Ornamentation Recapitulates Phylogenet – oh ferget it

by John Holbo on February 20, 2008

This is rather odd.


Pepin books has a forthcoming title, Encyclopedia of Ornament [amazon]. Which, frankly, is just the sort of thing I might buy. Pepin books – all those Agile Rabbit titles, maybe you’ve seen them – are great, if you like that sort of thing.

But, as I am very prepared to notice, that cover is just plate 17 of Haeckel’s Kunstformen der Natur, with the title on top. I wonder whether this is some sort of joke. Maybe, since the book isn’t out until June, they decided to have some fun, putting a dummy graphic up. It is pretty funny to have a bunch of ornamental-looking things, none of which are actually ornaments, most of which are carnivorous colony life-forms.

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02.21.08 at 2:56 pm



Alan Bostick 02.20.08 at 6:53 pm

Since any possible book cover design falls under the perview of “ornamnent,” then any design at all will be pertinent to the book’s subject. So the designer is free to pick whatever they think looks cool.


Keith 02.20.08 at 7:12 pm

Everything goes better with Haeckel. Am I wrong?


"Q" the Enchanter 02.20.08 at 8:55 pm

Just another reminder that one should never throw the baubles out with the bathwater.


Ben Alpers 02.20.08 at 9:52 pm

Way OT…

I followed the link to your Haeckel Xmas-card post, which linked to Belle’s phobia post, which in turn had a link to a post on Carla Hills, who, it turns out, is the mother of Belle’s friend Lisa. As it turns out, I know Lisa’s brother Rick from the wonderful world of college debate.

Small world social class.

And incredible intertubes.


Barbara 02.20.08 at 11:41 pm

Wow, I would’ve sworn those were lace doilies, which I have a great interest in. So . . . I wonder what kinds of ornaments are covered in the book.


John Holbo 02.21.08 at 2:13 am

ben, I think the ‘small …. social class’ comment has it. barbara, lace doilies based on Haeckel plates is a fine notion. Get to work!


nnyhav 02.21.08 at 2:18 am

Didn’t D’Oyly Carte do It is the very image of a modern major genera?


John Holbo 02.21.08 at 2:47 am

Ooh, nnyhav wins the thread.


Mrs Tilton 02.21.08 at 9:17 am

Yes, nnyhav clearly wins. But is victory worth the price of forcing the article and noun to disagree as to number? (Did nnyhav waterboard them?)

John, what I find curious is the mutual exclusivity between “ornament” and “life-form” that you imply. Especially WRT Haeckel, who obviously thought the Creator hadn’t been nearly ornamental enough when He made life-forms and set out to improve matters. (Moi, I think the Creator did a fantastic job, especially for an entity that doesn’t exist. The lovely tortoise-shell patterning of Scytodes thoracica, for example, needs no Haeckelian up-tarting.)


John Holbo 02.21.08 at 10:05 am

Mrs. Tilton, as someone who spent hours this year creating X-Mas ornaments from pictures of these beasties, I definitely get where you are coming from.

But I don’t think I know you well enough to start discussing who does, and does not, need a little Haeckelian up-tarting. Especially in public.


joejoejoe 02.21.08 at 3:09 pm

One of the cooler things I ever wasted time browsing was an old (early to mid 1900s) catalog of various moulds for plaster ornaments and moulding. It must have 300 pages of dense detailed technical drawings. If you like this kind of thing I found a similar modern catalog in a quick Google search (see link in signature).


Dh 02.21.08 at 3:23 pm

To satisfy the grammar police, perhaps ‘They are the very model of premodern major genera.’


Alan 02.21.08 at 11:33 pm

I’m not sure whether to be proud or not that I found the title of this funny post funny…


nnyhav 02.22.08 at 3:59 pm

Apologies for the bad grammar; but I’m back for mornametation.


seth edenbaum 02.23.08 at 5:51 am

Like Blossfeldt, decoration touched by a rigorous decadence. All very Fin de Siècle. The book designer has a sense of humor.

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