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.


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 A unique historical document and a compelling psychological study, this book offers a thought-provoking look at one aspect of the human drive for self-expression.


Written on the Body: The Tattoo in European and American History (Editor: Jane Caplan, 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.

The tattoo has long hovered in a space between the cosmetic and the punitive. Throughout its history, the status of the tattoo has been complicated by its dual association with slavery and penal practices on the one hand and exotic or forbidden sexuality on the other. The tattoo appears often as an involuntary stigma, sometimes as a self-imposed marker of identity, and occasionally as a beautiful corporal decoration.

This volume analyzes the tattoo's fluctuating, often uncomfortable position from multiple angles. Individual chapters explore fascinating segments of its history--from the metaphorical meanings of tattooing in Celtic society to the class-related commodification of the body in Victorian Britain, from tattooed entertainers in Germany to tattooing and piercing as self-expression in the contemporary United States. But they also accumulate to form an expansive, textured view of permanent bodily modification in the West.

By combining empirical history, powerful cultural analysis, and a highly readable style, this volume both draws on and propels the ongoing effort to write a meaningful cultural history of the body. The contributors, representing several disciplines, have all conducted extensive original research into the Western tattoo. Together, they have produced an unrivalled account of its history. They are, in addition to the editor, Clare Anderson, Susan Benson, James Bradley, Ian Duffield, Juliet Fleming, Alan Govenar, Harriet Guest, Mark Gustafson, C. P. Jones, Charles MacQuarrie, Hamish Maxwell-Stewart, Stephan Oettermann, Jennipher A. Rosecrans, and Abby Schrader.