Antiquated technology has a certain subcultural cachet. Not only with art collecters and steampunk devotees, but also with the population of "bohemian Brooklyn" also known as—yes we're going to use that word—hipsters. Some fauxhemians wear 19th-century men's clothing, comb flea markets for intricately-detailed antique maps, and dabble in taxidermy. The New Republic's art critic Jed Perl touches on this "vogue for Victoriana" in a recent essay.
Reviewing two books, Cartographies of Time and Andrew Alpern's Collection of Drawing Instruments, Perl briefly how hipsters latched on to this obsession and weighs whether it is merely a pose:
There’s a particular charm about the eighteenth-century [instrument] sets, which were packed away in a compact box, shaped like a flatted-out covered cup, known as an étui. Compared to the larger collections of instruments produced in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, arranged in rather somber cases with dark interiors, there is a coziness about the eighteenth-century sets, a sense of the architect as a figure who is still slightly casual, sitting down to work whenever and wherever inspiration strikes...
The hipster appeal of both these books, and I would not underestimate it, has nothing to do with hipster lite; it’s the real McCoy, grounded in scholarly avidity and original thought. Both volumes might be described as salutes to the nerd imagination through history.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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