June 23, 2015


        We are in the midst of Cephalopod Week, and that’s not something I could possibly ignore.  I love octopuses - and squid, nautiluses, and cuttlefish aren’t bad, either.  What you really should do to celebrate is find some videos of cuttlefish color changes, octopus problem-solving, fantastically weird and sometimes adorable recently discovered species, or some other cephalopodish fabulousness.  However, it isn’t my job to show you such videos because that’s not supposed to be what this blog is about.  No, this is a blog about block prints, and that’s how we’re going to observe Cephalopod Week.  I’ve shared my own block prints of cephalopods (octopus and nautilus) before, so for today I will share some others I’ve discovered.
        We’ll begin with a classic, some sort of octopus from Aldrovandi’s De reliquis animalibus of 1606.  I like the curliness of its eyes.  This is a reasonably accurate depiction for an early natural history book, with nice detail for the suckers.
       This unfortunate but handsome squid is laid out on the fish counter, which obviously isn’t where it would like to be, but it does give me the opportunity to point out that fried calamari ranks among the other excellent qualities of the cephalopod family.
        This giant squid looks very angry and fierce as it fights a sperm whale.  I like its pattern of speckles and circles, and the jaunty angle of its mantle.  This one is reminiscent of the long tradition of depicting cephalopods as monsters, despite their generally shy and retiring nature.

        And here’s a cuttlefish, because they tend not to get as much love as the octopuses and squids.  It captures nicely both the beautiful watery pattern of its skin and the beautiful wavy undulations of its swimming.
        Yay cephalopods!  Now head on over to Science Friday to continue the party.

[Pictures: Polypus, wood block print from De reliquis animalibus by Ulisse Aldrovandi, 1606 (Image from AMS Historica);
Seafood, linoleum block print from multiple blocks by Chris Wormell, from Mediterranean Flavors by Maria Jose Sevilla, 1995 (Image from Chris Wormell);
Sperm whale and giant squid, wood block print from multiple blocks by David Frampton, from Whaling Days by Carol Carrick, 1993 (Image from Art of Children’s Picture Books); 
Cuttlefish, linocut by Susannah Ayre (Image from her Etsy shop Curious Seagull).]

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