William Morris and Jane Austen: Lens for Literature

I’m reading about William Morris, the 19th century designer and socialist. His company rejected the assembly line in favor of treating every creation like a work of art to be done by one person from start to finish. Morris learned old techniques and reinvented lost techniques. He hoped that as people saw the great quality products they would shun the cheaper mass-produced goods, but of course this didn’t happen and instead other companies produced cheap knock-offs of his work. I first heard of him years ago at university, when I was busy fingerweaving Metis-style sashes, which gave me at least Continue reading

learning about Marie Curie and radioactivity

As I was preparing to write that blog post about comic books, there was a day when I asked my husband to grab some more comic books when he goes to the library. One of the books he brought back was called Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss. It was from the adult graphic novel section, and it isn’t exactly a comic book. It’s an artistic exploration of the Curie’s life and also of the “fallout” of their discovery of radioactivity. The book tells how Marie and husband met, and how they Continue reading


After reading about Randolph Caldecott I decided we should try to find some of the books he illustrated. The university library near us had an original copy of the book Jackanapes by Juliana Horatia Ewing with Caldecott’s illustrations. After reading the term Jackanapes was a reference to an upstart “new money” and also to a monkey on a leash I thought the book might be a comedy of sorts. Instead the story tells of a hero, Jackanapes. It starts with his birth to a young woman who ran off with a soldier to Gretna Green and then lost her husband Continue reading

great children’s books for exploring the 19th Century

The 19th century was an amazing century of industrialization, railways and colonization. The Napoleonic wars, Crimean war, opium wars, the American civil war were just a few of the wars fought during the century. Beethoven was composing his symphonies. Railways were transforming travel, trade and many other things. My appreciation of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days grows as I learn to recognize how new and exciting the ability to travel far distances by rail was. My appreciation of feminism grows as I read about the nineteen century woman’s struggle to break free of the limits placed on Continue reading