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DK Chats to Professor Robert Winston and More…

We’ve launched our DK Podcast Soundcloud channel with a series of interviews that we’ve called DK Chats…take a listen and tell us what you think:

Making Music: Photographing 100 objects in the American Midwest

In early February I was lucky enough to be part of a small DK team that ventured out to South Dakota in the hope of capturing some truly unique and beautiful instruments for Music: The Definitive Visual History. We wanted the book to be more than just another account of the western classical tradition, so tracking down instruments from a wide range of cultures (and historical periods) was key.

National Music Museum
National Music Museum ©Dorling Kindersley: The National Music Museum Inc.

The National Music Museum is an absolute gem: tucked away in the town of Vermillion, it holds an astonishing collection of more than 15,000 instruments from all over the globe, and has a wonderful staff brimming with expertise. We had a fairly intensive shooting schedule, and faced some interesting challenges along the way. Around 1,000 instruments are on display in the museum’s galleries, while many more are held in the archives. This meant we had to work out the most efficient way to shoot everything on our list, while still trying to save some time to photograph any hidden treasures that we might come across when exploring the museum’s collections.

National Music Museum

©Dorling Kindersley: The National Music Museum Inc.

National Music Museum

©Dorling Kindersley: The National Music Museum Inc.

National Music Museum

©Dorling Kindersley: The National Music Museum Inc.

Some of the instruments were very delicate – and valuable! – and needed extra care when being handled. Fortunately we had the museum’s staff on hand to offer all manner of creative curatorial solutions, from white cotton gloves to fishing lines…

National Music Museum

©Dorling Kindersley: The National Music Museum Inc.

National Music Museum

©Dorling Kindersley: The National Music Museum Inc.

…and, in a pinch, a box of wine!

National Music Museum

©Dorling Kindersley: The National Music Museum Inc.

Brass instruments were often particularly fiddly, as minimizing the reflections on all the curved surfaces took a lot of patience (and sometimes involved balancing and repositioning ever-smaller pieces of coloured card).

National Music Museum

©Dorling Kindersley: The National Music Museum Inc.

Certain instruments were too big to move into the studio, so they were photographed in situ. This meant setting up equipment in the museum’s galleries to create a makeshift studio space for our photographer. We had to be careful around the other exhibits, while still trying to capture the right lighting and angles for each object.

When we were shooting some early Italian string instruments made by Stradivari and the Amati family, one of the museum’s graduate students took the chance to get a closer look – these incredible objects are not often taken out of their glass cases. Here the King Henry IV violin, made by Antonio and Girolamo Amati circa 1595, comes under close inspection.

National Music Museum

King Henry IV violin ©Dorling Kindersley: The National Music Museum Inc.

We managed to photograph more than 100 instruments spanning centuries and continents – from pre-Columbian ocarinas to a Spanish guitar Bob Dylan used for some of his early songs, from the only known surviving English-made Renaissance cittern to a gold Gibson Les Paul from 1952 (when the model was introduced).

Gibson Les Paul, National Music Museum

Gibson Les Paul ©Dorling Kindersley: The National Music Museum Inc.

It was a great experience, and it has been fantastic to see these instruments again on the pages of Music, for even more people to discover.

Les Paul

Les Paul spread from Music The Definitive Visual History ©Dorling Kindersley

by Lili Bryant

Get 30% off Music: The Definitive Visual History (offer ends 31 December 2013).

Crafty Creatures at Renegade Craft Fair

We mentioned before that we were heading off to run a stall at Renegade Craft Fair with our very own author and craft connoisseur Jane Bull. One chilly Saturday morning we set off for The Old Truman Brewery to make many colourful felt birds and check out the London craft scene.

Jane had our stall looking beautiful in no time.

Jane at Renegade

The crafty creatures were so admired that we had to put up a sign explaining that they weren’t for sale, but they are all ready to be made in our Crafty Creatures book, as are the countless brightly coloured felt birds that lots of crafters enjoyed making at our stall.


Biscuits were eaten, copies of Crafty Creatures were sold and we thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and hope all our visitors did too. It was lovely to see so many people enjoying making Jane’s birds and families making their felt friends together and enjoying some quality crafting time.

Thread at Renegade

So thanks for having us Renegade, perhaps we’ll be back with more wonderful colourful creatures to stitch and sew next year.


If you couldn’t make it to Renegade, all of the cute critters can be made from Crafty Creatures, available at our DK Crafts page.


Spotify Playlist: Get To Know Your Music

To celebrate the release of Music: The Definitive Visual History the DK US team have put together a Spotify playlist with tonnes of different types of music from Public Enemy to Ella Fitzgerald:


How To Make A Teddy Bear Cake – by Karen Sullivan

Author of Step-By-Step Cake Decorating and this month’s guest blogger  – Karen Sullivan – talks through the basics of cake decorating.

It’s never been so easy to create amazing cakes, thanks to the multitude of tools and special ingredients that are now available, and the wealth of techniques that are now de-mystified with the help of decorating classes, blogs, TV programmes and, of course, enlightening and inspiration books like Step-by-Step Cake Decorating. It was great fun putting together this book, with the help of award-winning bakers and decorators: Asma Hassan, Sandra Monger and Amelia Nutting. I think we’ve not only produced a great range of exciting cakes, cupcakes and cake pops that you can recreate in your own home, but also a compendium of techniques that should make almost every cake possible, with the minimum of fuss.

Step-By-Step Cake Decorating

Last week I worked on a teddy bear cake. The most important thing to remember when making any type of 3D cake is to take your time.

1. Create the body by baking a firm Madeira cake in a ball tin, and the head in a bowl tin.

2. Let the cake cool and set on a rack for a day before lightly icing it with buttercream to ‘crumb coat’.

3. Place a layer of icing between the head and body and run a dowel through both to provide additional support.

4. Roll light-brown fondant (also known as sugarpaste) to about 6 mm thick and then gently lay over the crumb-coated cake.

5. Dust your hands in cornflour and use them to smooth down the fondant, over the head and body, tucking the excess under the base of the teddy. Let this set for 24 hours.

6. Form arms and legs from sausages of brown fondant, strengthened with about 3 teaspoons of tylose powder (this helps the fondant to become hard and firm, as well as making it more pliable for moulding).

8.  Cut the teddy’s features from various differently coloured fondant, rolled thin, then fix to the teddy with a little water.

9. Create a bow from pink fondant, strengthened with tylose powder. When it begins to harden, place it around the teddy’s neck, and hold it in place with cocktail sticks until dry.

10. Leave the cake to set for another 24 hours and in the meantime cover a cake drum with rolled white fondant, securing a satin ribbon around the base.

11. When the teddy is firm, place in the centre of the covered board, held in place with a dollop of edible glue.

Carebear Cake

Lots of people wonder if a cake will dry out if left for long periods of setting, but once covered with buttercream icing (and/or fondant) it will last for days on end. Most importantly, it will hold its shape, which is essential for 3D creations and anything stacked or carved.

This week I’m working on an autumn-themed cake, with hand-painted sugar leaves, fresh berries, tiny sugar acorns and chestnuts, and the odd squirrel, all tumbling out of a sugar bushel basket made from strengthened brown fondant. My aim is to ensure that everything on every one of my cakes is edible, and that can sometimes present a challenge!

If you have any cake-decorating queries, please let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them – and get you on your way!

All the fun of the Renegade Craft Fair

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 17.06.25

Excitement is a’ stirrin’ in the DK office as the Renegade Craft Fair is soon to kick off. Since its inception in 2003 in Chicago, the indie-craft marketplace has been showcasing and celebrating the most exciting talent in craft and design, pulling makers out of their studios and out into the public arena.

Thankfully, the Renegade Craft Fair (RCF) has come over to our side of the pond and this weekend marks their third London-based instalment. Set in the creative hub of east London, the RCF will take place at The Old Truman Brewery near the bustle of Brick Lane. There’s lots to do and see at the fair, from smelling lovely handmade bath and body products to sampling carefully crafted jewellery and textiles. Two days of DIY goodness and free entry?
Yes please.


Better yet, our very own author and craft connoisseur, Jane Bull, will be attending and hosting a FREE workshop tomorrow.  “Fairs like Renegade are a brilliant opportunity for makers to show their work, meet people and make new contacts,” says Jane. “So much of what’s made is only ever seen on the internet. At the fairs people have a chance to get up close to unique pieces and the people that made them”.

To celebrate her latest book Crafty Creatures, the workshop will give attendees the chance to drop in have a go at making these colourful felt birds, with Jane herself on hand to show people what to do. “Renegade will be the first outing for Crafty Creatures, although it’s been available to buy for a while I’m interested in finding out how it’ll be received,” she says. “Renegade’s getting a reputation among crafters as a good place to be so it’s very exciting.”


To find about more about the fair, including where it is and how to find it check out their FAQs. Hope to see you there!

The Making Of The American Cookbook

At the end of May I got the strangest email. Reminiscent of the first email I got from Marian at Southern Living, it said something along the lines of “will you take a phone call about a book project.” It was from DK, a UK based publishing company (that is part of Penguin Random House), and I almost didn’t answer it. I get a lot of PR emails and I ignore most of them, but for one reason or the other this one struck a chord. So I set up a call and before I knew it I was agreeing to help with a cookbook project. A cookbook project where at the end of the day my name would be on the cover. And a cookbook project with an incredibly short deadline…  read the rest of Elena’s blog about the making of The American Cookbook on her website.

The American Cookbook

Conductor Robert Ziegler’s Top Ten Musical Moments

To celebrate the publication of DK’s Music: The Definitive Visual History Conductor and Musician Robert Ziegler has chosen what he believes to be the most important moments that have shaped the history of music. Do you agree?

1. The first musical instruments:

Though shrouded in mystery, the first musical instruments required new skills, new inspiration and new thought. Around 60,000 years ago, bone flutes and primitive trumpets were made from conch shells and were an integral part of everyday life, and accompaniment to work and leisure, religious rituals and popular festivities.

2. Music and speech combine to make song:

The ‘Tonal’ languages of Africa and Asia use pitch to distinguish different words. Song uses tones to emphasise and colour the words. A whole world of expression opened up when these were combined.

3. A new system of musical notation:

In c.1000 the monk, Guido of Arezzo devises a system musical notation through his use of a four line stave, which consists of dots written on several horizontal lines based on the fingers or the hand.

4. The Birth of Opera:

The first flowering of an art that captures the essence of drama, music, singing and acting and becomes the pinnacle of sophistication for the courts of Europe.

5. Stradivari makes his string instruments:

The instruments of Antonio Stradivari are regarded as being close to perfection. His violins, viols, mandolins, guitars and harps are prized for their elegance, craftsmanship and the beauty of their sound.

Stradivarius mandolin
Gary Ombler (c) Dorling Kindersley, Courtesy of The National Music Museum

The above image is of a mandolin made by Antonio Stradivari in 1680. The table is made of one piece of medium-grained spruce with a small wing added to the bass side. The back has 7 ribs of Italian native maple with bog oak bands separating the ribs. Although best known today for his bowed stringed instruments, the surviving patterns and relics now housed at the Civic Museum in Cremona show that Stradivari made all kinds of other stringed instruments, as well. This choral mandolino is one of only two that are known.

6. Beethoven revolutionises what music is capable of expressing:

Ludwig van Beethoven’s titanic talent transforms our understanding of music forever. An individual who cared little for conformity, he believed himself to be a ‘Tondichter’ – a poet in sound. He epitomised the Romantic artist for whom the expression of emotions was more important than the observations of traditional structures.

7. Stravinsky’s explosive talent:

In 1913, Igor Stravinsky premieres Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) and changes the course of music history and composition. The radical score provokes disturbances in the audience and the scandal confirms Stravinsky as a leader of the musical avant-garde.

8. Recording and listening to music:

Technology makes its first slow steps towards global domination of the world’s living rooms with the wax cylinder, gramophone and 78 rpm shellac discs.

Wax-coated cylinder with ornate red hornDave King (c) Dorling Kindersley, Courtesy of The Science Museum, London

9. Early musicals:

In the early 20th century, a really new art form is created, which Robert calls ‘a kind of rude offspring of the opera and popular song.’

10. The Electric Guitar:

Les Paul and Leo Fender perfect the iconic instrument of pop music which dominates the world for decades to come: the electric guitar.

Electric guitar

Efired (c) Fotolia

Hear Robert Ziegler talk further about the history of music and in specific writing music for film in our DK Chats series on Soundcloud:

Music: The Definitive Visual History is available for purchase Monday 21st October 2013. Pre-order your guide now from DK.

LEGO Minifigure Year By Year

Pics from the mini book launch for our new book…LEGO® Minifigure Year By Year A Visual Guide:

Minifigure book launch

The book launch came complete with a LEGO Minifigure sized version of the book:

Minifigure book launch

A few celebrities attended…Jonathan Ross and Michael Mcintyre:

Jonathon Ross

Someone made the mistake of wearing the same outfit as LEGO Pretzel Girl:

The mini books are for the minifigures only but you can buy your full sized book with 30% off from The book includes three free minifigures! #DKLEGOBooks

Big book and little book

Mary Berry’s Fish Pie: perfect Freshers’ fuel

Calling all students: we’ve got the perfect recipe to see you through Freshers’ week or to help you recover from an overload of take-aways and convenience food.

This tasty recipe for Mary Berry’s Fish Pie with Cheesy Mash Topping  is taken from Mary Berry’s Cookery Course, an ideal book to slip into your suitcase as you head off to uni. Whether you’ve never even boiled an egg before or you’re already a bit of a whizz in the kitchen, you’ll find all sorts of recipes to remind you of home (plum crumble for those wintry nights and how to make the perfect omelette – nutritious AND cheap!) as well as recipes to impress your new flatmates (you’ll definitely end up with friends for life if you’re able to nonchalantly whip up Mary’s classic roast chicken on a rainy Sunday).

[NB Also perfect for those worried parents out there who want to make sure their kids are not surviving on a diet of cheese toasties].

We’re currently offering 40% of all Mary Berry’s cookery books (until the end of Oct) – find out more here

Mary Berry Fish Pie

We’re sure that this fish pie will become one of your staple dishes in no time and as an added bonus you can freeze it in portions to save you time in the long-run. Ok, here’s how to make it:

Fish Pie with Cheesy Mash Topping (serves 6)


  • 50g (1¾oz) butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 50g (1¾oz) plain flour
  • 600ml (1 pint) hot milk
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 350g (12oz) smoked undyed haddock fillet, skinned and cut into 2cm (¾in) cubes
  • 350g (12oz) fresh haddock fillet, skinned and cut into 2cm (¾in) cubes
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 100g (3½oz) mature Cheddar cheese, grated

For the topping:

  • 1kg (2¼lb) floury potatoes, such as Maris Piper or King Edward, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • knob of butter
  • about 6 tbsp hot milk
  • 50g (1¾oz) Parmesan cheese, grated


  1.  Preheat the oven to 200°C (fan 180°C/400°F/Gas 6). Grease a 1.7- to 2-litre (3- to 3½-pint) baking dish.
  2. Make the topping: place the potatoes in a pan of salted cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until tender. Drain and mash with the butter and milk. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the Parmesan and set aside.
  3. Hard-boil the eggs for 10 minutes, drain, and peel. Cut each egg into quarters.
  4. Make the filling: melt the butter in a large pan, add the onion, and fry for a few minutes. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove the lid, add the flour, stir until combined, and gradually blend in the milk. Stir over a medium heat until thickened and smooth.
  5. Add the dill, lemon juice, and haddock. Season with salt and pepper and stir the mixture for a couple of minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, add the Cheddar, stir in the egg quarters, and tip into the baking dish. Spread the cheesy mash over the top.
  6. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the pie is bubbling around the edges and piping hot in the centre.


  • USE HOT MILK: When making a white sauce or adding milk to mashed potatoes, it’s best to use hot milk. Bring the milk to a gentle simmer over a medium heat.
  • FRY THE CHOPPED ONION: Heat the butter in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onions and stir with a wooden spoon to ensure they are coated in butter and will not stick.

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