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This fascinating YouTube video from Verge Science was drawn to our attention by David Crotty at The Scholarly Kitchen. If you don’t see a video below, please click on the title of this post in order to view it in your browser.

We’ve probably none of us ever given much thought to the eye chart which we so often get to look at. It was designed in 1862 by Herman Snellen. The typeface is a bit odd when you think about it: Snellen designed the letters on a 5 x 5 grid, having started out with similar sized abstract symbols, and their size is based upon properties of the eye, nothing random. A recent book about the eye chart by Bill Germano (also author of Getting it Published) will doubtless teach you more.


Via the SHARP listserv, Nicholas Weir-Williams sends us this link to a BBC quiz program, “The Unbelievable Truth”: Episode 1, Series 20, The Unbelievable Truth – BBC Radio 4. The point of the program is to detect the five truthful statements made by contestants in their largely nonsensical presentations on various subjects. This edition of the program features one section on Books. It’s the third part of the program, and falls about fifteen minutes in. I think it’s quite useful to listen to the sections on Police and Submarines in order to get the hang of things. Following Books we have Spiders.

No paradox in the fact that the Paradoxography website will tell you all (probably more than) you want to know about this strange genre of classical literature devoted to the description of weird and wonderful things. As the site says the genre of paradoxography is “a sort of ‘Ripley’s Believe It Or Not’ of the Graeco–Roman world”

Book Towns: Forty Five Paradises of the Printed Word by Alex Johnson has been published by Frances Lincoln. Atlas Obscura brings a piece about it. The towns covered in the book are:

  1. Ascona, Switzerland
  2. Bécherel, Brittany, France
  3. Bellprat, Catalonia
  4. Borrby, Sweden
  5. Bowral, NSW, Australia
  6. Bredevoort, Netherlands
  7. Clunes, Victoria, Australia
  8. Cuisery, Burgundy, France
  9. Damme, Belgium
  10. Featherston, New Zealand
  11. Fjaerland, Norway
  12. Fontenoy-la-Joûte, Lorraine, France
  13. Gold Cities, Grass Valley, California
  14. Hay-on-Wye, Wales
  15. Hobart, New York
  16. La Charité-sur-Loire, Nièvre, France
  17. Langenberg & Katlenburg, Germany
  18. Lillehammer, Norway
  19. Montereggio, Italy
  20. Montmorillon, Aquitaine, France
  21. Montolieu, Aude, France
  22. Obidos, Portugal
  23. Paju, South Korea
  24. Redu, Belgium
  25. Richmond, South Africa
  26. St. Pierre-de-Clages, Switzerland
  27. Sedbergh, England
  28. Selfoss, Iceland
  29. Sidney, British Columbia, Canada
  30. Stillwater & Twin Cities, Minnesota
  31. Sysmä, Finland
  32. Torup, Denmark
  33. Tvedestrand, Norway
  34. Unrena, Spain
  35. Wigtown, Scotland
  36. Wünsdorf, Germany
  37. Bhilar, Maharashtra, India
  38. Buenos Aires, Argentina
  39. College Street, Kolkata, India
  40. Jimbocho, Tokyo, Japan

Not sure where the other five went, though there are a couple of double entries. There’s a International Book Towns website: one’s idea that there’d be one book town per nation seems to be wishful thinking. Willingness to pay the fee may be the main criterion!  Wikipedia has an overlapping listing. One way or another bibliophilic voyagers have their work cut out for them.

See also Book towns

At this Tweet, watch this Cap A turn into a 3-D letter after it’s been drawn and shaded on a  2-dimensional pad of paper with ruler and pencil alone.

According to the responses it seems that some people are unable to see the 3-D effect. Is this another of these duck/rabbit perception things? The first time I watched this, as the the page was rotated, it gradually changed under my gaze from a flat shaded drawing to the 3-D object. This 3-D version is now all that I can see, and I find I’m seeing it earlier and earlier in the video. I can’t get back to the flat shaded drawing after perceiving it as 3-D.

I thought I’d try drawing it myself. Couldn’t get it to work at all. I’ve given up for the time being. I wonder if it’s maybe just an effect of the computer screen. I was hoping, if the effect wasn’t there on the actual drawing, to discover whether it would show up on a photo.

Gothamist (via Shelf Awareness) brings a little video of Gramercy Typewriters, the oldest typewriter repair shop in New York. Still going strong after more than 80 years.

And here’s another.

Another quiz from Buzzfeed who’s tag line makes the claim that no one but a true expert will score better than 10/13.  I can confirm (as a clear non-expert) though I insist I did better than I expected.

El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Buenos Aires. Photo: M4CAQUE/FLIKR

Conde-Nast Traveller brings a gallery of photos of 17 places they say book lovers should visit before they die.

“Where are all those activists when you need them —  the folk so keen to move statues of Robert E. Lee, Christopher Columbus and the rest of them?”

Our secular patron saint of printing (the word on the front of the plinth, beneath Franklin’s name is PRINTER) gives passersby on Pennsylvania Avenue a nervous little wave, while looking a bit fed up at finding himself before that controversial new hotel in Washington, in the converted Post Office Pavilion.

An oddity, shown by David Crotty at The Scholarly Kitchen: Merriam-Webster’s backward index card file. We tend to forget that things which are easy-peasy with computers once upon a time required a bit of ingenuity.

There are other videos at Merriam-Webster’s YouTube Channel.