1. The following is a very curious and mysterious object, which was included in Evelyn Waugh’s collection at the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin.
(The book was not created by Waugh. Its creator cannot be confirmed, but an inscription tells us the book was given as a gift in 1854.)
2. It has come to be referred to as the “Victorian blood book.”
The images of blood are a reference to Christian sacrifice.
3. That red hue, however, is not blood; it is red India ink.
From the description: “Its decoupage was assembled from several hundred engravings, many taken from books of etchings by William Blake, as well as other illustrations from early nineteenth-century books.”
4. This is only a selection of a few pages from the book, however the imagery is similar throughout — a mix of religious iconography, nature, and “extensive religious commentary.”
5. We can make an educated guess about a few things from the inscription…
The book is inscribed by someone named John Bingley Garland, to his daughter, Amy, reading, “A legacy left in his lifetime for her future examination by her affectionate father.”
6. We can assume (but not confirm) that the artist is this Garland guy because his handwriting matches that in the book.
7. While this appears terrifying to us now, it probably conveyed a different meaning to its Victorian owners.
Here’s what the Garland family has to say about it: “It is full of symbols of both Human and Non-Human ‘Crusaders and Protectors’ of God and Christianity and most of the Verses, Quotes, etc are encouraging one to turn to God as our Saviour.”
9. Whoever made this is probably the world’s first great graphic designer.
The book is filled with exquisite pages of decoupage, creating a collage with images, red ink, and words.