Anyone who loves old book illustrations should have BibliOdyssey (“Books~~Illustrations~~Science~~History~~Visual Materia Obscura~~Eclectic Bookart”) among their bookmarks, and anyone who loves the site will be glad to know that FUEL has published a book by its pseudonymous creator, who has changed his moniker from peacay to PK for the occasion. Since they were kind enough to send me a copy, I can report that it is well worth having even if you read the website assiduously, because about half of it has never appeared there, and the text is almost entirely new—not to mention, of course, that it’s great to have these gorgeous images in permanent form, well reproduced in a beautifully made book. PK himself says:
Ultimately, I envisage a threefold purpose in compiling a book of diverse illustrations — the simple pleasure of eye candy; the evocation of a deeper interest in an historical, artistic or scientific subject; and for use as a projectile, to be thrown at those who would say there is nothing worthwhile to be found on the internet, or who question why anybody would want to spend so much time in front of a computer screen.
To which I say, Amen.
Here’s a sample of the value added by the text; the images The Idol of Vistnum in his third Transformation and The Removal of the Mount Meeperwat (1672) are available at his site, but the book gives the background:
Early modern travel writing was unquestionably the most diverse genre of literature. Newly discovered ethnographic, navigational, commercial, biological, military and cartographic information from far flung places like Asia was presented to an enthralled European audience. Collections of Jesuit missionary letters and reports gradually gave way to more formal histories and secular accounts from traders, explorers and scholars. These works were often illustrated with engravings, both factual and fanciful, and many of the accounts and drawings were recirculated through translation, borrowing and reinterpretation. By the late 17th century, travel anthologies became an attractive printing venture for those hoping to profit from the widening interest in exotic cultures during the early days of The Enlightenment. In 1704, the Churchill brothers published the very successful four volume compilation, A Collection of Voyages and Travels, which included original and translated travel works. The engravings of Hindu mythology here are believed to be by Jacob van Meurs and they accompanied Olfert Dapper’s record of interviews with Dutch sea captains and merchants who had visited India.
And he gives the URL (http://www.wsulibs.wsu.edu/holland/masc/xworldciv.html) of the website from which he got the images, where you can find many more of equal interest. Who could resist?