Month: August 2015

‘Mde de Maupeou prays Mr Barbier to give the courier thirteen aunes of cloth … ‘

Mde de Maupeou prays Mr Barbier to give the courier thirteen aunes of cloth following the selected sample; he would also like to put them on his bill.

Ableiges 31 August 1789   Mde de Maupeau

The Europe Galleries will boast a display dedicated to ‘Silks’. Considering the progression of 18th-century silk fashions ‘from design to garment’, the display will show the design process from paper textile design to textile sample, and from lengths of silk to garments made up in silk. It will also illustrate a variety of fashionable silks, with woven and embroidered patterns, that would have been used for men’s and women’s dress.

Sack back gown, purple silk, brocaded with flowers and lace, French, 1765-1770. V&A T.708-1913

Sack back gown, purple silk, brocaded with flowers and lace, French, 1765-1770. V&A T.708-1913

Whilst greatly admiring the eye-catching 18th century silks that will feature in the display, it is a brief handwritten missive that provokes a more personal response in me. An ephemeral, day-to-day object, it provides a simple reminder of the human efforts, realities and individuals involved in the retailing of fabric in the 18th century. I feel it tantalising suggests a ‘more direct’ or personal connection with people of the past, in a similar way to Jacob Arend’s letter hidden in the Würzburg writing cabinet.

38041800167801 Letter from a series of Letters & Orders addressed to M. Barbier - Marchand de soie de la famille Royale & to his partner Tétard; French (Paris); c.1755 - c.95. National Art Library

Letter from a series of Letters & Orders addressed to M. Barbier – Marchand de soie de la famille Royale & to his partner Tétard; French (Paris); c.1755 – c.95. National Art Library 38041800167801

The letter is addressed to M. Barbier, who ran a family business retailing luxury textiles from the rue des bourdonnois in Paris during the second half of the 18th century and into the early 19th century. Its brief and to-the-point message (just over four lines in total) requests that lengths of a specific silk design be given to the courier who has brought the message [see my translation above].

The sender is Mde de Maupeou, who is writing from Ableiges, a commune in the Val-d’Oise department in northern France. The House of Maupeau was a French noble family. The name was made ​​famous by René-Charles and his son René-Nicolas, both of whom were keepers of the Seals and lord chancellor of France during the reign of Louis XV .

The message, with remains of the red wax seal visible above

The message, with remains of the red wax seal visible above

Mde de Maupeou requests thirteen ‘aunes’ of cloth – the ‘aune’ or ‘aulne’ was a unit of measurement used for lengths of fabric. Its exact length varied throughout Europe in the 18th century, however by the late-18th century it was equivalent to about 46 ½ English inches. This means that Mde de Maupeou was requesting just over 15.35 metres. Mary Schoeser Boyce has posited that to produce a woman’s gown would require between 10 and 15 ‘aunes’, which suggests that Mde de Maupeou’s order was likely for such a purpose.

A sample swatch (echantillon) was attached to the letter to illustrate exactly which silk design Mde de Maupeou desired.

a silk swatch has been pinned to the letter to show what the client wanted. Striped silk designs were particularly popular in the late 18th century.

A silk swatch was been pinned to the letter to demonstrate the design the client wanted. Striped silk designs were particularly popular in the late 18th century.

In the 18th century, fashion was expressed more through fabric, colour and pattern rather than through its cut. The most expensive material used was silk, which was woven into plain and patterned textiles. The main European centre of silk production was Lyon, in the south of France. Its designers supplied manufacturers with new patterns every season, which travelling salesmen and retailers sold across Europe. Having obtained their desired silk, customers would then usually employ a tailor or dressmaker to have their garments made to measure. In accordance with this, Barbier supplied textiles not only to customers who came to his shop in Paris but also clients (such as Mde de Maupeou) who requested items long distance.

Visual reconstruction of Mde de Maupeau's wax seal

Visual reconstruction of the letter’s wax seal

Mde de Maupeou’s request is just one of around 486 letters and orders addressed to M. Barbier and his partner Tétard between ca. 1755 and ca. 1795, which are held in the National Art Library’s Special Collections (reference number MSL/1976/4062). The assortment of correspondence includes orders for silks, tafettas and other materials, mainly for clothing. In some cases, such as here, original samples of fabric are enclosed. Looking through the collection, Mme de Maupeou is found to be a repeat customer, as another letter records her ordering some striped ‘petit taffetas’.

Letters are addressed to at least two Barbiers (father and son), silk merchants specialising in woven silks whose business operated ‘à la Barbe d’or, rue des Bourdonnois’ for at least 68 years (1755-1823). Jean Nicolas Barbier (1750-1823) was the son of Jean François Barbier. Little is known of Jean François and due to our letter being dated 1789 it was presumably addressed to Jean Nicolas.

Monsieur Barbier Marchand l'etoffe rue des bourdonnois a la barbe d'or Paris. Translation: Mr. Barbier Cloth Merchant Bourdonnois Street at the (sign of the) golden beard Paris.

Monsieur Barbier Marchand l’etoffe rue des bourdonnois a la barbe d’or Paris. Translation: Mr. Barbier Cloth Merchant Bourdonnois Street at the (sign of the) golden beard Paris.

During the 18th century the rue St Honoré and the surrounding area came to be occupied by some of Paris’ wealthiest and highly regarded mercers and be renowned for the luxury goods on offer. Barbier’s shop on the rue des Bourdonnois was just 900 meters from the end of rue St Honoré, (if Google maps are to be trusted) it is just an 11 minute walk between the two.


A detail from the Plan Turgot, Paris, 1739. Rue des Bourdonnois is marked in red and the rue St Honoré in green. Original digital image from Kyoto University Library

A closer look at the rue des Bourdonnois

A closer look at the rue des Bourdonnois

Barbier had an extremely respected reputation, evidenced by the letters and orders received from members of the French aristocracy and from other customers, some outside France. Notably, he served as silk merchant to the French royal family (marchand de soie de la famille royale), between 1760 and the French Revolution. Orders were received from the Princess Lamballe (a favourite of Marie Antoinette), the Baron de Batz, Mme Campan (Marie Antoinette’s lady-in-waiting) and members of the court at Versailles.

[NB: I was interested to see that in ‘The Dauphin (Louis XVII): The Riddle of the Temple’ (1921) G. Lenôtre mentions an account for 1961 livres 17 sol for ‘silk materials supplied to the Temple by Barbier and Tetard, Rue des Bourdonnais’, connected to when the royal family were held there.]

Carolyn Sargentson’s ‘Merchant and Luxury Markets’ (1996) describes how Barbier was supplied by over eighty Lyonnais merchantsDespite being supplier to the King and having over two-hundred high-ranking clients, in 1762 severe cashflow problems brought Barbier into bankruptcy, with his debts and assets each calculated as totaling over four million livres. His stock alone was valued at over one million livres!

Barbier’s extensive business was recognised as being of great importance to the Lyonnais silk producers and a number of other enterprises that relied on it. The king therefore intervened and, with the Lyonnais, set up a syndicate to support and ensure the continuation of the business. This endeavour proved successful, as Mde de Maupeou’s letter testifies.

Barbier's trade card with a handwritten bill dated 23rd January 1778. Archives de la Ville de Paris.

Business continuing post-bankruptcy: Barbier’s trade card with a handwritten bill, dated 23rd January 1778. Archives de la Ville de Paris.

Mary Schoeser Boyce’s article ‘The Barbier Manuscripts’ (1981) takes a broader look at the contents of the collection in the National Art Library. She highlights a variety of interesting details which help to give an insight into some aspects of a silk mercer’s trade in 18th century Paris. Collectively, the letters have what Schoeser Boyce terms ‘great charm of unobserved conversation’. They include tantalising glimpses of daily human drama, such as a possibly mislaid key (alluded to in a postscript to a request for taffeta): ‘Monsieur Barbier is not able to give the taffeta which Mde de Tilly demands, for want of the key to open his shop.’



NB: If you have found this blog entry interesting, you may also like to read Lesley Miller’s ‘Selling Silks’ (2014). This publication demonstrates the important role of sample books in the selling of silks. It focuses on a merchant’s sample book in the V&A collections, which contains hundreds of silk samples and is believed to have been confiscated by British Customs in 1764. As well as faithfully reproducing the whole album, it provides a record of the 18th-century French and English silk industries and their commercial practices.


Six Tips for Chrome DevTools

The following is a guest post by Umar Hansa. Umar has a newsletter I’m a fan of and graciously offered to write this guest post in that style. I’ll let him introduce himself.

Hey, I’m Umar. I like to share web development related tips on Twitter (@umaar) and also through Dev Tips which is a newsletter of developer tips in the form of gifs. Right now, it’s all primarily Chrome DevTools related. Before we get started, thank you to CSS-Tricks for letting me contribute to a community I’ve always been very fond of.

This post will cover six popular tips for Chrome DevTools. You may have seen some of these before, but hopefully if you have they’ll act as a refresher for what you can do during your Inspect Element journey.

DOM Search by CSS Selector

This is a handy trick to quickly find the DOM nodes you need. In the Elements Panel, press Cmd + F (Ctrl + F on Windows) to open the search box. You can search using the following:

  • CSS Selector: this is the cool one and what the tip is about. Find all of the anchor tags without an href attribute value using a[href=''], or traverse your way through the DOM thanks to live updating of your search result.
  • String: for example, a piece of a text in a paragraph element.
  • XPath: maybe not the most popular, but worth knowing it’s there.

Media Query Inspector

This tip assumes you already know about Device Mode.

Your stylesheets can register media queries. When in Device Mode, such media queries display in the Media Query Inspector. The width of the coloured media query bars align with the viewport ruler.

  • You can click a segment within the media query bar to trigger that media query — this in turn sets the viewport dimensions.
  • You can hover over a segment to see a tooltip with the exact rule.
  • You can right click on a segment within the bar and select Reveal in Source Code. This takes you to the point in the source code where the media query is defined.

Copy a Response

While in the Network Panel, you can right click on a resource and select Copy response to get the contents into your clipboard. In addition to that, you can head on over to the Sources Panel and drag and drop a resource onto your code editor. This embeds the contents of that file into the editor.

Copy as cURL

While in the Network Panel, you can right click on a resource and select Copy as cURL. DevTools puts a terminal-friendly command in your clipboard, along with the original request headers. This way, you can be sure the request you make is as close to the original as possible.

Inline JS Values

Debugging JavaScript in DevTools has improved a lot recently. You can now pause at a breakpoint and receive visual feedback for the current state of variable values. These inline values will typically reveal near function arguments.

The on/off switch for this feature is in Settings > General > Sources > “Display variable values inline while debugging”.

Network Filmstrip (sneak peek!)

To finish up, I thought I’d show a possible upcoming feature which I think is really cool. A feature so cool in fact, that it needs its own warning.

This is an experimental DevTools feature. Experimental features can break, change, or vanish so please keep this in mind.

If you have used WebPageTest before, this filmstrip feature may look familiar to you. It shows you screenshots of page rendering, and is valuable for understanding what your users may see.

In the recording of CSS-Tricks, we notice:

  • The page renders initially without text due to the font not being ready.
  • Secondary content, like the ads/sponsor loads after the primary content loads.
  • Because time data is shown, a particular screenshot can be matched with the time it took to reach that point and we can see primary content is visible in less than a second.

This isn’t enabled by default, but a quick search will show you how to enable DevTools hidden experiments. But keep in mind the warning above!


I know, this has all been very Chrome-centric. Firefox DevTools has also been adding some excellent features, however.

Thank you for reading. If you like these sorts of tips, you can subscribe to Dev Tips or follow me on Twitter.

Six Tips for Chrome DevTools is a post from CSS-Tricks


Major Pitfalls of Editing Content via Mobile Device

Mobile is pretty much everything for modern web. Everything you do can be made on mobile, should be optimized for mobile and managed on mobile. One of the most popular issues today is a mobile user experience. There are tons of posts, articles and researches about mobile UX that examine website and apps design, frustrating elements and reading issues. But what about backend problems with mobile content writing and editing?

Bloggers and content managers are used to create and edit website content on and for desktop first. In recent times there are many articles and blog posts focused on readers’ mobile experience and mistakes web designers and content managers make when creating content FOR mobile. But you can hardly find articles on writing and editing posts and website content ON mobile devices? In a mobile-driven world the opportunity of creating content “on the go” from anywhere is a real gift and such desire of content creators is fully justified.

Editing Content on Small Screens

What major pitfalls do they face when creating content using their tablets and smartphones? Are there any comfy mobile editors that allow adding content to a website with no hassle? Let’s try to find out.

Are Long Posts Gone?

We are all used to the fact that valuable and SEO-friendly posts should be pretty word-stuffed. E.g. in WordPress admin panel you will see a footnote that suggests 250 words recommended minimum, included also in SEO-plugin’s recommendations. However, in Google’s recommendations you won’t find any restrictions about how long your blog post should be.

Today Twitter with its 140-characters-post format seems to be the best option for blogging via mobile devices. Time-saving for both readers and writers, this micro-blogging platform is one of the most popular today.


But what if you still need more than 140 characters to express your thoughts or communicate with your audience? This must be one of the major issues with creating content right on your mobile device – it’s not suitable for writing long posts, adding bunches of photos etc.

If you have a lot to say to your audience or just need to post long and detailed articles, smartphone and even tablet is not your option. At least, for now. The best you can do in this situation is create short and valuable content that will be useful for your audience no matter how much text is in it.

Typing on Mobile is Tedious

This is obvious that writing on tablet is not the most joyful activity. In most cases you use only one the fingers of one hand to tap letters that makes writing a really frustrating process. Mobile devices’ keyboards are not suitable for creating large posts. First it was meant for writing short messages. Today people are using tablets and smartphones not just for SMS-ing or internet browsing. But text input form stays pretty much the same as is was some time ago.

The major frustration for bloggers is a small input area and small keys. Most devices do not offer the comfort of a physical keyboard where you can use all keys to the full extent. E.g., for writing numbers or special symbols you need to change to an additional keyboard. Mobile keyboard specifics don’t allow using shortcuts which also makes text editing a real pain. One of the best solutions here is upgrading your mobile device with an external keyboard, but that sends us back to notebook use. Besides, there is another problem with smaller mobile screens.

And that’s a small text area. On a smartphone (no matter – portrait or landscape mode) it takes hardly a half of the screen due to that fact that the other half is taken with the keyboard. You cannot see how your entire text looks, you may miss some mistakes and misprints due to a reduced text window.

Adding Images and Videos

Adding images to your post can be a no-brainer if it’s a post that consists only of images. Then dropping a few lines of text to highlight a pack of pictures and videos is not a big issue. Especially if you use apps that allow posting photos from various accounts on social media. Thus, with the use of special Flickr apps you can send your photos right to your Twitter account. But in case of a big blog post with the text more than a few words the task can be quite tiresome, especially if you need to add tags and links to your images.


Are There Tools for Editing Content on Mobile?

In the case of drag-and-drop CMSs, a problem of creating posts with images or image galleries is a little less time- and effort-consuming. Many modern content management systems create not only responsive websites and templates, but also admin panels that can be used on tablets. Thus, MotoCMS and Weebly make website and content editing on smaller screens possible with the use of comfy widgets. However, you will still need a keyboard to add alt-tags to your images or provide other SEO improvements.

WordPress offers special apps to allow blogging and website editing from iOS- and Android-based devices. Apps seem to be one of the best solutions for smaller screens. Thus, Evernote created an app that lets users make notes and edit documents from any device.


Mobile devices are extremely handy in providing users access to everything on the Web without tying them to a chair and computer desk. But those devices are still limited in the range of manipulations they leave for users. Tapping and swiping are pretty much the only gestures you can use within your smartphone or tablet. Thus, users often seek for additional instruments (stylus, soft keyboard) to improve their mobile experience in content creation.

Obviously, buttons and drag-and-drop functionality are the comfiest means for manipulating content on smaller screens. May be in future we will see some new tools that will make creating and editing website content on mobile devices a snap.

Onextrapixel – Web Design and Development Online Magazine

Target: Share The Force

Target have just launched a new Star Wars fan site, an open world type platform, posed as a vast galaxy where you can upload your favourite Star Wars photo, and have it translated into a cluster of stars, leaving you with unique coordinates to re-locate your favourite memories any time on any device. With all […]

Digital Buzz Blog


This week we’re joining nine London museums to celebrate each other’s collections through the photo sharing network Instagram. The idea came following an article by the Londonist in May 2015, where the magazine listed ‘The Best London Museums to follow on Instagram’, based on the number of followers.

Along with the V&A the museums selected were: The British Museum, Design Museum, Science Museum, Natural History Museum, Wellcome Collection, Horniman Museum and Gardens, Imperial War Museums, London Transport Museum and The Royal Museums Greenwich

With such incredible collections and unique Instagram feeds, representatives from each museum decided to meet and find a way to collaborate. And so #MuseumInstaSwap was born.

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

#MuseumInstaSwap is a challenge to find and photograph objects in a different museum that resonate with those in our own collection. The ten museums were sorted into pairs by pulling names out of a hat. The V&A was matched with the Natural History Museum  – very handy as it is just a short walk over Exhibition Road!

Follow #MuseumInstaSwap this week to discover what kind of objects a museum of art and design would find in a museum of natural history. Look out on @vamuseum for images of natural history specimens, as well as fashion, architecture, glass, metalwork, prints and more.

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Take part in the project on the weekend 29/30th August by sharing photos of objects you think would sit nicely in a particular museum, or objects you’d happily give a home to.

You can find out more about this initiative on Culture Themes


Brilliant Billboards: Genius Campaigns that Captured Attention

In this day and age of digital advertising you might be tricked into thinking that there’s simply no place anymore for traditional billboard advertising in a way that’s effective. But, as the following examples prove, there’s still room for genius and creativity when it comes to this old form of publicity. So while you set about building your next digital marketing strategy in front of your trusty Dell, remember that sometimes the old way of doing things can be just as effective.

Formula Toothpaste


Created to illustrate Formula Toothpaste’s slogan of “builds strong teeth”, this billboard, appearing in Indonesia, plays on the theme by having the man in the image itself appear to be pulling the billboard away from its structure. Simple yet arresting, the turned corner really catches the eye and draws attention to the product held up in white space.

Berger Sky

Another similarly themed billboard that shows a single protagonist interacting with the structure itself, this example, from India’s JWT agency, uses a different optical illusion to make it appear as if the ad itself is being painted over and fading into the background of the sky. Advertising paint, this piece really helps accentuate Berger’s slogan; “Natural Finish Colours”.


Related: 42 Examples of Clean Graphic Design for Print Marketing


DHL Maze


American courier company DHL really drives home their image as hard-working and stopping at nothing to get your delivery to you in time. Thanks to this brilliant ad, that actually features an invisible conveyor belt within the billboard itself, the red ball sequentially travels through the gigantic maze on repeat, “always” finding “the right way”.



Indonesia features again as a hotbed of billboard advertising, this time capitalizing on one of the capital Jakarta’s more common features, its mass of cabling suspending over roads and buildings. Used to highlight Panasonic’s nose hair trimmer, this billboard’s positioning behind power lines really show how much the figure in the ad really needs to use the product. Both genius and funny.



Toy manufacturer Hotwheels really pulled this one out of the creative bag while using very strategically placed billboard space to give the optical illusion of a bridge having a crazy a loop-the-loop section of road just like their toys themselves. Named “curl” this campaign fits right in with Hotwheels fun and extreme-racing themed brand image.

The Economist


Famous newsstand magazine The Economist took out some prime billboard space in the heart of London to raise the profile at the height of the print publishing crisis a few years back. Interactive, 3-dimensional and simply executed, passersby making their way across or under the billboard cause the bulb to light up thanks to a sensor. Reinforces the idea that reading The Economist can help create some key ideas.

Who said billboards had to be boring? Hopefully some of these successful campaigns can help inspire you to think about marketing your business with a bit of panache and punch.

The post Brilliant Billboards: Genius Campaigns that Captured Attention appeared first on SpyreStudios.


From Shanghai to Sevenoaks – the Denton Welch bequest

For every large bequest of objects and artworks donated to the museum over the years, there are hundreds of smaller donors who leave intriguing collections of personal treasures to the V&A.  One such donor is the artist and writer Denton Welch.  Upon his untimely death in 1948, aged 33, he left five pieces of whimsical miniature silverware ca. 1690 to 1720, and a large dolls house, ca. 1783, which is on display in the final week of the ‘Small Stories: At Home in a Doll’s House’ exhibition at the Museum of Childhood (closing 6th September).


I first discovered the writer Denton Welch through a list of recommended reads by the filmmaker John Waters, in good company alongside James Purdy and Jane Bowles.  I promptly went out and purchased his first book ‘Maiden Voyage’ (1943), and from the first page of cross-dressing rebellion, I was hooked!

This is the centenary year of Denton’s birth. He was born in Shanghai in 1915 to an austere Englishman with a managerial position in the international rubber trade, and a doomed American beauty who died young of illness when Denton was just 11 years old.  At this time, much to his exasperation, he was sent away from China to Repton private school for boys in Derbyshire, and it is this period of his life that fuelled the inspiration for his first novel.

When he escaped school for good, he went to Goldsmiths to study art with an eye to becoming a painter, but just two years later in 1935 he was run over by a motorist whilst cycling and sustained extensive injuries.  After learning to walk again, he got back to managing most things but had long periods of being confined to his bed and suffered severe on-going fevers with kidney and back problems.  His injuries eventually caught up with him and he passed away in December 1948.

During those 13 years, full of ups and downs with his health, he wrote five books and 76 short stories, and continued to draw and paint.  In 1937 for example, he produced this poster for Shell.


The ‘You Can be Sure of Shell’ campaign of the 1930s attracted commissions from many well-known artists of the day including Vanessa Bell, Paul Nash, John Piper, Edward Bawden and Graham Sutherland.

Never one to be held back by his illness if at all possible, he would get up to all sorts of adventures, walking and bicycling around the Kentish countryside, voyeuristically seeking out strapping young men to admire from a distance.  In his books, his powers of description are such that he intensely devours objects, people and places.  As a queer outsider, he roamed the English countryside, visiting churches and historic houses, storing his images away so precisely that he could call upon them later with ease and bring them to life in his written work.

He was an avid collector of miniature curios, small ceramics and pieces of silverware, decorative little boxes, trinkets and glassware.  These two pieces are typical of Denton’s collections, a miniature tankard which you can read about here, and a miniature coffeepot, both on display in the Gilbert silver galleries.



He had excellent taste and was a harsh critic, camply slating ugliness in both art and people’s personalities.  His books are peppered with appraisals of various forms of art and design, and catty passages where he takes the whole world down a peg or two.

One of the places which perfectly sums up Denton’s love for identifying changing architectural styles and alterations, and his acute delight in the whimsy and wonder of lavish, nonsensical places and things, was a grotto built in the mid-18th century at Oatlands Palace.  His second novel ‘In Youth is Pleasure’ (1944) takes place at a hotel in Surrey where he reluctantly spends a summer with his father in the early 1930s.  In his diaries he names the hotel as Oatlands at Weybridge.

Once the site of a Tudor country house, Henry VIII took over the land to construct a monumental palace for the arrival of his new Queen, Anne of Cleves, in 1538.  Their marriage was rapidly annulled so she never lived there, but Elizabeth I, James I, and Charles I all did before it was pulled down in 1650. A lodge remained on the site until a new mansion was built by the 7th Earl of Lincoln in 1716.  His second son, the powerful 9th Earl, transformed the gardens of the new house and paid a small fortune to Josiah Lane of Tisbury, one of the finest grotto builders of the time, to create the largest and most lavish grotto in the whole of Europe.

It is not clear from his novel or diary how much Denton knew the complete story of the grotto but I am sure he would have loved to know that the 9th Earl allegedly had a relationship with none other than Horace Walpole.  The two were schooled together and went on a Grand Tour but ultimately parted company when the Earl was due to be married off.

The grotto was made more famous by a subsequent resident of Oatlands, the Grand Old Duke of York, otherwise known as Frederick Augustus of Hanover (1763-1827).  He moved into the property in 1790 with his new wife, Frederica Charlotte of Prussia, who adored the grotto and spent a great deal of time there.  The house features in a board game ca. 1800 at the Museum of Childhood as the ‘Mansion of Happiness’.


Picturesque garden features such as cascades and grottos inspired the Romantic poets of the day, but this was a grotto like no other.  Containing a games room, a bathing chamber, open fireplaces and an upstairs banqueting chamber with panoramic views over the surrounding parkland and lake, the path leading up to it was reportedly lined with teeth from slain war horses.

The Duke and Duchess of York entertained Czar Alexander I and King Wilhelm III of Prussia in a lavish banquet to celebrate the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte’s France.  They dined inside the upper chamber of the grotto which illustrates just how large it indeed was!  The walls were enriched with shells, ammonites, coral and feldspar crystal and the interior was decorated with Chinese furniture covered with cushions embroidered by the Duchess herself.

The grotto features highly in Denton’s second novel ‘In Youth is Pleasure’, or to use Denton’s term ‘a cottage orné’.  As a lonely outsider full of enthusiasm for historical curiosities, he discovers it in the gardens of the hotel and describes it having fallen into a state of extreme disrepair which saddens him.  He longs to go inside to explore so boldly breaks in one night, it having been closed up as an unmaintained ‘dangerous structure’.  It was precisely for this reason that in the year of Denton’s death in 1948, the grotto was demolished.  He records in his diary his sadness at learning of this wanton destruction.  Articles published at the time state that despite much public support for the grotto to be saved, the council were adamant that it was unsafe.   Lavender Westwood wrote in ‘Country Life’, May 7th, 1948, that it was ‘slightly consoling to know that the job [of destroying it] has proved considerably longer and more expensive than anticipated’.

I will conclude with a short excerpt from Denton’s diary, written on the 4th December 1946, and to say thank you to him posthumously for having left a few of his many treasures with us at the V&A:

‘The feeling has come over me that I must let everything melt away, that I am no longer in command at all.  And in my idleness all I can think of are rich strange dishes wonderfully cooked, amazing little houses in fine gardens, rare and lovely objects for these tiny palaces, and then wills and bequests both fantastic and more down to earth…’.



Applying Separate CSS Style Sheets for Different Browsers

Theoretically, you need to have just one block of CSS style sheets per website, which are applicable to every browser that is in use. As soon as you use CSS however, you find this to be just that: theoretical. Browsers today implement CSS standards unevenly, with bugs that are unique to specific browsers. In addition, you may find that a good chunk of your site traffic uses an old browser with very basic CSS support.

Working With CSS Style Sheets Across Browsers

The majority, if not all, webmasters using CSS are searching for a way they can stipulate which CSS style sheet to use for which browser. In addition, there should be a way to prevent others from using that style sheet, that is, to conceal the other sheets from old browser rollouts.

Unfortunately, there is not a conventionally documented way to include or preclude any specific style sheet from access by all browsers still in use for Internet access. However, there are ways to work around the system to accomplish the above, even though not so standard. This involves using known bugs, in particular rollouts of different browsers.

That being said, you may encounter browsers for which you want to code but do not know enough to work around. This article provides tips to use CSS that is applicable to the most frequently used browsers.

CSS Style Sheets

Before you begin: a few CSS coding tips

 <!DOCTYPE html> <html> <head> <style> h1 {     text-align: center; }  p.Example {     text-align: left; }  p.main {     text-align: justify; } </style> </head> <body>  <h1>CSS text-align Example</h1> <p class="Example">CSS</p> <p class="main">CSS coding tips. Even if your CSS code has been validated, manual testing for different browsers is a must</p>   </body> </html> 
  • 1. Start at the Beginning

    Many web designers find it simpler to design the site from the ground using CSS, rather than finding ways to reproduce old layouts into CSS – even for pre-existing sites. In addition, beginning CSS design from scratch will allow you greater functionality that older layouts did not allow. You can therefore take full advantage of all possibilities.

  • 2. Follow CSS Standards

    As many webmaster have found, it’s much easier to code for browsers that are standards-compliant – most modern browsers are, including Firefox, Safari, Opera, Chrome and Internet Explorer (IE) 8 and later. From there, you can add the work-arounds to render the code usable for non-compliant versions like IE7 and IE6.

    This is also logical because in time, the older versions are being phased out of internet use by preclusion from many sites’ functions, Google included. When they stop being used altogether, you will just need to remove the workarounds that you had developed for them. If you start by writing your principal CSS sheet for non-standardized browsers, you will need to rewrite it once they become obsolete.

    Test out your CSS on at least three modern browsers, choosing those whose display technologies are completely different from each other. For instance, Firefox 28’s rendering engine is completely different from IE11. Konqueror, Opera 12 and later, Safari and Chrome use the same rendering engine. By so doing, you’re sure that your code works because it is written out correctly. Once done, you can add the workaround blocks for IE6/IE7.

  • 3. Use External Style Sheets

    A useful way to handle browser-specific omissions and bugs is to have the standards-compliant style sheet in an external sheet, which each browser loads. Then, for browsers requiring workarounds, you will load additional style sheets specific to each browser’s needs. In CSS, the last style defined overrides earlier definitions. When you externally place the main style sheet, you are easily able to remove segments applying to browsers no longer in use.

  • 4. Testing

    Even if your CSS code has been validated, manual testing for different browsers is a must. The fact that you have written your code in a standards-compliant way is no assurance that it will not render exactly the way you want on every browser. Manual testing will help you to find out how specific style sheets are loaded and executed on each browser.

Inclusion or exclusion of style sheets for IE9 and earlier

It is very easy to specify style sheets for IE 9, 8, 7, 6, 5.5 or 5 to load or exclude. This is because Microsoft has built conditional extensions that enable detection of these IE versions only; later versions of IE ignore those extensions.

For instance, if you want IE 7 to load some CSS file such as ‘iesevenonly.css’, but no other browser, add this code to the HEAD of the webpage:

 <!--[if IE ?]> <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="iesevenonly.css" /> <! [end if]> 

Note: In HTML unlike XHTML, you donot need to add the “/>” to close the link tag, a single angle bracket is sufficient.

To specify any version of IE with minor versions, the major version is sufficient. For instance, specifying for IE 5 includes all its minor versions i.e. 5.5, 5.01, 5.0 etc. However, if you detect a minor version then you have to get the complete version number right. For IE 5.5 and file ‘iespecific.css’ for instance:

 <!--[if IE 5.5000]> <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="iespecific.css" /> <! [endif]--> 

If a user’s version of IE5.5 has received an update of later service packs for example, the test would fail. To make work easier, you can use comparison operators i.e. ‘lt’, ‘lte’, ‘gt’ and ‘gte’. For instance, if testing for all versions of IE5 or greater, the ‘gte’ operator can be as follows:

 <!--[]if gte IE 6]> <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="iespecific.css" /> <! [endif]--> 

For these blocks of code, only IE 5-9 will try to analyze the code for instructions that may be applicable to them. IE 10 and beyond, as well as other modern browsers will simply ignore the block.

You may apply the same method to exclude specific style sheets. Suppose you want to exclude the CSS file “ie-skip.css” from IE7:

 <!--[if !(IE ?)]> <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="ie-skip.css" /> <! [endif]> 

This code would not validate in HTML validator, because it does not use currently valid tags in HTML. You can also test for IE in general, without defining specific version numbers. To load a style sheet if the browser isn’t IE 5-9:

 <!--[if !IE ?]> <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="ie-skip.css" /> <! [endif]> 

The “!” is the not operator


This is by no means an exhaustive list of workarounds and hacks, but it provides useful information that you can use without causing too many undesired effects. Armed with this bag of tricks, you should now be able to create a site in CSS that will render in pretty much the same way for all browsers currently in use.

Onextrapixel – Web Design and Development Online Magazine

Holiday Autos: Smells of Summer Machine

How many creatives have come up with this idea? Bottling smells and being able to use them for something exciting… Well, Holiday Auto’s did, and put the range of #smellsofsummer into a tweet-powered vending machine for passers by to tweet for a free smell, while hoping to inspire them to book their next holiday! Pretty […]

Digital Buzz Blog

SAB Miller: Abraxas Interactive Print Ads

Here’s a nice print-ad play powered by the LED light on your Smart Phone, with SAB Miller’s Abraxas Ad that challenges you to turn on your light, running it behind the page, to unveil the story as your phone directs light through the page in any given area. Nice. Simple. No App needed! Cool. Created […]

Digital Buzz Blog