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Biographic: 50 facts about 18 icons

Ammonite Press’ Biographic series is the ultimate fact file feast. Each book presents the life of an iconic person in 50 facts, dates, thoughts, habits and achievements. Unbelievably there are now eighteen books in the series: eighteen individuals who have revolutionized the way we see the world. Moreover, the series continues to add interesting, complex and at times enigmatic people. The latest releases for example present the artist Frida Kahlo -- also the subject of a V&A exhibition earlier this year -- the scientists Nikola Tesla and Albert Einstein, the musicians Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie (once again the subject of one of the V&A’s most successful exhibitions ever) and Biographic’s first fictional character, supersleuth Sherlock Holmes. When I was younger I was a huge Sherlock Holmes fan, so I was particularly pleased to be able to indulge in some ‘Did you know?’ conversations about my childhood hero.

As my collection of books grows I am amazed by the diversity of individuals in the Biographic series, highlighting the gargantuan advances in science, technology and culture specifically within the twentieth century. Einstein’s life for example could not be more different to Jimi Hendrix’s or David Bowie’s. Einstein was born in southern Germany in 1879, before moving to Munich. As an adult Einstein worked in many European cities, before moving to USA in the year that Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. Hendrix and Bowie were to enjoy a more liberated, permissive and hedonistic lifestyle of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, leading Hendrix to an early death in 1970. To say Bowie’s life was experimental and progressive is perhaps an understatement. Advancement however is sometimes apparent in one lifetime. Tesla for example, born in 1856, dying in 1943, lived through the rise and fall of empires and two World Wars. Travelling around Europe before migrating to the USA in 1884 he spent the majority of his life in New York, watching its population grow from 1.5 million to over 7 million. He also witnessed the opening of such architectural triumphs as the Empire State Building.

David Bowie in his late twenties and early thirties

The infographics are astonishing. The juxtaposition of hard facts and trivia make each book interesting and fun to read. You expect to learn about Kahlo’s life-changing accident, her work and how much it sold for; venues, audiences and music sales of Hendrix and Bowie; the science behind Einstein and Tesla and finally facts from the stories of Sherlock Holmes.

Frida Kahlo’s injuries sustained in a bus accident.

More surprising is Holmes’ cocaine use, bizarrely Tesla’s love of pigeons and Kahlo’s many friends and lovers. It is however the combination of the facts and the thematic designs that are at times pure genius. This includes a profile of Hendrix’s personality as indicated by the volume controls on an amp, the iconic Ziggy face paint, the instruments Ziggy played and a periodic table of ‘elementary’ chemicals used by Holmes to either relax or concentrate.

The Biographic series is brilliant and if this is the first time you have become aware of the series then more information can be found at, including selected images of the content of each book. The series is set to expand in early 2019 with Charles Dickens, Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway. The only problem therefore is having enough shelf space!

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