In my quest for new source material for tooling patterns I've begun to delve into Victorian design books and along the way I've learned some interesting things.
The first is that it is really easy to find reprints of actual design books from that era which makes the research much easier. Being able to look at these reprints has been wonderful because I get to see the designs in their original context. This has lead me to the next thing I learned which is that the Victorians apparently decorated every decoratable surface in a room. After reading a couple of these books I'm pretty sure that if someone stood still for too long or fell asleep in the wrong place that they would get decorated too. I'm still trying to figure out if there was mixing of decorative styles, like a Neo-Greco panel design on the bottom of the wall and medieval inspired designs above, or if you tried to stick with a theme for a room. I have this sinking feeling that it was a mix and match sort of thing.
The other thing that I learned has to do with something i was told long ago. When I first started doing calligraphy and illumination in the SCA we were warned pretty strongly against using any of the Victorian designs collections as the source for illumination designs. I didn't understand it then, but I do now that I've had a chance to look at both. The Victorian source books are not collections of exact copies of any of these designs, they are collections of Victorian interpretations of those designs. That might not seem like a huge distinction but it really is because you're different aesthetics and attitudes toward colors, layout and so on. For my history geek side this has been very exciting. Ultimately though I'm hoping to get some good designs out of this and maybe to expand into doing some different things, even some vaguely steampunk-esque stuff.