Curiosity, Anthropology, Perception

A Reading List

Down a nineteenth century rabbit hole of first person narratives, history, curiosity, and at the end of the day all very entertaining anthropology. These writings are generally from the c. 1800s, scanned original published works in all their original typeset, layout, structure and spelling glory. For a finale, we move back to a semblance of modern sensibilities as we look into the arts, sciences, and philosophy, historic and modern. 


Narratives From the Western United States

We start off with several narratives from the young United States in the late c. 1800s California and the American South West Four Corners region of the Hopi.

Up and Down California in 1860-1864, The Journal of William H. Brewer

  • Author: William H. Brewer
  • Published c. 1930
  • Summary: Up and down California collects Brewer's letters and journal entries recording his work with Whitney's geological survey of California, chronicling not merely the survey's scientific work but the social, agricultural, and economic life of the state from south to north as the survey's men passed along.
  • Preface by Russell H. Chittenden, c. 1930, Director of the Sheffield Scientific School
    • The letters brought together in this volume … present a vivid picture of the conditions in California at a time when the first scientific survey of the resources of the state was attempted … There stand revealed many things that the thoughtful reader will observe, self-sacrifice, devotion to duty, determination to overcome difficulties no matter how great …’

The Adventures of James Capen Adams, Mountaineer and Grizzly Bear Hunter of California

  • Author / Transcriber: Theodore H. Hittell
  • Published c. 1860 & 1911
  • Author / Transcriber: ’An edition of the work was published at Boston and also at San Francisco in 1860, just before the breaking out of the Civil War’
  • Introduction by Theodore H. Hittell c. 1910
    • ‘… Between July, 1857, and December, 1859, he [Adams] narrated to me his adventures in full. He understood my purpose to be, if the story should prove sufficiently interesting, to make a book. … On various occasions I cross questioned him sharply; but his replies were always satisfactory and, I believe, truthful. His memory seemed remarkably good. … I subsequently, in the winter of 1859-60, wrote out the following narrative.’

Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims

  • Author: Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins
    • Daughter of Chief Winnemucca of the Paiute nation and the granddaughter of Chief Truckee
  • Published c. 1883
  • Editors Preface by Mrs. Horace Mann, c. 1883
    • ‘…At this moment, when the United States seem waking up to their duty to the original possessors of our immense territory, it is of the first importance to hear what only an Indian and an Indian woman can tell. To tell it was her own deep impulse, and the dying charge given her by her father, the truly parental chief of his beloved tribe.’

Hopi Journal of Alexander M. Stephen
Published c. 1936 in two volumes, Columbia University Contributions to Anthropology

  • Author: Alexander Stephen
  • Editor: Elsie Clews Parsons, Columbia University Press
  • Link Part 1
  • Link Part 2
  • American Anthropologist, c. 1938
    • ‘… Stephen lived on intimate and friendly terms with the Indians for many years, living in their households and sharing their daily life. He conversed with them in the Hopi language as he acquired some proficiency in this tongue; virtually none of the Hopi spoke English in those days. Stephen began to record his observations in 1882, but it was not until 1890 that he undertook to record systematically the ceremonial and daily social life of the people: the bulk of his field notes are for the years 1891 to ’93, inclusive. He was a careful and diligent observer, a meticulous recorder. He did not regard Indians as inferior beings but viewed their ways with sympathy and an understanding rare in a white man. In addition to his written descriptions, Stephen made hundreds of very fine drawings, some in color, of paraphernalia and costume; diagrams of kivas and ceremonies; and topographic maps, which are reproduced here. … The Journal is devoted almost exclusively to the towns of First Mesa: the Hopi pueblo of Walpi, and the Tewa town of Hano, although there are bits of information concerning Second and Third Mesas as well. The bulk of the Journal consists of descriptive accounts of the major Hopi ceremonies. But there is also a great deal of information on many other subjects, such as cooking, farming, hunting, kin and clan, the girl’s adolescent ceremony: contacts between the Hopi and their Indian and white neighbors. …’

The Emigrants Guide to California
Extended Title: Containing every point of information for the emigrant – Including routes, distances, water, grass, timber, crossing of rivers, passes, altitudes, with a large map of routes, and profile of country, &C., with full directions for testing and assaying gold and other ores.


Icelandic Narratives, Poetic and Prose

We move now to Iceland and our rabbit hole’s earliest writings. These are narratives written c. 1200, describing the island’s goings on from c. 874 through the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries.

Landnámabók: Book of Settlements
Origines Islandicae: A collection of the more important sagas and other native writings relating to the settlement and early history of Iceland. This (translated) medieval Icelandic written work describes in considerable detail the settlement (landnám) of Iceland by the Norse in the 9th and 10th centuries CE.

Poetic Edda / Elder Edda

  • Author: Sæmundr Sigfússon (c. 1065 — 1133)
  • Translated by: Benjamine Thorpe (c. 1782 — 1870)
  • Wikipedia: ‘The Poetic Edda is the modern name for an untitled collection of Old Norse anonymous narrative poems, which is distinct from the Prose Edda written by Snorri Sturluson. Several versions exist, all primarily of text from the Icelandic medieval manuscript known as the Codex Regius, which contains 31 poems. The Codex Regius is arguably the most important extant source on Norse mythology and Germanic heroic legends. From the early-19th century onwards, it has had a powerful influence on later Scandinavian literatures – not only through its stories, but also through the visionary force and the dramatic quality of many of the poems. It has also become an inspiring model for many later innovations in poetic meter, particularly in Nordic languages, offering many varied examples of terse, stress-based metrical schemes that lack any final rhyme but instead use alliterative devices and strongly-concentrated imagery.’

Prose Edda / Younger Edda

  • Author: Snorri Sturluson (c. 1179 — 1241) and Ólafur Þórðarson (c. 1205 — 1259)
  • Translated by: Rasmus B. Anderson (c. 1846 — 1936)
  • Wikipedia: ‘The Prose Edda, also known as the Younger Edda, Snorri's Edda (Icelandic: Snorra Edda) or, historically, simply as Edda, is an Old Norse textbook written in Iceland during the early 13th century. The work is often assumed to have been to some extent written, or at least compiled, by the Icelandic scholar, lawspeaker, and historian Snorri Sturluson c. 1220. It is considered the fullest and most detailed source for modern knowledge of Norse mythology, the body of myths of the North Germanic peoples, and draws from a wide variety of sources, including versions of poems that survive into today in a collection known as the Poetic Edda.’

The Danish history of Saxo Grammaticus (The first nine books)
Gesta Danorum ("Deeds of the Danes")
This Danish history of Denmark is listed here due to Saxo’s parallels to the stories told by Snorri Sturluson and Sæmundr Sigfússon.

  • Author: Saxo Grammaticus (c. 1150 — 1220)
  • Written: Late 12th - Early 13th Century A.D.
  • Published: c 1894
  • Translated: Oliver Elton, Oxford
  • Additional Considerations: Frederick York Powell, Oxford (c. 1850 — 1904)
    • Investigative analysis of Saxo and his Gesta Danorum. The 119 page Introduction contains sectional analysis of: Saxo's Position, Life of Saxo, The History, History of the Work, The Manuscripts, Saxo as a Writer, Folk-Lore Index, Saxo’s Materials and Methods, The Mythology in Saxo
  • Link Volume 1:
  • Link Volume 2:
  • Introduction: ‘Saxo “Grammaticus”, or “The Lettered”, one of the notable historians of the Middle Ages, may fairly be called not only the earliest chronicler of Denmark, but her earliest writer. In the latter half of the twelfth century, when Iceland was in the flush of literary production, Denmark lingered behind. No literature in her vernacular, save a few Runic inscriptions, has survived. …’

A Summer in Iceland

  • Author: C, W, Paijkull, Professor of Geology at the University of Upsala
  • Translated: Rev M. R. Barnard
  • Published c. 1865
  • Paijkull’s treatise on the geologic, social, agricultural, and economic life of the island is similar, with less rigor, to that by Brewer in his journal of California during the same time period.


Europe, Seventeenth Eighteenth Nineteenth Centuries

Next our attention turns to the writings from Europe in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. Some are theories on the cycle of civilizations, spot on en mass human nature, Don Quixote included, as are Welsh Tales and The Wind.

Tales From Welsh Wales

  • Author: P. H. Emerson
  • Published: c. 1894
  • Author’s Note: ‘Many of these Stories – written in North Wales in the year 1892 are founded on fact others are based on tradition. All the folk-lore contained in these Tales was gathered by me from the lips of the Welsh people themselves. The idiom used in the narratives is that now spoken by the Welsh "who have English," except in the cases of sailors’ stories, which are written in that strange polyglot medley the lingua franca spoken by English seamen all the world over.’

Welsh Fairy Tales and Other Stories

  • Autor: P. H. Emerson
  • Published: c. 1894
  • Author’s Note: ‘These tales were collected by me whilst living in Anglesea during the winter 1891-2. With the exception of the French story, they were told me and I took them down at the time. Particulars respecting the narratives will be found in the Notes. In most cases I have done but little “editing”, preferring to give the stories as told. The old book referred to in the Notes I bought from a country bookseller, who knew neither its author, title, or date, but I have since been informed the book is Williams' Observations on the Snowdon Mountains, published in 1802, a book well known to students of Celtic literature.

The Revolutions of Civilisations
Sketches humankind's achievements over 10,000 years, establishing patterns in the rise and fall of civilisations. Take it for what it’s worth.

  • Author: W. M. Flinders Petrie
  • Published: c. 1911
  • The Nature of Civilization: ‘… The Great Year – We have used the simile of summer and winter for the growth and fall of civilisation. This analogy of the Great Year was familiar to the ancients ; in the East, Berossos, the Babylonian, writes of the summer and winter of the Great Year ; in the West, the Etruscans also spoke of the Great Year as the period of each race of men that should arise in succession.’

Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

  • Author: Charles Mackay (c. 1814 — 1889)
  • Published: c. 1832, 1841, 1852, 1869
  • To The Reader: ‘In the original edition of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, by Charles Mackay, published in 1841, there were included certain passages and chapters which were omitted from the edition of 1852 …’
  • EPub Link:
  • Link:
  • Preface: ‘The object of the Author in the following pages has been to collect the most remarkable instances of those moral epidemics which have been excited, sometimes by one cause and sometimes by another, and to show how easily the masses have been led astray, and how imitative and gregarious men are, even in their infatuations and crimes.’

Don Quixote; The History of the Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha

Social England – A Record of the Progress of the People: In Religion, Laws, Learning, Arts, Industry, Commerce, Science, Literature and Manners, from the Earliest Times to the Present Day

The Storm
The Storm: or, a Collection of the Most Remarkable Casualties and Disasters Which Happen'd in the Late Dreadful Tempest, Both by Sea and Land

  • Author: Daniel Defoe
  • Published: c. 1704
  • History: ‘On the night of 26 November 1703 (OS), what has been described as the worst storm in the history of the country hit Britain. Over the next eight hours, it reaped terrible damage across Wales and the south of England, before heading across the Channel and the North Sea towards Holland and Scandinavia. In its wake were thousands of trees blown down, fleets of ships destroyed, thousands of lives taken, and significant sums of money, in the form of goods, houses, churches, land and animals, washed away.’

Observations on the Winds and Monsoons

  • Author: James Capper
  • Published: c. 1801
  • Preface:
    1. ‘… As it is one of the principal objects of this work to show what effects are produced on the atmosphere by the presence of the sun, I have also carefully noted the height of the thermometer, as well as the exact latitude and longitude, where the several ships respectively met with or lost the. different trade winds:_ and_have marked the general changes they experienced in passing through the temperate zones, where the winds become variable. …’
    2. ‘Before we enter into a particular history of the winds, we must endeavour to ascertain what is the nature of wind in general. Seneca says, ventus est aer fiuens (the wind is blowing). Pliny, nihil aliud quam fluxus aeris (nothing else than the flow of air). This definition, for we may consider both as the same conveyed in different words, has been implicitly adopted by the most eminent modern philosophers. …’

Defining the Wind
The Beaufort Scale, and How a 19th-Century Admiral Turned Science into Poetry

  • Author: Scott Huler
  • Published: c. 2005
  • Publisher Comments: ‘Defining the Wind is a wonderfully written account of one man's crusade to learn about what the wind is made of by tracing the history of the Beaufort Scale and its eccentric creator, Sir Francis Beaufort. It's as much about the language we use to describe our world as it is an exhortation to observe it more closely.’


Navigation, Discovery, and Adventure

Real life is more amazing than fiction in old world nautical adventuring. These published works by Arctic, Antarctic, and Pacific explorers show what can be done in the face of the impossible unknown, beginning as fiction and becoming non-fiction at each step of their way.

Arctic Voyages of Discovery & Research
A selection of c. 1800s published manuscripts provide a comprehensive history of British naval adventuring careers - who they were, the mettle of which they were made. Their determination, perseverance, hardships, humanity, leadership and problem solving skills in the most inhospitable locations of our planet – the Arctic and Antarctic seas.

Narrative of the Discoveries on the North Coast of America
Effected by the Officers of the Hudson’s Bay Company During the Years 1836-39

East is a Big Bird, Navigation and Logic on Puluwat Atoll

  • Author: Thomas Gladwin
  • Published: c. 1970
  • About:
    1. ‘Puluwat Atoll in Micronesia, with a population of only a few hundred proud seafaring people, can fulfill anyone’s romantic daydream of the South Seas. Thomas Gladwin has written a beautiful and perceptive book which describes the complex navigational systems of the Puluwat natives, yet has done so principally to provide new insights into the effects of poverty in Western cultures.
    2. The cognitive system which enables the Puluwatans to sail their canoes without instruments over trackless expanses of the Pacific Ocean is sophisticated and complex, yet the Puluwat native would score low on a standardized intelligence test. The author relates this discrepancy between performance and measured abilities to the educational problems of disadvantaged children. He presents his arguments simply and clearly, with sensitive and detailed descriptions and many excellent illustrations. His book will appeal to anthropologists, psychologists, and sailing enthusiasts alike.’

We, the Navigators: The Ancient Art of Landfinding in the Pacific

Dreamers of the Day - To Iceland and back by Catamaran

  • Author: David Lewis
  • Published: c. 1964
  • Link (very rare):
  • One of his crew, Axel Pederson, 44 yrs old:
    1. ‘… I invited one man to join us without ever having met him - on the strength of two sentences in a letter. "I have only done a little sailing” he wrote, "and in some bad weather I was glad to be alone as my behaviour was not that of a brave man." The "little sailing” was a single-handed passage from New Zealand to Denmark, and the "bad weather" was hurricane “Cleo”. …’
  • Preface:
    1. This book tells how a ship was born and put to trial, but not this only; the venture it describes was also an enterprise complete in itself. The choice of Rehu Moana's testing place was not fortuitous. I was in thrall to the fascination of the North and eagerly seized this opportunity to sail the grey seas that wash the Arctic wastes.
    2. In planning and execution I made two major blunders, one about masts and the other in overloading the vessel, and these led us to the verge of disaster. The stubborn tenacity of my companions enabled the expedition, which by all reasonable counts was defeated, to go on to achieve worth-while objectives. It finally succeeded too in its main end, by producing a thoroughly seaworthy, storm-tested vessel.
    3. We were breaking new ground in building Rehu Moana, so unforeseen delays were inevitable, particularly since nearly every item of equipment had to be specially designed and made. Our story then, is not unnaturally full of petty but infuriating troubles- bunks soaked by leaking seams and the like--which contributed to our discomfort but did not endanger the yacht.
    4. We accepted as inherent in our undertaking the experimental nature of our craft and much of her gear. However, her construction was subjected to a most severe ordeal in the stability trial. After this there was no doubting her inherent strength. For the rest, there was only one way of finding out--by practical experience. The route was carefully chosen to pass near harbours where alterations could be made, the North Sea ports, the Orkneys, Shetland, Faroes and Iceland. Longer trials before sailing north would have helped to remedy many lesser faults it is true, but it is doubtful if a whole season afloat in coastal waters would have revealed the major ones. A gale in the open ocean had to be our teacher here.
    5. As I write, Rehu Moana now well-tried and proven, is ready for the next voyage along her unknown course; we are awaiting it with confidence and anticipation.
      1. D. L., January 1964

A Manual of Scientific Inquiry; Prepared for the use of Officers in Her Majesty’s Navy, and Travelers in General

  • Editor (1st edition, c. 1849): Sir John F. W. Herschel, Bart.
  • Editor (5th edition, c. 1886): Sir Robert S. Ball, Royal Astronomer of Ireland 
  • Published (5th edition): c. 1886
  • Memorandum: It is the opinion of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty that it would be to the honour and advantage of the Navy, and conduce to the general interests of Science, if new facilities and encouragement were given to the collection of information upon scientific subjects by the officers, and more particularly by the medical officers, of Her Majesty's Navy, when upon foreign service; and their Lordships are desirous that for this purpose a Manual be compiled, giving general instructions for observation and for record in various branches of science. Their Lordships do not consider it necessary that this Manual should be one of very deep and abstruse research. Its directions should not require the use of nice apparatus and instruments: they should be generally plain, so that men merely of good intelligence and fair acquirement may be able to act upon them; yet, in pointing out objects, and methods of observation and record, they might still serve as a guide to officers of high attainment; and it will be for their Lordships to consider whether some pecuniary reward or promotion may not be given to those who succeed in producing eminently useful results.


Art, Science, Philosophy

Backing out of the habit hole, our attention moves to the arts, sciences, and philosophy. Why? Because it’s art, science and philosophy, intermingled!

The Feynman Lectures on Physics

  • Author: Richard Feynman
  • Co-Authors: Robert B. Leighton, and Matthew Sands
  • Published From Lectures: c. 1961 — 1963
  • The Feynman Lectures on Physics: These textbooks comprise three volumes. The first volume focuses on mechanics, radiation, and heat, including relativistic effects. The second volume covers mainly electromagnetism and matter. The third volume covers quantum mechanics. In 2013, Caltech in cooperation with The Feynman Lectures Website made these books and lectures freely available, on the web site

The Elusive Synthesis: Aesthetics and Science

  • Editor: Dr. Alfred I. Tauber
  • Published: c. 1997
  • Publisher’s Overview: This anthology of original essays considers how science might have a greater commonality with art than was perhaps realized in a more positivist era. The contributors are concerned with how the aesthetic participates in science, both as a factor in constructing theory and influencing practice. The collec­tion is thus no less than a spectrum of how Beauty and Science might be regarded through the same prism.

Gödel, Escher, Bach

  • Author:Douglas Hofstadter
  • Published: c. 1979
  • Publisher’s Comment: A metaphorical fugue on minds and machines in the spirit of Lewis Carroll. Douglas Hofstadter's book is concerned directly with the nature of "maps" or links between formal systems. However, according to Hofstadter, the formal system that underlies all mental activity transcends the system that supports it. If life can grow out of the formal chemical substrate of the cell, if consciousness can emerge out of a formal system of firing neurons, then so too will computers attain human intelligence. Gödel, Escher, Bach is a wonderful exploration of fascinating ideas at the heart of cognitive science: meaning, reduction, recursion, and much more.

The Order of Time

  • Author: Carlo Rovelli
  • Published: c. 2018
  • Publisher Comments: “Why do we remember the past and not the future? What does it mean for time to "flow"? Do we exist in time or does time exist in us? In lyric, accessible prose, Carlo Rovelli invites us to consider questions about the nature of time that continue to puzzle physicists and philosophers alike. For most readers this is unfamiliar terrain. We all experience time, but the more scientists learn about it, the more mysterious it remains. We think of it as uniform and universal, moving steadily from past to future, measured by clocks. Rovelli tears down these assumptions one by one, revealing a strange universe where at the most fundamental level time disappears. He explains how the theory of quantum gravity attempts to understand and give meaning to the resulting extreme landscape of this timeless world. Weaving together ideas from philosophy, science and literature, he suggests that our perception of the flow of time depends on our perspective, better understood starting from the structure of our brain and emotions than from the physical universe.”

The Story of Philosophy, The Lives and Opinions of the Greater Philosophers

  • Author: Will Durant
  • Published: c. 1926
  • Philosophers Profiled: Plato (with a section on Socrates), Aristotle, Francis Bacon, Baruch Spinoza (with a section on Descartes), Voltaire (with a section on Rousseau), Immanuel Kant (with a section on Hegel), Arthur Schopenhauer, Herbert Spencer, and Friedrich Nietzsche. The final two chapters are devoted to European and then American philosophers. Henri Bergson, Benedetto Croce, and Bertrand Russell are covered in the tenth, and George Santayana, William James, and John Dewey are covered in the eleventh.

Philosophy and the Social Problem

Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness

  • Author: Peter Godfrey-Smith
  • Published: c. 2016
  • Publisher’s Comments: In Other Minds, Peter Godfrey-Smith, a distinguished philosopher of science and a skilled scuba diver, tells a bold new story of how subjective experience crept into being—how nature became aware of itself. As Godfrey-Smith stresses, it is a story that largely occurs in the ocean, where animals first appeared. Tracking the mind’s fitful development, Godfrey-Smith shows how unruly clumps of seaborne cells began living together and became capable of sensing, acting, and signaling. As these primitive organisms became more entangled with others, they grew more complicated. The first nervous systems evolved, probably in ancient relatives of jellyfish; later on, the cephalopods, which began as inconspicuous mollusks, abandoned their shells and rose above the ocean floor, searching for prey and acquiring the greater intelligence needed to do so. Taking an independent route, mammals and birds later began their own evolutionary journeys.

Metazoa: Animal Life & the Birth of the Mind

  • Author: Peter Godfrey-Smith
  • Published: c. 2020
  • Publisher’s Comments: Dip below the ocean’s surface and you are soon confronted by forms of life that could not seem more foreign to our own: sea sponges, soft corals, and serpulid worms, whose rooted bodies, intricate geometry, and flower-like appendages are more reminiscent of plant life or even architecture than anything recognizably animal. Yet these creatures are our cousins. As fellow members of the animal kingdom—the Metazoa—they can teach us much about the evolutionary origins of not only our bodies, but also our minds.

An Essay on a New Theory of Colours, and on Composition in General

  • Author: Mary Gartside
  • Published (1st & 2nd): c. 1805 & 1808
  • BBC Article by Kelly Grovier, 12th April 2022: ‘… Gartside’s modestly entitled Essay (which was followed three years later, in 1808, by a revised edition that she boldly rechristened An Essay on a New Theory of Colours, and on Composition in General) predates by half a decade Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's celebrated treatise Theory of Colours, 1810, in which the renowned German poet and critic sought to correct what he believed were basic errors in Isaac Newton's understanding of our experience of colour in the world. Like Goethe, who had been developing his ideas for decades, Gartside seemed quietly determined to recalibrate Newton's conception of the spectrum of colours that comprise white light, which the English mathematician famously hit upon as a student during a much earlier lockdown in 1666, when the Great Plague triggered quarantines, and to inflect it with a painterly urgency and purpose it arguably lacked. …’

The Pencil of Nature

  • Author: William Henry Fox Talbot
  • Published: c. 1844
  • Introductory Remarks: ‘The Author of the present work having been so fortunate as to discover, about ten years ago, the principles and practice of Photogenic Drawing, is desirous that the first specimen of an Art, likely in all probability to be much employed in future, should be published in the country where it was first discovered. And he makes no doubt that his countrymen will deem such an intention sufficiently laudable to induce them to excuse the imperfections necessarily incident to a first attempt to exhibit an Art of so great singularity, which employs processes entirely new, and having no analogy to any thing in use before. That such imperfections will occur in a first essay, must indeed be expected. At present the Art can hardly be said to have advanced beyond its infancy—at any rate, it is yet in a very early stage—and its practice is often impeded by doubts and difficulties, which, with increasing knowledge, will diminish and disappear. Its progress will be more rapid when more minds are devoted to its improvement, and when more of skilful manual assistance is employed in the manipulation of its delicate processes; the paucity of which skilled assistance at the present moment the Author finds one of the chief difficulties in his way.’

Naturalistic Photography

Pictorial Effect in Photography

  • Author: H. P. Robinson
  • Published: 1st c. 1869, 2nd 1879, 3rd 1886 (UK) & (US) 1892
  • Preface: One of the greatest difficulties in writing a book for beginners in any art is to make it simple enough. Nine out of ten photographers are, unfortunately, quite ignorant of art ; some think manipulation all-sufficient, others are too much absorbed in the scientific principles involved to think of making pictures ; while comparatively a few only have regarded the science as a means of giving pictorial embodiment to their ideas. It is for the first-mentioned that I have dwelt so long, in Chapters III, IV, and V, on what may be termed the initial idea of composition—Balance and Contrast. It is denied by some [ed. see P. H. Emerson] that art and photography can be combined, and these ridicule the idea that a knowledge of the principles of art can be of use to the photographer. It is to counteract these erroneous notions that I have insisted so strongly on the legitimacy and necessity of understanding those guiding laws in composition and chiaro-oscuro [ed. using light to suggest three dimensional volume] which must, in all forms of art, be the basis of pictorial effect.

How to Make Good Pictures: A Book for the Amateur Photographer  

  • Author: Eastman Kodak Company
  • Published: 12th edition c. 1922
  • Preface: “How To Make Good Pictures”, the title of this book, explains its mission. We can only add that in it, all photographic processes have been reduced to the simplest form consistent with good results-complex theories or untried experiments have not been introduced. We have given prominence to the Kodak system of picture making because time has making demonstrated its supremacy for the producing of good results in the simplest way.

Eye and Brain: The Psychology of Seeing

  • Author: Richard L. Gregory (c. 1923 — 2010)
  • Published: 5th Edition c. 2015
  • Publisher’s Overview: Since the publication of the first edition in 1966, Eye and Brain has established itself worldwide as an essential introduction to the basic phenomena of visual perception. Richard Gregory offers clear explanations of how we see brightness, movement, color, and objects, and he explores the phenomena of visual illusions to establish principles about how perception normally works and why it sometimes fails.

Perception Through Experience

  • Author: M.D. Vernon
  • Published: c. 1970
  • This work has not been updated in newer published releases
  • Publishers Description: The term ‘visual perception’ covers a very wide range of psychological functions. This title, originally published in 1970, which provides a broad survey of this vast field of knowledge, would have proved a valuable general account for students taking degree courses in psychology at the time. Professor Vernon examines a large number of experiments carried out over the previous twenty years, their findings, the conclusions drawn from them, and – equally important – the still unanswered questions which some of them raised.

Visual Perception: The Neurophysiological Foundations

  • Editors: Lothar Spillmann and John S. Werner
  • Published: c. 1990
  • Description: This book presents an interdisciplinary overview of the main facts and theories that guide contemporary research on visual perception. While the chapters cover virtually all areas of visual science, from philosophical foundations to computational algorithms, and from photoreceptor processes to neuronal networks, no attempt has been made to provide an exhaustive treatment of these topics. Rather, researchers from such diverse disciplines as psychology, neurophysiology, anatomy, and clinical vision sciences have worked together to review some of the most important correlations between perceptual phenomena and the underlying neurophysiological processes and mechanisms. The book is thus intended to serve as an advanced text for graduate students and as a guide for all vision researchers to understanding current progress outside their specialized fields of interest.

Linking Vision and the Visual System

For instructors, each chapter is meant to correspond to an individual lecture. The book has been used in teaching a 10-week course with 26 lectures of an hour and a half each. The material is suitable for graduate students or advanced undergraduates with a previous introductory course on sensation and perception.

  • Author: Davida Y. Teller (c. 1938 — 2011)
  • Editor: John Palmer
  • Pre-Published (electronic edit): 2018
  • Link (2018 version):
  • Link (2011 version):
  • Author’s Preface: As all of its practitioners know, science and philosophy are in- tensely personal passions. I find I can communicate that passion best to students by including personal anecdotes and making personal appearances in the book. But use of the first person in written work was beaten out of me in the third grade, and makes me uncomfortable still. Accordingly, I have added comments and footnotes about “Teller’s” thoughts and experiences. As my professional alter ego, Teller makes her presence known throughout the book. She feels free to express her opinions, and to suggest that the reader stop and think at certain points. Also, she feels free to just stop and wonder about things. Of course I do not claim that all the questions Teller wonders about are original – surely most of them have been treated better by others. The goal is to model the sense of wonder that science engenders, and expose the students to the siren song of the next question down the road.
  • Editor’s Comment: Davida Teller drafted a book now called "Linking Vision and the Visual System" and I am working to have it published.  There are currently two versions of the book on the web. The 2018 version is the latest complete copy.  It is the one you want to use.  Over time there will be new versions of selected chapters.  Please email me ( if you want to see them. The 2011 version is the book essentially as Davida left it.  It is not easy to use, but I am maintaining it for those with an historical interest in how Davida and I have both contributed to the book.

The Mystery of the Moon Illusion

  • Authors: Helen Ross and Cornelis Plug
  • Published: c. 2002
  • Abstract: For thousands of years, one scientific puzzle has fascinated and perplexed the greatest philosophers, mathematicians, physicists, and psychologists: why do the moon and sun appear so much larger on the horizon than when high up in the sky? This book provides a compelling account of this fascinating illusion. Taking us through the history, the characters involved, the attempts made to explain the illusion, through to modern day studies of visual perception, the book offers a comprehensive account of this mystery. The history of the moon illusion to a large extent reflects the history of theories of size perception. A similar illusion can be observed for the sun, and it is normally called the sun illusion. This illusion is less well known to most people than the moon illusion, perhaps because the sun is usually too bright to observe with the naked eye. However, the sun illusion was more frequently discussed than the moon illusion in the early literature. Although two different celestial bodies are involved, there seems to be no fundamental difference between the two illusions: they are therefore generally considered to be two examples of the same phenomenon. A third example is the apparent enlargement of the constellations and of the distances between the stars near the horizon. This form of illusion is probably the least observed of the three, since fewer people give serious attention to the night sky. All three examples are generally known as celestial illusions.

Perception: First Form of Mind

  • Author: Tyler Burge
  • Published; c. 2022
  • Description: In Perception: First Form of Mind, Tyler Burge develops an understanding of the most primitive type of mental representational: perception. Focusing on the functions and capacities of perceptual states, Burge accounts for their representational content and structure, and develops a formal semantics for them. The discussion explains the role of iconic format in the structure. It also situates the accounts of content, structure, and semantics within scientific explanations of perceptual-state formation, emphasizing formation of perceptual categorization. In the book's second half, Burge discusses what a perceptual system is. Exploration of relations between perception and other primitive capacities-conation, attention, memory, anticipation, affect, learning, and imagining-helps distinguish perceiving, with its associated capacities, from thinking, with its associated capacities. Drawing mainly on vision science, not introspection, Perception: First Form of Mind is a rigorous, agenda-setting work in philosophy of perception and philosophy of science.

The Man Who Invented Motion Pictures: A True Tale of Obsession, Murder, and the Movies

  • Author: Paul Fischer
  • Published: c. 2022
  • Emily Graff, Senior Editor:
    • “This book tells a story that has been lost to history. It will make you sit up in your seat, and it might even make your hair stand up on end. It is a story about the man who made the first motion picture and about his son, who took his father’s rivals to court in a sensational lawsuit to reclaim that legacy. It is a story about the power of vision, of how a person can make the impossible possible, and about the dangers of obsession, of how a person’s single-minded focus can ruin a family. It is a story full of magic, mystery, and, possibly, murder. After all, it is about the movies.”

An Unkindness of Ravens: A Book of Collective Nouns

  • Author: Chloe Rhodes
  • Published: c. 2014
  • Publisher Comments: Why are geese in a gaggle? Are crows really murderous? And what makes lions so proud? Collective nouns are one of the most charming oddities of the English language, often with seemingly bizarre connections to the groups they identify. But have you ever stopped to wonder where these peculiar terms actually came from? Age-old phrases like Pitying of Turtle Doves to a Murder of Crows to modern collective nouns like an Elocution of Lawyers. This absorbing book tells the stories of these evocative phrases, many of which have stood the test of time and are still in use today. Entertaining, informative, and fascinating, An Unkindness of Ravens is perfect for any history or language buff.


Beach Reads: Three fiction titles!

To give our brain cells a bit of rest …

The Andromeda Evolution

  • Author: Daniel H. Wilson
  • Published: 2019
  • Publisher’s Comment: "In 1967, an extraterrestrial microbe came crashing down to Earth and nearly ended the human race. Accidental exposure to the particle—designated The Andromeda Strain—killed every resident of the town of Piedmont, Arizona, save for an elderly man and an infant boy. Over the next five days, a team of top scientists assigned to Project Wildfire worked valiantly to save the world from an epidemic of unimaginable proportions. In the moments before a catastrophic nuclear detonation, they succeeded. In the ensuing decades, research on the microparticle continued. And the world thought it was safe…"

O Jerusalem
A first person narrative from the journal of Mary Russell

  • Author: Laurie R. King
  • Published: 1999
  • Publisher Comment: “A recent rash of murders seems unrelated to the growing tensions between Jew, Moslem, and Christian, yet Holmes is adamant that he must reconstruct the most recent one in the desert gully where it occurred. His singular findings will lead him and Russell through labyrinthine bazaars, verminous inns, cliff-hung monasteries--and into mortal danger. When her mentor's inquiries jeopardize his life, Russell fearlessly wields a pistol and even assays the arts of seduction to save him. Bruised and bloodied, the pair ascend to the jewellike city of Jerusalem, where they will at last meet their adversary, whose lust for savagery and power could reduce the city's most ancient and sacred place to rubble and ignite this tinderbox of a land....”

The Name of the Rose
A murder mystery set in an Italian Benedictine monastery c. 1327 

  • Author: Umberto Eco
  • Published: 1980
  • English Translator: William Weaver, published: 1983
  • A first person narrative translated from the (now lost) journal of apprentice Adso of Melk.
  • Review by Thomas Cahill: “Umberto Eco, Italy's leading expert in semiotics, has written a riveting narrative of monks and murder. In 1327, in a wealthy Benedictine abbey, a series of grisly murders takes place. The body of one monk is discovered in a jar of pig's blood, the swollen body of another is found in the balneary, the herbalist's is uncovered in his laboratory. A learned Franciscan, Brother William of Baskerville, relying on the logic of Aristotle, the theology of Aquinas, and the cognitive empiricism of Roger Bacon, sets out to unravel the mystery. But to call The Name of the Rose a detective thriller is a bit like calling Moby Dick a fish story. Brimming with medieval esoterica on heresies, handicrafts, and herbs, architectural diagrams (of the monastery and its labyrinthine library), arcane codes, quotations in classical and medieval Latin, playful allusions to, among others, Joyce, Borges, and Arthur Conan Doyle, The Name of the Rose is an effervescent witch's brew concocted by a devilishly erudite scholar.”

The Key to the Name of the Rose

  • Authors: Adele Haft, Jane White, and Robert White
  • Foreword by Thomas Cahill
  • Published: 1987
  • Publisher’s Review: “The Key to 'The Name of the Rose' is a conversation with readers of The Name of the Rose. You will find it a wonderfully illuminating conversation that furthers and deepens your reading experience. The authors' scholarship is as unerring as their sense of fun: The Key is full of bizarre characters and mirthful anecdotes. It is, in truth, a delightful guide not just to The Name of the Rose, but to the Middle Ages. For those who have read and enjoyed The Name of the Rose, this key will prove a belated boom; for those who have been intending to take the plunge, The Key is a real lifesaver, time-saver, decoder. But it is also a pleasure in itself.”



Paolo Pellegrin

“There’s this Robert Capa quote—‘If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough,’ ” he told me. “Very true! It always comes back to reducing or annulling distance. But that is only part of the equation. The other part is that if you’re not good enough, then you’re not reading enough. And the idea there is that photography is not actually about taking pictures—taking pictures is incidental. It’s a by-product, in a sense, of everything else. What you’re really doing is giving form—photographic form—to a thought, to an opinion, to an understanding of the world, of what is in front of you. And so if we think in these terms, then you have to improve the quality of your thoughts.”

© Special Edition Art Project, LLC 2022