Brain Pickings

Pictorial Webster’s: A Visual Dictionary of Victorian Curiosities

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Cards, stamps, and what zebras have to do with Victorian craftsmen.

We love visual thinking. And we’re all about curiosity. Naturally, we’re head over heels with painter, artist and bookbinder Johnny Carrera’s Pictorial Webster’s: A Visual Dictionary of Curiosities — a charming, chunky volume of over 1,500 engravings from Webster’s 19th-century dictionaries.

Cleaned, restored and curated in a captivating and unusual reference guide for modernity, these engravings are both novel and iconic, radiating the enigmatic luster of vintage Victorian aesthetic. From to Aardvark to Zebra, the alphabetically arranged gem is both archival record and aesthetic feat, a treat for history geeks and design aficionados alike.

Also from the series, 26 delightfully nostalgic wall cards, one for each letter of the alphabet, reproducing the engravings from the book on sumptuously heavy card stock with superb typography.

And for a lovely final touch on this visual exploration of vintage curiosity, check out the Pictorial Webster’s Stamp Set, an extraordinarily authentic collection of actual historic engravings, embellished with all the details of line execution, shading, and perspective you’d expect from meticulous Victorian craftsmanship — not your average rubber stamp clip-art.

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