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.

October 18, 2017

October 18, 2011

October 18 is the anniversary of a sad story: the BBC headlined it this way: "Bears, tigers, lions and wolves escape from Ohio zoo."

Police have shot and killed dozens of exotic animals that escaped from a private zoo in Zanesville, Ohio.

Sheriff Matt Lutz said he personally gave the order to shoot the escaped animals, including grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, tigers and lions.

On Wednesday, [October 19, 2011] Mr Lutz said police believe they have now accounted for all 56 animals but a wolf and a monkey.

The animals' owner, Terry Thompson, was found dead at the zoo, and police believe he killed himself.

Mr Lutz said a preliminary investigation suggested Mr Thompson left fences open at the farm.....

Officials said the "volatile situation" of animals escaping from the 73-acre (29-hectare) Muskingum County Animal Farm and the approach of nightfall on Tuesday had prompted the shoot-to-kill order....

"This is like Noah's ark wrecking here in Zanesville."[said Jack Hanna]

Forty-eight of the 56 animals were then shot dead on the sheriff's orders.

Staff from the nearby Columbus Zoo hoped to tranquilise the remaining animals.

US nature TV host Jack Hanna, a former director of Columbus Zoo, in the nearby Ohio state capital, said tranquilising animals in the dark was incredibly dangerous, and told reporters that "the sheriff did the right thing".

"You cannot tranquilise an animal like this, a bear or a leopard or a tiger [at night]," Mr Hanna told ABC before the news conference.

"If you do that, the animal gets very excited, it goes and hides, and then we have [police officers] in danger of losing their life, and other people."

Mr Hanna said the scope of the event was immense.
Overnight, police have urged people in Zanesville to stay indoors and flashing signs along nearby highways told motorists: "Caution exotic animals" and "Stay in vehicle".

Several local school districts cancelled classes.

"We didn't want kids waiting by the bus stop and seeing these big animals," Mr Lutz said.

Police have several suspects in custody after they attempted to steal one of the animals Tuesday evening.

Another animal was struck by a car on a nearby highway.

Ohio has some of America's most lax regulation of exotic pets, reports say - and some of the country's highest rates of injuries and deaths caused by them.

In 2010, an animal caretaker was killed by a bear at a property in Cleveland. The death was eventually ruled a workplace accident.

Sheriff Lutz said his office began getting phone calls at about 17:30 local time (21:30 GMT) on Tuesday, saying animals were loose on a road just west of the town.

Dead animals were scattered around Zanesville on Wednesday morning

Four armed deputies were dispatched to the zoo, where they found Mr Thompson's body and the animal cages open. Several aggressive animals found near the body were shot, Mr Lutz said.

Mr Lutz said his main concern was protecting the public in the largely rural area.

"This is a bad situation," Mr Lutz said. "It's been a situation for a long time."

Federal Division of Wildlife officers were drafted in to help with the situation, a local official said.

A neighbour of Mr Thompson, Danielle White, said he had been in legal trouble, and police said he had recently been released from jail.

A colourful character

"He was in hot water because of the animals, because of permits, and [the animals] escaping all the time," Ms White said. A few weeks ago, she said, she had to avoid some camels grazing on the side of a freeway.

Mr Thompson had been released from federal prison three weeks earlier after serving a one-year term on firearms charges, according to the AFP news agency.

His farm was reportedly raided June 2008, seizing more than 100 guns.

A local resident, Bill Weiser, said Mr Thompson had been a colourful character who flew planes, raced boats and owned a custom motorcycle shop which also sold guns.

"He was pretty unique," Mr Weiser told AP. "He had a different slant on things. I never knew him to hurt anybody, and he took good care of the animals."

If you understand this story above, I have to wonder.  Here's a followup. The years since the events of October 18, 2011 have not dimmed the story for those involved:

October 17, 2017

October 17, 2016

Edgar Munhall (March 14, 1933 to October 17, 2016) was an American art historian and the first Curator of The Frick Collection, a museum housed in what had been the Frick family home. Munhall's Artforum obit sketches his background:

....Born in Pittsburgh in 1933. Munhall earned his Bachelor’s degree in art history from Yale University in 1955. He received his Master’s degree from New York University before returning to Yale for his Ph.D.

From 1959 to 1965, he served as assistant curator of prints and drawings at the Yale University Art Gallery and taught art history. He joined the Frick Collection as its first curator in 1965. Previously, the role of curator was the responsibility of the director of the institution, which was founded in 1935. During Munhall’s tenure at the museum he worked under five directors. He was responsible for acquisitions, publications, conservation, lectures, and exhibitions.

.......His New York Times obituary characterized the Frick:

....The building, a three-story 1914 Beaux-Arts limestone jewel box, is one of the great former private residences of the Gilded Age surviving on Fifth Avenue, at 70th Street......

And Munhall:

As chief curator, working under five museum directors, Dr. Munhall was responsible for acquisitions, publications, conservation, lectures, gallery exhibitions and the catalogs accompanying them. The Frick’s holdings now include about 1,100 works, overseen by a curatorial staff numbering more than two dozen......

Mr. Munhall wrote prolifically: articles for art journals and other publications as well as catalogs for some of the more than 30 exhibitions he organized, many of which opened at the Frick....

His assessment of art could be highly discerning. In 1982, writing in The Times, he reviewed the work of Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, whom he described as perhaps the finest woman painter of 18th-century France and a friend of Queen Marie Antoinette’s.

“In addition to her subtle psychological response to her subjects,” he wrote, “Madame Le Brun possessed, more than any male painter could, an understanding of and a physical response to the folds of a velvet robe, the weight of a string of pearls, or the gleam of an emerald ring.”

Considering her portrait of Marie Antoinette, he observed: “As caught by Madame Le Brun, the Queen’s famous posture infuses her image with the solidity of a basalt column, against which the arch of her chair-back and the gracious gesture of the hands move like fronds. Obviously enthralled by her royal subject, the artist treated her unfortunate features like the finest plastic surgeon and painted her lace and gauze in a manner so ethereal as to seem scarcely human.”....

A work by Le Brun he does not mention but which bolsters his thesis is this one:

This is the only cat I found Le Brun painted, though she did dogs, too.

October 16, 2017

October 16, 1903

Cecile de Brunhoff (October 16, 1903 to April 7, 2003) created the imaginary character Babar.

Babar first appeared in 1931 in the French children's book Histoire de Babar by Jean de Brunhoff.

The idea for Babar was hers, but after her husband illustrated it, she had her name taken off the author page. We learn about this from her New York Times obituary:

Cécile de Brunhoff, whose husband turned a bedtime tale she told their children into the world-famous stories about Babar the Elephant, died Paris. .....
[The] first tale of Babar, family members said, materialized one night in 1930 when Mrs. de Brunhoff's son Mathieu complained of feeling ill. To soothe him, she told him and his brother Laurent a story about a young orphaned elephant who sets out to visit a city that is clearly Paris. He steals some money and goes on a shopping spree before being persuaded by his cousins to return to the jungle.
This next picture of Babar is from a French book published in 1994.

After their father died, one of the children who heard the original Babar story continued to write and illustrate Babar's adventures.

October 15, 2017

October 15, 2005

My app to translate Egyptian dates from the pharaonic to our own, is buggy, so we are using an opening museum show date for today's post. That is, October 15, 2005, when "Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh" opened in San Francisco as an exhibition at the de Young museum. That exhibition was accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue,[of]....600 pages, and costing $75 for the hardcover version. The information below comes from an advert:

Founded in 1895 in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, the de Young museum has been an integral part of the cultural fabric of the city ....

[This enigmatic] and intriguing female pharaoh Hatshepsut, ... shared Egypt’s throne for nearly two decades (ca. 1473-1458 BC) in the early New Kingdom as senior co-ruler with her young nephew, Tuthmosis III.

Hatshepsut’s reign was a period of immense artistic creativity. This unprecedented exhibition brings together a vast treasure trove of almost 300 objects that includes royal statuary and relief, monumental sculpture representing members of the royal court, a wide variety of ceremonial objects, finely crafted decorative objects, dazzling gold jewelry, and other exquisite personal items, all of which ... tell the compelling story of Hatshepsut’s reign .....

The phenomenon of a woman ruling a fundamentally patriarchal society while surrounded by male courtiers and advisors, the eventual destruction of Hatshepsut’s monuments by Tuthmosis III, and the omission of her name from later king lists have fueled debate among Egyptologists for over a century. Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh presents the changing interpretations of the woman who, at about the age of 20, claimed the full powers of the throne upon the death of her husband, Tuthmosis II, who was also her half-brother, and gradually assumed the title of “King” and the trappings of kingship in addition to the queenly titles that she already held.

Under an unusual line of succession, she and Tuthmosis III, who was the son of Hatshepsut’s husband, but by a lesser queen, effectively shared the throne of Egypt as two kings for a period of almost 20 years. Hatshepsut’s metamorphosis from a queen into a king took place gradually and appears to have gone through a series of exploratory phases. Her monuments depict her both as a woman and as a man, in king’s regalia, including a strapped-on false beard. As Egypt’s two Horuses, Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis III, 13 years her junior, frequently appeared together on monuments as “twin” male rulers distinguished only by the position of their cartouches--with Hatshepsut usually taking precedence--or occasionally by their regalia.

Although her reign defied long-established convention, it was accepted by her people and Egypt flourished, as seen through the superb and innovative art and architecture of her prosperous and largely peaceful rule. About 20 years after Hatshepsut’s death, however, her name and her image were systematically obliterated, her kingly monuments were destroyed, and she was forgotten....

The exhibition is rich in standout objects ranging in scale from monumental sculptures to delicate gold jewelry and finely detailed scarabs, seals and figurines. Colossal sculptures in the main hall of the exhibition reveal the majesty of Hatshepsut as king. These include one of the six extant massive granite sphinxes depicting Hatshepsut as a lion, a colossal kneeling figure of Hatshepsut holding small offering jars, and an enormous striding figure of her. There are also smaller stone figures of Hatshepsut as well as three large painted limestone reliefs from her mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri, which depict marching soldiers. In addition, there are a number of stone figures of Senemut, one of the most eminent and influential officials of the Eighteenth Dynasty. Also of particular interest is the granite False-Door Stela of Tuthmosis I, an object that was the ritual focus of his offering cult. A gallery devoted to Tuthmosis III when he assumed sole reign after Hatshepsut’s death displays sculpture that attests to the greatness he achieved during his long reign, such as a powerful, majestic nearly life-size standing figure carved in greywacke. Among the many surviving statues of this king, the one on view in the exhibition best conveys the impression of a personal likeness.

There are a number of remarkably well-preserved wooden decorative arts and personal objects in the exhibition. Highlights of these pieces include a royal wooden bed inlaid with cobras of sheet gold, a wood and ivory--which was as highly prized as gold--chair, and small wooden boxes and a gaming board of wood and ivory, as well as a wood and silver staff. Among the leather objects are a painting of a woman playing a harp while a man enthusiastically dances....

A wide array of personal items reflects the taste, luxury, and craftsmanship of the times, such as a pair sandals made of gold, whose design is startlingly contemporary. There is an abundance of dazzling gold, silver, lapis, carnelian, cloisonné, and faience and semi-precious stone jewelry in the exhibition. A particularly magnificent necklace, the Horus Collar, is a hammered sheet of gold decorated with a falcon-headed clasp. A glimpse of daily life as led by royalty in the Eighteenth Dynasty is provided by intimate items such as cosmetic boxes and spoons, bronze mirrors, tweezers and a razor, a wood, ivory, and copper kohl tube, wooden hairpins, and gold finger and toe stalls, which were used for funerary trappings.

Finally, other objects bespeak of everyday life of the Eighteenth Dynasty. These include such items as colorful faience bowls, delightful figure vases, ceremonial weapons, and model tools that were placed as foundation deposits at Deir el-Bahri.

This fascinating story just hints at mysteries to be explored further.

October 14, 2017

October 14, 1888

Katherine Mansfield (October 14, 1888 to January 9, 1923) was an English writer whose talent was real and who found herself in the center of modernism in literature and philosophy. She published the short story "Bliss" in a 1918 issue of The English Review. Therein we read:
The windows of the drawing-room opened onto a balcony overlooking the garden. At the far end, against the wall, there was a tall, slender pear tree in fullest, richest bloom; it stood perfect, as though becalmed against the jade-green sky. Bertha couldn't help feeling, even from this distance, that it had not a single bud or a faded petal. Down below, in the garden beds, the red and yellow tulips, heavy with flowers, seemed to lean upon the dusk. A grey cat, dragging its belly, crept across the lawn, and a black one, its shadow, trailed after. The sight of them, so intent and so quick, gave Bertha a curious shiver.

"What creepy things cats are!" she stammered, and she turned away from the window and began walking up and down. . . .

How strong the jonquils smelled in the warm room. Too strong? Oh, no. And yet, as though overcome, she flung down on a couch and pressed her hands to her eyes.

"I'm too happy—too happy !" she murmured.....

Katherine Mansfield would be remembered today if only for the people she knew. How nice she was also talented.

October 13, 2017

October 13, 1899

Vittorio Pisani  (October 13, 1899 to April 27, 1974) was an Italian illustrator. We have one of the  pictures Pisano did:

This was for a newspaper, an illustration to accompany a Dublin Ireland story about an escaped lion.
The incident at the time it happened, made front-page news in the Irish Times with a headline: “Lioness escapes in Dublin and mauls two.” This event occurred November 12th, 1951, An Irish TImes article from 2014 explains the background.

"Picture of escaped lion in Dublin in 1951 comes to light.....In December 1951, the weekly newspaper La Tribuna Illustrata published the full-page colour image with a caption explaining that: “A Dublino, una leonessa . . . o un’incursione in un garage dove assaliva e feriva gravemente un operaio.”.....

[The picture above] was executed in 1951 by Vittorio Pisani, one of Italy’s most famous illustrators, to accompany a newspaper report about the bizarre event....

The story, that “a lioness had mauled a garage worker in Dublin” was true but the paper had veered from the facts when adding that the big cat had then wandered into a “negozio di giocattoli” (toy shop) where it is seen ready to pounce on an unsuspecting child.

La Tribuna Illustrata, which ceased publication in 1969, was renowned for its illustrations, which were often framed by readers and are sought by collectors.

[And now a] copy of the Dublin lioness issue has turned up, in a collection of 19th and 20th century European newspapers featuring unusual stories about Ireland, to be sold in Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers’ sale of rare books and historical memorabilia in Dublin next month.

Back to 1951, and an account of the actual events:

The previous afternoon, a lion had escaped and gone on the prowl along Merville Avenue in Fairview.

The animal wandered into the Clover Dairy, terrifying the assistant Peggy Macken, before heading to Costello’s Garage and attacking 16-year-old trainee mechanic Andrew Massey from Oliver Plunkett Farm, Monkstown. There was no mention of a toy shop.

The lion’s owner, Bill Stephens (28), was alerted but failed, according to an eye-witness, “to get a rope around its legs”. As the big cat leapt from garden to garden, the children at 21 Merville Avenue were “looking out and making faces at it”. According to the report, “radio messages were sent out to squad cars” and “the Special Branch at Dublin Castle was also notified”.
....After about an hour “the lioness arrived in waste land” behind Fairview’s Grand Cinema, where, “in the gathering dusk, crowds of people watched her roaming until armed police came and shot her”.
The Irish Times reported that local boys stripped “the dead lioness’s fur, its ears and tail, as souvenirs before its body was taken to the zoo." Both Mr Stephens and Mr Massey survived and were treated in Jervis Street Hospital.

Mr Stephens was, it turned out, a lion-tamer who lived in a caravan in Fairview with his wife. He kept three lions in an enclosure during the winter when the circus he worked for was off the road.

A sad story: the lion's life before its few hours of freedom.

October 12, 2017

October 12, 1872

Vaughan Williams (October 12, 1872 to August 26, 1958) composed in a variety of popular forms. His music is spoken of as quintessentially English but he of course was schooled in various places. According to his Britannica article:

Vaughan Williams studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, and in London at the Royal College of Music under two major figures of the late 19th-century renaissance of English music, Sir Charles Stanford and Sir Hubert Parry. In 1897–98 he studied in Berlin under the noted composer Max Bruch and in 1909 in Paris under Maurice Ravel. About 1903 he began to collect folk songs, and in 1904–06 he was musical editor of The English Hymnal, for which he wrote his celebrated “Sine Nomine” (“For All the Saints”). After artillery service in World War I, he became professor of composition at the Royal College of Music.

His compositions reflect his commitment to English traditions

Of his stage works, The Pilgrim’s Progress (1951) and Job (1931), a masque for dancing, reflect his serious, mystical side. Hugh the Drover (1924), a ballad opera, stems from his folk song interest. Riders to the Sea (1937) is a poignant setting of John Millington Synge’s play.

He wrote many songs of great beauty, including On Wenlock Edge (1909), set to poems of A.E. Housman and consisting of a cycle for tenor, string quartet, and piano (later arranged for tenor and orchestra) and Five Mystical Songs(1911), set to poems of George Herbert.

We could summarize Vaughn Williams' nationalism:

Vaughan Williams broke the ties with continental Europe that for two centuries through George Frideric Handel, Felix Mendelssohn, and lesser German composers had made Britain virtually a musical province of Germany. Although his predecessors in the English musical renascence, Sir Edward Elgar, Sir Hubert Parry, and Sir Charles Stanford, remained within the Continental tradition, Vaughan Williams, like such nationalist composers as the Russian Modest Mussorgsky, the Czech Bedřich Smetana, and the Spanish Manuel de Falla, turned to folk song as a wellspring of native musical style.

Here is our English composer and his cat, named, folksily, Foxy.

More information is available at the Ralph Vaughan Williams Society , where there is a Biography, List of Works, Concert details, etc., at