tion of Africa and Asia.

Sny­der is not a schol­ar of Amer­i­can his­to­ry, though he has much to say about his country’s present. His work has focused on WWI­I’s total­i­tar­i­an regimes and his pop­u­lar books draw from a “deep knowl­edge of twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry Euro­pean his­to­ry,” write Françoise Mouly and Genevieve Bormes at The New York­er.

These books include best­sellers like Blood­lands: Europe Between Hitler and Stal­in and the con­tro­ver­sial Black Earth: The Holo­caust as His­to­ry and Warn­ing, a book whose argu­ments, he said, “are clear­ly not my effort to win a pop­u­lar­i­ty con­test.”

Indeed, the prob­lem with rigid con­for­mi­ty to pop­ulist ideas became the sub­ject of Snyder’s 2017 best­seller, On Tyran­ny: Twen­ty Lessons from the Twen­ti­eth Cen­tu­ry, “a slim vol­ume,” Mouly and Bormes note, “which inter­spersed max­ims such as ‘Be kind to our lan­guage’ and ‘Defend insti­tu­tions’ with bio­graph­i­cal and his­tor­i­cal sketch­es.” (We post­ed an abridged ver­sion of Snyder’s 20 lessons that year.) On Tyran­ny became an “instant best-sell­er… for those who were look­ing for ways to com­bat the insid­i­ous creep of author­i­tar­i­an­ism at home.”

If you’ve paid any atten­tion to the news late­ly, maybe you’ve noticed that the threat has not reced­ed. Ideas about how to com­bat anti-demo­c­ra­t­ic move­ments remain rel­e­vant as ever. It’s also impor­tant to remem­ber that Snyder’s book dates from a par­tic­u­lar moment in time and draws on a par­tic­u­lar his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive. Con­tex­tu­al details that can get lost in writ­ing come to the fore in images — cloth­ing, cars, the use of col­or or black and white: these all key us in to the his­toric­i­ty of his obser­va­tions.


“We don’t exist in a vac­u­um,” says artist Nora Krug, the design­er and illus­tra­tor of a new, graph­ic edi­tion of On Tyran­ny just released this month. “I use a vari­ety of visu­al styles and tech­niques to empha­size the frag­men­tary nature of mem­o­ry and the emo­tive effects of his­tor­i­cal events.” Krug worked from arti­facts she found at flea mar­kets and antique stores, “depos­i­to­ries of our col­lec­tive con­scious­ness,” as she writes in an intro­duc­to­ry note to the new edi­tion.

Krug’s choice of a vari­ety of medi­ums and cre­ative approach­es “allows me to admit,” she says, “that we can only exist in rela­tion­ship to the past, that every­thing we think and feel is thought and felt in ref­er­ence to it, that our future is deeply root­ed in our his­to­ry, and that we will always be active con­trib­u­tors to shap­ing how the past is viewed and what our future will look like.”

It’s an approach also favored by Sny­der, who does not shy away, like many his­to­ri­ans, from explic­it­ly mak­ing con­nec­tions between past, present, and pos­si­ble future events. “It’s easy for his­to­ri­ans to say, ‘It’s not our job to write the future,’” he told The New York Times in 2015. “Yes, right. But then whose job is it?” See many more images from the illus­trat­ed On Tyran­ny at The New York­er and pur­chase a copy of the book here.

Via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent:

20 Lessons from the 20th Cen­tu­ry About How to Defend Democ­ra­cy from Author­i­tar­i­an­ism, Accord­ing to Yale His­to­ri­an Tim­o­thy Sny­der

The Sto­ry of Fas­cism: Rick Steves’ Doc­u­men­tary Helps Us Learn from the Hard Lessons of the 20th Cen­tu­ry

Umber­to Eco Makes a List of the 14 Com­mon Fea­tures of Fas­cism

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Criterion Collection Flash Sale: Get 50% Off In-Stock Blu Rays & DVDs

FYI. For the next 22 hours, the Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion is run­ning a flash sale (click here), giv­ing you a chance to pur­chase “all in-stock Blu-rays & DVDs at 50% off.” Head over to the Cri­te­ri­on site and get clas­sic films by Hitch­cock, Lynch, Welles, Kubrick, the Coen Broth­ers, and many oth­ers. The sale ends on Octo­ber 20, 2021.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Nick Cave’s Online Store: Pencils Adorned with Lyrics, Mugs, Polaroids & More

I’m sit­ting on the bal­cony
Read­ing Flan­nery O’Connor
With a pen­cil and a plan

- Nick Cave, Car­nage

Access to tech­nol­o­gy has trans­formed the cre­ative process, and many artists who’ve come to depend on it have long ceased to mar­vel at the labor and time saved, seething with resent­ment when devices and dig­i­tal access fails.

Musi­cian Nick Cave, founder and front­man of The Bad Seeds, is one who hasn’t aban­doned his ana­log ways, whether he’s in the act of gen­er­at­ing new songs, or seek­ing respite from the same.

“There has always been a strong, even obses­sive, visu­al com­po­nent to the (song­writ­ing) process,” he writes, “a com­pul­sive ren­der­ing of the lyric as a thing to be seen, to be touched, to be exam­ined:”

I have always done this—basically drawn my songs—for as long as I’ve been writ­ing them…when the pres­sure of song writ­ing gets too much, well, I draw a cute ani­mal or a naked woman or a reli­gious icon or a mytho­log­i­cal crea­ture or some­thing. Or I take a Polaroid or make some­thing out of clay. I do a col­lage, or write a child’s poem and date stamp and stick­er it, or do some granny-art with a set of water­colour paints. 

Last year, these extra cre­ative labors became fruits in their own right, with the open­ing of Cave Things, an online shop well stocked with quirky objects “con­ceived, sourced, shaped, and designed” by the musi­cian.

These include such long­time fas­ci­na­tions as prayer cards, pic­ture discs, and Polaroids, and a series of enam­eled charms and ceram­ic fig­ures that evoke Vic­to­ri­an Stafford­shire “flat­backs.”

T‑shirts, gui­tar picks and egg cups may come graced with doo­dles of fre­quent col­lab­o­ra­tor War­ren Ellis’ beard­ed mug, or the afore­men­tioned naked women, which Cage describes to Inter­view’s Ben Bar­na as “a com­pul­sive habit I have had since my school days”:

They have no artis­tic mer­it. Rather, they are evi­dence of a kind of rit­u­al­is­tic and habit­u­al think­ing, not dis­sim­i­lar to the act of writ­ing itself, actu­al­ly.

Of all of Cave’s Cave Things, the ones with the broad­est appeal may be the pen­cil sets per­son­al­ized with the­mat­ic snip­pets of his lyrics.

White god pen­cils quote from “Into My Arms,” “Idiot Prayer,” “Mer­maids,”  and “Hand of God.”

A red dev­il pen­cil bear­ing lines from “Bromp­ton Ora­to­ry” slips a bit of god into the mix, as well as a ref­er­ence to the sea, a fre­quent Cave motif.

Mad­ness and war pen­cils are coun­ter­bal­anced by pen­cils cel­e­brat­ing love and flow­ers.

The pen­cils are Vikings, a clas­sic Dan­ish brand well known to pen­cil nerds, hard and black on the graphite scale.

Put them all in a cup and draw one out at ran­dom, or let your mood or feel­ings about what said pen­cil will be writ­ing or draw­ing deter­mine your pick.

Mean­while Cave’s imple­ments of choice may sur­prise you. As he told NME’s Will Richards last Decem­ber:

My process of lyric writ­ing is as fol­lows: For months, I write down ideas in a note­book with a Bic medi­um ball­point pen in black. At some point, the songs begin to reveal them­selves, to take some kind of form, which is when I type the new lyrics into my lap­top. Here, I begin the long process of work­ing on the words, adding vers­es, tak­ing them away, and refin­ing the lan­guage, until the song arrives at its des­ti­na­tion. At this stage, I take one of the yel­low­ing back pages I have cut from old sec­ond-hand books, and, on my Olympia type­writer, type out the lyrics. I then glue it into my bespoke note­book, num­ber it, date-stamp it, and stick­er it. The song is then ‘offi­cial­ly’ com­plet­ed.

Hmm. No pen­cils, though there’s a ref­er­ence to a blind pen­cil sell­er in Cave’s con­tri­bu­tion to the sound­track of Wim Wen­ders’ sci­ence fic­tion epic Until the End of the World.

Two more lyrics about pen­cils and he’ll have enough to put a Pen­cil Pen­cils set up on Cave Things!

Fol­low Cave Things on Insta­gram to keep tabs on new pen­cil drops.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Nick Cave Answers the Hot­ly Debat­ed Ques­tion: Will Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence Ever Be Able to Write a Great Song?

Lis­ten to Nick Cave’s Lec­ture on the Art of Writ­ing Sub­lime Love Songs (1999)

Ani­mat­ed Sto­ries Writ­ten by Tom Waits, Nick Cave & Oth­er Artists, Read by Dan­ny Devi­to, Zach Gal­i­fi­anakis & More

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

The Downfall of Oscar Wilde: An Animated Video Tells How Wilde Quickly Went from Celebrity Playwright to Prisoner

Oscar Wilde left a body of lit­er­a­ture that con­tin­ues to enter­tain gen­er­a­tion after gen­er­a­tion of read­ers, but for many of his fans his life leads to his work, not the oth­er way around. Its lat­est retelling, Oscar Wilde: A Life by Matthew Stur­gis, came out in the Unit­ed States just this past week. “Uni­ver­sal­ly her­ald­ed as a genius” when his play The Impor­tance of Being Earnest pre­miered in Lon­don in 1895, he was just a few months lat­er “bank­rupt and about to be impris­oned. His rep­u­ta­tion was in tat­ters and his life was ruined beyond repair.” This is how Alain de Bot­ton tells it in “The Down­fall of Oscar Wilde,” the ani­mat­ed School of Life video above.

Wilde was impris­oned, as even those who’ve nev­er read a word he wrote know, for his homo­sex­u­al­i­ty. This de Bot­ton described as “the swift fall of a great man due to a small but fate­ful slip,” a result of the social and legal con­di­tions that obtained in the time and place in which Wilde lived. Hav­ing fall­en for “a beguil­ing young man named Lord Alfred Dou­glas,” known as “Bosie,” Wilde found him­self on the receiv­ing end of threats from Bosie’s father, the Mar­quess of Queens­bury. Their con­flict even­tu­al­ly pro­voked the Mar­quess to pub­li­cize Wilde and Bosie’s rela­tion­ship all through­out Lon­don, and since “homo­sex­u­al­i­ty was ille­gal and deeply frowned upon in Vic­to­ri­an soci­ety, this was a dan­ger­ous accu­sa­tion.”

Though Wilde fought a valiant and char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly elo­quent court bat­tle, he was even­tu­al­ly con­vict­ed of “gross inde­cen­cy” and sen­tenced to two years of impris­on­ment and hard labor. “For some­one of Wilde’s lux­u­ri­ous back­ground,” says de Bot­ton, “it was an impos­si­ble hard­ship.” This time inspired his essay De Pro­fundis, and lat­er his poem The Bal­lad of Read­ing Gaol, but accord­ing to most accounts of his life, he nev­er real­ly recov­ered from it before suc­cumb­ing to menin­gi­tis in 1900. He had plans, writes The New York­er’s Clare Buck­nell, “for a new social com­e­dy, a new Sym­bol­ist dra­ma, a new libret­to.” But as his lover Bosie put it, Wilde’s life of post-release con­ti­nen­tal exile was “too nar­row and too lim­it­ed to stir him to cre­ation.”

The Unit­ed King­dom has since par­doned Wilde (and oth­ers, like com­put­er sci­en­tist Alan Tur­ing) for the crimes com­mit­ted in their life­times that would not be con­sid­ered crimes today. More than a cen­tu­ry has passed since Wilde’s death, and “our soci­ety has become gen­er­ous towards Wilde’s spe­cif­ic behav­ior,” says de Bot­ton. “Many of us would, across the ages, want to com­fort and befriend Oscar Wilde. It’s a touch­ing hope, but one that would be best employed in extend­ing under­stand­ing to all those less tal­ent­ed and less wit­ty fig­ures who are right now fac­ing grave dif­fi­cul­ties.” Wilde might have come to a bleak end, but the life he lived and the reac­tions it pro­voked still have much to teach us about our atti­tudes today.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Oscar Wilde Offers Prac­ti­cal Advice on the Writ­ing Life in a New­ly-Dis­cov­ered Let­ter from 1890

Hear Oscar Wilde Recite a Sec­tion of The Bal­lad of Read­ing Gaol (1897)

Pat­ti Smith Reads Oscar Wilde’s 1897 Love Let­ter De Pro­fundis: See the Full Three-Hour Per­for­mance

Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch Reads a Let­ter Alan Tur­ing Wrote in “Dis­tress” Before His Con­vic­tion For “Gross Inde­cen­cy”

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

A 110-Year-Old Book Illustrated with Photos of Kittens & Cats Taught Kids How to Read


Unlike our 21st-cen­tu­ry cat memes and oth­er such online feline-based enter­tain­ments, children’s author Eulalie Osgood Grover’s 1911 work, Kit­tens and Cats: A First Read­er was intend­ed to edu­cate.

Its relat­ed poems will almost cer­tain­ly strike those of us whose under­stand­ing of feline atti­tude has been shaped by LOL­CatsGrumpy Cat, the exis­ten­tial Hen­ri, Talk­ing Kit­ty Cat’s acer­bic Sylvester, and the mor­dant 1970s TV spokescat Mor­ris as sweet to the point of sick­ly. But it boasts six hun­dred vocab­u­lary words, a rhyme struc­ture that pro­motes read­ing aloud, and a note to teach­ers with sug­ges­tions for class­room activ­i­ties.

Grover explained how her feline cast of char­ac­ters would win over even the most reluc­tant read­er, inspir­ing “much the same delight to the lit­tle read­er of juve­nile fic­tion, as do adven­ture and romance to the grown-up read­er”:

In one respect kit­tens take prece­dence over dolls. They are alive. They must be treat­ed kind­ly. They will not bear the abuse and neglect giv­en to many beau­ti­ful dolls. They demand atten­tion and com­pan­ion­ship, and they return a real devo­tion in return for kind­ness and care. There­fore we love them and espe­cial­ly do our chil­dren love them and delight in sto­ries of them.

The loose­ly struc­tured sto­ry con­cerns a grand par­ty thrown by the Queen of the Cats. Fol­low­ing some breath­less prepa­ra­tions, the guests take turns intro­duc­ing them­selves to her majesty, though unlike T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Prac­ti­cal Cats (1939), there’s not much that could be cob­bled into a hit musi­cal.

Grover flesh­es out the nar­ra­tive with call­backs to a num­ber of cat-rich nurs­ery rhymes — Hick­o­ry Dick­o­ry DockThree Lit­tle Kit­tensHey Did­dle Did­dleAs I Was Going to St. IvesDing Dong Bell

One lace-bon­net­ed char­ac­ter is rem­i­nis­cent of Tom Kit­ten’s moth­er, Mrs. Tabitha Twitchit, and her unsuc­cess­ful attempts to wran­gle her ram­bunc­tious off­spring into cloth­ing fit for “fine com­pa­ny,” though the wit falls some­what short of Beat­rix Potter’s.

Head­gear abounds, as do restric­tive buntings that must’ve been a great help when deal­ing with unco­op­er­a­tive mod­els and long expo­sures.

Although the pho­tog­ra­ph­er is uncred­it­ed, the images are like­ly the work of Har­ry Whit­ti­er Frees, a “pio­neer of the anthro­po­mor­phic kit­ten pho­to­graph genre” as per the New York Dai­ly News. In his intro­duc­tion to his far more ambi­tious­ly posed 1915 work, The Lit­tle Folks of Ani­mal Land, Frees allud­ed to his process:

The dif­fi­cul­ties of pos­ing kit­tens and pup­pies for pic­tures of this kind have been over­come only by the exer­cise of great patience and invari­able kind­ness. My lit­tle mod­els receive no espe­cial train­ing, and after their dai­ly per­for­mance before the cam­era they enjoy noth­ing more than a good frol­ic about the stu­dio.

That’s a pleas­ant thought, though his­to­ri­an and post­card col­lec­tor Mary L. Wei­gley tells a some­what dif­fer­ent tale in an arti­cle for Penn­syl­va­nia Her­itage, describ­ing how only 3/10 of his neg­a­tives could be pub­lished, and his work was so “chal­leng­ing, time-con­sum­ing and nerve-wrack­ing” that he took 9 months out of every year to recu­per­ate.


Down­load a free copy of Eulalie Osgood Grover’s Kit­tens and Cats here.

via Pub­lic Domain Review

Relat­ed Con­tent:

An Ani­mat­ed His­to­ry of Cats: How Over 10,000 Years the Cat Went from Wild Preda­tor to Sofa Side­kick

Why Humans Are Obsessed with Cats

GPS Track­ing Reveals the Secret Lives of Out­door Cats

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

John Lennon Finally Meets & Jams with His Hero, Chuck Berry (1972)

“If you had tried to give rock and roll anoth­er name, you would call it Chuck Berry,” says John Lennon by way of intro­duc­tion to his hero in the clip above from The Mike Dou­glas Show. The two per­form Berry’s “Mem­phis, Ten­nessee” and “John­ny B. Goode” (with Lennon’s back­ing band, Elephant’s Mem­o­ry, and unwel­come dis­cor­dant back­ing vocals from Yoko). The moment was a major high­light of Lennon’s post-Bea­t­les’ career. The year was 1972, and Lennon and Yoko Ono had tak­en over Dou­glas’ show for the week, book­ing such guests as Ralph Nad­er, Jer­ry Rubin, and then Sur­geon Gen­er­al Dr. Jesse Ste­in­feld. Dou­glas called it “prob­a­bly the most mem­o­rable week I did in all my 20-some­thing years on air,” Gui­tar World notes. Lennon used it as the oppor­tu­ni­ty to final­ly meet, and jam out, with his idol.

Berry wasn’t just a major inspi­ra­tion for the young Lennon; “From his song­writ­ing and lyrics, to his gui­tar play­ing and stage antics, per­haps nobody else short of Elvis Pres­ley was as influ­en­tial on [all] the young Bea­t­les as Chuck Berry,” writes Bea­t­les schol­ar Aaron Krerow­icz, list­ing “at least 15” of Berry’s songs the band cov­ered (as either the Quar­ry­men or the Bea­t­les). Paul McCart­ney cred­its Berry for the Bea­t­les’ very exis­tence. They were fans, he wrote in trib­ute after Berry’s death, “from the first minute we heard the great gui­tar intro to ‘Sweet Lit­tle Six­teen.’” But it wasn’t only Berry’s play­ing that hooked them: “His sto­ries were more like poems than lyrics…. To us he was a magi­cian.”

McCart­ney first point­ed out the sim­i­lar­i­ties between Lennon’s “Come Togeth­er” (orig­i­nal­ly penned as a cam­paign song for Tim­o­thy Leary’s run against Ronald Rea­gan for the gov­er­nor­ship of Cal­i­for­nia) and Berry’s 1956 “You Can’t Catch Me,” he tells Bar­ry Miles in Many Years From Now. “John acknowl­edged it was rather close to it,” says Paul, “so I said, ‘Well, any­thing you can do to get away from that.’” Despite the result­ing “swampy” tem­po, Berry’s legal team still sued over the lyric “here comes old flat-top,” a direct lift from Berry’s song. In an out-of-court set­tle­ment, Lennon agreed to record even more of Berry’s tunes. “You Can’t Catch Me” appears on Lennon’s 1975 album of clas­sic cov­ers, Rock ‘n’ Roll.

This legal tus­sle aside, there was no beef between the two. The appear­ance on Dou­glas’ show proved to be a huge boost for Berry, who revi­tal­ized his career that year with the sug­ges­tive, con­tro­ver­sial “My Ding-a-Ling,” his biggest-sell­ing hit, and — in an iron­ic twist — orig­i­nal­ly a goofy nov­el­ty song com­posed and record­ed by Dave Bartholomew 20 years ear­li­er. When asked by Dou­glas, how­ev­er, what drew him to Berry’s music, Lennon echoes McCart­ney: “[Berry] was writ­ing good lyrics and intel­li­gent lyrics in the 1950s when peo­ple were singing ‘Oh baby, I love you so.’ It was peo­ple like him that influ­enced our gen­er­a­tion to try and make sense out of the songs rather than just sing ‘do wah did­dy.’”

Lennon was­n’t above cov­er­ing Gene Vincent’s “Be-Bop-a-Lula” a few years lat­er, and the Bea­t­les them­selves mixed intel­li­gent nar­ra­tive song­writ­ing with healthy dos­es of pop non­sense — pat­tern­ing them­selves after the man Lennon called “my hero, the cre­ator of Rock and Roll.” A few years after Lennon’s 1980 death, Berry returned the com­pli­ment, call­ing Lennon “the great­est influ­ence in rock music” before bring­ing Julian Lennon onstage and exclaim­ing, “ain’t he like his pa!”

The year was 1986 and the occa­sion was Berry’s 60th birth­day con­cert. After their per­for­mance of “John­ny B. Goode,” Berry leaned over to Julian and said, “Tell papa hel­lo. I’ll tell you what he says. I’ll see him.” It’s a bit­ter­sweet moment. Lit­tle, I guess, did Berry sus­pect that he would rock on for anoth­er 30 years, releas­ing his final, posthu­mous album in 2017 after his death at age 90.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Chuck Berry Jams Out “John­ny B. Goode” with Eric Clap­ton, Kei­th Richards, John Lennon & Bruce Spring­steen

Chuck Berry Takes Kei­th Richards to School, Shows Him How to Rock (1987)

Hear the Orig­i­nal, Nev­er-Heard Demo of John Lennon’s “Imag­ine”

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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