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Elizabeth Skene

24 Awesome Librarian Tattoos

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Elizabeth Skene

1. Card Catalog Sleeve

Elizabeth Skene has what might be the most awesomely complete librarian sleeve around, featuring a skull sitting on top of a book, with a graduation cap next to a card catalog with a banner reading “Peace and Knowledge.” There is also an open book with pages coming out and turning into birds. Let there be no doubt here: Elizabeth loves libraries. Tattoo by Frank William of the Chicago Tattoo Company.

2. Shhh

The folks behind 8 Bit Library, a librarian blog, wanted to encourage librarians to show their pride in their work, and thus they started Project Brand Yourself A Librarian. A lot of people joined in, including Lauren Comito, who got this lovely silhouette of a woman shushing noisy patrons.

While it seems like the icon merely represents the stereotypical librarian, it actually has far more meaning to Ms. Comito. After discovering that big budget cuts in her library system would mean she would be laid off, she created the image as a protest that library supporters won’t be silenced in the fight to keep their local branches open. She made hundreds of tees and organized a protest that resulted in most of the branch’s funding being restored. After that, it seemed only fitting to get the icon tattooed on her body. If you like the image, you can buy one of the shirts bearing the icon, which will also help support the fight to keep NYC public libraries open for years to come.

3. Super Librarian

Tattooed Librarians and Archivists reader Michelle is a high school librarian who wanted to get something to represent her career. She chose a superhero librarian and based the design on the old-school DC character Mary Marvel and had it inked by Chris Cockrill of Avalon II Tattoo. I think the world could use a few more super librarians, don’t you?

4. Library Icon

Flickr user infowidget also participated in Project Brand Yourself a Librarian by getting the classic library symbol tattooed on her inner wrist.

5. The Book Tree

Here’s another “Brand Yourself” participant, this time tattooed by Anne Marsh of Nemesis Tattoo. Flickr user bookishJulia got the library icon underneath the roots of a tree that has sprung from the pages of a book.

6. Dewey Decimal Number

Flickr user Cardamom is so proud of her role as a children’s librarian that she got the Dewey Decimal number for books on operating libraries for children. Of course, only those well-versed in the decimal system numbers will actually get that reference without having to look it up.

7. Harry Potter Dewey Decimal Number

Great White Snark reader Becca is a full-time librarian who loves Harry Potter. How much does she love the series? Enough to get its Dewey Decimal number tattooed across her back in the iconic font, colored Slytherin green.

8. Egyptian Goddess

Just looking at this piece you’ll recognize it as a librarian tattoo, but what makes LiveJournal user Oh Chris’ tattoo by Kristen at Artisanal Tattoo really great are how many details he has hidden inside the design. For example, the hieroglyphics are phonetic transliterations for the names of his family members and the two open books have images symbolizing his favorite childhood books – The BFG and Jabberwock.

9. Librarian Skull

Prefer your ink a little more hardcore than most of these librarian tattoos? Then, you’ll probably approve of Jason Puckett’s tattoo by Ron Hendon of Midnight Iguana Tattooing that features a bespectacled skull with “crossbooks” and a “librarian” banner.

10. Voodoo Reader

Jim McClusky is a librarian in Washington, so obviously he thinks reading is pretty darn important, even if you’re only a poor little voodoo doll. Artwork by Mary J. Hoffman, tattoo by Curtis James of Anchor Tattoo.

11. Tarot Card

Flickr user whatnot’s friend Diane got this great librarian tarot card featuring a bee-keeping skeleton. I don’t know what makes this skeleton a librarian, but I definitely love the artwork.

12. Where the Wild Children Are

Heather Warren of the Philadelphia Free Library has this amazing children’s literary sleeve featuring characters from famous titles such as Where the Wild Things Are, The Little Prince, Matilda, The Giving Tree, and more. Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing spotted her work, done by Bird of the Black Vulture Gallery, and was kind enough to share it with the net in general.

13 and 14. Beautiful Book Goodness

Reader Melissa Deemer shared her ink with other fans of our At the Libraries column.

As you can see, both her library shield and her open book pieces are absolutely stunning. She also has a delightful “Dewey Ale” design featuring a stein bearing the Dewey digits for “beverage technology.”

15. There’s Not Much More to Life Than Books

Anyone who reads profusely has had someone, at some point, tell them “there’s more to life than books”—but, as any fan of The Smiths can tell you, “not much more.” This wonderful Smiths-inspired design was sent to Tattooed Librarians and Archivists by a library technician and MLIS student who works at a Bay Area high school and got the piece as a 31st birthday present. The artwork was done by Dan Gilsdorf at Tattoo 13 in Oakland.

16. Shhhhhh

If there’s one thing everyone has heard from a librarian at one point or another in their childhoods, it’s “shhh.” And while some librarians try to discredit this stereotype, others embrace it—including this youth services supervisor who works in a New Jersey public library. This cute piece, submitted to Tattooed Librarians and Archivists, was done at Tattooville in Neptune, New Jersey.

17. The Dewey Cutter

Reader Kati Donaghy shared this great Dewey tattoo with us in the comments of our first librarian tattoos article, calling it her “spine label.” She pointed out that her choice of numbers even includes a Cutter number—a code that allows librarians to arrange books alphabetically by the author’s last name. That’s important because it means she was not only able to include a Dewey number for “Biography in the library's role in culture,” but she was also able to include her own Cutter number that means “DonK.”

18. A Naughty Librarian

A Tattooed Librarians and Archivists reader submitted this great pinup tattoo that she got to celebrate earning her Masters of Library and Information Science. It seems particularly fitting that the pinup librarian also has tattoos.

19. Public Library Pride

Tattooed Librarians and Archivists reader Amy is a librarian at a small library in the Florida Panhandle. As you can tell, she’s a big fan of public libraries—especially the one where she works.

20. Where the Reading Begins

One librarian submitted this great Shel Silverstein tattoo to the Tattoo Lit Tumblr, which is dedicated exclusively to literary tattoos (though most of the contributors are not librarians). The site is operated by the group who put together the book The Word Made Flesh, which I highly suggest checking out if you just can’t get enough great pics of literary tattoos.

21. Read or Die

Another submitter to the Tattoo Lit Tumblr shared this old school style tattoo depicting a skull atop a pile of books. The tattoo was a celebration of that person’s educational choice as he or she is a library science student specializing in rare books and manuscripts.

22. Much Ado About Books

A Master of Library Science with a concentration in Archives Management sent this Much Ado About Nothing quote tattoo into Tattooed Librarians and Archivists. She got the tattoo from Moose Tattoo and Piercings of Vermont and chose the line because she wrote her undergraduate thesis on the play.

23. Alphabetical Awesome

Reader Elizabeth Wisker writes, “I have a degree in library and information science. Here's my alphabet tattoo... pretty sure I’ll love it when I’m 95, and here's hoping I live that long.”

24. It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye

How do you say goodbye when you leave your old job? Even if you have only positive memories of the position, chances are you probably still won’t get the logo of your old company tattooed on you, but for librarian Dan Lee, permanently inking the Broome Public Library’s logo into his skin was the perfect way to end that chapter of his life.

Special thanks to Tattooed Librarians and Archivists, which features all sorts of fantastic ink from librarians, archivists, curators and similarly employed individuals. While we try to focus on librarian tattoos based on the careers of a librarian, the site provides a great look into all types of tattoos people in the industry choose to get.

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Karrah Kobus/NPG Records via Getty Images
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Pop Culture
5 Killer Pieces of Rock History Up for Auction Now (Including Prince’s Guitar)
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Karrah Kobus/NPG Records via Getty Images

If you’ve ever wanted to own a piece of rock history, now is the time. A whole host of cool music memorabilia from the 20th century is going up for sale through Julien’s Auctions in Los Angeles as part of its “Icons and Idols” sale. If you’ve got the dough, you can nab everything from leather chairs from Graceland to a shirt worn by Jimi Hendrix to never-before-available prints that Joni Mitchell signed and gave to her friends. Here are five highlights from the auction:

1. ELVIS’S NUNCHUCKS

Elvis’s nunchucks
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

Elvis’s karate skills sometimes get a bad rap, but the King earned his first black belt in 1960, and went on to become a seventh-degree black belt before opening his own studio in 1974. You can cherish a piece of his martial arts legacy in the form of his nunchaku. One was broken during his training, but the other is still in ready-to-use shape. (But please don’t use it.) It seems Elvis wasn’t super convinced of his own karate skills, though, because he also supposedly carried a police baton (which you can also buy) for his personal protection.

2. PRINCE’S GUITAR

A blue guitar used by Prince
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

Prince’s blue Cloud guitar, estimated to be worth between $60,000 and $80,000, appeared on stage with him in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The custom guitar was made just for Prince by Cloud’s luthier (as in, guitar maker) Andy Beech. The artist first sold it at a 1994 auction to benefit relief efforts for the L.A. area’s devastating Northridge earthquake.

3. KURT COBAIN’S CHEERLEADER OUTFIT

Kurt Cobain wearing a cheerleader outfit in the pages of Rolling Stone
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

The Nirvana frontman wore the bright-yellow cheerleader’s uniform from his alma mater, J.M. Weatherwax High School in Aberdeen, Washington, during a photo shoot for a January 1994 issue of Rolling Stone, released just a few months before his death.

4. MICHAEL JACKSON’S WHITE GLOVE

A white glove covered in rhinestones
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

A young Michael Jackson wore this bejeweled right-hand glove on his 1981 Triumph Tour, one of the first of many single gloves he would don over the course of his career. Unlike later incarnations, this one isn’t a custom-made glove with hand-sewn crystals, but a regular glove topped with a layer of rhinestones cut into the shape of the glove and sewn on top.

The auction house is also selling a pair of jeans the star wore to his 2003 birthday party, as well as other clothes he wore for music videos and performances.

5. WOOD FROM ABBEY ROAD STUDIOS

A piece of wood in a frame under a picture of The Beatles
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

You can’t walk the halls of Abbey Road Studios, but you can pretend. First sold in 1986, the piece of wood in this frame reportedly came from Studio Two, a recording space that hosted not only The Beatles (pictured), but Pink Floyd, Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, and others.

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Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0
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5 Dubious Historical Antidotes for Poison (and What Actually Works)
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An artificial bezoar stone from Goa, India
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

When it comes to their health, humans will believe just about anything. In this extract from the new book Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything, authors Lydia Kang, MD, and Nate Pedersen discuss some of the more questionable ways people once tried to protect themselves from poison—whether or not the methods actually worked.

Poison is everywhere. Naturally or unnaturally, it can be in the soil (arsenic), in the air (carbon monoxide), in your drinks (lead), and in your food (cyanide). With so much danger around, it’s no wonder humans have obsessed over finding a universal antidote—the one thing that could save us from all toxins. Imagine you’re a medieval prince about to inherit the throne. Chances are, there are a lot of power-hungry wannabes waiting in the wings. A little arsenic or hemlock might be your best friend or your worst nightmare. Just in case, best have an antidote on standby.

For millennia, a certain amount of magical thinking was employed when arming oneself against poison because science was inconveniently slow to catch up. So grab your handy unicorn horn and a bezoar, and let’s take a look.

1. BEZOARS

Bezoars have been used for centuries as antidotes to poisons. A bezoar is solid mass of undigested food, plant fibers, or hair found in the digestive tracts of animals, including deer, porcupines, fish, and, yes, humans. Anyone with a cat is familiar with the less-cool feline version: hairballs.

Bezoars and other stone-like items created by animals often had a good story behind them. Legends told of deer that would eat poisonous snakes and become immune or cry tears that solidified into poison-curing stones. First-century Arabic author al-Birumi claimed bezoars could protect against one poison called “the snot of Satan,” which we hope never ever to encounter. By the 12th century, when Europe became plagued with, uh, plagues, the bezoar crept into pharmacopeias as panaceas and alexipharmics (poison antidotes).

Bezoars were a seductive notion for the rich and royal, who were at risk of assassination. The stones were often enclosed in bejeweled gold for display or worn as amulets. Indian bezoars, in particular, were sought for life-threatening fevers, poisonous bites, bleeding, jaundice, and melancholy. Consumers were also known to scrape off a bit of bezoar and add it to their drinks for heart health and kidney stones. These tonics were sometimes adulterated with toxic mercury or antimony, which caused vomiting and diarrhea, making buyers think they were effective.

But were they? One team of researchers soaked bezoars in an arsenic-laced solution and found that the stones absorbed the arsenic or that the poison was neutralized. Hard to say if it worked well enough to cure a fatal dose. Ambroise Paré, one of the preeminent French physicians of the 16th century, was also a doubter. The king’s cook, who’d been stealing silver, was given the choice between hanging or being Paré’s lab rat. He chose the latter. After the cook consumed poison, Paré looked on as a bezoar was stuffed down his throat. Six hours later, he died wracked with pain. Perhaps he chose ... poorly?

2. MITHRIDATES

This antidote was named after Mithridates VI, the king of Pontus and Armenia Minor. Born in 134 BCE, he pretty much invented the phrase “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” by consuming poisons daily to prevent his own assassination. His royal home was stocked with stingray spines, toxic mushrooms, scorpions, mineral poisons, and a poisonous plant–filled garden. He was so unpoisonable that after his son took over his kingdom and he faced execution, he couldn’t even commit suicide by poison! He begged a guard to stab him to death. (It worked.)

Though the king’s actual recipe for the antidote is nowhere to be found, versions began to circulate after his death, and they became synonymous with the king himself. Compounds with lengthy and expensive ingredient lists prevailed, including iris, cardamom, anise, frankincense, myrrh, ginger, and saffron. In the first century, Pliny the Elder snarkily remarked, “The Mithridatic antidote is composed of fifty-four ingredients ... Which of the gods, in the name of Truth, fixed these absurd proportions? ... It is plainly a showy parade of the art, and a colossal boast of science.”

Showy or not, people would take the extensive mix of herbs, pound them together with honey, and eat a nut-sized portion to cure themselves. At least it endowed them with expensive-smelling breath.

3. HORNS

An apothecary shop sign in the shape of a unicorn
An ivory pharmacy sign in the shape of a unicorn's head
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

Unicorn horns have been considered a part of antidote legend since the mythical beast galloped into literature around 300 BCE. For centuries afterward, real earthly beasts would sacrifice their lives and their horns to slake our thirst for the miraculous, nonexistent animal, including rhinoceroses, narwhals, and oryx. Even fossilized ammonites were used. It was believed that drinking vessels made of such horns might neutralize poisons, and wounds could be cured by holding them close by. In the 16th century, Mary, Queen of Scots reportedly used a unicorn horn to protect her from poisoning. Too bad it didn’t prevent her beheading.

4. PEARLS

Pearls have long been thought to be powerful antidotes. A beautiful, rare gem created by the homely oyster, a pearl is born out of annoyance (the mollusk secretes iridescent nacre to cover an irritant, like a parasite or grain of sand). Pretty as they are, they’re about as useful as the chalky antacid tablets on your bedside table; both are chiefly made of calcium carbonate. Good for a stomachache after some spicy food, but not exactly miraculous.

Pearl powder has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of diseases, and Ayurvedic physicians used it as an antidote in the Middle Ages. It was also reported to make people immortal. An old Taoist recipe recommended taking a long pearl and soaking it in malt, “serpent’s gall,” honeycomb, and pumice stone. When softened, it would be pulled like taffy and cut into bite-sized pieces to eat, and voilà! You would suddenly no longer need food to stay alive. Cleopatra famously drank down a large and costly pearl dissolved in wine vinegar, though in that case she wasn’t avoiding poison. She didn’t want to lose a bet with Antony—which might have fatally injured her pride.

5. THERIAC

Albarello vase for theriac, Italy, 1641
A vase for theriac, Italy, 1641
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

Theriac was an herbal concoction created in the first century by Emperor Nero’s physician, Andromachus, who was reported to have Mithridates’s secret notes. It was a mashed formula of about 70 ingredients, including cinnamon, opium, rose, iris, lavender, and acacia in a honey base. In the 12th century, theriac made in Venice was branded as particularly special, and Venetian treacle (derived from a Middle English translation of theriac) became a hot commodity. Its public, dramatic production often attracted curious crowds.

By the 18th century, cheaper golden syrup was substituted for honey. As treacle began to lose its luster as a treatment, its definition as an herbal remedy disappeared from common vernacular. But the sweet syrup remained. Which is why when we think of treacle, we think of treacle tarts, not a fancy means of saving ourselves from a deathly poisoning.

BONUS: WHAT ACTUALLY WORKS

Thankfully, science has brought us a wide range of antidotes for many items we shouldn’t be exposed to in dangerous quantities, if at all. N-acetylcysteine, fondly referred to as NAC by doctors, saves us from acetaminophen overdoses. Ethanol can treat antifreeze poisoning. Atropine, ironically one of the main components of plants in the toxic nightshade family (such as mandrake), can treat poisoning from some dangerous fertilizers and chemical nerve agents used as weapons. For years, poisonings were treated with emetics, though it turns out that plain old carbon—in the form of activated charcoal—can adsorb poisons (the poisons stick to the surface of the charcoal) in the digestive system before they’re dissolved and digested by the body.

As long as the natural world and its humans keep making things to kill us off, we’ll keep developing methods to not die untimely deaths.

We’ll just leave the fancy hairballs off the list.

The cover of the book Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything
Workman Publishing

Excerpt from Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything by Lydia Kang, MD and Nate Pedersen/Workman Publishing. Used with permission.

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