10,000 Vintage Recipe Books Are Now Digitized in The Internet Archive’s Cookbook & Home Economics Collection

“Ear­ly cook­books were fit for kings,” writes Hen­ry Notak­er at The Atlantic. “The old­est pub­lished recipe col­lec­tions” in the 15th and 16th cen­turies in West­ern Europe “emanat­ed from the palaces of mon­archs, princes, and grand señores.” Cook­books were more than recipe collections—they were guides to court eti­quette and sump­tu­ous records of lux­u­ri­ous liv­ing. In ancient Rome, cook­books func­tioned sim­i­lar­ly, as the extrav­a­gant fourth cen­tu­ry Cook­ing and Din­ing in Impe­r­i­al Rome demon­strates.

Writ­ten by Api­cius, “Europe’s old­est [cook­book] and Rome’s only one in exis­tence today”—as its first Eng­lish trans­la­tor described it—offers “a bet­ter way of know­ing old Rome and antique pri­vate life.” It also offers keen insight into the devel­op­ment of heav­i­ly fla­vored dish­es before the age of refrig­er­a­tion. Api­cus rec­om­mends that “cooks who need­ed to pre­pare birds with a ‘goat­ish smell’ should bathe them in a mix­ture of pep­per, lovage, thyme, dry mint, sage, dates, hon­ey, vine­gar, broth, oil and mus­tard,” Melanie Radz­ic­ki McManus notes at How Stuff Works.

Ear­ly cook­books com­mu­ni­cat­ed in “a folksy, impre­cise man­ner until the Indus­tri­al Rev­o­lu­tion of the 1800s,” when stan­dard (or met­ric) mea­sure­ment became de rigueur. The first cook­book by an Amer­i­can, Amelia Sim­mons’ 1796 Amer­i­can Cook­ery, placed British fine din­ing and lav­ish “Queen’s Cake” next to “john­ny cake, fed­er­al pan cake, buck­wheat cake, and Indi­an slap­jack,” Kei­th Stave­ly and Kath­leen Fitzger­ald write at Smith­son­ian, all recipes sym­bol­iz­ing “the plain, but well-run and boun­ti­ful Amer­i­can home.” With this book, “a dia­logue on how to bal­ance the sump­tu­ous with the sim­ple in Amer­i­can life had begun.”

Cook­books are win­dows into history—markers of class and caste, doc­u­ments of dai­ly life, and snap­shots of region­al and cul­tur­al iden­ti­ty at par­tic­u­lar moments in time. In 1950, the first cook­book writ­ten by a fic­tion­al lifestyle celebri­ty, Bet­ty Crock­er, debuted. It became “a nation­al best-sell­er,” McManus writes. “It even sold more copies that year than the Bible.” The image of the per­fect Step­ford house­wife may have been big­ger than Jesus in the 50s, but Crock­er’s career was decades in the mak­ing. She debuted in 1921, the year of pub­li­ca­tion for anoth­er, more hum­ble recipe book: the Pil­grim Evan­gel­i­cal Luther­an Church Ladies’ Aid Soci­ety of Chicago’s Pil­grim Cook Book.

As Ayun Hal­l­i­day not­ed in an ear­li­er post, this charm­ing col­lec­tion fea­tures recipes for “Blitz Torte, Cough Syrup, and Sauer­kraut Can­dy,” and it’s only one of thou­sands of such exam­ples at the Inter­net Archive’s Cook­book and Home Eco­nom­ics Col­lec­tion, drawn from dig­i­tized spe­cial col­lec­tions at UCLA, Berke­ley, and the Prelinger Library. When we last checked in, the col­lec­tion fea­tured 3,000 cook­books. It has grown since 2016 to a library of 10,600 vin­tage exam­ples of home­spun Amer­i­cana, fine din­ing, and mass mar­ket­ing.

Laugh at gag-induc­ing recipes of old; cringe at the pious advice giv­en to women osten­si­bly anx­ious to please their hus­bands; and mar­vel at how var­i­ous inter­na­tion­al and region­al cuisines have been rep­re­sent­ed to unsus­pect­ing Amer­i­can home cooks. (It’s hard to say whether the cov­er or the con­tents of a Chi­nese Cook Book in Plain Eng­lish from 1917 seem more offen­sive.) Cook­books of recipes from the Amer­i­can South are pop­u­lar, as are cov­ers fea­tur­ing stereo­typ­i­cal “mam­my” char­ac­ters. A more respect­ful inter­na­tion­al exam­ple, 1952’s Luchow’s Ger­man Cook­book gives us “the sto­ry and the favorite dish­es of Amer­i­ca’s most famous Ger­man restau­rant.”

There are guides to mush­rooms and “com­mon­er fun­gi, with spe­cial empha­sis on the edi­ble vari­eties”; col­lec­tions of “things moth­er used to make” and, most prac­ti­cal­ly, a cook­book for left­overs. And there is every oth­er sort of cook­book and home ec. man­u­al you could imag­ine. The archive is stuffed with help­ful hints, rare ingre­di­ents, unex­pect­ed region­al cook­eries, and mil­lions of minute details about the habits of these books’ first hun­gry read­ers.

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in 2020.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The New York Times Makes 17,000 Tasty Recipes Avail­able Online: Japan­ese, Ital­ian, Thai & Much More

Archive of Hand­writ­ten Recipes (1600 – 1960) Will Teach You How to Stew a Calf’s Head and More

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

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

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Meet the Physicist Who Has Created 1600+ Wikipedia Entries for Important Female & Minority Scientists

I find noth­ing more reward­ing, hon­est­ly, than see­ing peo­ple get rec­og­nized and cham­pi­oned for what they’ve done. — Dr. Jess Wade

As far as cen­turies go, the 21st one is a rel­a­tive­ly good time to be a girl with an inter­est in STEM.

Mod­ern sci­ence-lov­ing girls find them­selves born into a world where books and TV shows cel­e­brat­ing their inter­est pro­lif­er­ate. Their class­rooms are fes­tooned with posters of trail­blaz­ing female sci­en­tists. Even Bar­bie has ditched her bathing suit for a lab coat and a micro­scope.

You’d think Wikipedia would have kept pace in this cli­mate.

And it has…thanks almost entire­ly to the efforts of Dr. Jess Wade, a 33-year-old Impe­r­i­al Col­lege Research Fel­low who spends her days inves­ti­gat­ing spin selec­tive charge trans­port through chi­ral sys­tems in the Depart­ment of Mate­ri­als.

Her evenings, how­ev­er, belong to Wikipedia.

That’s when she drafts entries for under rec­og­nized female sci­en­tists and sci­en­tists of col­or.

“I had a tar­get for doing one a day, but some­times I get too excit­ed and do three,” she told The Guardian in 2018.

To date she’s added more than 1,600 names, striv­ing to make their biogra­phies as ful­ly fleshed out as any of the write ups for the white male sci­en­tists who flour­ish on the site.

This requires some foren­sic dig­ging. Dis­cov­er­ing a subject’s maid­en name is often the crit­i­cal step to find­ing her PhD the­sis and ear­ly influ­ences.

A hand­ful of Wade’s entries have been strick­en for the tru­ly mad­den­ing rea­son that their sub­jects are too obscure to war­rant inclu­sion.

Wade’s own Wikipedia entry notes the hypocrisy of this log­ic, refer­ring read­ers to a 2019 Chem­istry World arti­cle in which she’s quot­ed:

When you make a page and it is dis­put­ed for dele­tion, it is not only annoy­ing because your work is being delet­ed. It’s also incred­i­bly intru­sive and degrad­ing to have some­one dis­cuss whether someone’s notable enough to be on Wikipedia – a web­site that has pages about almost every pop song, peo­ple who are extras in films no one has ever heard of and peo­ple who were in sports teams that nev­er scored.

Below are just a few of the 1600+ female sci­en­tists she’s intro­duced to a wider audi­ence. While his­to­ry abounds with near­ly invis­i­ble names whose dis­cov­er­ies and con­tri­bu­tions have been inad­e­quate­ly rec­og­nized, or all too fre­quent­ly attrib­uted to male col­leagues, these women are all con­tem­po­rary.

Nuclear chemist Clarice Phelps was part of the team that helped dis­cov­er, ten­nes­sine, the sec­ond heav­i­est known ele­ment.

Math­e­mati­cian Gladys Mae West was one of the devel­op­ers of GPS.

Phys­i­cal chemist June Lind­sey played a key role in the dis­cov­ery of the DNA dou­ble helix.

Oceanog­ra­ph­er and cli­mate sci­en­tist Kim Cobb uses corals and cave sta­lag­mites to inform pro­jec­tions of future cli­mate change.

Vac­ci­nol­o­gist Sarah Gilbert led the team that devel­oped the Oxford/AstraZeneca vac­cine (and inspired a Bar­bie cre­at­ed in her image, though you can be assured that the Wikipedia entry Wade researched and wrote for her came first.)

Wade’s hope is that a high­er rep­re­sen­ta­tion of female sci­en­tists and sci­en­tists of col­or on a crowd­sourced, eas­i­ly-accessed plat­form like Wikipedia will deal a blow to ingrained gen­der bias, expand­ing pub­lic per­cep­tion of who can par­tic­i­pate in these sorts of careers and encour­ag­ing young girls to pur­sue these cours­es of study. As she told the New York Times:

I’ve always done a lot of work to try to get young peo­ple — par­tic­u­lar­ly girls and chil­dren from low­er socioe­co­nom­ic back­grounds and peo­ple of col­or — to think about study­ing physics at high school, because physics is still very much that kind of elit­ist, white boy sub­ject.

Our sci­ence can only ben­e­fit the whole of soci­ety if it’s done by the whole of soci­ety. And that’s not cur­rent­ly the case.

Unsur­pris­ing­ly, Wade is often asked how to fos­ter and sup­port girls with an inter­est in sci­ence, beyond upping the num­ber of role mod­els avail­able to them on Wikipedia.

The way for­ward, she told NBC, is not atten­tion-get­ting “whiz bang” one-off events and assem­blies, but rather pay­ing skilled teach­ers as well as bankers, to men­tor stu­dents on their course of study, and also help them apply for grants, fel­low­ships and oth­er oppor­tu­ni­ties. As stu­dents pre­pare to enter the work­force, clear­ly com­mu­ni­cat­ed sex­u­al harass­ment poli­cies and assis­tance with child­care and elder­care become cru­cial:

Ulti­mate­ly, we don’t only need to increase the num­ber of girls choos­ing sci­ence, we need to increase the pro­por­tion of women who stay in sci­ence.

Lis­ten to Jess Wade talk about her Wikipedia project on NPR’s sci­ence pro­gram Short Wave here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Women Sci­en­tists Launch a Data­base Fea­tur­ing the Work of 9,000 Women Work­ing in the Sci­ences

“The Matil­da Effect”: How Pio­neer­ing Women Sci­en­tists Have Been Denied Recog­ni­tion and Writ­ten Out of Sci­ence His­to­ry

The Lit­tle-Known Female Sci­en­tists Who Mapped 400,000 Stars Over a Cen­tu­ry Ago: An Intro­duc­tion to the “Har­vard Com­put­ers”

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

What Happens When Mortals Try to Drink Winston Churchill’s Daily Intake of Alcohol

I have tak­en more out of alco­hol than alco­hol has tak­en out of me. — Win­ston Churchill

Win­ston Churchill had a rep­u­ta­tion as a bril­liant states­man and a prodi­gious drinker.

The for­mer prime min­is­ter imbibed through­out the day, every day.  He also burned through 10 dai­ly cig­ars, and lived to the ripe old age of 90.

His come­back to Field Mar­shal Bernard Mont­gomery’s boast that he nei­ther smoked nor drank, and was 100 per­cent fit was “I drink and smoke, and I am 200 per­cent fit.”

First Lady Eleanor Roo­sevelt mar­veled “that any­one could smoke so much and drink so much and keep per­fect­ly well.”

In No More Cham­pagne: Churchill and His Mon­ey, author David Lough doc­u­ments Churchill’s dis­as­trous alco­hol expens­es, as well as the bot­tle count at Chartwell, his Ken­tish res­i­dence. Here’s the tal­ly for March 24,1937:

180 bot­tles and 30 half bot­tles of Pol Roger cham­pagne

20 bot­tles and 9 half bot­tles of oth­er cham­pagne

100+ bot­tles of claret

117 bot­tles and 389 half bot­tles of Barsac

13 bot­tles of brandy

5 bot­tles of cham­pagne brandy

7 bot­tles of liqueur whisky

All that liquor was not going to drink itself.

Did Churchill have a hol­low leg?  An extra­or­di­nar­i­ly high tol­er­ance? An uncan­ny abil­i­ty to mask his intox­i­ca­tion?

Whiskey som­me­li­er Rex Williams, a founder of the Whiskey Tribe YouTube chan­nel, and pod­cast host Andrew Heaton endeav­or to find out, above, by ded­i­cat­ing a day to the British Bulldog’s drink­ing reg­i­men.

They’re not the first to under­take such a fol­ly.

The Dai­ly Telegraph’s Har­ry Wal­lop doc­u­ment­ed a sim­i­lar adven­ture in 2015, wind­ing up queasy, and to judge by his 200 spelling mis­takes, cog­ni­tive­ly impaired.

Williams and Heaton’s on-cam­era exper­i­ment achieves a Drunk His­to­ry vibe and tell­tale flushed cheeks.

Here’s the drill, not that we advise try­ing it at home:


An eye open­er of John­nie Walk­er Red — just a splash — mixed with soda water to the rim.

Fol­low with more of the same through­out the morn­ing.

This is how Churchill, who often con­duct­ed his morn­ing busi­ness abed in a dress­ing gown, man­aged to aver­age between 1 — 3 ounces of alco­hol before lunch.

Appar­ent­ly he devel­oped a taste for it as a young sol­dier post­ed in what is now Pak­istan, when Scotch not only improved the fla­vor of plain water, ‘once one got the knack of it, the very repul­sion from the fla­vor devel­oped an attrac­tion of its own.”

After a morn­ing spent sip­ping the stuff, Heaton reports feel­ing “play­ful and jokey, but not yet vio­lent.”


Time for “an ambi­tious quo­ta of cham­pagne!”

Churchill’s pre­ferred brand was Pol Roger, though he wasn’t averse to Giesler, Moet et Chan­don, or Pom­mery,  pur­chased from the upscale wine and spir­its mer­chant Ran­dolph Payne & Sons,  whose let­ter­head iden­ti­fied them as sup­pli­ers to “Her Majesty The Late Queen Vic­to­ria and to The Late King William The Fourth.”

Churchill enjoyed his impe­r­i­al pint of cham­pagne from a sil­ver tankard, like a “prop­er Edwar­dian gent” accord­ing to his life­long friend, Odette Pol-Roger.

Williams and Heaton take theirs in flutes accom­pa­nied by fish sticks from the freez­er case. This is the point beyond which a hang­over is all but assured.

Lunch con­cludes with a post-pran­di­al cognac, to set­tle the stom­ach and begin the diges­tion process.

Churchill, who declared him­self a man of sim­ple tastes — I am eas­i­ly sat­is­fied with the best — would have insist­ed on some­thing from the house of Hine.


This seems to be a crit­i­cal ele­ment of Churchill’s alco­hol man­age­ment suc­cess. He fre­quent­ly allowed him­self as much as 90 min­utes to clear the cob­webs.

A nap def­i­nite­ly pulls our re-enac­tors out of their tail spins. Heaton emerges ready to “bluff (his) way through a meet­ing.”


I guess we can call it that, giv­en the tim­ing.

No tea though.

Just a steady stream of extreme­ly weak scotch and sodas to take the edge off of admin­is­tra­tive tasks.


More cham­pagne!!! More cognac!!!

“This should be the apex of our wit,” a bleary Heaton tells his belch­ing com­pan­ion, who fess­es up to vom­it­ing upon wak­ing the next day.

Their con­clu­sion? Churchill’s reg­i­men is unmanageable…at least for them.

And pos­si­bly also for Churchill.

As fel­low Scotch enthu­si­ast Christo­pher Hitchens revealed in a 2002 arti­cle in The Atlantic, some of Churchill’s most famous radio broad­casts, includ­ing his famous pledge to “fight on the beach­es” after the Mir­a­cle of Dunkirk, were voiced by a pinch hit­ter:

Nor­man Shel­ley, who played Win­nie-the-Pooh for the BBC’s Children’s Hour, ven­tril­o­quized Churchill for his­to­ry and fooled mil­lions of lis­ten­ers. Per­haps Churchill was too much inca­pac­i­tat­ed by drink to deliv­er the speech­es him­self.

Or per­haps the great man mere­ly felt he’d earned the right to unwind with a class of Graham’s Vin­tage Char­ac­ter Port, a Fine Old Amon­til­la­do Sher­ry or a Fine Old Liquor brandy, as was his wont.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Win­ston Churchill’s Paint­ings: Great States­man, Sur­pris­ing­ly Good Artist

Win­ston Churchill Gets a Doctor’s Note to Drink “Unlim­it­ed” Alco­hol in Pro­hi­bi­tion Amer­i­ca (1932)

Win­ston Churchill Goes Back­ward Down a Water Slide & Los­es His Trunks (1934)

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

How Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” Went from 80s Pop Smash to Bastion of Internet Culture: A Short Documentary

It was an iso­lat­ing exis­tence, being a Rick Ast­ley fan at the turn of the mil­len­ni­um. I was in high school at the time, and it was on a week­end-morn­ing cable-TV binge that I hap­pened first to hear his music — albeit just a few sec­onds of it — on a com­mer­cial for one of those order-by-phone nos­tal­gia com­pi­la­tions. Intrigued by the con­trast of the unabashed nine­teen-eight­ies pro­duc­tion, equal­ly ener­getic and syn­thet­ic, against Ast­ley’s pow­er­ful, unusu­al­ly tex­tured voice, I went straight to Audio­Galaxy for the MP3. Even before I’d heard its whole three and a half min­utes, I was hooked. The song of which I speak is, of course, “Togeth­er For­ev­er.” 

You’ve got to remem­ber that, two decades ago, Ast­ley’s debut sin­gle “Nev­er Gonna Give You Up” had­n’t yet racked up a bil­lion views on Youtube. Nor could you even find it on Youtube; nor, come to that, could you find any­thing on Youtube, since it did­n’t exist. It was then quite easy to be unaware of the song, and indeed of Ast­ley him­self, giv­en that he’d burnt out and retired from the music busi­ness in the mid-nine­teen-nineties. If you’d heard of him, you might well have writ­ten him off as an eight­ies flash-in-the-pan. (Yet to be res­ur­rect­ed by the retro gods, the aes­thet­ics of that decade were still at their nadir of fash­ion­abil­i­ty.) But in its day, “Nev­er Gonna Give You Up” was a pop phe­nom­e­non of rare dis­tinc­tion.

The short Vice doc­u­men­tary above recounts how Ast­ley became an overnight sen­sa­tion, bring­ing in the singer him­self as well as his orig­i­nal pro­duc­tion team: Mike Stock, Matt Aitken, and Pete Water­man, the trio who cre­at­ed the sound of British eight­ies pop. It was while play­ing with a band in his small north­ern home­town that Ast­ley caught Stock Aitken Water­man’s ear, and soon there­after he found him­self work­ing as a “tea boy” in their Lon­don stu­dio. At that time he lived at Water­man’s home, and after over­hear­ing the lat­ter scream­ing at his girl­friend through his giant eight­ies phone, he made a fate­ful remark: “You’re nev­er gonna give her up, are you?”

From there, “Nev­er Gonna Give You Up” seems prac­ti­cal­ly to have writ­ten itself, though its pro­duc­ers admit to hav­ing ill sensed its poten­tial dur­ing record­ing. Shelved for a time, the song was final­ly includ­ed on a mag­a­zine mix tape, at which point it went the eight­ies equiv­a­lent of viral: air­play on the inde­pen­dent Cap­i­tal Lon­don soon crossed over to a vari­ety of main­stream radio for­mats. “They had­n’t got a clue that he was a white guy,” says Water­man, nor, as Ast­ley him­self adds, that he “looked about eleven years old.” All was soon revealed by the music video — then still a nov­el form — hasti­ly and some­what ama­teur­ish­ly pro­duced in the wake of the sin­gle’s chart-top­ping suc­cess.

These not-unap­peal­ing incon­gruities inspired one of my fel­low Mil­len­ni­als, a young enlist­ed man named Sean Cot­ter, to relaunch Ast­ley’s hit into the zeit­geist in 2007. “I imme­di­ate­ly knew I want­ed to make this thing into a meme,” he says, and so he invent­ed “rick­rolling,” the prank of send­ing an unre­lat­ed-look­ing link that actu­al­ly leads to the “Nev­er Gonna Give You Up” video. Despite orig­i­nat­ing in a spir­it of mock­ery, it enabled the come­back Ast­ley had been ten­ta­tive­ly attempt­ing in the pre­ced­ing years. Today, at a dis­tance from the eight­ies and the two-thou­sands alike, we can final­ly hear “Nev­er Gonna Give You Up” for what it is: an inspired work of pop songcraft that reflects the dis­tinc­tive appeal of both its era and its per­former — or as Ast­ley puts it, “a bloody hit, man.”

Relat­ed con­tent:

How Youtube’s Algo­rithm Turned an Obscure 1980s Japan­ese Song Into an Enor­mous­ly Pop­u­lar Hit: Dis­cov­er Mariya Takeuchi’s “Plas­tic Love”

The Ulti­mate 80s Med­ley: A Nos­tal­gia-Induc­ing Per­for­mance of A‑Ha, Tears for Fears, Depeche Mode, Peter Gabriel, Van Halen & More

Is the Viral “Red Dress” Music Video a Soci­o­log­i­cal Exper­i­ment? Per­for­mance Art? Or Some­thing Else?

Rick Ast­ley Sings an Unex­pect­ed­ly Enchant­i­ng Cov­er of the Foo Fight­ers’ “Ever­long”

Stu­dent Rick­rolls Teacher By Sneak­ing Rick Ast­ley Lyrics into Quan­tum Physics Paper

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.

Winston Churchill Goes Backward Down a Water Slide & Loses His Trunks (1934)

World-chang­ing fig­ures can have their lighter moments too. Just wit­ness Win­ston Churchill above, tak­ing a trip to the French Riv­iera in 1934 and slid­ing back­ward down a water slide, only to lose his swim trunks at the end. The pre­vi­ous­ly unseen clip comes from the Churchill fam­i­ly archives and founds its way into a Smith­son­ian doc­u­men­tary in 2021.

via @Fasc1nate

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!

Relat­ed Con­tent

Win­ston Churchill’s Paint­ings: Great States­man, Sur­pris­ing­ly Good Artist

Win­ston Churchill Gets a Doctor’s Note to Drink “Unlim­it­ed” Alco­hol in Pro­hi­bi­tion Amer­i­ca (1932)

Ani­mat­ed: Win­ston Churchill’s Top 10 Say­ings About Fail­ure, Courage, Set­backs, Haters & Suc­cess

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Behold the World’s Oldest Animation Made on a Vase in Iran 5,200 Years Ago

By some accounts, the his­to­ry of ani­ma­tion stretch­es back to the turn of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry. Since that time, ani­ma­tors have brought an astound­ing vari­ety of visions to artis­tic life. But looked at anoth­er way, this enter­prise — which has so far cul­mi­nat­ed in fea­ture-film spec­ta­cles by stu­dios like Pixar and Ghi­b­li — actu­al­ly has it roots deep in antiq­ui­ty. In order to find the first work of ani­ma­tion, broad­ly con­ceived, one must go to Shahr‑e Sukhteh, Iran’s famous “Burnt City.” Now a UNESCO World Her­itage site, it dates back more than five mil­len­nia, about four of which it spent under a lay­er of ash and dust, which pre­served a great many arti­facts of inter­est with­in.

Shahr‑e Sukhteh was first exca­vat­ed in 1967. About a decade lat­er, an Ital­ian archae­o­log­i­cal team unearthed the pot­tery ves­sel bear­ing designs now con­sid­ered the ear­li­est exam­ple of ani­ma­tion. “The arti­fact bears five images depict­ing a wild goat jump­ing up to eat the leaves of a tree,” says the web site of the Cir­cle of Ancient Iran­ian Stud­ies. “Sev­er­al years lat­er, Iran­ian archae­ol­o­gist Dr. Mansur Sad­ja­di, who became lat­er appoint­ed as the new direc­tor of the archae­o­log­i­cal team work­ing at the Burnt City dis­cov­ered that the pic­tures formed a relat­ed series.” The ani­mal depict­ed is a mem­ber of Capra aega­grus, “also known as ‘Per­sian desert Ibex’, and since it is an indige­nous ani­mal to the region, it would nat­u­ral­ly appear in the iconog­ra­phy of the Burnt City.”

Image by Eme­sik, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

This amus­ing­ly dec­o­rat­ed gob­let, now on dis­play at the Nation­al Muse­um of Iran, is hard­ly the only find that reflects the sur­pris­ing devel­op­ment of the ear­ly civ­i­liza­tion that pro­duced it. “The world’s first known arti­fi­cial eye­ball, with two holes in both sides and a gold­en thread to hold it in place, has been unearthed from the skele­ton of a woman’s body in Shahr‑e Sukhteh,” says Mehr News. Exca­va­tions have also turned up “the old­est signs of brain surgery,” as well as evi­dence that “the peo­ple of Shahr‑e Sukhteh played backgam­mon,” or at least some kind of table game involv­ing dice. But only the Burnt City’s pio­neer­ing work of flip-book-style art “means that the world’s old­est car­toon char­ac­ter is a goat.” His­to­ri­ans of ani­ma­tion, update your files accord­ing­ly.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Watch Art on Ancient Greek Vas­es Come to Life with 21st-Cen­tu­ry Ani­ma­tion

The Ear­ly Days of Ani­ma­tion Pre­served in UCLA’s Video Archive

Ear­ly Japan­ese Ani­ma­tions: The Ori­gins of Ani­me (1917–1931)

700 Years of Per­sian Man­u­scripts Now Dig­i­tized and Avail­able Online

Was a 32,000-Year-Old Cave Paint­ing the Ear­li­est Form of Cin­e­ma?

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.

Simone de Beauvoir Speaks on American TV (in English) About Feminism, Abortion & More (1976)

France has long been known for the cul­tur­al promi­nence it grants to its philoso­phers. Even so, such promi­nence does­n’t sim­ply come to every French philoso­pher, and some have had to work tire­less­ly indeed to achieve it. Take Simone de Beau­voir, who most pow­er­ful­ly announced her arrival on the intel­lec­tu­al scene with Le Deux­ième Sexe and its famous dec­la­ra­tion, “On ne naît pas femme, on le devient.” Those words remain well known today, 36 years after their author’s death, and their impli­ca­tions about the nature of wom­an­hood still form the intel­lec­tu­al basis for many observers of the fem­i­nine con­di­tion, in France and else­where.

Le Deux­ième Sexe was first pub­lished in Eng­lish in 1953, as The Sec­ond Sex. By that point de Beau­voir had already trav­eled exten­sive­ly in the Unit­ed States (and even writ­ten a book, Amer­i­ca Day by Day, about the expe­ri­ence), but her read­er­ship in that coun­try had only just begun to grow. An avowed fem­i­nist, she would through the sub­se­quent decades become a more and more oft-ref­er­enced fig­ure among Amer­i­can writ­ers and read­ers who sought to apply that label to them­selves as well.

One such fem­i­nist was the psy­chol­o­gist Dorothy Ten­nov, who’s best remem­bered for coin­ing the term limer­ence. A few years before she did that, she trav­eled to France to con­duct an inter­view with de Beau­voir — and indeed “in her Paris apart­ment, pro­vid­ed the TV crew was all-female.”

Aired on pub­lic tele­vi­sion sta­tion WNED in 1976, this wide-rang­ing con­ver­sa­tion has Beau­voir lay­ing out her views on a host of sub­jects, from abor­tion to homo­sex­u­al­i­ty to fem­i­nism itself. “What do you think women feel most about fem­i­nism?” Ten­nov asks. “They are jeal­ous of the women who are not just the kind of ser­vant and the slaves and objects — they are them­selves,” de Beau­voir says. “They fear to feel an inféri­or­ité in regard with the women who work out­side, and who do as they want and who are free. And maybe they are afraid of the free­dom which is made pos­si­ble for them, because free­dom is some­thing very pre­cious, but in a way a lit­tle fear­ful, because you don’t know exact­ly what to do with it.” Here we see one rea­son de Beau­voir’s work has endured: she under­stood that man’s fear of free­dom is also wom­an’s.

Relat­ed con­tent:

An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion to the Fem­i­nist Phi­los­o­phy of Simone de Beau­voir

The Mean­ing of Life Accord­ing to Simone de Beau­voir

Simone de Beauvoir’s Phi­los­o­phy on Find­ing Mean­ing in Old Age

Lovers and Philoso­phers — Jean-Paul Sartre & Simone de Beau­voir Togeth­er in 1967

Simone de Beau­voir Tells Studs Terkel How She Became an Intel­lec­tu­al and a Fem­i­nist (1960)

Simone de Beau­voir & Jean-Paul Sartre Shoot­ing a Gun in Their First Pho­to Togeth­er (1929)

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.

Watch Vintage Videos Capturing Life in Japan from the 1960s Through Today

Just yes­ter­day, Japan ful­ly re-opened its bor­ders to tourism after a long peri­od of COVID-19-moti­vat­ed clo­sure. This should prove eco­nom­i­cal­ly invig­o­rat­ing, given how much demand to vis­it the Land of the Ris­ing Sun has built up over the past cou­ple of years. Even before the pan­dem­ic, Japan had been a coun­try of great inter­est among world trav­el­ers, and for more than half a cen­tu­ry at that. Much of that attrac­tive­ness has, of course, to do with its dis­tinc­tive nature, which man­i­fests both deep tra­di­tion and hyper-moder­ni­ty at once.

But some of it also has to do with the fact that, since ris­ing from the dev­as­ta­tion of the Sec­ond World War, Japan has hard­ly shied away from self-pro­mo­tion. “A Day in Tokyo,” the short film at the top of the post, was pro­duced by the Japan Nation­al Tourism Orga­ni­za­tion in 1968.

Its vivid col­or footage of Japan’s great metrop­o­lis, “the world’s largest and liveli­est,” cap­tures every­day life as it was then lived in Toky­o’s depart­ment stores, stock exchanges, con­struc­tion sites, and zoos.

The film puts a good deal of empha­sis on the cap­i­tal’s still-ongo­ing post­war trans­for­ma­tion: “In a con­stant meta­bol­ic cycle of destruc­tion and cre­ation, Tokyo pro­gress­es at a dizzy­ing pace,” declares the film’s nar­ra­tor. “Peo­ple who haven’t seen Tokyo for ten years, or even five, would scarce­ly rec­og­nize it today.” And if Tokyo was dizzy­ing in the late nine­teen-six­ties, it became pos­i­tive­ly dis­ori­ent­ing in the eight­ies. On the back of that era’s eco­nom­ic bub­ble, Japan looked about to become the wealth­i­est coun­try in the world, and Toky­oites both worked and played accord­ing­ly hard.

This two-part com­pi­la­tion of scenes from Japan in the eight­ies con­veys that time with footage drawn from a vari­ety of sources, includ­ing fea­ture films (not least Ita­mi Jūzō’s beloved 1985 ramen com­e­dy Tam­popo.) “It was a mag­i­cal place at a mag­i­cal time,” remem­bers one Amer­i­can com­menter who lived in Japan back then. “Every­thing seemed pos­si­ble. Every­body was pros­per­ing. Almost every crazy busi­ness idea seemed to suc­ceed. Peo­ple were hap­py and shared their hap­pi­ness and good for­tune with oth­ers. It was like no oth­er place on earth.”

As dra­mat­i­cal­ly as the bub­ble burst at the end of the eight­ies, Japan­ese life in the sub­se­quent “lost decades” has also pos­sessed a rich­ness of its own. You can see it in this com­pi­la­tion of footage of Japan in the nineties and two-thou­sands from the same chan­nel, TRNGL. Though it no longer seemed able to buy up the rest of the world, the coun­try had by that era built up a glob­al con­scious­ness of its cul­ture by export­ing its films, its ani­ma­tion, its music, its video games, and much more besides. Even if you haven’t seen this Japan in per­son, you’ve come to know it through its art and media.

If you’re con­sid­er­ing mak­ing the trip, this video of “Japan nowa­days” will give you a sense of what you’ve been miss­ing. The Tokyo of the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry shown in its clips cer­tain­ly isn’t the same city it was in 1968. Yet it remains “an inter­min­gling of Ori­ent and Occi­dent, seem­ing­ly new, but actu­al­ly old,” as the nar­ra­tor of “A Day in Tokyo” puts it. “Beneath its mod­ern exte­ri­or, there still lingers an atmos­phere of past glo­ries. The cit­i­zens remain unal­ter­ably Japan­ese, and yet this great city is able to accom­mo­date and under­stand peo­ple of all races, lan­guages, and beliefs” — peo­ple now arriv­ing by the thou­sands once again.

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Entire His­to­ry of Japan in 9 Quirky Min­utes

Watch Life on the Streets of Tokyo in Footage Record­ed in 1913: Caught Between the Tra­di­tion­al and the Mod­ern

1850s Japan Comes to Life in 3D, Col­or Pho­tos: See the Stereo­scop­ic Pho­tog­ra­phy of T. Ena­mi

Hand-Col­ored 1860s Pho­tographs Reveal the Last Days of Samu­rai Japan

An Intro­duc­tion to Japan­ese Kabu­ki The­atre, Fea­tur­ing 20th-Cen­tu­ry Mas­ters of the Form (1964)

How Youtube’s Algo­rithm Turned an Obscure 1980s Japan­ese Song Into an Enor­mous­ly Pop­u­lar Hit: Dis­cov­er Mariya Takeuchi’s “Plas­tic Love”

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.

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