Lifelong Dewey

Reading through every Dewey Decimal section.

Tag: biography

739: Faberge’s Eggs by Tony Faber

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739.2092: Faber, Tony. Faberge’s Eggs: The Extraordinary Story of the Masterpieces That Outlived an Empire. New York: Random House, 2008. 241 pp. ISBN 978-1-58836-707-5.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 700: Fine Arts and Recreation
  • 730: Plastic arts and sculpture
  • 739: Art metalwork
  • 739.2: Works in precious metals
  • 739.2092: Biography and special persons

Eggs are very plain things. But when Russian jeweler Carl Gustavovitch Faberge realized a design around them, they turned into the most sought-after pieces in modern art history. Tony Faber’s Faberge’s Eggs is not only a look into the history of the bejeweled eggs, but also a history of Russia proper. From Czar Nicholas II’s coronation in 1894 to his abdication in 1917, the eggs chronicle the czar’s relationships with his mother, his wife, his children, and his country.

Faberge’s workshop, over the course of its lifetime in Moscow, produced 69 beautifully jeweled eggs, but only 50 are considered imperial eggs. These are the pieces ordered by the czar to be given at first from Czar Alexander II to his wife Maria Fedorovna each Easter. Upon Alexander’s death, Nicholas continued the tradition, first giving them just to his mother and then to both his mother and his wife. Each egg presented had special meaning and a special name, starting with the Jeweled Hen Egg (1885) and ending with the sadly unfinished and unpresented Constellation Egg (1917). Faber not only follows the creation and presentation of each egg, but also the saga of their respective ownerships to the present day.

There are times when Faber’s writing gets bogged down with names, places, dates, and politics, but they are few and far between. Luckily, several helpful appendices are added on, including an extended royal family tree, a condensed chronology of the eggs, and a basic Russian term glossary. A few lovely color pictures in the middle of the book highlight the beauty of the eggs, and overall, this was a very pleasant read.

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350: Three Victorian Women Who Changed Their World by Nancy Boyd

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350.420922: Boyd, Nancy. Three Victorian Women Who Changed Their World: Josephine Butler, Octavia Hill, Florence Nightingale. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1982. 251 pp. ISBN 0-19-520271-6.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 300: Social Sciences
  • 350: Public administration and military science
  • 350.42: Public administration in England and Wales
  • +0922: Biographies of collected persons

Somehow in all my reading across myriad subjects, I seem to have never come across the fact that Florence Nightingale was British. In fact, she was born to British parents in Florence (hence her name). Nightingale, along with Octavia Hill and Josephine Butler, were instrumental in rise of feminism in Victorian England. Nancy Boyd’s Three Victorian Women Who Changed Their World chronicles the lives, efforts, and legacy of these three to show that Victorian England was not as backward and stodgy and folks tend to think.

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936: Attila by John Man

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936.03092: Man, John. Attila: The Barbarian King Who Challenged Rome. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2005. 311 pp. ISBN 978-0-312-53939-9.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 900: History and Geography
  • 930: History of the ancient world to 499 CE
  • 936: Europe north and west of the Italian Peninsula to 499 CE
  • 03: 200 BCE to 499 CE
  • +092: Biography

We learn from early history classes in school that Attila the Hun was a brutish, savage leader, bent on beating down the mighty Roman empire. Attila sprang from the dark recesses of northern Europe to lay siege to the civilized people of the Mediterranean. But this story is decidedly one-sided and lacking in nuance. In John Man’s Attila, he tries to gives flesh and blood to the skeleton of the tale. Man attempts to give this historical ghost a context and finds much more than we expected.

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878: Plutarch’s Lives by Plutarch

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878: Plutarch. Plutarch’s Lives. Translated by John Dryden and revised by Arthur Hugh Clough. New York: P. F. Collier & Son, 1969. 389 pp.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 870: Literature of Italic and Latin languages
  • 878: Latin miscellaneous writings

Note: This edition of Plutarch’s Lives, published as part of the Harvard Classics, is not the complete set written by Plutarch. The original collection consisted of 23 pairs of biographies, each containing a Greek and Roman figure, and four unpaired biographies. My version covers Themistocles, Pericles, Aristides, Alcibiades, Coriolanus, Demosthenes, Cicero, Julius Caesar, and Antony. Alcibiades and Coriolanus are paired together as well as Demosthenes and Cicero.

If you want a pretty decent picture of both the everyday lives of Greeks and Roman as well as an overview of ancient, you’d be hard pressed to do better than Plutarch. Writing in the late 1st century, Plutarch is about as close to a contemporary source as one could want. In the Harvard Classics collection of Plutarch’s Lives, we get a cross section of historical figures:

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363: Puppetmaster by Richard Hack

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363.25092: Hack, Richard. Puppetmaster: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover. Beverly Hills, CA: New Millennium Press, 2004. 407 pp. ISBN 1-893224-87-2.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 300: Social Sciences
  • 360: Social problems, services, and associations
  • 363: Other social problems and services
  • 363.2: Police services
  • 363.25: Detection of crime
  • +092: Biography

There are about as many myths about J. Edgar Hoover as there are truths. While head of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation from 1935 to 1972, there were stories of homosexual trysts with his assistant director Clyde Tolson and that he routinely wore women’s clothing. While these are rumors just the same, they linger in the national psyche. Richard Hack’s Puppetmaster tries to get a more complete picture of the man behind one of the nation’s largest investigative groups.

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720: Gaudi by Juan-Eduardo Cirlot

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720.92: Cirlot, Juan-Eduardo. Gaudi: An Introduction to His Architecture. N.P.: Triangle Postal, 2001. 210 pp. ISBN 84-89815-94-1.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 700: Fine Arts
  • 720: Architecture
  • +092: Biography

Antoni Gaudi i Cornet (1852 – 1926) was perhaps one of the most inventive architects of all time. His works were Seussian before Seuss was Seussian. The building he conceived, drafted, and had built have to be seen to be believed. From the Neo-gothic windows on the Palacio Episcopal de Astorga to the bulbous terraces on the Casa Mila, his innovations and additions to the field gave people a new interest in how buildings were made. His most significant work, the Basilica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia, won’t be finished for another 12 to 14 years. Juan-Eduardo Cirlot’s Gaudi is a splendid look at the life, philosophy, and leaps of intuition that Gaudi experienced as one of the foremost designers of his time.

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182: The Music of Pythagoras by Kitty Ferguson

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182.2: Ferguson, Kitty. The Music of Pythagoras: How an Ancient Brotherhood Cracked the Code of the Universe and Lit the Path from Antiquity to Outer Space. New York: Walker and Company, 2008. 328 pp. ISBN 0-8027-1631-8.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 100: Philosophy and Psychology
  • 180: Ancient, medieval, and Eastern philosophy
  • 182: Pre-Socratic Greek philosophies
  • 182.2: Pythagorean philosophies

All that is left of him is an equation: a-squared plus b-squared equals c-squared. Every person going through basic geometry hears it. And yet for its ubiquity and almost-infinite proofs, there is very little known of the man who first discovered it in the Western world (there were earlier proofs in Babylon and India). Pythagoras (ca. 570 BCE – ca. 495 BCE) is a man surrounded by mystery. He formed a philosophical cult, but forbade anyone to write anything down, and yet his theorem survived. Kitty Ferguson’s The Music of Pythagoras attempts to separate fact from fiction on behalf of this ancient Greek thinker.

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