Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘vintage’

01 SEPTEMBER, 2014

From a Gentleman to a Lady: A Clever Cryptographic Love Letter from the 1850s

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“…dropped from the pocket of a young man who is very well known in sporting circles.”

It’s been said that “nothing is mysterious, no human relation, except love,” which is a dynamic language that has to be learned. As a lover of love letters, I was infinitely delighted, while perusing the Printed Ephemera collection of the Library of Congress, to chance upon an ingenious specimen from the 1850s bridging the mystery and language of love in a cryptographic masterpiece.

The missive was allegedly penned by a resourceful young man courting the daughter an overbearing and protective father — one imagines a stern Victorian patriarch. Knowing that all of his beloved’s correspondence would have to pass parental decency tests, the young bachelor cleverly engineered his language so that the letter could be read two ways — line by line, as the unsuspecting father would, which renders the text a contemptuous disavowal of romance, or by skipping over all even-numbered lines and reading only the odds, which transmogrifies the message into a passionate declaration of love. Hats off to you, sir.

One can only imagine the kind of field day Oscar Wilde would’ve had with this idea, had he cared to make his own love letters less scandalous.

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31 MARCH, 2014

The Betrayed Confidence: Edward Gorey’s Weird and Whimsical Vintage Illustrated Postcards

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Neglected murderesses, imaginary elixirs, cryptic objects, and other darkly delightful treats from Gorey’s singular creative chest.

Edward Gorey is undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary — in every sense of the word — illustrators of the past century. From his quirky children’s books to his naughty treats for grown-ups to his covers for literary classics, he injected his singular blend of darkly delightful weirdness and whimsy into his various masterpieces, created under his many pseudonyms. But Gorey had an especially enchanting soft spot for the old-fashioned charisma of postcards, in addition to the magnificent illustrated envelopes he mailed to his editor. Now comes The Betrayed Confidence Revisited (public library) — an infinitely delightful collection of ten of Gorey’s postcard series, including three never previously published, ranging from the grimly humorous Neglected Murderesses to the cryptic Menaced Objects to the disarmingly adorable Dogear Wryde Interpretive Series to the purposely puzzling Q.R.V. Here’s but a small taste of the enormous delight.

From Dogear Wryde Interpretive Series (“Dogear Wryde” being, as you may have noticed, one of Gorey’s anagrammatic pseudonyms), originally created in 1980:

From Neglected Murderesses, also published in 1980:

From Menaced Objects, released in 1989:

From Q.R.V., Gorey’s final postcard series, created in 1996 and named after a mysterious imaginary elixir that Gorey first introduced in the 1989 miniature book The Universal Solvent:

From Alms for Oblivion, part of the Dogear Wryde series:

The Betrayed Confidence Revisited is an absolute treat in its entirety. Complement it with Gorey’s classic scandalous alphabet book, The Gashlycrumb Tinies, and his fantastic vintage illustrations for T.S. Eliot’s cat verses.

Illustrations © The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust courtesy of Pomegranate. All rights reserved.

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18 FEBRUARY, 2014

Gorgeous Vintage Posters from the Golden Age of Skiing

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A rare marriage of sports and fashion through mid-century graphic design.

As a devotee of winter sports, both as a lifelong practitioner and an Olympic spectator, and lover of vintage graphic design, especially mid-century travel posters, I was delighted to chance upon The Art of Skiing: Vintage Posters from the Golden Age of Winter Sport (public library) — a remarkable collection of 800 vintage posters and paintings from the first half of the twentieth century when skiing, a sport that immigrant Scandinavian gold miners had introduced to America during the Gold Rush a century earlier, first took the world by blizzard as a fashionable modern sport. Curated by vintage ephemera enthusiast Jenny de Gex, these gorgeous and graphically striking posters were obsessively and lovingly amassed over a lifetime by Mason Beekley, owner of the world’s largest private collection of ski art. They are currently housed at the Mammoth Ski Museum in — surprisingly — California.

For a wholly different application of a similar vintage aesthetic, pair The Art of Skiing with these lovely vintage posters for libraries and reading.

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