Currently viewing the category: "Fantastic Titles"

JF Ptak Science Books Post 1981

“The most ignorant person at a reasonable charge, and with little bodily labor, may write books in philosophy, poetry, law, mathematics, and theology, without the least assistance from genius or study.” Jonathan Swift, in Gulliver’s Travels (Actually, Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of several Ships) . 1726.

I've produced the beginning of an alphabet of –Punkisms for variations of robot.machine/computer past and futures, science fiction indicators of possibility. Why should we stop at "Steampunk" when there's FuturePunk and DeadPunk and such to be had? So, please find folllowing a few possibilities, and accept them in the playful way in which they are offered–also, the very abbreviated descriptions of the science fiction works desscribed are open to interpretation. And please give this a "pass" for the over-abundance of hyphens.


ActorPunk: Walter Miller, 'The Darfsteller' (1954), human actors are replaced by robots on stage, as compared to being replaced by digital figures online. Some steps have been made with great care over the years by “perfecting” the imaging of women in magazine advertisement—in this way even the models who appear in the ad and are modified find it impossible to live up to the expectations of what their ads depict.

Anti-technologicalPunk-topia: Samuel Butler, Erewhon, (1872).

AutomatoPunk: Kurt Vonnegut, Player Piano (1955), like Brazil and 1984, but with machines.


BiologoPunk: Philip K. Dick, 'Autofac' (1955), machines find that they can reproduce themselves in a '50's iron-bio kind of way.

BrainPunk: Miles J. Breuer, 'Paradise and Iron' (1930).


ConsciousnessPunk: Philip K. Dick, Vulcan's Hammer (1960) and the development of computer consciousness. Also David Gerrold, When Harlie Was One (1972);
Frank Herbert, Destination Void (1966); Harlan Ellison, 'I Have no Mouth and I Must Scream' (1967); Robert Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966), and many others.

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JF Ptak Science Books Post 1789

I suspect that J.J. Grandville must be remembered as the proto-father of the proto-Surrealists, and probably more. He was a very prolific illustrator during his short life (1803-1847), producing many images across a very wide field of imagination that would probably be referred to as speculative fiction. Early in his stunted career he had some considerable influence as a satirical punisher in a number of superior-level magazines before a censorship law prohibiting such social observations criminalized that sort of imagination, and so Grandville moved on to illustrating some great classics in literature.

In 1844 Grandville (a pseudonym for Jean Ignace Isidore Gerard) published his (literally) fabulous Un Autre Monde, a very creative work of transformation and visionary exploration, which was a parody and critique of the worlds of the present and the possible. Its sharp edge ha been lost to time as much as most any satire or caricature of a dusty political past might be (like farming jokes and James Buchanan in 1861), but when you look at the hundreds of illustrations for this work (as well as its underlying ideas) that is really all you need. The images speak for themselves, and can speak to most anything, in any language. This is one of the place where Grandville has writ his name large in the pre-history of Surrealism, an Andre Breton/Ernst Mach approach to lit and art about 70 years early.

The images are simply fantastic. And you might be ready to see them–with modern eyes–when you read the subtitle head for his book, which reads so: Un Autre Monde/Transformations, Visions, Incarnations, ascensions, locomotions, explorations, peregrinations, excursions, stations [I'm not sure what this translate to], cosmogonies, fantasmagories, reveries, folatreries ["follies"], lubies ["fads"], metamorphoses, zoomorphie, lithomorphoses, metempsycoes, apotheos, et autre choses… By the end of the title, the reader would suspect that something was "coming".

And so I'm going to post a number of different bits on the images from Un Autre Monde–the first gathering some views of musicians and instruments which take on a definite steampunk variety. Next we'll have a look an interesting use of perspective as Grandville looks almost straight down on his subject–but not quite so, which to me is quite surprising; then there will be posts on weather morphologies, metallic pyramidal flowers, meta-artists, and of course flying machines.

Numerous Grandville images may be found at Visipix; a full set of Un Autre Monde's illustrations at Flickr, and a full copy of the book at the Internet Archive.



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JF Ptak Science Books Post 1724

Blogaugust_18flagpole408It is difficult not to stand in complete respect of something being Very Well Done–especially if that “something” is something very simple, a “something” that is generally invisible because it is so much part of the visual or social or mental environment. I’ve touched on this topic earlier in this blog, particularly here on a post on a beautiful and quick pamphlet written on the care and painting of flag poles. It is a monumental work in its subject area of the Very Small–a very well written, concise and what seems to be complete treatment and mastery of its subject. The subject just happens to be flagpoles–but if you ever needed something to describe what to do if faced with the task addressed by this pamphlet, then you have certainly found the Ulysses of the subject.


This tall (11×8 inch) 35-page 1945 work with an impossible title has everything that you would need to know–as its title promises and delivers–to repair a zipper. Not replace a zipper– repair it.

It is so beautiful as to want to make every engineer residing in the deepness of everyones’ soul just simply weep in the glory of this pamphlet. The work is simply but well illustrated and addresses 50-odd contingencies for zipper malfunction and failure, and speaks to a particular WWII mindset that that addresses problems in this very fashion. Repair rather than replace. The bottom line here is that this is as good as any book of the history of fluxions or the making of the atomic bomb or cooking up a virus, given the parameters and limitations of its subject.

These memories were brought to the surface tonight because of a pamphlet that I found that had burrowed itself deep inside a box of science pamphlets written by folks in the D-H part of the alphabet on particle physics in the 1940′s and 1950′s. It just popped out: Decay of Poles.

Decay of poles230
I really wasn’t sure what the book could be about. Having just finished a short post on the work of Jules Verne’s Moon Gun being used to alter the axis of the Earth to make Polar exploration easier, I thought that, well, perhaps someone put something “special” together on how the Earth’s poles were decaying. Or “decayable”.

The title page of this sweet, small pamphlet says otherwise: it is written by Howard Jones (“A.B., A.M., M.D.”) of the “Universal Pole and Post Preservation Company” of Circleville, Ohio. (The story of Circleville is extraordinary–we’ll deal with that tomorrow.) Dr. Jones addresses the issue of decay and wood, particularly and of the utmost importance was the decay of the wood in poles and posts. When you think of it just a bit, you’ll see that Decay of Poles was an essential work, as there must have been tens of millions of poles and posts slowly (or not) rotting themselves away into splinters in holes in the ground all over the United States. As a matter of fact that are still tens or hundred of millions–billions–of wooden poles still in this country: its how we support the very backbone of the digital infrastructure of the world economy, strung on wires in between poles made of dead trees, and stuck in holes in the ground.

And lastly for tonight, I’d like to address one more thing, something that took my breath away when I saw it for the first time. It was the following article in the relatively obscure magazine, Illustrated World–a sort of more-popular Popular Mechanix–for June, 1917. I saw the title which suggested doing something that I had never considered doing before, or thought about anyone else doing–building your own phonograph at home.

How to phonograph228
And of course the lovely schematic, which suggests that you could pull this thing together with bits of stuff from the kitchen junk drawer and fluff from the basement; then, Things Happen, and you have a phonograph.

How to phonograph229
This just seems to me to be so perfectly right, correct. Why not make your own phonograph? IF you remind has heard the music before it will fill in the pops and hisses and misses that your homemade will invariably produce, so why not make something that will play your vinyl without necessarily killing it?

All of these items speak to an appreciation for the recognition of The Small Job Well Done. This may be a key ingredient to what we may not be doing for ourselves, collectively, today. This is lovely work brightly done with basically unseeable results–unless you look for them. And then you can find the beauty.

JF Ptak Science Books Post 1401

Fabulous titles216This is another in a series on fantastically-titled books and pamphlets. When written the titles were aptly descriptive, indicating their contents, selling the wares, so on–but now, with a little time between publication and now, the connections of the titles to the contents seem to have withered like dried toothy neurons, gainfully displayed for all to see in their isolated weird elegance.

Fabulous titles214
And so we experience the found, unintentional absurd in printed material like some of the examples below. Their title pages can be experienced as art in a way, at least today, so far removed from their original meaning and context that the words float like disembodied arks of meaning looking for whatever piece of land/meaning that they bump into. Sometimes their titles are the bizarre-ity, masking a mundane, pedestrian contents; much of the time the title and contents emanate the stench of lost meaning through and through. Sometimes the titles are just nothing.

Fabulous titles212 Fabulous titles215 Fabulous titles210
Fabulous titles213

JF Ptak Science Books Post 1269

What is it about science and the future and how the scifiction of the past (pre-1950′s) almost never could encapsulate the superior scientific innovation and discovery of its near future? It is marvelous and wickedly magnificent to look at some cover art and illustration for the pulp and not-so-pulpy science ficton, images that not only have a certain look and feel, but also a smell, a particular bookstore/basement pulp-paper-not-exposed-in-forty-years smell.

Steampunk Eye–that enormous ship, governed by a long, long pole with a small box witn an eye in it, being raised and lowered on pulleys:

Steampunk a077

The Steampunk Gigantic Enormous Stupendous Infinite Brain (also notice that folks are fleeing, running for their lives, witt heir arms thrown high into the air, running like SpongeBob SquarePants–its hard to run like that):

Steampunk brain084

Steampunk Lust:

Steampunk lust085

Steampunk Addiction & Cancer Hole:

Steampunk cancer hole088

And the Philip -Morris contribution for smoking in alien space:

Steampunk cancer hole089
Steampunk Humano-Robot Replicant:

Steampunk human robot081

Steampunk Thinking (the slide rule really didn’t give out until around 1970):

Steampunk calculating086 Steampunk Legs:

Steampunk legs083

Steampunk Abs: humans are surrounded by arm-waving large-headed belly-shirted aliens, the man using a flashlight for defense )burning the alien eye even though they’re all in bright light) while the woman points really hard:

Steampunk abs090
Steampunk Hair–and with all of that vast technology and futurismo, there are still unruly locks here and their:

Steampunk hair082
Electro/Steampunk Body Replicator

Steampunk body replicator087

JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post 946

Diggers, Manifestarians, Puritans, Muggletonians, Shakers, Quakers, Levellers, Seekers…terrific names all for religious or religioesque movements, most now
gone, though it seems that of the most-gone the Ranters are probably the
most-goned gone–which must’ve been a function of their unstated aims of not
having a particular course of action. As
an anti-movement their movement was tautologically doomed, as they flourished
for only a decade or so, sandwiched into the very full mid-17th

{The image above is an illustration from the book, Hell Broke Loose.. . below. It also is a pretty tame version of other images that show more nudity/drinking/sexual activities.]

were an English Free Spirited heretical group of wide interpretation of social
and moral value. Their questioning of the potency of the man’s fall doctrine
steamed together with a quasi-semi-millenialism evidently led to an
alehouse-based loosening of socially governed restraints. According to the many People magazine-like pamphlets and soft
porn reporting, their activities made for sugary eating by the bawdy-eyed ha’penny
people buying gossip in cheaply printed formats. Free of Sin and Law, the Ranter celebrations
were soaked in alcohol and nudity, which are ripe pluckings for any non-serious journalist, then or now.

Judging from the list of publications (listed below in the "Continued Reading" section) there must've been a very immediate lusty interest in the Ranters' lustily interesting ways. I've written this post for the simple interest in one particular, extraordinary title: [with apologies for the underlining, but I cannot convince the Typepad gods to remove it.]

Hell broke loose: or, the notorious design of the wicked Ranters, discovered on Sunday last at Black-Fryers Being a true relation of the strange proceedings of Mr. Vaughan, and his wicked proselytes; and their entring of Black-Fryers church in sermon time, like so many spirits from hell, with four damnable papers in the hands, containing such horrible, audacious, and abominable songs, the like not to be parallel'd in former ages. With the manner how this onsolent Ranter traced the streets from Black-Fryers to Saint Paul's Church-yard, in his Holland shirt, without doublet or breeches, a treble cap, like the Pope's miter, with silk fring, and white shooes, and stockings. With their damnable plots, and conspiracies against the ministers of the gospel: their examination before the right honourable the Lord Mayor of London; the sad and woful speeched, made by the ringleader of the Ranters, concerning the city magistrates, and golden chains: and the committing of them to Bridewell till the next sessions. 1650

See? That's just fabulous, and represents a Title Page Extravaganza that seems to be a 17th century feature–including as much as humanly possible on a title-page. As does this book, with all manner of detail in the title, not the least of which is the description of a man running around with no pants but with a Pope's mitre and white shoes and socks.

The 17th century "Hell Broke Loose" extended-title (but non-Ranter) category has a number of other entries in it, too, for published books, including the following lovilies:

Hell broke-loose; upon Doctor
S–ch–ve–l's sermons
or, Don Quevedo's vision, of an infernal cabal of Whiggish papists and
popish Whigs in Utopia; upon a mock-tryal of the doctor. Translated from the
original; by Jack the Spaniard.

Hell broke loose, or, An answer to the late bloody
and rebellious declaration of the phanatiques, entituled A door of hope,
wherein their horrible conspiracy against our gracious soveraign, and the
city of London, in their late rebellion is discovered : together with a brief
view of our lives, manners and malice of those desperate and unparallel'd
. 1661

Hell broke loose : or an history of the Quakers both old and
new. Setting forth many of their opinions and practices, published to antidote
Christians against formality in religion and apostasie

Some of the other big-title Ranter titles from this time include the following:

The Ranters creed being a true copie of the examinations of a blasphemous
sort of people, commonly called ranters, whose names are herein particularised,
together with the name of their pretended God almighty, and their false prophet
: taken before Thomas Hubbert Esquire … with a declaration of their fantastic
gestures and deportments as they were coming before him, and in his presence :
and now committed to the New Prison at Clarkenwell.

The great mistery of the great whore unfolded, and antichrists kingdom
revealed unto destruction in answer to many false doctrines and principles
which Babylons merchants have traded with, being held forth by the professed
ministers, and teachers, and professors in England, Ireland, and Scotland,
taken under their owne hands, and from their owne mouths, sent forth by them
from time to time, against the despised people of the Lord called Quakers, who
are of the seed of that woman, who hath been long fled into wildernes … in
this answer to the multitude of doctrines held forth by the many false sects,
which have lost the key of knowledge, and been on foot since the apostles
dayes, called Anabaptists, Independents, Presbyters, Ranters, and many others,
who out of their own mouths have manifested themselves not to be of a true
descent from the true Christian Churches : but it's discovered that they have
been all made drunk with the wine of fornication received from the whore which
hath sitten upon the beast, after whom the world hath wondred /


The Ranters reasons resolved to nothing. Or, the fustification instead of
the justification of
the Mad Crew Being, a serious answer returned to one who in his letter desired
an unlawfull and wicked book to be sent unto him, call'd the Justification of
the Mad Crew. Instead of vvhich, the author of this letter sent him the Act of
Parliament made against the Ranters; and did also both justifie their way, and
ingratefully asperse some, who in Christian love would have reduced them to the
life and truth of Christianity. Wherein the people called by themselves god and
by some others, the Gods of Godmanchester, may, as in a glasse, behold, that
they are a deluded and defiled people, if not incarnate Devils.


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JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post 927 [Part of the Fantastic Titles series]

Blog feb 3 patrick Squidward:
What's that horrible smell?! [sees steam coming out of SpongeBob's window]
Is Patrick thinking again?

Patrick: [sticking
his head out of the window]
I'm making art!

Patrick, it smells like something crawled into your brain and died!

That's the creative process at work!

Like St. Paul warned by
Archangel Michael, and Dante by Virgil, the visions of the Hell they were
touring was also stinky, though the robes they held to the noses did not
prevent them from experiencing the very lofty stench of sin. Perhaps it was something like the
crawled-in-and-died stench made by the beautiful Patrick starfish from SpongeBob
Squarepants, his brain’s intellectual exuda Blog feb 3 humanocracy detforming a pretty but stench-ridden

And so to with experiencing the found, unintentional absurd–or
the naïve surreal—in printed material like some of the examples below. Their title pages can be experienced as art
in a way, at least today, so far removed from their original meaning and
context that the words float like disembodied arks of meaning looking for
whatever piece of land/meaning that they bump into. Sometimes their titles are the bizarre-ity,
masking a mundane, pedestrian contents; much of the time the title and contents
emanate the stench of lost meaning through and through.

“… ‘Why us thy mind’, he said,
‘so far away, unlike its usual self,
What are thy wits about, where have they fled?’
—Virgil yelling at Dante for asking a dumb question outside the City of Dis,. Inferno, XI, 76-78

Blog feb 3 humanocracy

Blog feb 3 damned human

Blog feb 3 hello man

JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post 874

One of my favorite categories/threads in this blog is the
sublime-mundane pamphlet title.

Envelope Facts, Notes on Reading Aloud, Saturn Has Rings,
Know Your Groceries, Zipper Repair, Flagpole Painting,The Fine Art of Squeezing, Thirst and two dozen others
have bobbed to the surface here like antique lobster pots finding their way to
the daylight after 50 years of the big dark cold—at this point, no one cares what’s inside, sort of– just the very story and
appearance is good enough.

Blog Dec 12 hickory handleSometimes the story and the title of these indredibly-titled beasts are both fascinating, though usually it is
not the case: the contents of the pamphlets with some of these bizarre titles
are just a plain slice of Wonder
Bread, a big nothingness. The work on flagpole
painting is an incredible title—and it turns out that the contents make the
pamphlet the veritable Ulysses of
books of its genre, of which it may be the only one. But so it goes. At least everything that you’d need or want to
know is in there if you needed or were moved enough to paint a flagpole. Zipper Repair too is in this category—it
really is an exhaustive treatment on repairing zippers.

Today’s installment of five titles has only one in that first
category, the remainder being fundamentally eyebrow-raiser titles with somnolent
contents, exciting and sleepifying in one five-second motion.

Blog Dec 12 we need men A Short Treatise on Hickory Handles I am
sure is still useful to anyone making their own hickory-handled tools. It is a beautiful work—considered,
referenced, insightful, well-written and nicely illustrated. It is, in its own special way, achingly
wonderful. Not knowing anything about hickory handles I was very surprised to see that their story played out to 30 pages–it was so well written and documented that I read the entire thing. At one point in time, hickory handles were important.

Blog Dec 12 baby teethThe others are really more bark than bite—but their titles
are just weirdly gorgeous. "After Forty…What?" held hope, but the 1934 pamphlet didn't identify 40 as the new 60–it was concerned with (illustrated) tooth decay, and held no daydreams. Ditto "The Most Important Tooth"–I was hoping fo rit to be some one gigantic tooth in a field in Kansas, but I was wrong. Somehow the six-year-old molar is the most important, the seat of its infection leading to disease throughout the body. I dunno. I won't even go into the other two for fear of spoiling their titled wonders.

Some other examples: here, here and here.

[Where do these odd things come from?]

Blog Dec 12 baby teeth weird

JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post 873 Blog Bookstore

[ See also Part II of this post, here ; and consider a related post on the Nazi sub-orbital Amerika Bomber]

Blog Dec 12 USA attacked map overview LIFE Magazine issued a wake-up call of sorts to its readership in their 2 March 1942 issue. I say “of sorts” because even though this hard article (entitled “Now the U.S. Must Fight for Its Life”) must have sorely sobered some of its readers, it started on page 15, following big ads for Listerine, Matrix (women’s shoes, Bell Telephone, Modess, Clapp’s Baby Food, Dot Snap Fasteners, Goodrich Tires, White Horse Scotch, Pompeian Massage (for shaving), Jack Benny/Carole Lombard’s “To Be or Not To Be”, Colgate, Yardley powder and Mimeograph, and a few interspersed puff pieces—and a Ginger Rogers cover photo. But once LIFE paid its bills1, the article got right to business, responding to a February article by sci-fi/novelist Philip Wylie2 on the possibilities of the U.S. losing the war.

Blog 12 10 USA map attack 1

Losing looked like something that could actually happen in pre- war-ready America3. The war in Europe had been on in earnest since the very end of 1939 (since 1933 in Asia), and the Axis had reached just about the fullest extent of their victories (though there would be more gains in the Pacific to come). By March of ‘42, we had Bataan, MacArthur leaving the Philippines and the fall of rape of Manila, the siege of Leningrad, Corregidor, Java Sea, the Brits leaving Singapore, Malaya, and so much more. The Axis powers in Europe were now in control of Austria, Czechoslovakia. Poland, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Norway, Yugoslavia, Finland, Greece, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and parts of the Soviet Union (Ukraine, Bylorussia, Crimea), and parts of North Africa; plus the allies of Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Slovakia. There was also Italy, of course, controlling Sicily, Ethiopia and Libya., and of course the Japanese controlled large swaths of China, South East Asia, Indonesia and points in-between. The overall situation did not look very good.

Blog Dec 12 USA attacked map 2
The following maps appeared in a two-page spread, detailing ways in which the Axis powers could combine their efforts, focus on America, and take over the country. Maps such as these with arrows being drawn towards America were absolutely uncommon during this time.

Blog Dec 12 USA attacked map 3 001


1.This is almost universal SOP for war reporting for almost all media, and which continues today. The Illustrated London News delivered reports of success and disaster sandwiched between ads for socks and trifles, as did the Illustriete Zeitung (Leipzig and Berlin), the New York Times, and so on. I remember very clearly as a kid hearing the reading of the daily list of American soldiers killed in Vietnam on one of the Big-Three networks, somber and intoned, followed instantly by a ad for Coke or Mister Kleen.

2 Wylie (1902-1971) was an interesting guy with a wide reach. In addition to Hollywood-feeding work, interesting fiction, insightful scifi and social commentary, Wylie also provided the inspiration for the creation of Superman (“The Gladiator”, 1930) and Flash Gordon ( When Worlds Collide, 1933).

3. Once the war machine in the U.S. got into hyper drive I think that it was impossible for this country to be defeated given its population, workforce, industrial capacity, raw materials, and of course scientific superstrucutre. Also there was also no other country in the world with the necessary (and enormous) components needed to construct an atomic bomb. This is a simplified statement that seems pretty homespuna dn jingoistic, but the fact of the matter is that the U.S. was the seat of overwhelming possibilities and capacities. And yes the Nazis had been slowed down mightily with the expense of dozens of millions of Russian lives and the entire British war machine and on and on—I’m just saying that in the end, the U.S. could not have been beaten.

MORE maps in the extended section, below:

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JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post 785 Blog Bookstore

+ story fertiliz A very small part of a large collection that I purchased of the Library of Congress some years ago (the "Pamphlet Collection", about 90,000 odd, interesting and almost entirely unrelated in their categorization items) was re-connected by me into a subclass of sweet/odd minor history. The titles needed to start something like The Story of _____, have an interesting cover illustration, and have the subject material be not-common.

I discovered that it was easier and more interesting to arrange this ephemeral material according to categories that would make the items interesting in a group, where the whole was greater and more interesting than the sum of its parts. And so a popular and slightly terrible Sponges, a Swell Story springs to life as a Duchampian illustration, far more interesting than it could possibly be as a solemn and bad history of sponges told in 32 cramped pages. + story adhesives

Some other iconoclastic categories in this vein includes pamphlets whose covers have only a printed "!" or "?" on them, with the sub-category of mercilessly bizarre and entertaining printed titles with exclamations or questions (like "Better than Dead?" and "Fury! Money!").

And so I share a few of these The Story of pamphlets–there's really not too much to say about them beyond offering up their cover images, so I'll let it go at that.

+ story anim glu

+ story baggage

+ story banana

+ story brick

+ story brushes

+ story flour

+ story lemons

+ story nickel

+ story spice

+ story sponge

+ story tin can