An Unreliable History of Tattoos
by Paul Thomas
2016, 96 pages, 7.9 x 10.6 x 0.7 inches (hardcover)
A minor celebrity/reality star, whose name I can't remember, said in a recent interview that she thinks of people without tattoos as being "unicorns" because they are so rare. It's true that today tattoos are much more popular than when I was a kid. In my day, only sailors or criminals had dye permanently etched into their bodies, but according to the graphic novel, An Unreliable History of Tattoos, inking people has been around since Day 1 (think Adam and Eve).
In his first book, award-winning British political cartoonist Paul Thomas loosely traces the origins of body art. There's definitely a focus on European (and specifically British) history in this book, but Thomas also pokes fun at a few famous Americans. Mixing fiction with facts, (honestly sometimes it's hard to tell what's real and what's made up) this book is interesting, humorous, and very unusual!
I don't know if the Upper Paleolithic man really punctured his skin with blunt twigs, nor do I know if King Harold II had his wife Edith's name tattooed on his chest way back in 1066. Should I believe Anne Boleyn's daughter, Princess Elizabeth, had her knuckles tattooed? Was Kings Charles II's chest covered in permanent ink with names of all his many bedroom conquests? According to this parody, Queen Victoria, Sir Winston Churchill, and even President Obama love body art too. An Unreliable History of Tattoos also touches on Japanese, Greek, Roman and Viking ink. If any, or all, or some of the fun facts in An Unreliable History of Tattoos are true, the thorny roses, tribal arm sleeves, and Mickey Mouse heads that show up on today's bodies are nothing compared to what came before them.
– Carole Rosner