Cool book alert: What bizarre stuff did notable folks surround themselves with?

In a new book, Brooklyn-based illustrator James Gulliver Hancock obsessively catalog quirky personal details about notables from Abraham Lincoln to Andy Warhol

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Ever wondered what makes luminaries like Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi and Coco Chanel tick? Brooklyn (by way of Australia) illustrator James Gulliver Hancock meticulously sets out to document the favorite desserts, spoken languages, customary garb and other quirks of 50 Artists, Writers, Thinkers, Dreamers, which is the name of his new, almanac-style book, out May 6 via Chronicle Books.


Each page features a portrait of the extraordinary person in question surrounded by an assortment of odd personal facts as captioned drawings."When I first started living in New York, I was amazed by people and personalities I was surrounded with," explains Hancock. "I started making these little make-believe visual maps of the people I saw; I invented what they did, what they ate, their favorite food.… It was an attempt to make all these people recognizable and friendly."


Learn that Elizabeth I took a single bath every week and had bad teeth (perhaps due to a predilection for candy); Albert Einstein, who was born with a large head (ostensibly to house his enormous brain), had a way with the ladies but didn't believe in marriage. To uncover all this unexpected info, Hancock started with word of mouth. "First, I'd call and e-mail friends that I knew were fans of the people," he says. "Then I’d read biographies and do strange searches on the Internet."


You might recognize Hancock's playful, realistic sketching style from your commute, as the MTA has featured his work in subway cars; he also captured the attention of New Yorkers for his 2013 book All the Buildings in New York. As its title indicates, the tome depicts the ambitious artist's attempts to tackle the monumental task of documenting every last edifice—from brownstones to skyscrapers—in the city.


In Hancock's newest work, we're particularly taken with the page devoted to Andy Warhol; scroll down to find out that the Pop artist liked making crafts with his mother, and died from his gallbladder despite being shot three times.



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Editor: Marley Lynch (@marleyasinbob)

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