Monthly Archives: September 2013

It is the greatest shot of adrenaline to be doing what you have wanted to do so badly. You almost feel like you could fly without the plane… Charles Lindbergh

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The flight of the century : Charles Lindbergh & the rise of American aviation  Thomas Kessner  New York : Oxford University Press, c 2010  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xx, 313 p., [8] p. of plates : ill., map ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 243-291) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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In late May 1927 an inexperienced and unassuming 25-year-old Air Mail pilot from rural Minnesota stunned the world by making the first non-stop transatlantic flight. A spectacular feat of individual daring and collective technological accomplishment, Charles Lindbergh‘s flight from New York to Paris ushered in America’s age of commercial aviation.

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In The Flight of the Century, Thomas Kessner takes a fresh look at one of America’s greatest moments, explaining how what was essentially a publicity stunt became a turning point in history. He vividly recreates the flight itself and the euphoric reaction to it on both sides of the Atlantic, and argues that Lindbergh’s amazing feat occurred just when the world – still struggling with the disillusionment of WWI – desperately needed a hero to restore a sense of optimism and innocence.

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Kessner also shows how new forms of mass media made Lindbergh into the most famous international celebrity of his time, casting him in the role of a humble yet dashing American hero of rural origins and traditional values. Much has been made of Lindbergh’s personal integrity and his refusal to cash in on his fame. But Kessner reveals that Lindbergh was closely allied with, and managed by, a group of powerful businessmen – Harry Guggenheim, Dwight Morrow, and Henry Breckenridge chief among them – who sought to exploit aviation for mass transport and massive profits. Their efforts paid off as commercial air traffic soared from 6,000 passengers in 1926 to 173,000 passengers in 1929.

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Kessner’s book is the first to fully explore Lindbergh’s central role in promoting the airline industry – the rise of which has influenced everything from where we live to how we wage war and do business. The Flight of the Century sheds new light on one of America’s fascinatingly enigmatic heroes and most transformative moments.

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Comments Off on It is the greatest shot of adrenaline to be doing what you have wanted to do so badly. You almost feel like you could fly without the plane… Charles Lindbergh

Filed under Book Reviews

MAD, adj. Affected with a high degree of intellectual independence; not conforming to standards of thought, speech and action derived by the conformants from study of themselves; at odds with the majority; in short, unusual. It is noteworthy that persons are pronounced mad by officials destitute of evidence that themselves are sane. For illustration, this present (and illustrious) lexicographer is no firmer in the faith of his own sanity than is any inmate of any madhouse in the land; yet for aught he knows to the contrary, instead of the lofty occupation that seems to him to be engaging his powers he may really be beating his hands against the window bars of an asylum and declaring himself Noah Webster, to the innocent delight of many thoughtless spectators… Ambrose Bierce

Lost for words : the hidden history of the Oxford English dictionary  Lynda Mugglestone  New Haven : Yale University Press, c 2005  Hardcover. xxi, 273 p. : ill. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [252]-266) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) holds a cherished position in English literary culture. The story behind the creation of what is indisputably the greatest dictionary in the language has become a popular fascination. This book looks at the history of the great first edition of 1928, and at the men (and occasionally women) who distilled words and usages from centuries of English writing and “through an act of intellectual alchemy captured the spirit of a civilization.”

The task of the dictionary was to bear full and impartial witness to the language it recorded. But behind the immaculate typography of the finished text, the proofs tell a very different story. This vast archive, unexamined until now, reveals the arguments and controversies over meanings, definitions, and pronunciation, and which words and senses were acceptable—and which were not.

Lost for Words examines the hidden history by which the great dictionary came into being, tracing — through letters and archives — the personal battles involved in charting a constantly changing language. Then as now, lexicographers reveal themselves vulnerable to the prejudices of their own linguistic preferences and to the influence of contemporary social history.

Comments Off on MAD, adj. Affected with a high degree of intellectual independence; not conforming to standards of thought, speech and action derived by the conformants from study of themselves; at odds with the majority; in short, unusual. It is noteworthy that persons are pronounced mad by officials destitute of evidence that themselves are sane. For illustration, this present (and illustrious) lexicographer is no firmer in the faith of his own sanity than is any inmate of any madhouse in the land; yet for aught he knows to the contrary, instead of the lofty occupation that seems to him to be engaging his powers he may really be beating his hands against the window bars of an asylum and declaring himself Noah Webster, to the innocent delight of many thoughtless spectators… Ambrose Bierce

Filed under Book Reviews

Maps tend to come in two varieties: small, schematic, and bewildering; and large, fantastically detailed, and bewildering… Charles C. Mann

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The fourth part of the world : the race to the ends of the Earth, and the epic story of the map that gave America its name  Toby Lester  New York : Free Press, 2009  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xii, 462 p. : ill, maps ; 23 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 407-435) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

The 1507 Universalis cosmographiae by Martin Waldseemüller is the first map to show the continents of the New World separated from Asia, revealing the Pacific Ocean. Often called the “Birth Certificate of America,” it is also the first map on which the name “America” appears. The only surviving copy, displayed here, is a masterpiece of woodblock printing and is modeled after the earlier world maps of second century geographer Claudius Ptolemy.

The 1507 Universalis cosmographiae by Martin Waldseemüller is the first map to show the continents of the New World separated from Asia, revealing the Pacific Ocean. Often called the “Birth Certificate of America,” it is also the first map on which the name “America” appears. The only surviving copy, displayed here, is a masterpiece of woodblock printing and is modeled after the earlier world maps of second century geographer Claudius Ptolemy.

The Waldseemüller Map of 1507 introduced an astonishing collection of cartological firsts. It was the first map to show the New World as a separate continent, alongside Europe, Africa and Asia – and the first on which the word ‘America’ appears. It was the first map to suggest the existence of the Pacific. It was, in short, the first map to depict the whole world as we know it today.Beautiful, fascinating and revealing, it arrived on the scene as Europeans were moving out of the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance, thanks to a tiny group of European mapmakers who pieced together ideas going back to the ancients and through Marco Polo to Vespucci. In The Fourth Part of the World, Toby Lester charts the amazing and colourful history of this map, whose profound influence has been neglected for centuries and which changed the world-view of all humankind.

Printed on twelve sheets, the Carta Marina, like the Martin Waldsemüller’s 1507 world map, was part of the volume of cartographic materials, known as the Sammelband, assembled by mathematician, alchemist, and globe-maker Johann Schörner. Sheet number six appears slightly different in color from the other eleven sheets of the map because it is printed on a different type of paper and most probably was a proof sheet. This sheet of the map was not originally bound into the Sammelband like the others and seems to have been added at a later date.

Printed on twelve sheets, the Carta Marina, like the Martin Waldsemüller’s 1507 world map, was part of the volume of cartographic materials, known as the Sammelband, assembled by mathematician, alchemist, and globe-maker Johann Schörner. Sheet number six appears slightly different in color from the other eleven sheets of the map because it is printed on a different type of paper and most probably was a proof sheet. This sheet of the map was not originally bound into the Sammelband like the others and seems to have been added at a later date.

The Schöner Sammelband is arguably one of the most important compilations of cartographic materials to survive from the early Renaissance. The Sammelband, or compilation, was discovered in 1901 by the Jesuit historian, Father Josef Fischer, in the library of the Castle of Wolfegg, in Württemberg, Germany. The volume had been assembled sometime after 1516 and contained the only surviving copies of Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 Universalis cosmographiae, his 1516 Carta Marina Navigatoria (page shown)and globe patterns by the mathematician, alchemist and globe-maker Johann Schöner (1477–1547).

The Schöner Sammelband is arguably one of the most important compilations of cartographic materials to survive from the early Renaissance. The Sammelband, or compilation, was discovered in 1901 by the Jesuit historian, Father Josef Fischer, in the library of the Castle of Wolfegg, in Württemberg, Germany. The volume had been assembled sometime after 1516 and contained the only surviving copies of Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 Universalis cosmographiae, his 1516 Carta Marina Navigatoria (page shown)and globe patterns by the mathematician, alchemist and globe-maker Johann Schöner (1477–1547).

This is a portion of a sixteenth-century portolan (or sailing) chart of the Pacific Coast of Central and South America, showing the region from Guatemala to northern Peru. The names of coastal towns on the map are written in two different hands, dating the chart to the middle of the sixteenth century.

This is a portion of a sixteenth-century portolan (or sailing) chart of the Pacific Coast of Central and South America, showing the region from Guatemala to northern Peru. The names of coastal towns on the map are written in two different hands, dating the chart to the middle of the sixteenth century.

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Comments Off on Maps tend to come in two varieties: small, schematic, and bewildering; and large, fantastically detailed, and bewildering… Charles C. Mann

Filed under Pictorial Essays

A return to first principles in a republic is sometimes caused by the simple virtues of one man. His good example has such an influence that the good men strive to imitate him, and the wicked are ashamed to lead a life so contrary to his example… Niccolo Machiavelli

Machiavelli’s PRINCE and Viroli’s biography certainly fit the definition of belles-lettres while Unger’s heavier tome qualifies in an almost formal sense as biography which is not to demean  any of the works. They all have their merits and while we fear that Machiavelli may actually have been writing tongue in cheek and suffered the fate of having been taken too literally by those with neither art nor science he certainly does offer food for thought. Viroli has the charm of a writer familiar with his subject and seems to give him the same enigmatic smile as his contemporary – the Mona Lisa. Unger does a wonderful job of placing him in his milieu and his historical context but doesn’t have the room – with everything else he includes – to animate the man. Somehow a proper understanding may require both [better, all three] books.
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Niccolo’s smile : a biography of Machiavelli  Maurizio Viroli ; translated from the Italian by Antony Shugaar  New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000  Hardcover. 1st American ed.. xv, 271 p. : maps ; 22 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [261]-262) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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In Niccolò’s Smile, Maurizio Viroli brings to life the fascinating writer who was the founder of modern political thought. Niccolò Machiavelli‘s works on the theory and practice of statecraft are classics, but Viroli suggests that his greatest accomplishment is his robust philosophy of life — his deep beliefs about how one should conduct oneself as a modern citizen in a republic, as a responsible family member, as a good person. On these subjects Machiavelli wrote no books: the text of his philosophy is his life itself, a life that was filled with paradox, uncertainty, and tragic drama.

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Machiavelli : a biography  Miles J. Unger  New York, NY : Simon & Schuster, 2011  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. x, 400 p. : ill. (some col.) , map ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [353]-386) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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Niccolò Machiavelli is the most influential political writer of all time. His name has become synonymous with cynical scheming and the selfish pursuit of power, but the real Machiavelli, says Miles Unger, was a deeply humane and perceptive writer whose controversial theories were a response to the violence and corruption he saw around him.

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Machiavelli’s philosophy was shaped by the tumultuous age in which he lived, an age of towering geniuses and brutal tyrants. His first political mission was to spy on the fire-and-brimstone preacher Savonarola. He was on intimate terms with Leonardo and Michelangelo. As a diplomat, he matched wits with the corrupt Pope Alexander VI and his son, the infamous Cesare Borgia, whose violent career served as a model for The Prince. Analyzing their successes and failures, Machiavelli developed his revolutionary approach to power politics. His famous book is a guide that is based on the world as it is, not as it should be.
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Comments Off on A return to first principles in a republic is sometimes caused by the simple virtues of one man. His good example has such an influence that the good men strive to imitate him, and the wicked are ashamed to lead a life so contrary to his example… Niccolo Machiavelli

Filed under Book Reviews

When the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, the wall fell down flat… Joshua 6:20

Print shows Uncle Sam using "Congressional Mortar" and building blocks carried by ethnic workers to construct a wall with the stones are labeled "Law against Race, Prejudice, Jealousy, Competition, Fear, Anti Low Wages, Non-Reciprocity, [and] Congressional Blunders". Across a river, in the background, Chinese workers work with picks to dismantle the Great Wall, as China opens its doors to trading with the West. 1882

Print shows Uncle Sam using “Congressional Mortar” and building blocks carried by ethnic workers to construct a wall with the stones are labeled “Law against Race, Prejudice, Jealousy, Competition, Fear, Anti Low Wages, Non-Reciprocity, [and] Congressional Blunders”. Across a river, in the background, Chinese workers work with picks to dismantle the Great Wall, as China opens its doors to trading with the West. 1882

This is a new type of entry for this blog. Using the publisher’s description and other pictorial archives we are presenting a book that we believe to be important and worthy of your consideration. The Great Wall of China has been both a symbol and a fact – possibly more important as the former than the latter – but in either case it is impossible to ignore.

A caravan outside the walls of Peking 1893

A caravan outside the walls of Peking 1893

The Great Wall : the extraordinary story of China’s wonder of the world  John Man  Cambridge, Mass. : Da Capo Press, 2008  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xii, 336 p., [32] p. of plates : col. ill. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 319-323) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

[Great victory for the daring Awaya, regimental commander, at the time of the general offensive against Tʻien-chin, China] 1900 September Print shows the Japanese commander on horseback as Japanese and allied forces attack the walled city at Tianjin, China.

[Great victory for the daring Awaya, regimental commander, at the time of the general offensive against Tʻien-chin, China] 1900 September Print shows the Japanese commander on horseback as Japanese and allied forces attack the walled city at Tianjin, China.


The Great Wall of China is a wonder of the world. Every year, hundreds of thousands of tourists take the five-mile journey from Beijing to climb its battlements. While myriad photographs have made this extraordinary landmark familiar to millions more, its story remains mysterious and steeped in myth. In this riveting account, John Man travels the entire length of the Great Wall and across two millennia to find the truth behind the legends. Along the way, he delves into the remarkable and complex history of China — from the country’s tribal past, through the war with the Mongols, right up to the modern-day when the Great Wall is once more a commanding emblem of China.

Print shows Uncle Sam standing at the top a wall labeled "Prohibitive Tariff" on land labeled "U.S.", looking across a body of water at the "Chinese Wall" being torn down by European and Japanese rulers labeled and caricatured as "France" (Felix Faure), "Germany" (William II), and "Japan" (Meiji), "England (George V), and "Russia" (Nicholas II).

Print shows Uncle Sam standing at the top a wall labeled “Prohibitive Tariff” on land labeled “U.S.”, looking across a body of water at the “Chinese Wall” being torn down by European and Japanese rulers labeled and caricatured as “France” (Felix Faure), “Germany” (William II), and “Japan” (Meiji), “England (George V), and “Russia” (Nicholas II).

China - [Pagoda] on the Great Wall at Shan-Hai-Kwan  [between 1910 and 1920]

China – [Pagoda] on the Great Wall at Shan-Hai-Kwan [between 1910 and 1920]

Shan-hai-kwan, eastern end of China's Great Wall - south from Liao Hsi Mts., to Pe-Chi-li Gulf 1904

Shan-hai-kwan, eastern end of China’s Great Wall – south from Liao Hsi Mts., to Pe-Chi-li Gulf 1904

Camel train from Mongolia via Nankow Pass, coming through the Great Wall of China 1902

Camel train from Mongolia via Nankow Pass, coming through the Great Wall of China 1902

Great wall of China [1936 or 1937]

Great wall of China [1936 or 1937]

Family living in an arch under the Great Wall [1895]

Family living in an arch under the Great Wall [1895]

Chinese Wall, Pekink, China - the Great Wall, Peking - Rebels have passed another part of the wall and are marching on Peking  [between ca. 1908 and 1926]

Chinese Wall, Pekink, China – the Great Wall, Peking – Rebels have passed another part of the wall and are marching on Peking [between ca. 1908 and 1926]

Comments Off on When the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, the wall fell down flat… Joshua 6:20

Filed under Pictorial Essays