The Taxonomy of Design

May 20, 2013

BHL Archive Vintage Entomology PrintsOf all the things I love spending time looking at for the home, entomology, curios and Victorian natural history are amongst the most regular. One of my favourite things in the flat is my collection of butterflies below.


Entomology Convex Mirror Vintage Butterflies Framed Collection

But there is a difference between taking influence from the past and simply recreating pastiche. It is a difficult line to balance as Baz Luhrmann’s latest production of the Great Gatsby attests, I found it crude, oversimplified, overly signposted history-bling. At the same time I applaud his attempt to remould the old for modern sensibilities.
Now I don’t want to pastiche the Victorian era – too dark, too fussy, too much wood – however I like the oddities when they don’t look contrived. One of the most stunning things I have seen this year was Richard Harris’s personal cabinet of curiosities relating to death, on display at The Wellcome Collection, it included this stunning chandelier made from human bones – so grotesque and beautiful at the same time.Skeleton Chandelier
I love curios or objects that are surprising, particularly victorian examples, think architectural follies, the grand tours and taxonomy.  In the flat we have witches mirrors, framed old magic lantern slides and I seem to be buying things with entomology on all the time:

Entomology Homewares Rory Dobner

For the past year I have been looking for nineteenth century drawings of natural history to frame. I bought a lovely Cuvier plate on ebay but find most originals horribly expensive, especially those old science lesson hangings . So imagine my delight when I stumbled upon the Biodiversity Heritage Library’s Flickr stream this week. They have made over 73,000 images available and are really beautiful (I will not admit to how many hours I have spent looking at them this weekend!). There is everything from mollusks and coral plants to birds and bugs, here are some examples of my favourite entomology plates:

BHL Archive Entomology Natural History Fish Insect IllustrationsBHL Archive Entomology Natural History Beetles Insect IllustrationsBHL Archive Entomology Natural History Beetles IllustrationsBHL Archive Entomology Natural History Insect Beetle IllustrationsBHL Archive Entomology Natural History Fish Bug Beetle IllustrationsBHL Archive Entomology Natural History Squid Octopus IllustrationsBHL Archive Entomology Natural History Crab Coral Illustrations

 Now what to do with them…

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3 thoughts on “The Taxonomy of Design

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