This website uses cookies to provide a rich user experience. Please consult our Cookie Policy to learn about what cookies this website uses, or to control the cookies you receive. You need do nothing if you are happy to receive cookies.
Look and Learn History Picture Library License images from £2.99 Pay by PayPal for images for immediate download Member of British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies (BAPLA)

Subject: ‘Absurd’

All of these articles and images are available for licensing: click on an image to see further details and licensing options; contact us about licensing textual content.

The crinoline

Posted in Absurd, Fashion, Historical articles, History on Friday, 29 April 2016

This edited article about fashion originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 451 published on 5 September 1970.

Crinolined equestrian, picture, image, illustration

The Crinoline Equestrian

Have you ever wondered why some old houses, even small ones, built during the Victorian era have wide doors? It was not to save bricks, nor was it because the house was built in a more spacious age. It was so that the women of the house could go in and out with their crinolines.

Everything changes in fashion, particularly in women’s fashions, but nothing has changed more through the ages than the shapes and sizes of women’s skirts. At various times they have been long and loose, at others so tight fitting that the wearers could hardly hobble. They have been so huge and flounced and stuffed and padded with petticoats that they must have been a burden to wear, or they have shrunk and shortened until there is hardly anything of them at all. Some people think that the “mini” has had its day. What next, the “maxi” and the “midi”? Then will these more ample garments swell into ultra modern reincarnations of the cumbersome crinoline?

The crinoline first appeared in Paris about the year 1840. It was a wide skirt padded out with horse hair and linen. (“Crinis” is Latin for hair, “linum” for thread.) Previously dresses had been very high-waisted and very straight.

At the start of this fashion skirts were padded out with petticoats. A cool two or three to begin with, but as the competition hotted up for the widest skirt, so did the petticoats, until young ladies at dances were suffering in the swirling midst of 14 petticoats! Once immersed in this sweltering array of linen they just had to stand. They stood in their coaches on the way to the ball, and they stood for refreshments and in between dances. For if they once sat down their crinoline and 14 petticoats would be crumpled and pushed out of shape.

And what a shape they were! Writers of their own time said that women in crinolines looked like tea cosies or bells!

To save weight and heat, attempts were made to stiffen the outerskirt with pneumatic tubes that were blown or pumped up like bicycle tyres. Some dresses had tubes filled with water, but these were disliked for fear of an embarrassing leak. Hoops of rolled horsehair, cane and wire were more popular, although they had the amusing effect of causing the skirt to swing from the waist like a bell, rising at the back if the lady stood too close to a table, rising high in the front if she sat down, and exposing her “ankles” almost to her knees when walking too close to a friend. At last, in 1856, all these problems were solved by the invention of the cage crinoline. The inventor was an ingenious Frenchman. He patented a device of wire spring and tape. There would be as many as 35 hoops in one cage.

Read the rest of this article »

Condemned pig

Posted in Absurd, Animals, Historical articles, History, Law, Oddities, Religion on Sunday, 31 January 2016

This edited article about legal systems first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 527 published on 19 February 1972.

Animal justice, picture, image, illustration

Top: A sow and her piglets are summoned to appear before the court; Bottom: A court official reads out the charges to a cow accused of trampling a boy to death

Imagine your surprise if you saw a pig, a cow or even a wild animal such as a fox or a badger, being led into court to be tried by a judge and jury! If you had lived on the Continent in medieval times, such a spectacle would not have surprised you in the least, for in those days it was quite common for both domestic and wild animals to be brought to court, there to be tried, sentenced or acquitted, according to the jury’s verdict.

These animal courts were not staged for fun. They were conducted in all seriousness, with eminent lawyers acting for plaintiff and accused, exactly as they do when people are tried in our courts today.

Not long ago a bird was blamed for causing a thatched cottage to be burnt to the ground. It was suggested that the bird had taken a still smouldering cigarette end into the thatch for use as nest-building material. If the same thing had happened in medieval times it would have been the solemn duty of the ecclesiastical court to publicly declare the bird to be under notice to quit the district forthwith.

Fantastic, admittedly – but none the less true. The position was that civil courts had jurisdiction over all domestic creatures, including farm animals, whilst the church, or ecclesiastical courts, could call to trial and pronounce sentence on all forms of wild life, from wolves and rats down to insect pests such as ants and house flies.

One of France’s most eminent jurists, M. Chassensee, made his name for his masterly defence of the rats in the Diocese of Autun, in the 15th century. The rats were accused of appearing in great numbers and annoying the townspeople and were therefore summoned to appear before the local ecclesiastical court.

The defendants were described as “dirty animals of grey colour living in holes.” As the rats failed to appear in answer to the summons, the prosecution demanded sentence right away. But Chassensee argued that All the rats in the diocese were interested parties and they, too, should be called to give evidence. The curate of every parish was therefore commanded to issue a general summons. Still no rats turned up.

Contempt of court? Certainly not, argued Chassensee. Some were too old and some too young to make the journey. The rest of his clients, he explained, were quite willing to attend, but were afraid to come out of their holes because of “evilly disposed cats belonging to the plaintiffs.” This resulted in a stalemate and the case was therefore adjourned, sine die, or indefinitely!

Read the rest of this article »

The best pictures from educational trade cards, 79

Posted in Absurd, Africa, Best pictures, Cars, Dogs, Educational card, Famous landmarks, Farming, Historical articles, History, Oddities, Plants, Rivers, Travel on Wednesday, 25 November 2015

We have selected three of the best pictures from our large collection of 19th and early 20th century educational trade cards.
The first picture shows the view of the Nile valley from the Great Pyramid.

Nile, picture, image, illustration

View of the Nile valley from the Great Pyramid

The second picture shows the potato harvest in Ireland.

Ireland, picture, image, illustration

Potato Harvest in Ireland

The third picture shows a ‘dining car’.

car, picture, image, illustration

A 'dining car'

High-resolution scans of all educational cards can be found in the Look and Learn picture library.

The best pictures from educational trade cards, 69

Posted in Absurd, Actors, Africa, Ancient History, Best pictures, Disasters, Education, Educational card, Famous crimes, Heroes and Heroines, Historical articles, History, Legend, Medicine, Myth, Religion, Trade on Wednesday, 25 November 2015

We have selected three of the best pictures from our large collection of 19th and early 20th century educational trade cards.
The first picture shows a quack medicine seller at a fair in a small town in Germany, 1820.

A quack, picture, image, illustration

A quack medicine seller at a fair in a small town in Germany, 1820

The second picture shows Odin, chief of the Norse gods.

Odin, picture, image, illustration

Odin, chief of the Norse gods

The third picture shows Caliph Omar burning the Library at Alexandria.

Alexandria, picture, image, illustration

Caliph Omar Burns The Library at Alexandria

High-resolution scans of all educational cards can be found in the Look and Learn picture library.

The best pictures from educational trade cards, 59

Posted in Absurd, Ancient History, Architecture, Arts and Crafts, Best pictures, Educational card, Famous crimes, Historical articles, History, Industry, Insects, Oddities, War, Weapons on Wednesday, 25 November 2015

We have selected three of the best pictures from our large collection of 19th and early 20th century educational trade cards.
The first picture shows the Rape of the Sabine women.

Sabine women, picture, image, illustration

The Rape of the Sabine women

The second picture shows anthropomorphic insects.

insects, picture, image, illustration

Anthropomorphic insects

The third picture shows the bricklayer.

The bricklayer, picture, image, illustration

The bricklayer

High-resolution scans of all educational cards can be found in the Look and Learn picture library.

The best pictures from educational trade cards, 35

Posted in Absurd, Actors, Art, Artist, Best pictures, Educational card, Famous artists, Historical articles, History, Leisure, Music, Theatre, Trade, Travel on Tuesday, 24 November 2015

We have selected three of the best pictures from our large collection of 19th and early 20th century educational trade cards.
The first picture shows cloth merchants at a trade fair in Champagne in 1300.

 fair, picture, image, illustration

A trade fair in Champagne, 1300

The second picture shows musical clowns.

Musical clowns, picture, image, illustration

Musical clowns

The third picture shows Rembrandt van Rijn, the Dutch artist.

Rembrandt, picture, image, illustration

Rembrandt van Rijn, Dutch artist

High-resolution scans of all educational cards can be found in the Look and Learn picture library.

The best pictures from educational trade cards, 34

Posted in Absurd, Ancient History, Artist, Best pictures, Disasters, Discoveries, Educational card, Historical articles, History, Industry, Insects, Music, Oddities, Religion, Royalty, Science, Trade on Tuesday, 24 November 2015

We have selected three of the best pictures from our large collection of 19th and early 20th century educational trade cards.
The first picture shows monks bringing the first silk cocoons to the Emperor Justinian in Constantinople.

silk, picture, image, illustration

Monks bringing the first silk cocoons to the Emperor Justinian in Constantinople

The second picture shows the death of Georg Wilhelm Richmann, the German physicist.

Richmann, picture, image, illustration

Victims of Science: The death of Georg Wilhelm Richmann, German physicist (1711-1753)

The third picture shows a performance artist and his musical balancing act.

artiste, picture, image, illustration

Musical balancing act

High-resolution scans of all educational cards can be found in the Look and Learn picture library.

Victor Lustig, the man who sold the Eiffel Tower

Posted in Absurd, Famous landmarks, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, Industry, News on Saturday, 21 November 2015

Many will not know about Victor Lustig, the man who sold the Eiffel Tower, and this clever picture presents an oddly respectable portrait of the con artist and hoaxer, whose pictured smooth looks and dress sense helped to make him a very convincing civil servant, government minister or whatever else he might need to be. His monocle, of course, was a risque but confidently clever touch. That several Parisian scrap dealers could believe the French Government wanted to sell the Eiffel Tower for scrap defies comprehension, but for a while they did.

Victor Lustig, picture, image, illustration

Victor Lustig, The Man Who Sold The Eiffel Tower

Many more pictures of hoaxers can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

The charming beginnings of Lewis Carroll’s Alice

Posted in Absurd, Children, Education, English Literature, Heroes and Heroines, Historical articles, History, Interesting Words, Leisure, Literature, Puzzle on Saturday, 21 November 2015

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was an Oxford don and mathematics lecturer at Christ Church, whose friendship with the Dean of Christ Church’s children lead him to write Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Our charming and unusual picture, painted as if it were an old photograph, captures the very moment one summer day on the riverbank in Oxford, when Alice Liddell asked the young academic to tell her a story.

Alice, picture, image, illustration

How Alice Began by Neville Dear

Many more pictures of Lewis Carroll can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

Family playing on the moon, as imagined in the 1960s

Posted in Absurd, Children, Geography, Historical articles, History, Science, Space, Sport, Technology, Travel on Saturday, 21 November 2015

This amusing picture shows a family playing on the moon above a valley where sits their lunar base. The extra-terrestrial domestic scene was imagined in the 1960s, when a rather naive optimism began to shine through after the post-war gloom; it was of course a decade which saw man walk on the Moon. But however unlikely this vision of a lunar colony may have appeared, the artist did get one thing right; he painted the Earth as a “blue planet”.

moon, picture, image, illustration

Family playing on the moon, as imagined in the 1960s

Many more pictures of space can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.