Brain Pickings

The Ropes at Disney: 1943 Walt Disney Employee Handbook

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“If you unwittingly slip off the beam, it will give you painless nudge in the right direction. Please read it carefully.”

In 1943, Walt Disney Productions’ personnel department set out to eliminate confusion for the company’s workforce with the publication of an employee handbook titled The Ropes at Disney. It was an effort to reconcile the need for organizational order with Disney’s effort to craft an image of an informal, irreverent, fun employer who seeks to “maintain a friendly relationship between Company and employee” (but, apparently, deems only the former worthy of capitalization).

Notice also the multiple cameos by this charming fellow, who appears to have a chronic ogling problem. Oh, wait, it’s 1943.

The last page of the handbook features this lovely map of the Walt Disney campus:

via @openculture

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Maphead: Exploring the Mystery of Why Maps Sing to Us

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What Lake Michigan has to do with Sweden, or why James Joyce was bored in geography class.

Ken Jennings may be best-known as the record holder for the longest Jeopardy! winning streak in history (and one of the only two humans to ever face off against IBM’s Watson supercomputer), but he’s also an articulate and entertaining author. As a notorious lover of maps, I was instantly taken with his latest literary gem, Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks — an affectionate and illuminating exploration of the charms and wonders of place. From neuroscience to pop culture to gender identity to religion, Jennings’ geographic narrative interlaces nontrivial trivia with delightful personal anecdotes and, above all, a genuine love of maps as a visual sensemaking mechanism for the world.

If you never open a map until you’re lost, you’re missing out on all the fun.”

From getting shamed by a teenager at the National Geographic Bee to getting almost-lost amidst the 4.5 million items held at the Library of Congress Map Division, Jennings looked far and wide to unravel the mystery of what makes maps sing to us.

There must be something innate about maps, about this one specific way of picturing our world and our relation to it, that charms us, calls to us, won’t let us look anywhere else in the room if there’s a map on the wall. I want to get to the bottom of what that is. I see it as a chance to explore one of the last remaining ‘blank spaces’ available to us amateur geographers and cartographers: the mystery of what makes our consuming map obsession tick. I will go there.”

Whether you’re a casual cartography ogler or a hardcore geography geek, Maphead will whisk you away into a wonderland that exists where two of the greatest horizons of the human condition, humor and curiosity, converge.

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Gorgeous Grimm: 130 Years of Brothers Grimm Visual Legacy

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What evil stepmothers and conniving wolves have to do with understanding the future of reading.

The fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, part of UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register for the preservation of cultural documents, have been delighting and terrifying children since 1812, transfixing generations of parents, psychologists, and academics. The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm is an astounding new volume from Taschen editor Noel Daniel bringing together the best illustrations from 130 years of The Brothers Grimm with 27 of the most beloved Grimm stories, including Cinderella, Snow White, The Little Red Riding Hood, and Sleeping Beauty, amidst artwork by some of the most celebrated illustrators from Germany, Britain, Sweden, Austria, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, and the United States working between the 1820s and 1950s.

The new translation is based on the final 1857 edition of the tales, and stunning silhouettes from original publications from the 1870s and 1920s grace the tome’s pages, alongside brand new silhouettes created bespoke for this remarkable new volume.

An introduction by Daniel explores the Grimms’ enduring legacy, from the DNA of fairy-tale scholarship to the shadow play and shape-shifting at the heart of the stories, and a preface to each tale frames it in its historical and sociocultural context.

The Grimms’ were a vital engine for a whole new caliber of artistic activity [...] Suddenly, artists across the Western world could make a living illustrating books, and they found a solid foundation for new work in the heroes and princesses, talking animals, dwarfs, and witches of fairy tales. The tales were an important part of each technological advancement along the way, and the best of this visual iconography still influences artist, art directors, filmmakers, and animators today [...] Even as our modes of reading continue to change with new technologies, taking a measure of the interactivity of text and image in past treasures helps us understand the changing landscape of reading in the future.”

And in case you were wondering why Taschen, purveyors of high-end and often risque art and design books, are doing a children’s book, they’ve got a thoughtful answer:

Taschen recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. We have many readers who have come of age with us and are now have their own families. These readers are interested in beautifully produced children’s books that take seriously a child’s exposure to stories and images with depth and historical meaning. We wanted The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm to embody our mission to create meaningful books that are timeless yet original, modern but classic.”

Rigorously researched and breathtakingly art-directed, The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm is a whimsical wonderland in its own right, blending seminal cultural history with our private individual nostalgia in an utterly gorgeous volume to charm the design lover, the history buff, and the eternal kid all at once.

Images courtesy of Taschen

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