Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Another World by Patricia Mainardi

book cover
Another World
by Patricia Mainardi

ISBN-13: 9780300219067
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Yale University Press
Released: March 14, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Taking its title from the 1844 visionary graphic novel by J. J. Grandville, this groundbreaking book explores the invention of print media—including comics, caricature, the illustrated press, illustrated books, and popular prints—tracing their development as well as the aesthetic, political, technological, and cultural issues that shaped them.

The explosion of imagery from the late 18th century to the beginning of the 20th exceeded the print production from all previous centuries combined, spurred the growth of the international art market, and encouraged the cross-fertilization of media, subjects, and styles. Patricia Mainardi examines scores of imaginative and innovative prints, focusing on highly experimental moments of discovery, when artists and publishers tested the limits of each new medium, creating visual languages that extend to the comics and graphic novels of today.

Another World unearths a wealth of visual material, revealing a history of how our image-saturated world came into being, and situating the study of print culture firmly within the context of art history

My Review:
Another World looked at developments in printing technology in the 1800s (like lithography) and how this promoted the development and popularity of caricature, illustrated magazines, comics, illustrated books, and popular prints. The author mostly talked about developments in France and England.

The author looked at the early experiments in these forms, like how the format and graphic language of comics developed as various authors/illustrators tried new things. He also talked about the first people to make illustrated magazines, comics, etc., and the challenges they faced. He talked about who bought these prints, magazines, etc., and what people thought about them at the time.

There were many pictures of these early caricatures and prints and of pages from the illustrated magazines, books, and comics. The author interpreted these pictures, which was nice since the political statements or cultural context would often have been lost on me. I found the information to be very interesting and easy to understand (though it's academic in tone). I'd highly recommend this book to those interested in illustrated prints and printing in the 1800s.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

City of Light, City of Poison by Holly Tucker

book cover
City of Light, City of Poison
by Holly Tucker

ISBN-13: 9780393239782
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Released: March 21, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Appointed to conquer the “crime capital of the world,” the first police chief of Paris faces an epidemic of murder in the late 1600s. Assigned by Louis XIV, Nicolas de La Reynie begins by clearing the streets of filth and installing lanterns throughout Paris, turning it into the City of Light.

La Reynie unearths a tightly knit cabal of poisoners, witches, and renegade priests. As he exposes their unholy work, he soon learns that no one is safe from black magic—not even the Sun King. Nobles settle scores by employing witches to craft poisons and by hiring priests to perform dark rituals in Paris’s most illustrious churches and cathedrals.

From secret courtrooms to torture chambers, City of Light, City of Poison is a gripping true-crime tale of deception and murder based on thousands of pages of court transcripts and La Reynie’s compulsive note-taking, as well as on letters and diaries.

My Review:
City of Light, City of Poison is a true crime book about a rash of poisonings that occurred in Paris in the 1670s. The book started by describing how violent Paris could be and how the first police chief of Paris cleaned up and lighted the city along with other efforts to reduce crime. Then a good bit of the book was about the king's various mistresses and the political maneuvering of certain people who played a role in the later trials.

The author used information in the interrogation transcripts to also describe the activities of various main players in the poisoning scandals--the women supplying the poisons and the high-class women who bought their poisons, love potions, or spells. She described the questioning of these people in detail, including grisly details about their torture. Finally, even the king's mistresses were being accused of using the spells. The king didn't want these accusations getting out, so all records of the affair were destroyed--or so he thought. We're told how these records survived so that the book could even be written.

I had thought the book would be more about how the early police conducted investigations, but apparently that involved arresting suspects, putting them in unpleasant prison cells, and eventually questioning them. They did have some crude tests to identify any potential poisons that were found, but autopsy was pretty limited in its usefulness in terms of identifying death by poison. I could have lived without learning the graphic details about the torture involved. Other than that, though, it was written in an interesting way and I'd recommend the book.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.