Mr. Collier's Letter Racks: A Tale of Art and Illusion at the Threshold of the Modern Information Age

ISBN : 9780199738861

Dror Wahrman
288 Pages
166 x 242 mm
Pub date
Nov 2012
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For 300 years, a unique and complex artistic puzzle has been hidden, the solution of which reveals an extraordinary critique of what can be described as the first modern media revolution. The mind behind this puzzle was a Dutch/British still-life painter named Edward Collier. Working around 1700, Collier has been neglected, even forgotten, precisely because his secret messages have never been noticed, let alone understood. Until now. In this book, Dror Wahrman recovers the tale of an extraordinary illusionist artist who engaged in a wholly original way with a major transformation of his generation: an unprecedented explosion in cheap print - newspapers, pamphlets, informational publications, artistic prints - that was produced for immediate release and far-flung circulation faster and in larger quantities that ever before. Edward Collier developed a secret language within his still-life paintings - replete with minutely coded messages, witty games, intricate allusions, and private jokes - in order to draw attention to the potential and the pitfalls of this new information age, uncannily prefiguring the modern perspectives of the media-savvy 21st century. This heretofore obscure artist embedded in his paintings an ingenious commentary on the media revolution of his period, on the birth of modern politics, and on art itself.


Introduction: Puzzles
Chapter 1: Print 2.0 c. 1700: A New Media Regime
Chapter 2: Life Not Still
Chapter 3: The Nature of Print
Chapter 4: Marking Time
Chapter 5: Monarchy in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
Chapter 6: Eye Con
Chapter 7: A Man with an Impossible Temper
Chapter 8: Tom, Dick, and Henry
Chapter 9: The Collier Club?
Chapter 10: Death of the Author?
Chapter 11: Which Revolution? Or the Memory of Mr. Lory
Chapter 12: A Signature Gone Wild

About the author: 

Ruth N. Halls Professor of History, Indiana University and Professor of History, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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