8.31.2007

The Book of Life




Here, some fantastical illustrations from The Book of Life: The Spiritual and Physical Constitution of Man by Dr. Alesha Sivartha. Sivartha was the assumed name of one Arthur Merton, MD (1834-1915), purported to be the illegitimate son of Raja Ram Mohun Roy Bahadoor, an Indian scholar, activist and Brahmin, and an unknown English Unitarian woman who dallied with the Raja on his tour of England. Merton began his quasi-scientific Biblico-Evolutionist parsing in 1859, evidently self-publishing several volumes. His son published a thorough updated tome in 1912. From what I can see the pages are filled with a hybrid of spiritual intensity, Hegelian determinism, economic dabblings and obsessive hand lettering. Let the good doctor speak for himself:
science and history both answer that man has advanced step by step from the ignorant and selfish rule of his lower brain organs up toward the beneficent dominion of his higher brain faculties. The laws that have controlled that vast upward movement are still in force...And they are of supreme importance for they determine what new institutions and what social changes are now required to meet that higher growth of nations.
The many many illustrations are what set my pulse racing of course: part phrenological, a lot outsider art. The hand-drawn type is particularly masterful. I was enveloped by the density and the obsessional zeal in the same way I was with the drawings of Adolf Wolfli
whose mad genius I discovered at the Folk Art Museum a few years ago.

Charts, diagrams and hierarchies of obscure or dubious content are also a fascination of mine...

I found the good doctor by way of No Relevance on a random late night net ramble (more on late nights in a coming post). The Book of Life site is sensitively written and minutely presented by Sivartha's great great grandson, who unfortunately lost a bit of my scholarly confidence when he recounts how he "did meth and fried my brain."

8 comments:

Frank Schmolke said...

This looks very interesting!
How the old stings of Posada.
Many greetings from Munich!

angela said...

"How the old stings of Posada."
I don't understand?

Frank Schmolke said...

Hi Angela,
the illustrations to "Book of Life" remind me of a Mexican illustrator and engraver.
He lived and worked about 1900 in Mexico.
The illustrations on yours blog have reminded me of his work.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/José_Guadalupe_Posada

angela said...

Wow! that was a fast explanation. And you're right-- I've seen the illustrations but the name didn't click.
Thanks!

Frank Schmolke said...

I like your works on your website very well! Fresh graphic design!!!

angela said...

oh how very nice to hear! thank you very much...

and if you know anyone in need of "fresh" design, do send them along...

Frank Schmolke said...

immediately!

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