Month: September 2014

Cape Mountain Zebra, Robert Jacob Gordon, 1777 - 1786

Robert Jacob Gordon’s Africa

Dutch explorer and naturalist Robert Jacob Gordon (1743–1795) went on several expeditions in southern Africa. On his travels, he kept detailed and meticulous records of the geology, flora and fauna of the Cape region, as well as observations on the indigenous peoples he encountered. He even spoke “Hottentot” and Xhosa. His notes and hundreds of sketches […]

Spirit Photography, unknown photographer, Preus Museum

Spirit Photography

Spirit photography, an effect created through multiple exposure, was a rather fashionable hoax in early photography. When the medium was still new and mysterious, “the idea of a photograph capturing the latent image of a spirit seemed quite possible.” (Kristi Finefield) This coincided with a rising interest in the paranormal (séances, spiritism). The photographs here are […]

The Marsh King's Daughter, Hans Christian Andersen, illustration by W. Heath Robinson, 1913

Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales, illustrated by W. Heath Robinson

Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1875) remains a beloved Danish writer, well-known for his children books. For this edition of his collected fairy tales, Hans Andersen’s Fairy Tales (1913), illustrator W. Heath Robinson created some enchanting visualisations. Scroll down to browse through the entire book, or download it in different formats at Read the book: Source:, Public […]

Knight's Tour Problem, Chess, Mémoires présentés à l'Institut Egyptien, 1862

A Chess Problem

Taken from the Journal of the Institut Egyptien <al-Qāhira> in Cairo*, these geometric illustrations are about the Kight’s Tour Problem (Problème du cavalier in French), a mathematical problem in chess where the knight visits every square only once.   * Mémoires ou travaux originaux présentés et lus à l’Institut Égyptien: Mémoires présentés et lus à l’Institut Égyptien, published between 1862 and 1916. […]

Dagol Prince of Darkness (Der Fürst der Finsternis), Compendium rarissimum totius Artis Magicae..., Wellcome Library, London, ca. 1775

A Compendium about Demons and Magic

These illustrations originate from a compendium about magic and demonology from ca. 1775: Compendium rarissimum totius Artis Magicae sistematisatae per celeberrimos Artis hujus Magistros. Anno 1057. Noli me tangere. The book, which is owned by the Wellcome Library in London, was written in German and Latin and features 31 water-colour drawings of demons, and several pages of […]

A Siren and a Centaur, Bestiary ca. 1270

Bestiary, Illuminated Manuscript (ca. 1270)

Bestiaries – books of beasts – were made popular in the Middle Ages in illustrated volumes that described various animals and legendary creatures. Each beast was an allegory: “Animals, both real and imagined, wild and domestic, were thought to have significance beyond themselves” (James Grout). For example, the pelican, devoted to its children, was believed […]

Old French Fairy Tales, 1920, Blondine and Tortoise in the Forest

Old French Fairy Tales, 1920

Beautiful illustrations by Virginia Frances Sterrett for a publication of Old French Fairy Tales (Sophie Comptesse De Ségur, Philadelphia 1920). The book also features lovely black and white illustrations, see below. Unfortunately, the scans are somewhat pixelated. Read the book Copyright status: Public domain worldwide Header image: “They were three months passing through the forest”, from Blondine […]

Alchemical and Rosicrucian compendium, ca. 1760, Python

Alchemical and Rosicrucian compendium, ca. 1760

The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library is a great resource for finding high-res digitizations of alchemical and mystical book illustrations. The following were taken from an “Alchemical and Rosicrucian compendium”, dated ca. 1760. No further information about this specific record is provided, but there is a very informative blog post about their European Alchemy collection. The uncopyrighted […]

Sidney Hall, Urania's Mirror, Bootes Canes Venatici, Coma Berenices, and Quadrans Muralis, 1825

Sidney Hall, Urania’s Mirror (1824)

British engraver and cartographer Sidney Hall (1788–1831) made a boxed set of 32 constellation cards, Urania’s Mirror, or a view of the Heavens, first published in 1824. It was heavily inspired by Alexander Jamieson’s Celestial Atlas. They are available at the Library of Congress for high-res download, and on Wikimedia Commons slightly color corrected and in various sizes. Source: […]