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 A unique historical document and a compelling psychological study, this book offers a thought-provoking look at one aspect of the human drive for self-expression.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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