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John F. Ptak
From 1985-2003 I operated a bricks-and-mortar bookstore dedicated to the history of science. The stores were located primarily in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., with a short excursion to Old Town Alexandria, Va., and a warehouse in Silver Spring Maryland. The store's website has been in operation in one form or another since 1998, and it is now the principle venue for business. The blog associated with the online store is pretty mature at this point, with about 1.5 million words and thousands of posts, for good or ill.
Interests: art, math, history of science and technology; connections between/among physics, literature; the found-surreal; outsider art and logic; discrete ephemera.
Recent Activity
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Knowing of my interest in antiquarian children's art, a new friend sent me a 19th century school geography which sports several tattoos of artistic efforts made by small hands. The canvas is the book,... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post This is not the first appearance of a proposed "flying wing", though it seems to me that it is one of the biggest. This version—the idea of Horace Chapman Young (of the Aerodynamic Research... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post This really has nothing to do with Hayao Miyazaki.'s world, though it does look as though it could be part of it—absent the need for and presence of water and imagining the anchor lines... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2815 I uncovered a little cache of National Geographic magazines from 1900-1915, and picked out the 1906 volume to have a look at what I hoped for would be photo coverage of the San Francisco... Continue reading
Posted Jan 13, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Here's another early aviation post, as I seem to be a little stuck this morning in the 1908-1911 period...or suitably enough down a small rabbit hole to keep me from doing my mailing duties.... Continue reading
Posted Jan 8, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post I couldn't but help to share this terrific advertisement found in the page of Aerophile magazine for 1908 (via the "Unbound" section of the Smithsonian Institution and Internet Archive. This is the famous "Antoinette"... Continue reading
Posted Jan 8, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post I was very curious about the cover illustration for the Hugo Gernsback sci fi story, "Ralph 129 C 41 +", in Modern Electrics for December 1911 (volume 4 #9). "129 C 41 +" was... Continue reading
Posted Jan 6, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post (Part of the "Magnificent Mundane" series) The Japan External Trade Recovery Organization's General Merchandise of Japan was an "effort is made to introduce every category of general merchandise" being made in the country in... Continue reading
Posted Jan 5, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Here's a razor-sharp summation and review of Adolf Hitler, being an uncommon appearance of that man and his "science" in Nature, volume 132, p. 198, 1933. "That the Nazi leader stands self-revealed as an... Continue reading
Posted Jan 2, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post This interesting illustrations shows the plans of 16 different aircraft and the triumph of aviation in the scant five years since the Wright brothers' successful first powered flight in 1903. From left-to-right and top-to-bottom... Continue reading
Posted Jan 2, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Here's an interesting little aside from the 1905 issue of Nature--the notice is a great example of what made this one of the most interesting science journals in the modern period, as they were... Continue reading
Posted Jan 2, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
JF Ptak Science Books (Earlier post corrected). This is another in a series of posts about the use of maps and images in propaganda, principally concentrating in the 1930's and 1940's. This pamphlet, Luftschutz durch Selbstschutz Schtz fuer jedermann bei... Continue reading
Posted Dec 30, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post "A studious blind man, who had mightily beat his head about visible objects, and made use of the explication of his books and friends, to understand those names of light and colours which often... Continue reading
Posted Dec 28, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
JF Ptak Science Books Post 2815 Here's a very unusual and interesting pamphlet that I just found, and partially read. Philena Weller Montgomery and John Ferguson Montgomery wrote Traveling Hard Through the USSR1, a travelogue on their trip through the... Continue reading
Posted Dec 27, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Aha! Another lovely image for the long "FOund Art"/"Found Dadaist" categories on this blog, this being an engineering simulation for the building of domes. The image was found as an illustration in "The Supportive... Continue reading
Posted Dec 26, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post (History of Nothing series) Watching the performances of the U.S. president for these thousand+ days—particularly exemplified in the wind/”wind mill” address--seeing him teetering and as always ready for a fall that never happens, put... Continue reading
Posted Dec 26, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Yes, this is indeed a wonderful and celebratory view of Manhattan from the top of the East Tower of the under-construction East River ("Brooklyn") Bridge. The thing about this is that the view seems... Continue reading
Posted Dec 25, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Its a little difficult to think of Ellsworth Kelly, Jacques Villon, Grant Wood, Laslo Moholy-Nagy and Thomas Hart Benton as painters-for-war. But its true, and true for many of hundreds of other artists in... Continue reading
Posted Dec 25, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post (An entry in the "Found Absurdist" category) There's a series on this concentrating on unusual things found "floating" in the sky, bits and bobs that are odd, or visual non sequiturs ("sequuntur"?) that just... Continue reading
Posted Dec 25, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post This fine image was made for distribution to newspapers and magazines, and was printed 2 November 1918--just nine days before the armistice--and shows the "Broadway Quartet" as they rehearse "I'm Only a Buck Private"... Continue reading
Posted Dec 25, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2814 I happened upon some photographs by the great Margaret Bourke-White yesterday in a most unexpected place--an upper-end oversize pamphlet advertising the perfume and oils business of Fritzsche Brothers of NYC. No disrespect to Fritzsche--which... Continue reading
Posted Dec 25, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post This is the U.S. Army mail depot at Regents Park, London, braced for and under siege by Christmastime mail in 1917. It strikes me that there may be a million items in this photo--at... Continue reading
Posted Dec 23, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post The collaborative work of anatomist Wilhelm Braune (1831-1892) and artist C. Schmiedel (fl. mid-1800s) produced a singular work, Topographisch-anatomischer atlas nach durchschnitten an gefrorenen cadavern...(published in Leipzig in 1872), which was an outstanding example... Continue reading
Posted Dec 23, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Meyer Levin (1905-1981, journalist, editor of Esquire from 1933-39, and author of numerous books and articles) encountered and confronted the Holocaust in-person at the end of WWII in Europe and wrote about it in... Continue reading
Posted Dec 22, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2813 There were two big surprises in this 1913 work1 on prostitution in Portland, Oregon--I mean, aside from the normal "surprises" and "unexpecteds"one expects from an early 20th c study on the sex trade. (If... Continue reading
Posted Dec 19, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books