Profusely illustrated with 132 full colour images from 6th century Byzantium, 11th century Iraq and 14th century Italy
The Tacuinum Sanitatis is a medieval handbook on Health and Well Being. First printed in Europe in 1531, it was aimed at an educated secular readership and offered concise and sensible advice on how to live a long, healthy and enjoyable life. Four handsomely illustrated manuscripts of the Tacuinum survive, all produced in Lombardy and now housed, respectively, at libraries in Rome, Vienna, Paris and Liège.
The Latin text describes in detail the beneficial and harmful properties of plants and foodstuffs, as well as considering social, physiological and psychological aspects of wellness. Following established medieval principles, it sets forth six essential elements for mental and physical well-being.
Price : US$8.99
A new illustrated edition of Ernest Ingersoll’s classic 1928 study of dragons in all their multifarious forms, from Imperial China to St. George. 54,000 words, 92 historical images, 30 contemporary images
Belief in dragons has united humanity more than the belief in any other mythological creature. From China and Japan, through Southeast Asia, India and the Middle East, to Europe and even Central America, the image of the dragon has burned brightly in the imaginations of our forefathers. Even today dragons continue to fascinate. In the 21st century, far from disappearing, dragons and dragon lore have spawned a wide range of fantasy books, games, TV series and movies that are enduringly popular worldwide – as indeed are dragon tattoos.
Ernest Ingersoll’s classic 1928 study of Dragons and Dragon Lore is here reproduced, together with a new introductory essay by Daniel Henley and a unique collection of full colour high definition dragon images from across the world.
Price : US$8.99
An illustrated version of the classic Chinese Study. 12,000 words, 104 historical images
Sun Tzu’s Art of War has been read and appreciated by a host of military men and philosophers down through the ages. More recently, it has become popular as a manual for business success and guide to boardroom battles, seen by many as a lodestar in achieving success in the ruthless world of competitive capitalism – a text so currently fashionable that even Paris Hilton has been photographed reading it.
Yet what makes the present study so valuable is not just the text, but the genuinely unique collection of 104 accompanying images linking China’s first unifying Emperor Qin Shi Huang with Mao Zedong, Genghis Khan with Tamerlane, Hulagu Khan with the Manchu conqueror Nurhaci – and, indeed, Sun Tzu with US General Douglas MacArthur.
Price : US$7.99
How the hardy Yunnanese Chinese known as “Haw” have dominated the region for more than six centuries. 36,500 words, 70 historical images, 46 contemporary images, 5 maps, Bibliography
During the latter half of the twentieth century the little-known and often lawless region where Laos, Burma, Thailand and China meet has become known and widely romanticised as ‘The Golden Triangle’. Originally a Western designation applied to the region because of its wealth in jade, silver, rubies, lumber, rare animal products and, above all, opium, the name has stuck and is today accepted both in Chinese and in Thai.
By reputation, by very definition, the area is off the beaten track. The home of drug warlords, arms dealers, insurgent armies, latter-day slave traders and plain, old-fashioned bandits, it is also the home of an extraordinarily wide range of colourful ethnic minorities, many still only partly known and understood, and a veritable Tower of Babel linguistically.
Price : US$8.99
THE ILLUSTRATED TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD
The Tibetan funerary text Bardo Thodol or Tibetan Book of the Dead. 16,000 words, 4 appendices, 71 historic images, 9 contemporary images
Bardo Thodol or ‘The Tibetan Book of the Dead’ is a mystical funerary text rooted in the Tibetan Tantric and Vajrayana Buddhist teachings. Composed by the guru and sage Padmasambhava in the 8th century, the Bardo Thodol is recited by a Buddhist lama over a dying or recently deceased person as a spiritual guide to the process of death and that which follows. This illustrated version combines the English language text by Walter Evans-Wentz with a unique collection of 80 pictures relating to the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.
Price : US$8.99
Over New Year 2012-2013 we published the following ebooks which are now available on our own site at COGNOSCENTI BOOKS, as well as on Amazon, iStore, Kobo and Barnes & Noble. We will be adding them to Smashwords and to the Best Indie Book Store in the near future.
At the same time we managed to pass 20,000 images posted in our online image library PICTURES FROM HISTORY. We still have another 120,000 or so undigitized images in our stock library, so we’re likely to be posting for at least another decade… Meanwhile, we will continue to add new digital images as they are shot.
A journey through North Vietnam’s historic past and fast-changing present; 62,000 words, 4 maps, 81 contemporary images, 38 historical images, glossary, bibliography
Vietnam is a name that resonates in the American national consciousness. Yet before the Gulf of Tonkin Incident in 1964, few Americans knew much about Vietnam, causing former US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara to comment that Americans were ’almost completely ignorant of Vietnamese culture, knowing little of the language or long history of the country’. By contrast, since the fall of Saigon in 1975 there can be few people anywhere in the world that do not know the name, location and recent history of Vietnam. Yet beyond the period of US involvement in what Americans call the ’Vietnam War’ and Vietnamese call the ’American War’, how much has changed? The war was of seminal importance to the United States, and Americans inevitably tend to view Vietnam and matters Vietnamese through its prism. But is the same true, in reverse, for Vietnamese? The answer, many in America may be surprised to learn, is a resounding “no”. Almost no Vietnamese bear a grudge against the USA, and the great majority of Vietnamese people are positively friendly towards Americans.
This is less true for China, Vietnam’s close neighbor, mentor and rival for more than two thousand years. In comparison with this long love-hate relationship, US involvement in Vietnam – so significant and painful to most Americans – is just a brief, albeit equally painful, memory to most Vietnamese. This simple fact can be seen in the street names of Hanoi, Vietnam’s national capital and the oldest capital city in Southeast Asia. Vietnamese like to name their streets after what they consider to have been ‘acts of foreign aggression’, and in greater Hanoi no fewer than 119 streets are named after ‘acts of Chinese and French aggression’. And the number named for ‘acts of American aggression’? – Tellingly, just two. Based on an intimate personal knowledge of Vietnam extending over two decades, this book explores Hanoi and the North – Vietnam’s historic heartland and, conversely, the region most influenced by Chinese culture and most suspicious of Chinese intentions. It leads the reader not just across the contemporary north, but also through its long history, linking the present-day with the distant past.
Price : US$8.99
Angkor is the largest religious complex in the world and the greatest historic attraction in Southeast Asia. 20,000 words, 81 contemporary images, 18 historic images, 7 maps
For much of the second half of the 20th century Cambodia was racked by war and famine. Yet it was not always like this. Before its rice fields were stained with blood in the mid-1960s, Cambodia was celebrated as a land of fertile tranquility where a predominantly Buddhist people continued the myriad artistic and cultural traditions of the old Khmer Empire—the first high civilisation in Southeast Asia, exemplified by the extraordinary temple of Angkor Wat, surely the Eighth Wonder of the World. Angkor has to be seen to be believed. It is the largest religious site in the world and, beyond doubt, the major cultural and historical attraction in all of Southeast Asia.
Price : US$8.99
The photographs in this coffee table e-book colourfully reveal the glamorous world of Thai transvestite cabaret. 4,000 words, 86 full colour images
In Thailand practically every town or village has several openly transsexual boys or men who dress as women and are born with feminine characteristics. They are known by a Thai term which translates as ’Women of the Second Kind’, and are also often known by the English loan word ’Ladyboy’. Perhaps no other country in the world has such a large percentage of transsexuals, nor arguably does there exist any other culture where persons of the ‘third gender’ can live and interact with society so freely and comfortably.
Price : US$7.99
One hundred of the most beautiful and most compelling woodblock prints of bijin or ‘beautiful women’ from Suzuki Harunobu, master printmaker of 18th century Edo – today’s Tokyo – together with essays on Harunobu’s life and times, his artistic techniques and of course his ‘beauties’
Suzuki Harunobu was a celebrated 18th century Japanese ukiyo-e artist who produced thousands of exquisite woodblock prints illustrating aspects of life and society in old Edo – today’s Tokyo. His subjects extended from Kabuki actors and courtesans to landscapes, explicit eroticism and street scenes. Yet the subject at which he most excelled was bijin-ga or paintings of beautiful women. This book examines Harunobu’s life and times and artistic achievements, as well as 100 full colour images of his most appealing and winsome bijin or beauties – with their lovers, at their everyday domestic chores, in the Yoshiwara brothel quarter, or just viewing nature.
Price : US$7.99
Illustrated with the full Utagawa Kuniyoshi print edition of 1847-1848
The story of the 47 Ronin is perhaps the most popular and best known legend of traditional Japan. Set in the early 18th century, it tells a tale of honour and bloody revenge as the brotherhood of 47 masterless Samurai pursue the ruthless killing of Lord Kira, the official who brought about the downfall and suicide of their master, Lord Asano. This edition of the story is illustrated by the full set of masterful woodblock prints created by celebrated artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi in 1838-39, images as vivid and striking today as when they were first made 175 years ago. A new version of the tale of the 47 Ronin is currently under production by Universal Pictures starring Keanu Reeves and Hiroyuki Sanada. This book sets the film in its true historical context and is accompanied by 68 outstandingly rare and beautiful images.
Price : US$7.99
Illustrated with the full Tsukioka Yoshitoshi woodblock print edition of 1869
The story of the 47 Ronin is perhaps the most popular and best known legend of traditional Japan. Set in the early 18th century, it tells a tale of honour and bloody revenge as the brotherhood of 47 masterless Samurai pursue the ruthless killing of Lord Kira, the official who brought about the downfall and suicide of their master, Lord Asano. This edition of the story is illustrated by the full set of colourful woodblock prints created by master artist Tsukioka Yoshitoshi in 1869, images as evocative and memorable today as when they were first made 150 years ago. A new version of the tale of the 47 Ronin is currently under production by Universal Pictures starring Keanu Reeves and Hiroyuki Sanada. This book sets the film in its true historical context and is accompanied by 64 outstandingly rare and beautiful images.
Price : US$7.99
Illustrated with the full Tsukioka Yoshitoshi and Utagawa Yoshiiku woodblock print edition of 1866-1868
Between 1866 and 1868 the celebrated Japanese artist Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, in collaboration with his colleague Utagawa Yoshiiku, produced a series of images of graphic horror and cruelty entitled ’28 Famous Murders with Verse’. The series of 28 ukiyo-e woodblock prints shocked, horrified and delighted the citizens of Edo – or at least those of a voyeuristic and morbid disposition. Known as the muzan-e, ’atrocious’ or ’cruel pictures’, all 28 are reproduced here together with other examples of the genre by Yoshitoshi, as well as short essays of ’The Strange World of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi’ and ’28 Famous Murders with Verse’.
Price : US$5.99
9,500 words, 43 full colour plates, 2 black and white plates
The Book of Kells is a magnificently illuminated manuscript Gospel in Vulgate Latin containing the four Gospels of the New Testament – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – together with various prefatory texts and tables. It was created by Celtic monks on the small Island of Iona off the coast of western Scotland in about 800 CE. The text is mainly in Vulgate Latin dating from the 4th century CE, though there are passages in Vetus Latin or ‘Old Latin’ that predate the Vulgate Bible. The Book of Kells is chiefly celebrated for its illuminated illustrations and extraordinarily elaborate ornamentation. It is considered to represent the very best of insular illumination and is widely considered Ireland’s most important national treasure. This ebook includes full colour images of all the major illuminated pages in The Book of Kells, together with an introduction, the main text of Sir Edward Sullivan’s seminal study of the Book of Kells from 1914, a brief biography of Sir Edward Sullivan, and an essay on Saint Columba and the Island of Iona where the book was made.
Price : US$7.99
47 RONIN: HONOUR AND REVENGE IN OLD JAPAN
47 Ronin is an upcoming 2013 fantasy-adventure-action film depicting a fictional account of the Forty-Seven Ronin or masterless warriors, a real-life group of samurai in 18th-century Japan who avenge the murder of their master. The American studio Universal Pictures is producing the adaptation. The movie is directed by Carl Erik Rinsch and stars Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada and Kou Shibasaki. Filmed in Hungary, the UK and Japan, it is due for worldwide release late in 2013.
The chances are it will be a blockbuster in the West, where few people are familiar with the true story of the 47 Ronin. Yet in Japan the heroic tragedy of the Forty-Seven Ronin has long been one of the most popular themes in Japanese art and culture, being represented on stage – both in the kabuki and bunraku genre of theatre, in the cinema and on TV, as well as in traditional woodblock prints and painting. The story has been made into a movie at least six times, but this will be the first Hollywood epic production.Back in the 18th and 19th centuries when the events took place, long before the age of film and video, Japanese people celebrated the exploits and selfless heroism of the 47 Ronin both through theatrical productions and through ukiyo-e prints which could be taken home and hung on the walls or kept in books. Many series of such prints were produced by a range of famous Japanese artists, but the most celebrated remain those of Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1862) and of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892). Now Pictures From Historyis pleased to present the full run of Utagawa’s 1847-48 edition, as well as the full run of Yoshitishi’s 1869 edition, together with various supplementary woodblock prints. We hope they will also provide historical background and a cultural foil for the forthcoming movie.
UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES IN CHINA
China is the third largest country in the world (after Russia and Canada) and is also home to the oldest continuous civilisation the world has ever seen, dating back between four and five thousand years. It’s hardly surprising, then, that at 43 (and counting) China has the third highest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites of any country, coming just behind Italy at 47 and Spain at 44 – a figure that will certainly continue to rise.
Even as things stand at present, there are an immense amount of UNESCO-recognised sites scattered across this vast land – and believe us, it takes a lot of time and a great deal of effort to document and photograph them. Once again, then, it’s hardly surprising that there are gaps in our coverage – but we’re working assiduously to correct this.
For the present, our coverage includes Beijing’s Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace and – just outside the city – the Ming Tombs and the Great Wall (which stretches all the way to Jiayuguan in the far west). Then there’s the Terracotta Army at Xi’an, the Mogao Caves at Dunhuang, the former Qing Summer Capital at Chengde, Mount Emei and Leishan, as well as the West Lake of Hangzhou, the Classical Gardens of Suzhou, the Ming Tombs at Nanjing, the Mount Emei Scenic Area and the Giant Buddha at Leishan.
To this we have added the Old Town of Lijiang, the Dazu Rock Carvings, the Upper Yangzi at Tiger Leaping Gorge, the Historic Centre of Macau, the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries, the South China Karsts of Yunnan and Guizhou, the Tulou Round Houses of Fujian and the Kaiping Diaolou Watchtowers of Guangdong.
Not bad, we hope you will agree, and we are working to extend our coverage to all UNESCO sites in China. The only problem is that the list is certain to continue growing, so the task may take some considerable time to complete!
RECENT ASSIGNMENTS (September 2012)
Our most recent assignment for the Tourism Authority of Thailand was to the beautiful Andaman Sea coast of Krabi Province in the far south of the Kingdom.
Off the Beaten Track Along the Krabi Coast
With majestic limestone cliffs and outcroppings, large stretches of well-preserved wilderness, and a laid-back vibe, Krabi province, on Thailand’s southwest Andaman Sea coast, is ideal for travellers looking for a relaxing vacation in a wonderfully natural setting.
Most visitors to Krabi head straight for the magnificent beaches at Railay, Ton Sai and Ao Nang. With a little extra effort, you can explore further afield to experience even more of the green goodness this scenic southern province has to offer. The Krabi coast features many less-visited national parks and nature reserves, along with quieter beaches, where you can discover your own true tropical paradise.
We start with Than Bok Khorani National Park, located 45km northwest of Krabi town. Distinguished by a series of towering limestone outcroppings, brilliant green rain forests, fascinating mangrove forests, pristine islands, intriguing sea caves and beautiful waterfalls, it’s a wonderful place to recharge your batteries and commune with nature.
You can easily reach the park by bus, motorbike or hired car from Krabi town or the Ao Nang area. Once there, the best way to get about is by foot – particularly exploring the rich mangrove forests by wandering along the specially-built ironwood boardwalks.
By contrast, the breathtaking sea-girt caves and delightful islands nearby are ideal for exploring by kayak. This has to be one of the most enjoyable kayaking experiences in Southeast Asia. If you’re archaeologically-minded, there are also prehistoric rock paintings of human and animal figures at Tham Phi Hua To Cave… Continued
It is a pleasure to announce the launch of our new Cognoscenti Books website.
We are based in the historic and lovely old walled city of Chiang Mai in the far north of Thailand, surrounded by forested mountains – a wonderful place to live and work.
Cognoscenti Books is the publishing arm of the online image library Pictures From History, which in turn developed from our core business, the News and Features Agency CPA Media, founded in Hong Kong in 1993.
Technology has moved at an incredibly fast and accelerating rate over the intervening two decades. Back in 1993, like just about everybody else, we shot all our images as 35mm or medium format transparencies, then sent them out to clients by post or by courier.
By the time we decided to go digital, we had built up a specialist Asian photo library of more than one hundred thousand images, both contemporary and historical. We began digitizing these in 2010, and now have nearly 20,000 images online, with well over 100,000 still to go – it’s a painstaking though very rewarding task.
Perhaps through serendipitous chance, our decision to establish an online image library coincided with the sudden and continuing rise of e-publishing, so with thousands of fine images of Asia already to hand – many of them of a rare historical nature – it suddenly became possible to establish an e-publishing business.
It is our intention that our growing catalogue of e-titles will be distinguished not just by informed and informative text, but by beautiful and unusual images that should, we hope, appeal to a discerning readership. From this we derive our name, Cognoscenti – books for the knowledgeable, or for ‘those in the know’.
Platforms: Cognoscenti Books are currently available by direct download as epubs from our own website, as well as from Amazon and Kobo. We are in the midst of registering for tax purposes with the IRS in America, but as soon as this process is complete Cognoscenti titles will also be available at the Apple iStore and at Barnes & Noble.
Recent assignments for the Tourism Authority of Thailand have included visits to the historic city of Lamphun, once capital of the Mon Kingdom of Haripunchai (c. 800-1200 CE) and to fascinating Patara Elephant Farm, both in the north of Thailand and so quite close to our home city of Chiang Mai:
HISTORIC LAMPHUN: A JOURNEY INTO THAILAND’S PAST
Thai history and culture comes alive in Lamphun, a relaxed and traditional northern Thai city that is filled with historic architecture from the Mon, Lanna and Chiang Mai eras. Visitors to Thailand can explore the past in the bucolic provincial capital of Lamphun, the oldest city in the north, and one of the longest-inhabited settlements in all of Thailand.
Founded in the mid-9th century by the legendary Queen Chamadevi, Lamphun was established as the centre of the Kingdom of Haripunchai. It flourished as a centre of Mon Buddhist culture and influence until its conquest by King Mangrai of Lanna in 1281.
Lamphun has been overshadowed by Chiang Mai ever since, and therein lies much of the town’s charm. Located just 26 km south of Chiang Mai, Lamphun is generally visited as an enjoyable and rewarding excursion from the northern capital. Tranquil, lotus-filled moats and some of the most distinguished historical architecture in Thailand combine to attract both Thai and overseas visitors who want a glimpse of the Kingdom’s past…continued
The national symbol of Thailand, elephants are wonderful, intelligent and deeply compassionate creatures. If you dream of a Thai elephant encounter in a natural and positive environment, you can enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime experience of personally caring for an elephant among the rolling hills and lush valleys of northern Thailand’s Chiang Mai Province at Patara Elephant Farm.
The Thai elephant experience at Patara Elephant Farm is simple and pure. Each visitor is introduced to an individual elephant. A mahout (elephant handler) will teach you to say the elephant’s name and then assist you with the animal throughout the entire day. This is the beginning of a real “one on one” elephant experience. You’ll become totally immersed in caring for and learning what elephants need and how to look after them.
The number of visitors at to the farm on any particular day is strictly limited. During my visit, there were two families comprising no more than a dozen people between them. This is one place where there are always more elephants than people! Continued
Pictures From History has posted three new image collections from the Middle East and Central Asia. Of course, they’re not complete – and by definition never will be, as we expect to continue adding to them on a regular basis. Still, we feel that they are already sufficiently extensive to merit announcing, and we hope you will agree.
‘Let he who doubt Our Power and Our Munificence look upon Our Buildings’.
Amir Timur, 1379 AD
Timur, better known in the West as Tamerlane from his nickname Timur-i-leng or ‘Timur the Lame’, was the last of the great nomadic warriors to sweep out of Central Asia and shake the world. As befits a man styled ‘World Conqueror’, we know a lot about him – and not all of it good. In 1336, at Shakhrisabz in present-day Uzbekistan, the wife of a minor chief of the Mongol Barlas clan gave birth to a son with blood-filled palms, a sure omen that the infant was predestined to cause the death of thousands. He was given an appropriate name – Timur or demir means ‘iron’ in Turkish – and raised in the Turkic-Islamic tradition of the surrounding steppe as a rider, archer and swordsman... continued
From abroad, we are accustomed to believe that Eretz Israel is presently almost totally desolate, an uncultivated desert, and that anyone wishing to buy land there can come and buy all he wants. But in truth it is not so.
Ahad Ha’am (Asher Ginsberg), ‘A Truth from Eretz Israel’ (1891)
Ha’am was a prominent Zionist theoretician who devoted his life to the concept of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine, but he never attempted to deny the existence of a Palestinian people. On the contrary, he warned his fellow Jews against the ‘great error’ of treating Palestinians with contempt and of regarding Arabs as ‘savages of the desert’. Yet as recently as 2011 two Republican presidential candidates in the USA, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, both baldly denied the existence of a Palestinian people.
Such claims are clearly preposterous and irrational. Of course there are Palestinian people, just as there was once a united Palestine. And while the majority of Palestinians are Arab Muslims, there are also Arab Christians, as well as Jews, Samaritans, Armenians, Greeks, Circassians, Druze, Bedouin and others, still living side-by-side in the intertwined patchwork of territories that now comprise Israel and Palestine.
This seems axiomatic. But for those who continue seriously to doubt the present demographic evidence, or perhaps the written word, there remains an indisputable third source of proof – pictures of historic Palestine and its people, taken between the mid 19th century (the first known photograph of Palestine dates from as early as 1837) and the end of the British Mandate in 1948… continued
ARABIA, YEMEN & OMAN
Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine
John Masefield (1917)
Perhaps the oldest trade route known to history, preceding the Silk Road by at least five hundred years, the Incense Road – also known as the Incense Route or Incense Trail – comprised a complex network of overland and maritime trade routes connecting the Mediterranean World of Antiquity with Southern Arabia, the Horn of Africa and India’s Malabar Coast. These were the sources of fragrant resins and barks such as myrrh, frankincense, cinnamon and sandalwood used in the manufacture of incense, a product greatly desired and valued in the ancient civilisations of Egypt and Persia, Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley… continued