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Greenland Unicorns and the Magical Alicorn

- September 19, 2019 in alicorn, cabinet of curiosities, caspar bartholin, Featured Articles, folklore, greenland, iceland, magic, narwhals, ole worm, Religion, Myth & Legend, Science & Medicine, thomas bartholin, unicorn horns, unicorns, wunderkammer

When the existence of unicorns, and the curative powers of the horns ascribed to them, began to be questioned, one Danish physician pushed back through curious means — by reframing the unicorn as an aquatic creature of the northern seas. Natalie Lawrence on a fascinating convergence of established folklore, nascent science, and pharmaceutical economy.

Woodblocks in Wonderland: The Japanese Fairy Tale Series

- September 3, 2019 in Art & Illustrations, best of folk and fairytales, Books, Chirimen, Chirimen-bon, crepe paper books, fairy tales, Featured Articles, japanese folklore, japonisme, Lafcadio Hearn, Religion, Myth & Legend, Takejiro Hasegawa, The Japanese Fairy Tale Series

From gift-bestowing sparrows and peach-born heroes to goblin spiders and dancing phantom cats — in a series of beautifully illustrated books, the majority printed on an unusual cloth-like crepe paper, the publisher Takejiro Hasegawa introduced Japanese folk tales to the West. Christopher DeCou on how a pioneering cross-cultural endeavour gave rise to a magnificent chapter in the history of children's publishing.

Woodblocks in Wonderland: The Japanese Fairy Tale Series

- September 3, 2019 in Art & Illustrations, best of folk and fairytales, Books, Chirimen, Chirimen-bon, crepe paper books, fairy tales, Featured Articles, japanese folklore, japonisme, Lafcadio Hearn, Religion, Myth & Legend, Takejiro Hasegawa, The Japanese Fairy Tale Series

From gift-bestowing sparrows and peach-born heroes to goblin spiders and dancing phantom cats — in a series of beautifully illustrated books, the majority printed on an unusual cloth-like crepe paper, the publisher Takejiro Hasegawa introduced Japanese folk tales to the West. Christopher DeCou on how a pioneering cross-cultural endeavour gave rise to a magnificent chapter in the history of children's publishing.

Brilliant Visions: Peyote among the Aesthetes

- July 25, 2019 in aesthetes, Arthur Symons, drugs, early use of mescaline, early use of peyote, early use of psychedelics, Featured Articles, Havelock ellis, mescaline, peyote, psychedelics, Science & Medicine, Silas Weir Mitchell

Used by the indigenous peoples of the Americas for millennia, it was only in the last decade of the 19th century that the powerful effects of mescaline began to be systematically explored by curious non-indigenous Americans and Europeans. Mike Jay looks at one such pioneer Havelock Ellis who, along with his small circle of fellow artists and writers, documented in wonderful detail his psychedelic experiences.

The Myth of Blubber Town, an Arctic Metropolis

- July 10, 2019 in arctic, blubber, blubber town, Culture & History, Dutch whaling, exaggeration, Featured Articles, legend, smeerenburg, whaling

Though the 17th-century whaling station of Smeerenburg was in reality, at it's height, just a few dwellings and structures for processing blubber, over the decades and centuries a more extravagant picture took hold — that there once had stood, defying its far-flung Arctic location, a bustling urban centre complete with bakeries, churches, gambling dens, and brothels. Matthew H. Birkhold explores the legend.

Walt Whitman in Russia: Three Love Affairs

- May 29, 2019 in Featured Articles, Konstantin Balmont, Kornei Chukovsky, Literature, poetry, russia, translation, Vera Ermolaeva, walt whitman, walt whitman reception in russia

Walt Whitman’s influence on the creative output of 20th-century Russia — particularly in the years surrounding the 1917 Revolution — was enormous. For the 200th anniversary of Whitman's birth, Nina Murray looks at the translators through which Russians experienced his work, not only in a literary sense — through the efforts of Konstantin Balmont and Kornei Chukovsky — but also artistic, in the avant-garde printmaking of Vera Ermolaeva.

Walt Whitman in Russia: Three Love Affairs

- May 29, 2019 in Featured Articles, Konstantin Balmont, Kornei Chukovsky, Literature, poetry, russia, translation, Vera Ermolaeva, walt whitman, walt whitman reception in russia

Walt Whitman’s influence on the creative output of 20th-century Russia — particularly in the years surrounding the 1917 Revolution — was enormous. For the 200th anniversary of Whitman's birth, Nina Murray looks at the translators through which Russians experienced his work, not only in a literary sense — through the efforts of Konstantin Balmont and Kornei Chukovsky — but also artistic, in the avant-garde printmaking of Vera Ermolaeva.

Progress in Play: Board Games and the Meaning of History

- February 20, 2019 in Art & Illustrations, board games, colonialism, Culture & History, Featured Articles, french revolution, games, history of board games, nationalism, progress, soviet union

Players moving pieces along a track to be first to reach a goal was the archetypal board game format of the 18th and 19th century. Alex Andriesse looks at one popular incarnation in which these pieces progress chronologically through history itself, usually with some not-so-subtle ideological, moral, or national ideal as the object of the game.

Progress in Play: Board Games and the Meaning of History

- February 20, 2019 in Art & Illustrations, board games, colonialism, Culture & History, Featured Articles, french revolution, gameboards, games, history of board games, nationalism, progress, soviet union

Players moving pieces along a track to be first to reach a goal was the archetypal board game format of the 18th and 19th century. Alex Andriesse looks at one popular incarnation in which these pieces progress chronologically through history itself, usually with some not-so-subtle ideological, moral, or national ideal as the object of the game.

“O Uommibatto”: How the Pre-Raphaelites Became Obsessed with the Wombat

- January 10, 2019 in Art & Illustrations, australia, Cheyne Walk, Christina Rossetti, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, Featured Articles, Jane Morris, poetry, Pre-Raphaelites, Rossetti's wombat, Top the wombat, william morris, wombats

Angus Trumble on Dante Gabriel Rossetti and co's curious but longstanding fixation with the furry oddity that is the wombat — that "most beautiful of God's creatures" which found its way into their poems, their art, and even, for a brief while, their homes.