The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

November 18, 2017

November 18, 1903

Charles Mahoney (November 18, 1903 to May 11, 1968 ), a British artist, included cats, like this one

in his oeuvre.

"Painter, muralist, draughtsman and teacher. Born Cyril Mahoney in London - his fellow-student Barnett Freedman re-christened him Charlie at the Royal College of Art, which he attended 1922-6 after a period at Beckenham School of Art under Percy Jowett. Early on, Mahoney established a reputation as a conscientious teacher. He was at the Royal College 1928-53, from 1948-53 as a painting tutor, and was noted there for his concern for academic discipline. His portrait is included in Rodrigo Moynihan's celebrated Teaching Staff of the Painting School at the Royal College of Art, 1949-50. From 1954 to 1963 he taught at the Byam Shaw School of Drawing and Painting and from 1961 to 1968 at the Royal Academy Schools. He painted murals at Morley College 1928-30 with his colleagues Eric Ravillious and Edward Bawden. Unfortunately these murals were destroyed during World War II. The work led to further murals: at Brockley School, Kent, with Evelyn Dunbar; and at Campion Hall Lady Chapel, Oxford. His oil paintings are frequently of a religious nature. He was a skilled botanist, and many of his drawings depict his garden at Wrotham, Kent. He exhibited at NEAC and the RA, being made an RA elect in 1968. He is represented in the Tate Gallery and other public collections. The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, held a memorial exhibition in 1975. Exhibitions were held in 2000 at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston, Royal Museum and Art Gallery, Canterbury, and the Fine Art Society plc in association with Liss Fine Art."

The art site which provided this bio gloss identified the crayon drawing above as "The Artist's Cat."

November 16, 2017

November 16, 1992

Cast your minds back to distant history. Say 1992. Say Suffolk, England. Say you rent a farm from the Suffolk County itself. And say, you and your buddy find the largest buried treasure trove ever found, in Britain. It happened that way, November 16, 1992. The items composing the treasure had been carefully packed in a wooden chest, and the experts say, judging by the coins, gold and silver, that the chest was buried between 405 and 450 AD.

Who buried this treasure? The experts say we will never know for sure. The hiding of the wealth suggests chaos, danger, and the expectation that later, one can return and retrieve it. One site says:

"The owners of the treasure, perhaps a wealthy landowner and his wife–there are Roman names inscribed on some of the items–might have buried it to keep it out of the hands of brigands or thieves. Or thieves themselves might have buried it, after looting the stuff from a wealthy estate. It might have been buried to de-emphasize the owners’ formerly Roman identity....

"Clearly something unusual was going on in this part of England at that time. The Hoxne Hoard [as this trove is named] is not the only buried treasure from this era found in the area. In 1781 a lead box full of Roman coins was unearthed just 2 miles from where the Hoxne treasure was eventually found. Other similar hoards have been found in various parts of Britain, and some may remain undiscovered. What caused rich people to suddenly run around burying boxes of treasure all over the place? This is a fascinating historical mystery..."

Among the gold and silver objects and coins was "most curiously, a silver tigress emphasizing six prominent teats."

Here is a picture--

According to the BBC,  "The silver tigress is an ornate handle which looks to have been deliberately removed from a tall vase." [© Trustees of the British Museum]

November 15, 2017

November 15, 2012

It was on November 15, 2012 in television history that we learned the names of the fictional Leonard Hofstadter's fictional cat--Dr. Boots Hofstader. This was of course a Big Bang Theory episode, the one titled  "The 43 Peculiarity." (S06, E08).
Some of the funny dialogue in this episode, with some chick hitting on Leonard (which he does not realize) and he says:

"Call me Leonard,
Dr. Hofstader is my father
and my mother
and my sister
and the cat
though I am pretty sure that Dr. Boots Hofstadter's is an honorary degree.

Now we know. And you remember this story--- it's the show where Penny blurts out she loves Leonard,  only she didn't mean to say it, and may not have realized it herself.

November 14, 2017

November 14, 1925

James Mellaart (November 14, 1925 to July 29, 2012) is considered one of the greatest archeologists and possibly also a great scoundrel. The following biographical excerpts explain these descriptions, but first let us clarify Mellaart's significance. His discovery of Catalhoyuk has backed up what we now know based on the discoveries of the even older, nearby city, Gobekli Tepe. These discoveries revolutionized thinking about human history, though I notice in the literature this has been ignored or downplayed recently. Until Catalhoyuk, and especially Gobekli Tepe, historians assumed that the development of cities came after agriculture was established.  This necessitated rethinking many assumptions about human history.

"Mellaart.... In the early 1950s... made a survey of the Anatolian hinterland – then considered an archaeological desert – largely on foot, identifying and later working on several sites. He led his first dig at Hacılar, near Burdur, producing painted pottery and female figurines suggestive of the Anatolian mother-goddess Cybele.

"In November, 1958, he turned his attention to Çatalhüyük, a mound or ‘tel’ which he had seen from a distance five years before on the plain of Konya, a place considered too high, wild and remote for human settlement. Work began in 1961.

"With almost the first slice of the spade Mellaart discovered the ruins of a neolithic city. Under a mound 500 metres long and twenty metres high were revealed thirteen levels of habitation dating back nine thousand years and housing up to ten thousand people at the peak of its existence. Inside the mudbrick houses and shrines – which had no front doors but were entered through the roof – Mellaart and his team found bull’s heads, skeletons, mirrors of black obsidian, plaster reliefs, and wall paintings so extraordinary that their interpretation remains controversial to this day. ... Mellaart’s discovery put Turkey right on the map of early civilisation. On the eve of his eightieth birthday in November 2005, I visited Mellaart and his wife Arlette in their flat near Finsbury Park in north London It is a run-down area, largely taken over by Muslim immigrants; but the ornaments and décor of the Mellaarts’ small apartment transport the visitor back into an even more exotic world, the ancient Near East....

"Mellaart described his intuition for discovery as “a feeling of being able to tell if a mound contains something more than just rock.” In his case intuition had been supported by “good book knowledge and my training in the Iron Age”. His early enthusiasm for geology and Egyptology were also a help.

"Mellaart still speaks with the Dutch accents of his youth. His family lived in Holland where his father, descended from Scottish migrants called ‘Maclarty’ (a sept of the Clan Macdonald) was an expert in Dutch old master paintings and drawings. Caught in Holland by the outbreak of the Second World War, the son found a job at the museum in Leiden, which “kept me out of German hands.” After the war he read Egyptology at University College, London, before joining the British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara.

"It was on a dig at Fikirtepe, near Istanbul, that he met Arlette Cenani, the adoptive daughter of a prominent Turkish businessman (her own father, a Romanian, had died when she was twelve). Arlette – herself a trained archaeologist and fascinated by the subject since the age of ten – was immediately attracted by Mellaart’s intelligence. They married and had a son Alan, who is today a headhunter (of the corporate sort) in Istanbul. Among the archeologists they knew were Max Mallowan and his wife Agatha Christie, whose detective stories they had admired but whose person they found rather remote...[Regarding the scandals Mellaart said later]....

“I think my mistake was to trust that I would be helped by everyone who thought highly of one’s work,” he said. Mellaart has sometimes been compared to the flamboyant Heinrich Schliemann, who dug Mycenae and Troy. But he resists the comparison. “Schliemann was a thief,” he says with a dismissive laugh. “And he thought the Trojan war was an historical event.”

"It was while he was still in only the fourth season of his dig at Çatalhüyük that the sky fell in. The Turkish authorities, responding to three years of clamour in the Turkish press about the smuggling of artefacts abroad, cancelled Mellaart’s permit, forcing him to return to London. Some objects apparently from his sites had turned up outside the country, and the Turkish press, led by Milliyet, sought a scapegoat. Mellaart was the most famous archaeologist in Turkey. More significantly, he was the man involved in the mysterious ‘Dorak affair’.

"In 1959, at the instigation of the British Institute, The Illustrated London News had published Mellaart’s drawings of an extraordinary hoard of objects, said to have been taken clandestinely from the village of Dorak, not far from Troy, in the 1920s, and shown to the young archaeologist in strange circumstances.

"Travelling on the train to Izmir in the summer of 1958, Mellaart said that he had met a girl called Anna Papastrati who was wearing a solid gold bracelet which he could not fail to notice. She told him she had many more things like it at home, and invited him back to see them. Mellaart had no camera with him, and the girl would not allow him to hire a photographer. So for several days he stayed at her house in the suburbs of Izmir drawing the treasures. After some months she wrote giving him permission to publish the drawings. But when attempts were made to trace the treasure, neither it, nor Anna Papastrati, nor even the house where she lived, could be found.

"The affair remains a mystery to this day. The most popular theory is that the girl was working for a gang of dealers who needed authentication for their treasure before selling it to some rich millionaire. Mellaart, who stoutly maintains the truth of his story, is inclined to agree. When I asked him if he thought now that he might have been used by dealers, he said: “That is perfectly possible. But somehow I don’t think like that, so [at the time] it never occurred to me.”.....

"But he was not finished with his Neolithic city. He described to students more wall paintings which had not appeared in his preliminary reports, and which, when they were finally published in 1989, caused another sensation and more controversy.

"These ‘reconstructions’ .... were based on drawings made at the time by several members of the team, including Mellaart himself. Unlike the previous wall paintings, which were taken to the Ankara museum, these had been impossible to remove or preserve. Mellaart explained that they were burnt, or otherwise damaged, impossible to photograph, and had to be sketched quickly before they crumbled to plaster dust.

"These murals illustrated the world as it looked to the people of Çatalhüyük who lived around 6500 BC: panoramic views of their landscape with volcanoes smoking or erupting in the distance; birds-eye views of the Mediterranean and its islands; scenes of men sowing and tending cattle; herds grazing; storks and flamingoes flying in formation overhead; a train of ox-drawn sledges wending across the plain. Other paintings showed what appeared to be goddesses with panthers or vultures,and formalised patterns of bulls and streams, birds and human figures...."

This picture is associated with Mellaart's archives.

November 13, 2017

November 13, 1963

Margaret Murray, Margaret ALICE Murray (July 13, 1863 to November 13, 1963) was a British scholar and archeologist; she is most famous today for her books on the history of witchcraft. According to her Who's Who article, she both attended the University College of London as a student and later was a Fellow at that illustrious institution.

In between she taught at Oxford, and--

"excavated in Egypt, 1902–04;
excavated a Neolithic Temple in Malta, 1921–23;
excavated an early mediæval site in Hertfordshire, 1925;
excavated megalithic remains in Minorca, 1930–31;
excavated Nabatean remains at Petra, 1937;
excavated Bronze-age site at Tell Ajjul, South Palestine....."

And she wrote about it all, which does not mean this list is complete--it is not.

Egyptian Antiquities, (1902)
Osireion at Abydos, (1904)
Scarabs in the Dublin Museum, (1904).
The astrological character of the Egyptian magical wands, (1906).
St. Menas of Alexandria, (1907)
Index of names and titles of the old kingdom (1908)
Priesthoods of women in Egypt, (1908)
Egyptian antiquities, (1910)
The Tomb of Two Brothers, (1910)
Note upon an early Egyptian standard, (1911)
Royal Marriages and Matrilineal Descent, (1915)
Egyptian Elements in the Grail Romance, (1916)
Ancient Egyptian Legends, (1920)
Witch Cult in Western Europe, (1921)
The witch-cult in Palaeolithic times, (1922),
Knots. (1922),
Excavations in Malta, (1923)
Egyptian poems (Rendered into English verse from the originals) (1926)
The dying god, (1926)
Elementary Coptic Grammar, (1927)
Egyptian objects found in Malta, (1928).
Witchcraft and its suppression : a study of fanaticism and delusion attending the survival into modern times of a pre-Christian cult, (1928?)
Egyptian sculpture, (1930)
Queen Meryt-Amon, (1930)
Egyptian Temples, 1931
Maltese Folk-tales, (1932)
The God of the Witches, (1933)
(with D. Pilcher) Coptic Reading-Book, (1933)
The God of the witches, (1933)
China and Egypt, 1933.
Female fertility figures, (1934)
Ritual masking, (1934)
Coptic painted pottery, 1935.
Petra, The Rock of Edom, (1939)
My First Hundred Years, 1963

It is not surprising Murray mentions cats in her writing. Egypt was her first love. In her book Egyptian Temples (1931) she points to a minor mystery:

Bast was
[an Egyptian goddess identified with] the cat; by the Greeks ...[Bast] was identified with Artemis, though the reason for the identification is obscure, for Artemis originated in a bear, not [something feline.]

In this book Murray maintains the first Egyptians valued the cat, not so much for its abilities as a ratter, but because the cat killed snakes. This could be, but a major angle in her research, that witchcraft was a undercurrent in history from paleolithic times, is certainly not the case. Margaret Murray, flawed like all scholars, still lights a path.

November 12, 2017

November 12, 1915

This is the "rock star philosopher", Rolandes Barthes (November 12, 1915 to March 26, 1980).

TLS describes Barthes:

"A culture critic turned into a cultural institution, an academic with little time for academia, a revealer of mythologies who became himself a myth – Roland Barthes was a rock star of the writing world when he died suddenly in 1980 and, as with all rock stars, his death only led to a new lease of life. ....

"Neil Badmington [wrote]....Afterlives of Roland Barthes (2016) ... a brief inspection of Barthes’s posthumously published texts, a look at “what they reveal and what they rewrite”. 

.... A chapter on “the neglected history of boredom” in Barthes is the book’s most engaging and original contribution. Everyone, especially Barthes, agrees that he was an easily bored man. “As a child”, he wrote in Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes, “I was bored often and greatly . . . and it has continued my whole life, in gusts . . . . It is a panic boredom, to the point of distress”. For Badmington, this boredom is the defining theme of Travels in China, in which he showed that nothing in this vast country could hold his curiosity. But his boredom was something he felt with force, “the intensity of a lack of intensity”.

"....Barthes remarked on the inclination to “apply the brakes” at the final moment, as though “the timidity and banality of the hypothesis were proof of its validity”. There could have been an interesting inquiry, for example, into how Barthes’s boredom resulted not in chronic fatigue but rather the characteristic restlessness that saw him hop from one field of study to another, no sooner had he made a genre-defining contribution. He called this habit “cruising”: “the voyage of desire”, an “anti-repetition”. .....

"One of the few individuals to hold Barthes’s attention unconditionally was Philippe Sollers, a close friend twenty years his junior, an editor and a renowned writer in his own right. Sollers published L’Amitié de Roland Barthes as his contribution to the centenary and Andrew Brown has now translated it into English. ....

"Their friendship began in the 1960s, bounded by a shared vision of how literature should be written and read. They established themselves as an intellectual duo, defending each other in public whenever scandal struck. “Scandal”, that is, in French intellectual terms: the feuds that follow an unorthodox claim or subversive idea. After the “Picard Affair”, for example, when Barthes was accused of “fraud” for his unashamedly subjective reading of Racine, Sollers says Barthes realized he needed a publisher who “didn’t give a damn . . . and the publisher was me”.

"The pair also wrote in depth about the other’s work. In 1971, Sollers published R.B. in Tel Quel, the magazine he founded and that was responsible for bringing Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida to a wider readership. For Sollers, it was the search to discover, in Barthes’s own words, “how meaning is possible, at what price and by what means”, that defined his character. Boredom, it seems, really was one of Barthes’s defining traits. ....

"The death of Barthes’s mother and life companion in 1977 intensified his spasms of boredom significantly. Her loss, he confessed, “profoundly and obscurely altered my desire for the world”. His “panic boredom” hardened into something more deep-set; his friends found him harder to enthuse. Sollers was the exception, and they continued to meet once a month for dinner in Montparnasse. “The conversation was very animated”, Sollers recalls, “and then he’d take a cigar and off he went, down the streets in an increasingly melancholy frame of mind”. Almost forty years after his death the world shows no sign of being bored by Barthes. ...."

November 11, 2017

November 11, 1918

Irena Jurek, born in 1982 in Krakow, is an artist who may put felines in her art and her career is a reason to celebrate Poland's. November 11, 1918 is Poland's independence day, for this is the date of the restoration of Poland's sovereignty. As the Second Polish Republic, Poland ended 123 years of partition by the Russian Empire and other powers on November 11, 1918.

Her blog is generous in praise of other artists. For example she notes;

"There's an alluring sense of nostalgia in Michael...[Dotson's] paintings. Disney has inundated us all with shared, collective childhood memories of characters and events that have never taken place. The past is comforting in its finitude, especially if we have positive associations with it, and it also lacks the chaos and uncertainty of the future. Through nostalgia, we shape the past in order to fit our own desire to idealize and control our memories and perceptions."

And elsewhere she shares her own youthful appreciation of the Garfield comic.

From her CV we learn  she lives and works in Brooklyn, and:

2008 MFA, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI
2004 BFA, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL

2013 Draw Gym, Know More Games and 247365, Brooklyn, NY
2013 Potluck Show, 187 Jefferson Street, Brooklyn, NY
2013 Thanks, Lu Magnus , New York, NY
2012 Sunday Paintings for a Rainy Day, Field Projects, Chelsea, New York
2012 Itsa small, small world, Family Business, Chelsea, NY
2011 Liminal Step, Nonprofit Finance Fund, NY NY
2011 ^..^, Casita Maria Center for the Arts and Education, Bronx NY
2011 Anti-Curating for Social Change, Vaudeville Park, Brooklyn NY
2010 Midnite Snacks, 1366 Space, Chicago IL
2008 Here and Now, Cranbrook Academy Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills MI
2007 Simultaneous Realities, Forum Gallery, Bloomfield Hills MI
2005 Alliance Show, Chicago IL
2004 Bachelor of Fine Arts Graduate Show
2003 240 Minutes Show, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago IL

2013 GeoMetron, co-curated with Talia Shulze, Mulherin+Pollard, New York, NY
2013 Shhhhh... Just let it happen, co-curated with Diana Buckley, Beverly's, New York, NY
2013 Persona, co-curated with Diana Buckley, 7 Dunham, Williamsburg, New York (Forthcoming)
2013 It's Really Normaling, co-curated with Diana Buckley, Greenwich House, New York, New York
2012 Finite Infinity, co-curated with Diana Buckley, Greenwich House, New York, New York
2012 If You Think I'm Sexy, co-curated with Diana Buckley, Gallery 461, New York, New York
2011 Half Empty, Vaudeville Park, Brooklyn, NY
2011 In Between the Sheets, Harlem Workspace, New York, New York

2000 The Art Institute of Southern California Merit Scholarship

Here is another work by Irena Jurek and we see her feline interest, her attunement to a comic culture and her humor.

Image result for "Irena Jurek" cat

There are lots of cats and her art here, including portrayals like this, titled "Study Buddies" (2016):

The gloss goes:

"In both life and art, what often seems at first to be the epitome of the lecherous wolf, full of machismo, at a closer inspection turns out to be a docile, submissive creature. At other times, the wolf is exactly as he appears, a dominant alpha – a role he was cast to play. The character of the cat woman is an embodiment of a female being that fully embraces her sexual drives and needs. She represents a capricious, violent and untamable form of sexuality." 

And cats.