Skin Deep 262

Skin Deep 262 29 March 2016 262

Somewhere out in internetland this week (not to be confused with Hinterland—the excellent Welsh crime series that has nothing at all to do with tattoos), I came upon a book by George Burchett called Memoirs of a Tattooist. George is a name a lot of you will know even if you don’t recognise his work.

The first edition of it came out in 1958 to be closely followed as a mass market paperback (with a fantastic cover) published by Pan in 1960. There’s also a quote on the cover from the Daily Mirror that runs like this: “It made my skin creep—but I couldn’t put it down.”

I was drawn in by the cover more than anything and I figured I might pick myself up a copy to see what it was all about. It’s not currently in print (and I’m more than pleased to see it’s never been published digitally), so my only option was to dig around in some of my favourite places both in the real and online world—and that would be antiquarian book shops.

There are more than a few copies of it around in various formats but if you can find one for less than £150, you looked harder than I did.

The book itself is not ‘The Thing’ under the ‘scope this month though. What warms me the most is that this humble little book from almost sixty years ago can still be a Thing. It’s a book of some historical value–of that there’s no doubt–but it raises the question of exactly why it is.

It’s not an online post that got liked a few times (actually it probably is somewhere), it’s something that’s stood the test of time and not been lost. Not in such a dissimilar way to that in which a tattoo exists, it’s here forever and hasn’t disappeared with the rolling of a database fuelled by a billion other things submitted to said database that rolled all over it a minute or two later.

There’s a lot of value in that for me.

It’s an odd thing to ask of the tattoo world—“What did you create today that will last forever?” By its very nature, of course it will last forever (albeit in various states of grace), so maybe the question should be “What did you create today that people will still be talking about with as much excitement as the day it was created in years to come?”

Tough question, huh? Star Wars falls into that category. Everything Michelangelo ever did falls into that category. A bunch of roses that turned out a lot like a bumper crop of red cabbages… not so much, but there’s definitely plenty of ink out there that’s just as exciting as it was on day one.

Maybe in the twenty-first century, doing a Highlander is simply too much to ask for, but I think we can all do a lot better than just a few minutes, don’t you?


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