Weekend Reading: Being Bookish

Yes, it’s another post about books. Sorry!

Yesterday was World Book Day, bringing with it the annual challenge of coming up with a costume for a costume-hating child. Every year we end up with a variant of ‘normal clothes’: George from George’s Marvellous Medicine (normal clothes: big spoon); Harry Potter pre-Hogwarts (normal clothes: plastic glasses); Ash from Pokemon (normal clothes: baseball cap). This year we went with Charlie Bucket from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (normal clothes: golden ticket). I’m becoming an expert at the art of the almost imperceptible costume. If we ever meet in real life, watch out: I could be wearing a costume, and you wouldn’t even know it.

Unsurprisingly, books have been much on my mind lately. I’m still struggling to concentrate long enough to make it to the end of a book (I’ve been hearing the same thing from lots of other people lately), but I’m always surrounded by book-related stuff.

Recently I’ve been designing author bookplates. Under the current circumstances everyone seems to agree that book-signing events are a Very Bad Idea, so increasingly authors are writing messages on bookplates and posting them out to the people who would have attended the book signings (I’ve just requested one from Adrienne Mayor, to put in my copy of her book). So bookplates are in demand, for once! I’ve designed bookplates for two wonderful poets in the past couple of weeks, and it’s lovely to think that my designs will be sent out all over the world for people to put in their books!

I like to design personal bookplates, based on what I know of the person, or based on puns on their name. It’s an old tradition, going back to the fifteenth century, and a fascinating art form – to me, at least! One of the things I like most about it is that, going back a long way, women were well represented, both as artists and as recipients. Here are a few interesting ones (and for more, there’s a lovely little book from the British Museum called ‘Ex Libris: The Art of Bookplates’).

Designed by Edward Gordon Craig (son of the actress Ellen Terry), for Kate (Kitty) Downing. Yes, it’s an obvious pun – but cute!
Designed by Rudyard Kipling for Dorothy Doubleday (hence the two globes), and modified by him after she got married, to include her husband.
By Joseph Hecht for Alice Carthew, who was an early twentieth century Hellenist and translator. The elements of the bookplate are based on her Cornish family crest.

I also like the idea of more general bookplates, for anybody to use. I used to buy these, when I was a kid, and stick them in my most treasured books:

From a volume of Sherlock Holmes stories, which I bought when I won a writing prize at the age of 8!

So here are a couple of bookplates designed by me, as a World Book Day gift, which you are very welcome to download, print out and use in your own books, should you wish! They also make nice diy presents (Mother’s Day is coming up, you know…!).

Pdf to download and print:

You can also find a myth-related one I designed, over at Greek Myth Comix, which again is free to download and use.

Right – I’m off to stare blankly at my bookcases in indecision for a while, before settling down to watch the news – again!

This week from around the classical internet


Amazing chariot found in Pompeii – CNN

Mummification handbook – New Atlas

Etruscan ‘red blob’ revealed – Daily Mail

Comfort Classics

Karl Anthony Mercer: Agrippa and the Pantheon

Jeremy J. Swist: Julian’s The Caesars

Comment and opinion

Food of the gods – Idler Magazine

Female portraits – Roman Times

The history of the Cyclops – TLS

Newly restored Pompeian frescoes – Smithsonian Magazine

Villa of the Mysteries replica – Atlas Obscura

Rare diseases in the Bronze Age – Phys.org

The financial conquests of Eubulus – The Historian’s Hut

More on The Discourse – Maximus Planudes

Podcasts, video and other media

Why you need to read the Odyssey – Ancient Geek

The Roman emperors – History Extra

Interview with The Lego Classicist – The British School at Athens

Dr Mai Musié’s Classics story – Communicator Limited

Sappho Fragment 31 – Sweetbitter

Cavalry and the Macedonian phalanx – Ancient Warfare Answers

SCS Annual Meeting: Emotions and the Body in Greco-Roman Medicine – Society for Classical Studies

SCS Annual Meeting: Epigraphy and History – Society for Classical Studies


Artistic responses to Antiquity (this looks great!) – Classical Association of Scotland

And the excitement tonight, for anyone who remembers studying the Benin Bronzes on AA100 or A111, is an i-phone event featuring academics and MC Hammer! – Clubhouse

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