For Atlas Obscura, Sarah Laskow delves into the secret apartments of the New York Public Library system. Most people only dream of living in a library, but for some people, this was reality. The apartments—which were in the Carnegie libraries—were branches of the New York Public Library....more
Posts Tagged: atlas obscura
While it sounds pretty weird, this was standard practice back in the day. According to Patrick Miller in his article “Music and the Silent Film,” Hollywood director D.W. Griffith enlisted a brass band to encourage extras during the battle sequences of his 1916 three-and-a-half-hour epic, Intolerance.
The seemingly non-sequitur first lines of “Yankee Doodle” sound like they’re about food, but Michael Waters in Atlas Obscura reveals the lyrics’ gender-bending history:
The Oxford Magazine similarly described the macaroni as not belonging to the gender binary: “There is indeed a kind of animal, neither male, nor female, a thing of neuter gender, lately started up among us.
Situated along the US-Canada border, the Haskell Free Library and Opera House “is the only library in the world that exists and operates in two countries at once,” Atlas Obscura reports....more
Twain endorsed the book, saying “Nobody can add to the absurdity of this book, nobody can imitate it successfully, nobody can hope to produce its fellow; it is perfect.”
A 19th century Portuguese-to-English phrase book, English as She Is Spoke, broke the conversational ice between two countries—as well as many funny bones....more
The question of access continues to plague the academic community—if academia is truly about knowledge and discovery, why are there still so many barriers to the unfettered sharing of information? The architects of digital “pirate libraries” around the world are trying to resolve that contradiction, violating copyright laws to bring expensive scholarly materials to the researchers (and data-hungry laypeople) who need them....more
A delightful, short essay at Atlas Obscura describes how handwriting in colonial America was packed with information about the profession, or trade, and class of the penman/woman. Reading was considered spiritual, and taught separately from writing, which was highly self-conscious, revealing, and practical:
Thanks to the rigorous teachings of professionals called “penmen,” merchants wrote strong, loopy logbooks, women’s words were intricate and shaded, and upper-class men did whatever they felt like.
The word “jawn” is unlike any other English word. In fact, according to the experts that I spoke to, it’s unlike any other word in any other language. It is an all-purpose noun, a stand-in for inanimate objects, abstract concepts, events, places, individual people, and groups of people….
Department store mannequins may be creepy, and automated customer service calls may take forever, but at least we don’t have to deal with the Euphonia these days. Inhabiting the lowest point of the uncanny valley, this machine mimicked human speech through a disembodied head, which somehow made people more uncomfortable than amazed:
People liked that the Euphonia could parrot human speech.
A tour through Rumphius’ work is a masterclass in the poetry of the concrete noun. His shells bear names like Little Dream Horn, the Prince’s Funeral, Peasant Music and the Double Venus Harp.
Atlas Obscura tells the story of Georg Everhard Rumphius (no relation), the blind botanist who applied poetry to science....more
What is more American than the road trip? Steven Melendez has created an astonishingly detailed interactive map of the beloved institution as documented in twelve works of American literature. The books featured include Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, Mark Twain’s Roughing It, John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, and Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Acid Test....more
The Codex Gigas…contains the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, as well as an assortment of other texts that tackle everything from practical instructions for exorcisms to seventh-century grammar tips written by Isidore, the scholar-turned saint of Seville.
Atlas Obscura examines the Codex Gigas, a strange tome weighing in at 165 pounds and better known as “the Devil’s Bible.”...more
In 1983, Terry Belanger created a curriculum for librarians to learn how to deal with rare books at Columbia University. Nine years later, the University of Virginia hired him and the Rare Book School moved to Charlottesville. The school now has 80,000 rare volumes and runs highly competitive five-day session where students are taught the ins and outs of rare books....more
Travel blog Atlas Obscura has a post up on Slate about Massachusetts’s Museum of Bad Art, whose collection of paintings “displays a glaring gap between the artist’s sincerity and skill level.”
It may seem cruel at first, but founders Scott Wilson and Jerry Reilly explain that “[t]heir goal, and the goal of the museum to this day, was to celebrate artists’ enthusiasm and honor failure as an essential part of the creative process.”
We fail to see what could possibly be bad about a painting titled Ferret in a Brothel....more
The end of August is a notoriously slow time for events of all kinds in New York. Why this year, and this week, has been an exception I do not know. August is full of great, weird, thought-provoking events. Get out of the house....more
This week in New York Keith Gessen and Elif Batuman talk, Guernica has a reading, Joanna Newsom sings and plays harp, Marcel Dzama appears, talks and signs books, The Moth has a Story Slam, Christopher Walken loses a hand and Zoe Kazan gives him one, and Atlas Obscura presents an international celebration of curious and obscure things....more