A work visit to the International Youth Library in 2016 changed the way I thought of children’s books completely. It was an exhibition of works by Dutch and Flamish illustrators. I don’t know under which stone I had been hiding until that moment, I’m afraid I had never really thought about the topic, but seeing those artworks made me realize for the first time how much amazing work of art is need to fill a book with illustrations. There were original oil on canvas, watercolors, pencil drawings, lithographs and more in that exhibition. Since then, I’ve been following some great contemporary illustrators, especially from the Netherlands and Flanders. I’ll add some links to their Instagram accounts below. Also, I began to dive into all those great artists from the Golden Age of Illustration, a period from roughly the 1880’s till the 1920’s that in which book and magazine illustration excelled. Advances in printing technology permitted accurate and high quality reproduction of art, at much lower cost than before.
This was the time of Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, Warwick Goble, Ivan Bilibin, Kay Nielsen, Kate Greenaway and Ida Rentoul Outhwaite, just to name a few, artists that are still admired today and have influenced many later artists. I’ll never get tired looking at their images of fairies and wonderlands! I need to mention Anton Pieck, Rien Poortvliet and Rie Cramer from the Netherlands, too. Today, I have filled an entire shelf with books that I just bought for their illustrations.
Check out these amazing Dutch and Belgian artists:
I read 47 books with a total of 18,812 pages. 11 of those books were in Dutch, 30 in German and 6 in English language. 8 books were works of nonfiction, the rest were novels or collections of short stories.
I started reading some of the Russian classics in this year: Pushkin, Gogol, Chekhov and of course Dostoevsky (I already read a Tolstoy years ago, not to worry). My favorite book of this year in reading was The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCollough - I just love chunky family histories set in the past! The biggest disappointment for me was The Secret History by Donna Tartt - I loved The Goldfinch, which I read a couple of weeks earlier, so had high hopes for her most celebrated novel, but it didn't do it for me. I was happy to finally read a beautifully illustrated edition of A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, which had been on my shelf ever since winning it after a biology contest back in high school. The choices for books were rather random: titles that spoke to me in the library, books that had been sitting on my shelves for years, recommendations by friends as well as a couple of classics from the Story Lines Reading list. Here’s an overview in chronological order of my reading.
BOOKS read in 2019:
1. Geert Mak – Verleden van Nederland (2009)
2. Multatuli - Max Havelaar (1860)
3. F. Scott Fitzgerald – Tender is the Night (1934)
4. Fyodor Dostoyevski – The Brothers Karamasov (1879)
5. Niklas Natt och Dag – 1793 (2017)
In 2014, I found this jewel of an artwork online. It's an adaption of the London tube map, but book titles replace the stations, the different coloured lines each represent a certain genre. Does a station mark a crossing of lines, the genre of the book on this point will also be a cross-over. I just love how carefully this map is designed. The black line is representing the horror genre, the pink one is Romance. Stories taking place on oceans or on rivers are placed along the Thames. Doyle's Sherlock Holmes is placed on the Baker Street station.
But I didn't just buy this poster because it's pretty, I also decided to read every book that's named on it. And that's quite a challenge, because these are a lot of books indeed! Creating the list and then find all the books in the library or the web is a challenge in itself, even before the reading starts. But it gives me the opportunity to read some classics of genres I wouldn't normally tend to, so it's definitely worth the effort.
There's an updated version of this map now (2019), which can be found on Literary London. For everyone interested in joining, below's a list of the books. Series are highligted in green. You can follow my progress on Goodreads. Happy reading!
The interest for Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717), artist and founder of modern insect research, is still great. In the anniversary year 2017, the Forum International of the Nuremberg BUND Naturschutz (an institution for natural conservation), together with the Merianschule Nürnberg combined the memory of Merian with practical nature conservation. In May, they put together a small butterfly bed at the herb garden at the Nuremberg city wall. In addition to nectar plants for butterflies, they also thought of the right plants for caterpillars. For while butterflies are not picky when it comes to which plant they get their food from, their caterpillars are often highly specialized. For example, if we were to eliminate the stinging nettles that are commonly seen as weeds, such beautiful butterflies as the peacock butterfly or the small tortoiseshell would have a hard time.
The Merian-expert Mrs. Margot Lölhöffel from Nuremberg had the idea to extend this action, and so the project 'MERIANIN 2018+' was born. The concept: Maria Sibylla Merian is used as a symbolic patron for the conservation for insects and flowerbeds. Since I find this an excellent and very important topic, I asked Mrs. Lölhöffel if she was willing to answer a few questions about this project for my blog. And she was!
VN: The MERIANIN 2018+ initiative reacts to two recent events: In 2018, it was 350 years ago that Maria Sibylla Merian arrived in Nuremberg. In october 2017 we learned that the insect population in Germany had gone down by around 75%. How did you come up with the idea to combine both?
Nach wie vor ist die Begeisterung für Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717), Künstlerin und Begründerin der modernen Insektenforschung, groß. Im Jubiläumsjahr 2017 ergab sich für das Forum International des Nürnberger BUND Naturschutzes zusammen mit Kindern und Lehrerinnen der Merianschule Nürnberg eine schöne Gelegenheit, die Erinnerung an der „Merianin“ mit praktischem Naturschutz zu verbinden. Im Mai legten sie gemeinsam ein kleines Schmetterlingsbeet am BN-Heilkräutergarten am Hallertorzwinger an. Neben Nektarpflanzen für Schmetterlinge wurden auch Fresspflanzen für Raupen gepflanzt. Denn während Schmetterlinge nicht wählerisch bei der Nahrungssuche sind, haben sich ihre Raupen oft stark spezialisiert. Würde man zum Beispiel die meist als Unkraut bezeichnete Brennnesseln ausrotten, hätten es solch schöne Falter wie das Tagpfauenauge und der Kleine Fuchs sehr schwer.
Die Nürnberger Merian-Forscherin Frau Margot Lölhöffel hatte die Idee, diese Aktion zu erweitern, und so entstand „MERIANIN 2018+“. Das Konzept: Maria Sibylla Merian wird als symbolische Schirmherrin für den Lebensraum für Insekten und Blütenbeete eingesetzt. Da ich das eine ausgezeichnete und zudem sehr wichtige Idee finde, habe ich Frau Lölhöffel gefragt, ob Sie bereit ist, für meinen Blog ein paar Fragen zu diesem tollen Projekt zu beantworten. Und das war sie!
VN: Die Initiative MERIANIN 2018+ hakt gleich bei zwei aktuellen Ereignissen an: 2018 ist es 350 Jahre her, dass Maria Sibylla Merian in Nürnberg ankam. Außerdem wurde Ende 2017 bekannt, dass der Insektenbestand in Deutschland um ca. 75% zurückgegangen ist. Wie kamen Sie auf die Idee, beides zu kombinieren?
Intrigued as I am by botanical and zoological drawings (I am a true admirer of Ernst Haeckel, Maria Sybilla Merian and Robert John Thornton), I've been thinking about starting my own herbarium for a year or so. Chance has it that it's having a revival nowadays anyway, for it totally matches the principles of mindfulness to go out in nature and watch.
Yesterday, Marco and I walked down to the river and I noticed that, next to the planted tulips and daffodils, there are also gorgeous little wild flowers around. Since we were carrying a basket with drinks to enjoy with some friends at the beach, I told Marco I wanted to collect wildflowers on our way back.
And so I did - and all of a sudden I had developed a sensitive eye for beautiful grasses, leaves and flowers. It's amazing how much beauty there is actually out there that you never really perceive - you just see greens until you start to look.
Once at home I collected my largest, heaviest books and a pile of scrap paper and started to organize my flowers to dry them in the books. I hope it'll work - if it does, I'll show the result in about 3 weeks!
I love bookstores and since a couple of years I always try to find out about special ones to visit when I'm travelling. There's countless lists on the internet, and one shop that's often in it is The Last Bookstore at 453 South Spring Street, Los Angeles.
So when planning our short Easter trip to California and Nevada, I made sure a visit was a vast point on our itinerary. And it was so worth it: the two-story shops has a gorgeous collection of new books (my highlights: a gorgeous, completely illustrated edition of Pride & Prejudice and The Curious Map Book by Ashley Baynton-Williams), a large portion of used books, both in all kinds of genres, LP's, there are art galleries of contemporary artists, and the shop itself is designed with so much love for books - as you can see in my pics.
A couple of months ago, Marco and I went to see a number of paper theatre performances. I knew miniature theatres from museums and old illustrations, and was quite surprised finding out people are actually still using them! We saw two operas (‘The Flying Dutchman’ by Papiertheater Papirnik Essen, ‘Tsar and Carpenter’ by Papiertheater am Ring-Wilhermsdorf), a radio play (‘SOS Italia by Papiertheater Heringsdorf) and a normal play (Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mousetrap’ by Papiertheater Joli Vilsbiburg).
Already during the day, I felt inspired to create my own miniature theatre. And there was actually only one option for which story to adapt - my favorite fairytale, ‘The Snow Queen’ by Hans Christian Andersen.
The framework was finished quite quickly. I was very proud of Marco and me for calculating all the sizes correctly, and of me for constructing something with wood and screws…! I ordered prints of backgrounds and side panels, cut, pasted, sew, pasted again, cut out characters, wrote a script, searched for the right background music, recorded the voice-over texts… And that is the currect state the theatre is in. In the next step, Marco and I will record the dialogues. As soon as my figure sliders will arrive (which are currently being custom-made in Denmark), we are ready to perform!
After a year's pause, I gathered enough new treasures to create my third literary Christmas calendar! The texts to the pictures, in which I tell a little about why the book is special to me, can be found on my Facebook page.
I do love reading books, but I love using them for decoration, too!
As reported in a former post, I’ve got a beautiful book with all kinds of ideas what to make using pages of books you once bought but don’t read anymore. And let’s be honest: we all have some of those on our shelves! If you aren’t a crafter already, you would need to buy some materials like a (sharp) paper knife and a cutting mat - but then you can start off and make you own art!
If you like book art, be sure to check out artists like Betty Pepper, who makes true gems out of old books.
A good friend of mine sent me this link for a DIY knife holder a couple of weeks ago. When my father-in-law told me I could take all the books that meet my liking from their book case, I was delighted! Not only I found some gems (a field artillery handbook from 1914, children’s books from the 1940s…), I could also lay my hands on some beautifully bound hardcovers that were perfect for making this knife holder.
Yesterday evening I choose books that matched together and arranged them to a nice-looking colour palette. All I had to do was to glue the covers together with superglue. If you’re planning to do this, make sure the spines and bottoms of the books are aligned. I liked the rope in the inspiration link, so I just added that for decoration.
It’s supereasy to stick the knives in, the book knife holder takes twice the amount of knives in half the amount of space I used with my old two knife holders, and best of all: it looks lovely!