Ex Libris: The Art of Possession

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Bookplate of Charles Grave Hudson. Died 1813.

Ex libris, or bookplates, are placards inscribed with the name of a tome’s owner and affixed to the inside of its cover. Ex libris establish some amount of provenance — a clue into the history of a book’s possession. The art decorating bookplates is often heraldic, fantastic, ornate, and gorgeous. This collection is comprised mostly of plates created in Europe during the 17th & 18th centuries.

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From the Fables of Zambri, the Parsee

~1874~

A rustic, preparing to devour an apple, was addressed by a brace of crafty and covetous birds:

“Nice apple that,” said one, critically examining it. “I don’t wish to disparage it — wouldn’t say a word against that vegetable for all the world. But I never can look upon an apple of that variety without thinking of my poisoned nestling! Ah! so plump, and rosy, and — rotten!”

“Just so,” said the other. “And you remember my good father, who perished in that orchard. Strange that so fair a skin should cover so vile a heart!”

Just then another fowl came flying up.

Rustic and Crafty Birds

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Scold’s Bridle

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The Scold’s Bridle, also known as “branks,” was a piece of equipment used to punish and oppress women in the fifteen and sixteen hundreds. The bridle was made of an iron frame that encased the head of the victim. At the front of this contraption, a bridle “bit” piece extended into the mouth, holding down the tongue with a spiked plate, rendering the victim mute. In effect, a scold’s bridle was a muzzle used on human females.

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What type of crimes deserved such a punishment? Women were bridled for being “gossips,” “scolds,” “riotous,” “troublesome,” and even on suspicion of witchcraft.

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1885 lithograph. Illustrates the use of a scold’s bridle in New England.
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18th Century Scold’s Bridle from the Markisches Museum, Berlin

Santa Muerte Blanca’s Prayer

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Santa Muerte de mi corazón,

Niña Blanca,

Ampárame bajo tu manto

 Y otórgame tu bendición

Para que el amor y la dicha siempre lleguen

 Señora Mía dame tu fuerza

Para que todo lo que me rodea se armonice.

Para que la fortuna y la suerte me sigan siempre.

 Que todo lo malo se retire

 Que todo lo bueno venga.

 Te lo pido por tu poder y fuerza sobre todas las cosas vivas.

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Amén.

Rattenkönig, the Rat King

Excerpts of H.P.  Lovecraft’s The Rats in the Walls, 1924

~with~

visions of the legendary Rattenkönig, the Rat King, 1683

God! those carrion black pits of sawed, picked bones and opened skulls! Those nightmare chasms choked with the pithecanthropoid, Celtic, Roman, and English bones of countless unhallowed centuries! Some of them were full, and none can say how deep they had once been. Others were still bottomless to our searchlights, and peopled by unnameable fancies. What, I thought, of the hapless rats that stumbled into such traps amidst the blackness of their quests in this grisly Tartarus?

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6 Rat Rattenkonig, 1683

My searchlight expired, but still I ran. I heard voices, and yowls, and echoes, but above all there gently rose that impious, insidious scurrying; gently rising, rising, as a stiff bloated corpse gently rises above an oily river that flows under the endless onyx bridges to a black, putrid sea. Something bumped into me — something soft and plump. It must have been the rats; the viscous, gelatinous, ravenous army that feast on the dead and the living …

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Mummified Rat King, Germany