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A Universal History of Infamy

A Universal History of Infamy

These illustrations are drypoint etchings, digitally coloured.

They depict scenes from the short stories that make up Jorge Luis Borges's collection A Universal History of Infamy (1935).

The first image illustrates the story 'The Disinterested Killer, Bill Harrigan', which is about Billy the Kid. It depicts the final lines of the story, in which 'men on horseback gathered from miles around' to look at the dead Billy the Kid, who has been propped up in the general store window.

The second image illustrates the story 'Widow Ching, Pirate', who terrorised the high seas with her fleet of pirate ships, and who eventually surrendered to the Chinese emperor.

The last image accompanies the story 'Monk Eastman, Purveyor of Iniquities'. It shows Monk Eastman - a notorious gang leader in nineteenth-century New York - carefully writing his list of rates for various services (e.g. 'ear chawed off' - $15'), while surrounded by his beloved cats, and with the blue pigeon that always accompanied him sitting on his shoulder.

Borges is a deeply playful writer, who often makes up elements while presenting them as historical fact. My own images try to do justice to the detail and careful craftedness of his writing.

Other images from this series are available at:


Adlam Borges illustration 1
Adlam Borges illustration 2
Adlam Borges illustration 2