Author Archives: Propagandum

About Propagandum

I’ve been working in book publishing for over 30 years – an industry now in rapid transition. So I’m interested in foundational principles for media, writing and language – what lessons can we learn for how we can and should communicate? How can we make sense of media/technology? Can we transfer some skills from the old to the new? I hope to share (every week-ish) some things I think are wonderful, rich and important. I write longish posts because our complex and fascinating world cannot be reduced to soundbites. Please let me know what you think – contact me at

Leonardo da Vinci: Philosopher and scientist? #2, People in landscapes

What does ‘philosophy’ mean when we look at paintings? Perhaps it’s a way of making sense of our place in the world – I’m thinking about places and worlds as painters might, specifically as landscapes. I’ve assumed painters see (literally) … Continue reading

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Leonardo da Vinci: Philosopher and scientist? #1

Benvenuto Cellini was a virtuoso Renaissance goldsmith, sculptor and wildly indiscreet autobiographer. Yet he soberly recorded King François I of France as saying ‘there had never been born another man in the world who knew as much as Leonardo, not so … Continue reading

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Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomist (exhibition review) #2

This excellent exhibition (in the Queen’s Gallery, London) has some fascinatingly different stories to tell of Leonardo’s extraordinary anatomical sketches. We can have our interpretations on the surface or we can dig for them, depending on whether we like our versions … Continue reading

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Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomist (exhibition review) #1

This is an unusual start to any review, but the gallery’s beautifully panelled and French-polished rosewood doors and postmodern urinal dividers in the spotless toilets were so unusual in their generosity to the possibility of civilized public behaviour that I … Continue reading

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The pleasures of fine lettercutting in stone

Here’s a lovely thing I was very lucky to be given a few weeks ago. I hope anyone with an interest in words, writing and lettering will enjoy it here too. What is it? It’s a Clipsham limestone square pillar with … Continue reading

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Tales from synaesthetic oceans: shampoo, Rimbaud and the cult of the LP sleeve

What do you think about this? [Product name] has fresh notes of bergamot and lime, a spicy sensual heart of poivre, beechwood and oakmoss, enhanced with base notes of sandalwood, amber and vetiver. It’s on a bottle of shampoo. For … Continue reading

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After the (Olympics) gold rush – some thoughts on media and emotionality

If Usain Bolt had improved his 100 metres time from 2008 in step with the upgrades in 2012 Olympics media coverage, he would have run it in [fill in your own very small number here] seconds. My serious point is that … Continue reading

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What is synaesthesia? Why is it important?

Crikey – the online Random House dictionary says synaesthesia (synesthesia in more search-friendly US English) ‘is a sensation produced in one modality when a stimulus is applied to another modality, as when the hearing of a certain sound induces the visualization … Continue reading

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Inventing the future – the earliest mention of the word ‘wordpress’?

Two ifs: if there was a search engine that filtered on the earliest mention of, and if we then looked up ‘WordPress’, we would find this, by James Joyce, from 1939: A bone, a pebble, a ramskin; chip them, chap … Continue reading

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Bicycles, beds, chairs, doors – the use of modern art

‘Mr. Beckett’s patient concern with bicycles, amputees, battered hats, and the letter M’ starts Hugh Kenner’s still impressive Samuel Beckett: A Critical Study (New York: Grove Press, 1961, p. 1). My previous post tried to talk about the same things, respectively a … Continue reading

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