Brain Pickings

How Illuminated Manuscripts Were Made

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From the Middle Ages to the Digital Age, or what sheep skin has to do with content curation.

As we ponder the future of publishing, it’s worth revisting its past — not from a Better-Nevers perspective of romanticizing a bygone era in order to bemoan technological innovation, but out of a more philosophical reflection on the incredible craftsmanship that went into early “publishing” and how we can reintroduce this respect for and value of the art of publishing as we straddle these new digital platforms.

In this fascinating short documentary, part of The Getty Museum‘s excellent Making Art series on ArtBabble, we get to see the astounding patience and craftsmanship that went into the making of medieval illuminated manuscripts — remarkable books painstakingly written and decorated by hand, coveted as some of the most precious objects produced in the Middle Ages.

For more on these marvels of the written word, you won’t go wrong with Christopher De Hamel’s A History of Illuminated Manuscripts — though, regrettably, not an illuminated manuscript itself. And, in the meantime, perhaps we should consider what the new vehicles of patience and craftsmanship are for creating value in today’s greatest feats of publishing — journalistic integrity, curatorial sensibility, information discovery.

via MetaFilter

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10 Life Lessons from Esquire’s “What I’ve Learned” Interviews

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From 50 Cent to Julia Child, or what Apocalypse Now has to do with sperm whales.

Since 1998, Esquire magazine has conducted more than 300 interviews with artists, athletes, celebrities, entrepreneurs, musicians, politicians, scientists and writers. The series — called “What I’ve Learned” — provides a fascinating cross-section of the lives of prominent people. From Buzz Aldrin to Batman, the interview list reads like a Who’s Who of our era.

We’ve chosen 10 timeless quotes on how to live, from 10 of our favorite interviews in the series, a fine extension of these 5 guides to life from cultural luminaries, featured here last spring.

Smoke like a chimney, work like a horse, eat without thinking, go for a walk only in really pleasant company.” ~ Albert Einstein

Get yourself in trouble. If you get yourself in trouble, you don’t have the answers. And if you don’t have the answers, your solution will more likely be personal because no one else’s solutions will seem appropriate. You’ll have to come up with your own.” ~ Chuck Close

You practice and you get better. It’s very simple.” ~ Philip Glass

A big part of life is realizing what you’re good at.” ~ Alyssa Milano

Children teach you that you can still be humbled by life, that you learn something new all the time. That’s the secret to life, really — never stop learning. It’s the secret to career. I’m still working because I learn something new all the time. It’s the secret to relationships. Never think you’ve got it all.” ~ Clint Eastwood

You can’t just live in a comfortable little suburban neighborhood and get your education from movies and television and have any perspective on life.” ~ J. Craig Venter

A friend is someone who will tell you when you’re bullshitting, when you’ve overstepped a mark, or when you’re being an idiot.” ~ Sting

I think we will make it. Because one quality people have — certainly Americans have it — is that they can adapt when they see necessity staring them in the face. What to avoid is what someone once called the definition of hell: truth realized too late.”~ E. O. Wilson

The measure of achievement is not winning awards. It’s doing something that you appreciate, something you believe is worthwhile. I think of my strawberry souffle. I did that at least twenty-eight times before I finally conquered it.” ~ Julia Child

In the end, winning is sleeping better.” ~ Jodie Foster

In addition to reading the “What I’ve Learned” archives online, you can also collect the interviews in book form — Esquire published an anthology of their own favorites as The Meaning of Life: Wisdom, Humor, and Damn Good Advice from 64 Extraordinary Lives, featuring icons like George Carlin, Ray Charles, Faye Dunaway, Eminem and Oliver Stone.

Kirstin Butler is writing an adaptation of Gogol for the Google era called Dead SULs, but when not working spends far, far too much time on Twitter. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA.

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The Lists, To-dos and Illustrated Inventories of Great Artists

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What a 21-point scale of self-confidence has to do with Adolf Konrad’s carry-on and Picasso’s favorite artists.

We’ve previously taken a voyeuristic look inside the notebooks and sketchbooks of great creators and, today, we turn to an even more private facet of the creative self: the list. Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists’ Enumerations from the Collections of the Smithsonian Museum offers a surprisingly intriguing glimpse of some of the 20th century’s most remarkable creators — including Pablo Picasso, Joseph Cornell, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Andrew Wyeth and Janice Lowry, among dozens of others — revealing their personal habits, priorities and decision-making schemata through the lens of the seemingly mundane and, in the process, demystifying artmaking and the creative life.

From a list Finnish-born architect Eero Saarinen made of his second wife’s positive attributes, to designer Harry Bertoia’s 1932 self-rating chart for a school assignment, rating 21 of his characteristics on a spectrum from Very Poor to Excellent, to Picasso’s recommendations of artists he liked for Walt Kuhn’s 1913 Armory Show, these wonderful and fascinating seventy-or-so artifacts reveal as much about their creators as they do about the values, fixations and points of interest of their respective eras.

Eero Saarinen's list of Aline Bernstein's good qualities, ca. 1954. Aline and Eero Saarinen papers, 1857-1972.

Image courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Art; copyright F+W Media Inc. 2011.

Harry Bertoia's 'My-self Rating Chart' school assignment. Harry Bertoia papers, 1917-1979.

Image courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Art; copyright F+W Media Inc. 2011.

Pablo Picasso's recommendations for the Armory Show for Walt Kuhn, 1912. Walt Kuhn, Kuhn family papers, and Armory Show Records, 1859-1978.

Image courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Art; copyright F+W Media Inc. 2011.

Janice Lowry's Journal #98, 2002-2003.

Image courtesy of the Archive of American Art.

Franz Kline's receipt from John Heller's Liquor Store, Dec. 31, 1960. Elisabeth Zogbaum papers regarding Franz Kline, 1928-1965.

Image courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Art; copyright F+W Media Inc. 2011.

Adolf Konrad's graphic packing list, Dec. 16, 1973. Adolf Ferdinand Konrad papers, 1962-2002.

Image courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Art; copyright F+W Media Inc. 2011.

Lists comes from Princeton Architectural Press, purveyors of the visually compelling and culturally intriguing. Original images from the book are currently on display at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York until October 2, 2011.

via GMSV; images via Imprint

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