Infant’s Cabinet of Birds and Beasts

Some pages and illustrations from the Infant’s Cabinet of Birds and Beasts, published in London in 1820:

These illustrations are just wonderful and I had it in my head that the children looking at these drawings at the time would have very little chance of setting eyes on live elephants and zebras. But that is not necessarily so, because a visit to the circus was a popular pastimes during the  mid 1800′s (when Victorian children may have taken this book down from a bookcase).

The Victoria & Albert museum has an excellent page on the Victorian circus. Here are a couple of images from the V & A  website:

and it can’t be a circus without a clown;

A visit to the zoo was possible too, although London Zoo did not open to the public until 1847. Children could ride an elephant or a camel:


And they could see animals which are now extinct, as as a type of zebra called a Quagga:


Isle of the Dead

The somewhat disquieting painting, Isle of the Dead, by the swiss artist Arnold Böcklin:

This is one version (dating from 1880) of five and it is thought he may have painted it near the cemetery where his baby daughter was buried.

Here’s another of Böcklin’s paintings:


Sergei Rachmaninov symphonic poem — The Isle of the Dead, inspired by the Böcklin painting and played by the  St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra:


Garden Bugs

I’ve been trying to photograph garden bugs and insects. There’s lots of these little guys around:

They seem to destroy everything in their path  — or perhaps they’re just innocently dawdling by after the slugs have been munching all night.

I’m using this brilliant site: Bugs in the Garden to try to identify them. It may take a while, as its harder than you might think.

After the Rain

I took a couple of photographs in the garden after it had rained — my very favourite time:

I accidently stood on a snail — which I feel bad about, even though they eat the plants and leave a trail of destruction. I didn’t photograph the aftermath…

We put the roses in the wrong place and will soon be pricked by the thorns  — we will have to move them further back. I can’t have enough plants, I want the garden to be a sea of them. I wish I knew the names of them all. I checked out the Royal Horticultural Society website and saw this:

I got the name of this — it’s the Great Black Masterwort. I’d buy it for that name alone. I like the RHS site and I think I’ll buy some plants from their shop.

Dying Young: Keats

When I go to London I might visit Keats House. There’s a fascinating collection there, including many items which once belonged to Fanny Brawne, the woman who was betrothed to Keats. Some of the items are delicate, sensitive to light and cannot always be on display but you can read some of the letters from Keats to Fanny Brawne on the Keats House website.

Here’s a lifemask of Keats — which gives an amazing indication of what he actually looked like. He died at twenty-six, so probably did not have that long to live when this was done.

Keats was yet another to die at an early age from that the dreaded Tuberculosis, which cut a swathe through a saddening number of famous scribes. It would seem that at one point in time, wasting away and then dying young from consumption was almost an obligatory part of being a poet or a writer.

Even given the advances in public health, TB has not given up on us yet — as, worldwide,  it is still one on the most common causes of death from infections disease (after HIV/AIDS).

On that cheerful note…