From a poster by Henry Van de Velde for a food supplement, 1898

Art Nouveau: Art of Darkness

First named such in Belgium, Art Nouveau was intimately tied up with that country’s brutal rule of the Congo.
Black and white photo of The Boston Athenaeum by Southworth & Hawes

The Boston Athenæum

Founded in 1807, the subscription library was a gathering place for local scholars, “men of business,” and members of the upper classes in search of knowledge.
William Morris at age 53

William Morris, Anti-Capitalist Publisher

By drawing on traditional typefaces for Kelmscott Press, Morris showed that he was unwilling to yield to capitalism’s demands for speed and efficiency.
A dressmaker uses a sewing machine, 1928

Dressmaking Liberated American Women—Then Came the Men

The creation of bespoke clothing offered women a way to escape traditional middle-class expectations and gain unprecedented power, until men took over.
From the cover of the NYRB edition of Arabesques

Arabic Hebrew, Hebrew Arabic: The Work of Anton Shammas

Within the alienated and antagonist cultures inside Israel’s borders, Arabic and Hebrew—related, but mutually unintelligible languages—cross-fertilize each other.
Idealized Portrait of a Woman (allegedly Simonetta Vespucci) by Sandro Botticelli

The Renaissance Lets Its Hair Down

The notion that everybody was going to be hairless in Heaven may not have sat well with Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli.
headphones with a plug and decorative elements

Good Times With Bad Music

We've all got our tastes, but can anyone really define what makes music “good” or “bad”?
Photograph of Chinatown YWCA in San Francisco (now used by the Chinese Historical Society). Julia Morgan architect. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chinatown_San_Francisco_%2826720090647%29.jpg

Julia Morgan, American Architect

Morgan, the first licensed woman architect in California, helped bring parity to the built environment, the community, and the profession.
Grand Central terminal clock

Keeping Time: A New Year’s Collection

A selection of stories that chronicle our complicated notions of time.
Edgar Allan Poe with some seashell illustrations from The Conchologist’s First Book

Edgar Allan Poe (Sort of) Wrote a Book About Seashells

The American writer was an enthusiast of the sciences, which may explain his decision to “adapt” a text about seashells for publication under his own name.