There is grandeur in this view of life – visualising Darwin


If I were to give an award for the single best idea anyone has ever had, I had to have to give it to Darwin, ahead of Newton and Einstein and everyone else. It is not just a wonderful scientific idea; it is a dangerous idea. it overthrows, or at least unsettles, some of the deepest beliefs and yearnings in the human psyche.

– Daniel Dennett

Darwin. We all know his basic idea, it seems utterly obvious now, to the point of why bother with Charles? I thought the same: he made the idea very very public and very obvious, but that was back in 1859. We have come a long way since then. Hurrah for genetics.

But. Some years ago, I read his Voyage of the Beagle. It is great fun. He writes well with delightful english understatement, but his enthusiasm, awe and wonder is obvious and contagious. He is sometimes like a five-year-old in a toy shop. Think Sir David Attenborough of the 1830-ish. I get really interested in the little frog he tried to rescue (and nearly killed twice) and the fox he knocked over the head with his geology hammer (and in doing that, contributed a tiny amount to the extinction of a species). Continue reading


Voynich manuscript – secret knowledge or brilliant hoax?


Since we are on a roll with old books and manuscripts, I give you the  240-page Voynich manuscript. It is an unsolved enigma: a manuscript found in Italy; the paper has been dated to between 1404-1438. It contains text in an unknown script, unknown language, and illustrations of non-existing plants, constellations and humans apparently doing inexplicable things.

Voynich manuscript


No one has been able to decipher it. This is not for lack of trying. Cryptographers, linguists, codebreakers, statisticians, computer experts in all sorts of fields have tried; professional and amateurs alike. It seems to conform roughly to european language structures, but is inconsistent. Some believe the whole thing to be nonsense, the scribbling of a mad person. Or a personal secret language. The illustrations are fantastical, and the objects depicted does not correspond to anything we know. The book seems to consist of six sections, each dealing with a subject.

Continue reading

Sofie’s book – bookbinding in the digital world


Back in the mist of time, I did my apprenticeship in hand bookbinding. There are basically two directions; two different apprenticeships: literature binder, or ledger binder. I am a literature binder (also called publishing or library binding). But back then it was considered essential to have a broad understanding. So part of the apprenticeship was three ledgers. They are all leather spine-and-corners, all materials of archival quality. They should hold out well for a few hundred years.

Ledger binding

Ledger binding

Ledger binding differ considerably from literature binding, library binding and publishing binding. These are books that will be written in, so the mechanism of the spine is constructed in such a way that you can write all the way into the margin. It will lie flat when opened, and this is not only due to the sheer weight: the binding is constructed from the bottom to make this work.

As opposed to traditional literature binding, the block is sewed extremely hard into tightly woven linen bands. I can still remember how much my fingers hurt. Continue reading


The most boring day in history


April 18, 1930

On what should have been the news bulletin on good friday 1930, the BBC presenter said: “Good evening. Today is good friday. There is no news.” then proceeded to play piano music.

April 11, 1954

However. Computer programmer William Tunstall-Pedoe from Cambridge fed 300 million facts about events into a programme called True Knowledge. Sunday 11th of April, 1954, was apparently truly the dullest day in history.







Air. Invisible, and as exoplanets, we cannot see it, only the result of it. All images by self.




Skulls and bones


I have a thing about drawing skulls and bones. Not of any morbid fascination (I think), but because they can really be a challenge. The texture and colour of bones are interesting, and the ultimate challenge is to draw a skull first with graphite on white paper, then with white pencil on black paper. This is a massive challenge; drawing light instead of shadows. I have – as of now – no examples of the latter. And for bone structure; da Vinci is the boss.






Human anatomy


Weathered human skull



Came across Dangerdust; anonymous students at Columbus College of Art & Design. Each week they make a new piece of art on a blackboard. Head over to their Bēhance page, and take a look at their stunning work.

Here is a quote from Paul Klee and classic from Calvin and Hobbes.

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