The Little Book of Knowledge: Tattoos

Publisher: IDW
Writer: Jerôme Pierrat
Artist: Alfred

Review by Anelise Farris 

Although I am a tattoo enthusiast, who enjoys getting inked and seeing ink, I do not feel knowledgeable at all about the history of tattoos or the process of getting inked. Consequently, when IDW announced The Little Book of Knowledge: Tattoos, I was super excited. Writer Jerome Pierrat (editor-in-chief of Tatouage Magazine) and artist Alfred present us with a thorough background on the role tattoos have played in various cultures—from ritual significance to aesthetic purposes.

The Little Book of Knowledge: Tattoos has an interesting framework. First, we meet an older, scholarly gentleman who informs a young rebel that tattoos aren’t just for gangsters anymore. He slips off his jacket, removes his button-up shirt, and reveals a very decorated chest and back. The young fellow, with a misspelled, poorly executed tattoo on his arm, is about to receive quite the education. So, these two characters stay with us throughout the book, and we follow along as the “student” receives his education.

We learn all sorts of facts about the history of tattooing. For example, the oldest found tattooed body was 5,300 years old (found in 1991), and the placement of the tattoos indicate that they were acquired for health-related reasons. In antiquity, tattoos were mainly used for medicinal or pejorative reasons—rather than aesthetic. And, along with our young scholar, we witness how tattooing trends have evolved. This is not by any means a light read. However, although the writing is dense at times, the clean art and abundant use of white space helps to alleviate some of the heaviness.

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I was hoping for information on terminology and different tattooing styles (like traditional, etc.), but The Little Book of Knowledge: Tattoos is exclusively a history of tattooing as an art form. Consequently, this comic will most likely appeal to art historians, cultural studies scholars, and tattoo enthusiasts who don’t mind dry, though nicely illustrated, nonfiction. I also think that this book would be useful in a classroom setting—like a specialized anthropology or art course.  Ending on a happy note, The Little Book of Knowledge: Tattoos leaves me confident that the art of tattooing will only continue to become more widespread and accepted—and that is definitely a world I want to live in.

Anelise Farris
Anelise is an english professor with a love for old buildings, dusty tomes, black turtlenecks, and all things macabre and odd.

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