The history of tattooing and its significance (Wilfrid Dyson Hambly; 1925)

This 1925 survey constitutes one of the most complete histories of world tattoo practices. It was written at the end of a significant era in anthropological fieldwork, when the efforts of missionaries and the impact of European imperialism had suppressed all but the final vestiges of indigenous native tattoo traditions. Subsequent opportunities for original fieldwork related to tattooing were rare, making this book a valuable link to vanishing cultures.

In addition to 80 photographs and illustrations many of them new to this edition this fascinating study discusses the significance of tattoos and other forms of body marking in terms of religious beliefs and social purposes. Author Wilfrid Dyson Hambly offers a wealth of examples from fieldwork conducted around the world. Hambly discusses the religious and magical uses of tattooing, which range from the prevention of pain, protection against witchcraft, and attraction of good luck to the preservation of youth and insurance of the survival of the soul after death.

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Memoirs of a tattooist (George Burchett; 1958)

Expelled from school at the age of twelve for tattooing his classmates, George Burchett-Davis joined the Royal Navy against his parents wishes a year later. His skills were encouraged during his travels, and honed by his exposure to the masters of Asia. He jumped ship in Jaffa, finding the navy to be too disciplined for his lifestyle, only returning to England twelve years later, his name shortened to avoid charges of desertion. With clients ranging from European monarchs (including the ‘Sailor King’ George V) to transient seamen, George Burchett was deemed the 'King of Tattooists,” continuing his art until his sudden death in 1953. This is the first edition of his collected memoirs, published five years posthumously.

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Tattoo: Secrets of a Strange Art (Albert Parry; 1933)

Tattoo: Secrets of a Strange Art first appeared in 1933, when the majority of people with tattoos were sailors, prostitutes, and criminals. Venturing from waterfront tattoo parlors to circus midways, author Albert Parry talked to many of the great tattoo artists of the early twentieth century about their techniques. Parry was among the first to analyze the custom's subconscious motivations and to expose its erotic implications. His fascinating stories examine overt and subliminal tattoo messages of masochistic tendencies, membership in a select society, sexual fantasy and romantic devotion, patriotism, and religious fervor. A unique historical document and a compelling psychological study, this book offers a thought-provoking look at one aspect of the human drive for self-expression.

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Bad Boys and Tough Tattoos: A Social History of the Tattoo With Gangs, Sailors, and Street-Corner Punks 1950-1965 (Sammual Steward aka Phil Sparrow)

In the early 1950s, when tattoos were the indelible mark of a lowlife, an erudite professor of English—a friend of Gertrude Stein, Thomas Mann, Andre Gide, and Thornton Wilder—abandoned his job to become a tattoo artist (and incidentally a researcher for Alfred Kinsey). Bad Boys and Tough Tattoos tells the story of his years working in a squalid arcade on Chicago’s tough State Street. During that time he left his mark on a hundred thousand people, from youthful sailors who flaunted their tattoos as a rite of manhood to executives who had to hide their passion for well-ornamented flesh.

Bad Boys and Tough Tattoos is anything but politically correct. The gritty, film-noir details of Skid Row life are rendered with unflinching honesty and furtive tenderness. His lascivious relish for the young sailors swaggering or staggering in for a new tattoo does not blind him to the sordidness of the world they inhabited. From studly nineteen-year-olds who traded blow jobs for tattoos to hard-bitten dykes who scared the sailors out of the shop, the clientele was seedy at best: sailors, con men, drunks, hustlers, and Hells Angels.

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The Antisocial Skin: Structure, Resistance, and "Modern Primitive" Adornment in the United States. (Rosenblatt, Daniel)

My aims in this article are twofold: first, to illuminate the activities of U.S. modern primitives by placing them in their cultural and historical context and, second, to use this example to make a general argument about resistance move- ments and their relation to existing social and cultural structures. In analyzing modern primitives I show how they mobilize both basic Western understandings of the world as embodied in cosmogonic mythology and classical economic theory (Sahlins 1996) and more immediate and historically particular American ideas about selves, society, and experience (Cannon 1989; Fox and Lears 1983; Lears 1983; McCracken 1988). In the process, I deploy a conception of cultural systems that understands them less as determinants of social activity and more as providing a framework for such activity—that is, as constituting the possibility of meaning. It is these "conditions of meaningfulncss" that I seek to explore for the practices represented in Modern Primitives.

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The Sacred and The Profane: The Nature of Religion (Mircea Eliade; 1959)

In The Sacred and the Profane, Mircea Eliade observes that while contemporary people believe their world is entirely profane, or secular, they still at times find themselves connected unconsciously to the memory of something sacred. It's this premise that both drives Eliade's exhaustive exploration of the sacred; as it has manifested in space, time, nature and the cosmos, and life itself; and buttresses his expansive view of the human experience.

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The Rites of Passage (Van Gennep; 1969)

Birth, puberty, marriage, and death are, in all cultures, marked by ceremonies which may differ but are universal in function. Arnold van Gennep (1873-1957) was the first anthropologist to note the regularity and significance of the rituals attached to the transitional stages in man's life, and his phrase for these, "the rites of passage," has become a part of the language of anthropology and sociology.

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Tattoo Time Magazine (Don Ed Hardy; 1982)

Tattootime truly changed the world—documents, ideas, and images that have become legendary. Now experience its timeless impact.

Now all five Tattootimes — New Tribalism (1982), Tattoo Magic (1983), Music & Sea Tattoos (1984), Life & Death Tattoos (1987), and Art From the Heart (1991) are in two beautiful hardbound volumes, enclosed in a sturdy slipcase. All contents are from the first edition of each original—subsequent reprints omitted some material. The combined volumes add up to 352 full color pages, plus original covers, and an added 27-page subject and title index to the entire series.

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Marks of Civilization: Artistic Transformations of the Human Body (Arnold Rubin; 1988)

Body piercing, scarification, tattooing - for thousands of years decorative alteration of the human body has been invested with profound cultural and social meaning. This collection of essays, photographs and drawings focuses on the many and diverse ways that human beings have permanently decorated their bodies. The book grew out of a symposium entitled "Art of the Body" held at the University of California, Los Angeles in the early 1980s. Contributors encompass the fields of anthropology, sociology, art history, archaeology and folklore. The geographical and historical perspectives are from Europe and Euro-America, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Pacific Basin (Asia, Oceania, and Native America). The book's text and photographs acknowledge body art as a meaningful part of human behaviour. What dominates throughout is the recognition of artistic potency, mysterious or commonplace, that is a part of marking the body.

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Convict Tattoos: Marked men and women of Australia (Simon Barnard 2016)

Read my review of Convict Tattoos here.

At least thirty-seven per cent of male convicts and fifteen per cent of female convicts were tattooed by the time they arrived in the penal colonies, making Australians quite possibly the world’s most heavily tattooed English-speaking people of the nineteenth century.

Each convict’s details, including their tattoos, were recorded when they disembarked, providing an extensive physical account of Australia’s convict men and women.

Simon Barnard has meticulously combed through those records to reveal a rich pictorial history. Convict Tattoos explores various aspects of tattooing—from the symbolism of tattoo motifs to inking methods, from their use as means of identification and control to expressions of individualism and defiance—providing a fascinating glimpse of the lives of the people behind the records.

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The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Joseph Campbell; 1949)

Since its release in 1949, The Hero with a Thousand Faces has influenced millions of readers by combining the insights of modern psychology with Joseph Campbell’s revolutionary understanding of comparative mythology. In these pages, Campbell outlines the Hero’s Journey, a universal motif of adventure and transformation that runs through virtually all of the world’s mythic traditions. He also explores the Cosmogonic Cycle, the mythic pattern of world creation and destruction.

As part of the Joseph Campbell Foundation’s Collected Works of Joseph Campbell, this third edition features expanded illustrations, a comprehensive bibliography, and more accessible sidebars.

As relevant today as when it was first published, The Hero with a Thousand Faces continues to find new audiences in fields ranging from religion and anthropology to literature and film studies. The book has also profoundly influenced creative artists—including authors, songwriters, game designers, and filmmakers—and continues to inspire all those interested in the inherent human need to tell stories.

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Spiritual Skin: Magical Tattoos and Scarification (Lars Krutak; 2012)

Spiritual Skin: MAGICAL TATTOOS AND SCARIFICATION. Wisdom. Healing. Shamanic Power. Protection is a photographic masterwork in two parts exploring the secret world of magical tattooing and scarification across the tribal world. Based on one decade of tattoo anthropologist Dr. Lars Krutak’s fieldwork among animistic and shamanic societies of Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Melanesia, Spiritual Skin: MAGICAL TATTOOS AND SCARIFICATION journeys into highly sacred territory to reveal how people utilize ritual body modification to enhance their access to the supernatural.

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Tattoo: Bodies, Art, and Exchange in the Pacific and the West - History of Tatooing (Eds. Thomas, Nicholas Cole, Anna Douglas, Bronwen; 2005)

The history of tattooing is shrouded in controversy. Citing the Polynesian derivation of the word “tattoo,” many scholars and tattoo enthusiasts have believed that the modern practice of tattooing originated in the Pacific, and specifically in the contacts between Captain Cook’s seamen and the Tahitians. Tattoo demonstrates that while the history of tattooing is far more complex than this, Pacific body arts have provided powerful stimuli to the West intermittently from the eighteenth century to the present day. The essays collected here document the extraordinary, intertwined histories of processes of cultural exchange and Pacific tattoo practices. Art historians, anthropologists, and scholars of Oceania provide a transcultural history of tattooing in and beyond the Pacific.

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Modern Primitivism: Non-Mainstream Body Modification and Racialized Representation. (Klesse, Christian)

This article focuses on the philosophy underpinning the non-mainstream body modification practices of `Modern Primitives'. This subculture seeks inspiration in the body modification techniques and bodily rituals of so-called `primitive societies'. Establishing their prioritization of body, sexuality, community and spirituality as analytical links, the author shows that these self-perceived radical opponents of Western modernity nonetheless remain captured in its foundational discursive assumptions. The author argues that the movement's enthusiastic turn towards `primitivism' represents a particular identity strategy within the late modern condition. Drawing on colonial discourse analysis, the author argues that the primitivist discourse originated as an ideology within colonialism and has informed the construction of the Western self-image. Modern Primitives' notion of `primitivism' is seen as a postcolonial legacy of this tradition of `othering', which inevitably reproduces stereotypes of racialized people.

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Written on the Body: The Tattoo in European and American History (Ed. Caplan, Jane; 2000)

Despite the social sciences' growing fascination with tattooing—and the immense popularity of tattoos themselves—the practice has not left much of a historical record. And, until very recently, there was no good context for writing a serious history of tattooing in the West. This collection exposes, for the first time, the richness of the tattoo's European and American history from antiquity to the present day. In the process, it rescues tattoos from their stereotypical and sensationalized association with criminality.

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