I met the Snark in 2005

Before my Snark hunt started in December 2008, I mainly focused on Henry Holiday’s illustration to the 5th fit in Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark. Since 2005 (then as a member of a works council, where I specialized on mental workload issues in OHS) I used that illustration as a depiction of improvable workplace design. I also inserted the illustration into a German Wikipedia article in 2008. Probably from there it was copied into another Wikipedia article in 2012. That one again inspired a Forbes article about well-being in the workplace in 2013.

In 2008 I read Carroll and Holiday’s complete tragicomedy. Then I made an incidental discovery.

A Snark Excerpt as Graph

The image visualizes hypergraph properties of a part (lines 547 to 556) of Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark. (I fixed the transposition error “Page 18” in the original image. In the 1st 1876 Snark edition it’s page 81.)

Image source:
Ronald Haentjens Dekker and David J. Birnbaum.
“It’s more than just overlap: Text As Graph.”
Presented at Balisage: The Markup Conference 2017,
Washington, DC, August 1 – 4, 2017.
In Proceedings of Balisage: The Markup Conference 2017.
Balisage Series on Markup Technologies, vol. 19 (2017).

A remark which I received from David J. Birnbaum: Gijs Brouwer implemented the visualization, and Astrid Kulsdom transcribed the information based on the data model inside the application. Gijs’s animated version of the image is available at https://github.com/HuygensING/TAG/blob/master/snark-fly.mp4.

Page 81 visualization | Print/Mobile | EPUB | Twitter | Facebook

Pigs and a Tuba

Help! I am seeing pigs!

In some of his illustrations to Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, Henry Holiday alluded to The Image Breakers, a 16th century print made by Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder. I see at least one of Holiday’s pigs in that print (spoiler) and also something which Henry Holiday could have turned into a Moritz bass tuba.

2019 is the year of the pig. Does that make me see pigs everywhere, or did Henry Holiday see that pig in Gheeraert’s print too?

Actually, I have to confess that I saw the pig already in 2009. But I didn’t mark it then:


Happy Chinese New Year

Wishing everyone a Happy Chinese New Year with this misericord of a pig playing the bagpipes in @riponcathedral! #YearOfThePig pic.twitter.com/cBqHUCWXoE

— National Churches Trust (@NatChurchTrust) February 5, 2019

More fun to be found with pigs in Lewis Carroll’s (whose dad was a resident canon at Ripon) “Hunting of the Snark” poem. Original book drawing included pigs playing musical instruments. A coincidence that they are fashioned similar to the Cathedral’s misericords? pic.twitter.com/oh7cqSuc5T

— Gail McMillan (@ww_gail) February 5, 2019

What was that? You wanted a pig sitting on a barrel playing a lyre while three of his companions dance to the music? OK, here you go… pic.twitter.com/Cey0RM08c2

— Ian Groves 🇪🇺 (@LandscapeIan) August 24, 2017

his hopeful relative joined a band in the early 13th century – what is his/her instrument of choice?
(Psalter – BL, Lansdowne MS 420, f. 12v)https://t.co/bNM4GOE0nK#PolonskyPre1200 pic.twitter.com/U4vecl8LY4

— Tuija Ainonen (@AinonenT) February 5, 2019


Update 2019-06-11


— JulesGirlGuiding (@JulesRPardoe) June 11, 2019

Snark Explanations

by Mary Hammond, published on Nov 7, 2017. There also is an essay: Mary Hammond, Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark Explained.

Mary Hammond’s interpretation of course is not the first Snark interpretation. First hints on what the Snark could be about had been given to us by Henry Holiday and Philo M. Buck. And there is an excellent chapter on Carroll’s tragicomedy in Louise Schweitzer’s One Wild Flower. Oliver Sturm’s Die Jagd nach dem Schnatz is a German translation, which also contains an attempt to explain the Snark. And there is a Snark chapter in Klaus Reichert’s Lewis Carroll: Studien zum literarischen Unsinn. Reichert is another German Snark translator.

Among the interpretations known to me, Mary Hammond’s interpretation is the first one where Eternal Damnation is seen as one of the more important issues to which Lewis Carroll might have taken reference in The Hunting of the Snark. In Carroll’s poem, the Baker‘s Forty-Two Boxes led me to the same conclusion earlier.

In my correspondence with Mary Hammond (a pen ame of Mary Hibbs) she also told me about what in her view “…jum” in Boojum could stand for: Search for jumble in the chapter Of Reason in John Locke‘s Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689).

I too associate Boojum with the vanishing of reason – which too often is the beginning of violence. Yet, I’ll probably never know, whether my association is similar to what the Boojum meant to Carroll.

549    “It’s a Snark!” was the sound that first came to their ears,
550        And seemed almost too good to be true.
551    Then followed a torrent of laughter and cheers:
552        Then the ominous words “It’s a Boo-”

553    Then, silence. Some fancied they heard in the air
554        A weary and wandering sigh
555    That sounded like “-jum!” but the others declare
556        It was only a breeze that went by.


My publications:
Knight Letter № 99: Nose is a Nose is a Nose
Knight Letter № 100: Burning the Baker


There now is a new paperback edition of Untangling the Knot: An Analysis of Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, 2019-10-06, by Sandra Mann (besides Mary Hammond another pen name of Mary Hibbs). She also sent me an additional article about a possible reference to Bishop Reginal Heber (1783-1826). See also: https://www.facebook.com/groups/lewiscarrollresources/permalink/2241199999492366/

2020-02-12: Untangling the Knot in PDF, 2018


2017-11-17, updated: 2018-12-02.

Illustrated Poetry 
in the Victorian Period

Since https://victorianpoetrypoeticsandcontext.wikispaces.com/ edited by Alison Chapman will be shut down together with wikispaces.com on 2018-07-31, I mirror their wiki page on the Lewis Carroll Picture Book in my blog and quote a paragraph on Illustrated Poetry in the Victorian Period:

Advances in technology made it possible for any given literary volume to be published en masse, thus expanding the book market extensibly. Previously, manuscript copies of a writer’s work were limited, due to the laborious effort it took to recreate these volumes; however, following the invention of the printing press, books became less of a luxury item, and, therefore, more accessible to less wealthy households.

This caused value to shift from the rarity of a book to its other additive qualities, spurring a tradition of adding corresponding illustrations to increase a books’ aesthetic appeal. Publishers encouraged 19th century writers to include pictures alongside their prose and poetry in order to draw in greater profit for themselves: these companies anticipated greater sales of an illustrated volume that of its unembellished counterpart, and were able to attach a higher price tag to each of these lavish copies.

Despite this pressure and undeniable popularity, poets were often still hesitant to publish their works accompanied by such adornments due to the notion that visual aids might skew the reader’s perception of the verse.

The choice of Stuart Dodgson Collingwood to include his uncle’s personal sketches [in the Lewis Carroll Picture Book (1899)] indicates an attempt to appeal to the gift book market, and, further, reveals the publisher’s own aspiration to profit monetarily from his personal relationship to Lewis Carroll– notorious author and poet, but lesser-known sketch artist. Through composing this augmented edition of Carroll’s most prominent titles, Collingwood undoubtedly capitalized on this pre-established celebrity while simultaneously preserving his uncle’s notoriety.

(Alison Chapman credits the wiki page on the Lewis Carroll Picture Book to an undergraduate student who prefers to be anonymous.)

The Joy of Hiding Things in Art

In a BBC video, video journalist Adam Paylor gives us a good example for why things might be hidden in art: Besides assuming that people who see cryptomorphs in artwork might just be suffering from pareidolia, often one important reason for hiding things in art is neglected by art researchers: Hiding things in images can be fun!

Also from http://severnbeachantiques.com/famous-rare-1980-huntley-and-palmer-rude-garden-party-ginger-nuts-tin you can learn about a good reason for an artist to hide things in art:

I did them out of devilment, purely for a laugh. I’ve always been a bit of a naughty boy but I’ve nothing against Huntley & Palmers. There have been rumours that I got made redundant and did it out of revenge. But that’s not true – I was only ever a freelance. I just felt like adding a bit of smut to the proceedings.

That is what Mick Hill, the creator of the illustration of the Huntley & Palmers garden party ginger nuts tin, said about the hidden surprises in his artwork.

Thumb and Lappet

left]: Henry Holiday: Segment from a depictionof the Baker’s visit to his uncle (1876) in Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark (engraved by Joseph Swain).

[center]: Doesn’t this thumb look more like a piece of cloth rather than like a thumb?

[right]: John Everett Millais: Redrawn Segment from Christ in the House of His Parents aka The Carpenter’s Shop (1850), at present on display at Tate Britain (N03584).

See also: snrk.de/page_sphinx#4panels | Twitter

Christ in the House of his Parents

Christ in the House of his Parents: Details from a stained glass window (Brechin Cathedral, source: BSMPG @ Twitter) by Henry Holiday and from a painting by J.E. Millais.

The images are quite different. Important things they have in common with other Carpenter’s Shop paintings are the depiction of Joseph as a real carpenter at work and the wood shavings.

Ballad Form in Victorian Poetry

Wikispaces being closed down. Therefore I mirrored the post Ballad Form in Victorian Poetry. It helps to understand the form of The Hunting of the Snark:

The article is the work of a student with the initials “CM” at Hobart and William Smith Colleges (partner institution of UVicEnglish), see the signature: CM/HWS/ENG 21. (Source: Alison Chapman)

(I also mirrored the wiki page on the Lewis Carroll Picture Book.)

Flat Earth

Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

One of my articles in this blog has the title What can Science reveal? This is the quest of the Snark (quoting Philo M. Buck, 1942). I think, that the question what science can reveal is only one among several quests of the Snark. Another quest might be, how science reveals the world and how science can be threatened. Here, flat earth theory is a good example. That theory does not only aim at reverting scientific findings, but also at damaging science itself. I don’t know whether Dodgson/Carroll took any interest in that theory and the related debates, but its history helps me to improve my understanding of popular science debates and businesses in the Victorian society at around the time when Lewis Carrol wrote The Hunting of the Snark.

This week in the New Yorker, Alan Burdick wrote an article about Looking for Life on a Flat Earth, What a burgeoning movement says about science, solace, and how a theory becomes truth (2018-05-30). Very regrettably, Burdick failed to mention Christine Garwood‘s book Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea (2008). That shouldn’t happen in a magazine like the New Yorker. Didn’t Burdick read that excellent book before he wrote his article?

Garwood shows why and how science can be threatened and is being threatened. This includes John Hampden‘s (1819-1891) discrediting of journalists 1870 (p. 76), who probably had quite similar reasons for media bashing as Donald Trump had and openly described them in February 2016. If you want to make a living as influencer, you need to control the presentation of knowledge. To understand that is as important today as it was in the 19th century. It is amazing how similar the 21st century anti-scientific populism is to what happened since “Parallax” started his flat earth business in the Victorian Britain. And he meant business.

Fr ɖ Snarc wz a Būjm, y si

https://ashortspell.com/2017/12/14/the-hunting-of-the-snark | lewis-carroll-in-nspel-including-the-original-illustrations-by-henry-holiday/

“Jst ɖ ples fr a Snarc!” ɖ Belmn craid,
Az h landd hiz cru wɖ cer,
S’portñ ć man on ɖ top v ɖ tîd
Bî a fngr intwînd in hiz her.

“Jst ɖ ples fr a Snarc! I hv sd it twîs.
Ɖt alon śd incurij ɖ cru.
Jst ɖ ples fr a Snarc! I hv sd it ʈrîs.
Ẃt I tel y ʈri tîmz z tru.”

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