Featherston Booktown Festival

What is a booktown, you may well ask? Alex Johnson in his book Book Towns: Forty-five Paradises of the Printed Word defines it as “simply a small town, usually rural and scenic, full of bookshops and book-related industries.” The most well-known booktowns are Hay-on-Wye in Wales and Wigtown in Scotland (the location of Shaun Bythell’s... Continue Reading →

Cycloramas

Cycloramas were a popular form of entertainment in the late 19th century until the arrival of the cinema diminished their appeal. They depicted a famous historic event in a huge 360-degree oil painting fixed to the internal wall of a large, purpose-built, circular building. The picture was viewed from a central platform with real objects,... Continue Reading →

Kreitmayer’s Waxworks

Waxworks were a fixture on Melbourne’s Bourke Street from 1857. First established as Madame Lee’s Waxworks and located opposite the Eastern Markets, Ellen Williams took over the business the following year. When she married phrenologist Philemon Sohier in 1859, it became Madame Sohier's Waxwork Exhibition with another branch in Sydney. The Sohiers, however, met an... Continue Reading →

Heritage Week

Old High Court Building Open Day & Exhibition: The Old High Court building is now part of the Supreme Court complex and the ceremonial courtroom was opened to the public for Heritage Week in Wellington. I went along for a look and found the theatrical design of the courtroom with its kauri panelling, large canopy... Continue Reading →

The Fakir of Oolu: Illusionist

Alfred Silvester (1831 – 1886) was a magician who first appeared in London in the 1860s with Pepper’s Ghost, a transparent ghostly illusion created by reflecting an image onto a sheet of glass. A special effect, similar to the holograph, it’s still used today in amusement rides such as Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion. Silvester ran into... Continue Reading →

Trapeze: A Visual Spectacle?

  Watching my daughter’s video of the recent P!nk concert in Auckland, the breath-taking thrill for both performer and audience of P!nk soaring at speed above the crowd was obvious. Something that’s easier to capture on film than in words, but following on from my previous post about 19th-century aerialists here are some books that... Continue Reading →

Vade Mecum: 19th-century tourism

Before Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor, travellers in the 19th century would use a handbook or guide titled Vade Mecum (translation from Latin = go with me). For example, The New Zealand tourists' vade mecum: being a handbook to the services of the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand Limited (4th edition, 1891) is... Continue Reading →

Six Books about Ballooning

While I was writing and researching The Aerial Queen I read quite a few books about ballooning because I reasoned that if I read enough books, then there was no need to take an actual balloon flight was there? Here are some of my favourites: Enduring Love (Ian McEwen): Who can forget the horror of... Continue Reading →

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