Tag Archives: library

Predicting Tattoo-Book Popularity

For those of you interested in how my new adventures in data science are intersecting with my old adventures in tattoo history, you can visit my Github to read a long technical report on a work in progress. I’ve created a prototype popularity calculator that works by using historical book data from OCLC’s Worldcat (books with a keyword stem of tattoo* published between 1850 and today). When it is up and running in its final form, users will be able to try out different book titles to see which might lead to bigger archival holdings in libraries. Here’s a taste of some of the predictions that the current model outputs.

I think where you really see the model start to shine is at the bottom of the test sample. Given that the training data for the model is holdings in libraries, many of which are academic libraries, you can see that for four different title variations for a book about Maori tattooing, a slightly more academic title has the greatest popularity. More tests are needed to see if this holds true for all books, or if the model can predict that a sub-genre like Maori tattoos might have more academic interest than some other type of tattoo topic. And note, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was actually not part of the data set for training because it’s extreme popularity made it a serious outlier. So it was interesting to see where that might have ranked had it not experienced viral popularity.

I’m definitely open to help getting it up and running on this site as well as the Center for Tattoo History and Culture. So if you are a programmer/developer type and want to help, feel free to reach out (or just submit code to the Github). Looking forward to more adventures in digital humanities work in the future!

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Filed under Research

Tattoo History Mystery

Images cut out of library books have always fascinated me. Beyond the basic “What *was* that image anyway?”, follow up questions like “So why did someone steal the image” lead to flights of fantasy creating stories about clandestine image snatchers armed with razor blades and nefarious intentions.

Imagine my excitement when two of my library interests collided: finding books with images cut out and finding obscure tattoo history books. When I came across Erhard Riecke’s Das Tatauierungwesen im heutigen Europa (Jena, 1925) at the University of Chicago’s Regenstein Library, I found a great mystery to solve. Since 2004, the book has sat in my personal library (yes as a grad student, then faculty, and now alumnus I can keep books out for ages with proper renewals), and every time I opened it to peruse its pages I would get near the end of the plates section and be intrigued by this:


What was the missing image??? Although the section of plates was titled “Erotik”, the neighboring images were not particularly shocking or interesting…generic romantic images and some nudie girls. The previous plate had more of the same. But a look at the list of captions for that section revealed this gem with reference to the mystery: “Ornamental tatauierter Penis”. I hardly need to translate that for you…

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Filed under Erotica