Tattooist Ron Ackers at work, Bristol, Great Britain, 1950s.

The 25th-anniversary edition of Taschen’s 1000 Tattoos explores the history of body art around the world, from Maori facial engravings to skinhead markings to '20s circus ladies to awful drunken mistakes.

Edith Burchett, wife of tattoo artist George Burchett, London, c. 1920

Edited by art historian Burkhard Riemschneider and inker of the stars Henk Schiffmacher, the book offers 1,000 images of people who have permanently turned their bodies into art.

Maori, New Zealand, about 1900.

The lines on the faces of the Maori narrated the story of the bearers’ lives. Tattoos have served purposes as varied as camouflaging hunters, memorializing the dead, and symbolizing just how goddamn tough you are.

Tattooist and pin-up girl Cindy Ray in her studio in Ivanhoe, Australia, 1960s.

“The tattoo is a form of non-verbal communication,” writes Schiffmacher, who has tattooed the likes of Kurt Cobain and Anthony Kiedis.

Breakfast Tattoo By Dave Lum, Salem, Oregon

“This is just as true for the so-called primitive cultures as it is for the supposedly civilized world.”

Tattoo by Horiwaka, Tokyo

Japanese gangsters, called Yakuzas, take off their kimonos to impress their opponent with their body tattoos during the notorious card game hanafuda, played in illegal gambling dens.

Tattoo by Dave Lum, Salem, Oregon

In the West, tattoos are often associated with "criminals, sailors, whores, soldiers, adventurers, perverts and the like," as Schiffmacher writes, as well as "the eccentrics of high society, the rich and aristocratic, intellectuals, artists and all those who make life more colorful."

Tattoo by Dave Lum, Salem, Oregon

Despite all our advances in technology, the basic needling technique used to insert pigment into skin hasn't changed all that much over time.

Prince Constantine of Albania c. 1870

The biggest change came when the electric tattooing machine was first patented in 1891.

Prince Constantine of Albania c. 1870

"As an art form, the tattoo is as ephemeral as life itself," Schiffmacher writes. "It disappears along with the person who bears it."

Prince Constantine of Albania c. 1870

“There is no nation on Earth that does not know this phenomenon," Charles Darwin once wrote of tattooing.

Prince Constantine of Albania c. 1870

1000 Tattoos is available from Taschen for $19.99 here.

Co.Design

11 Amazing Tattoo Designs From 1870 To Today

Over time, tattoos have served purposes as varied as camouflaging hunters, marking victory in battle, memorializing the dead, telling the wearer's life story, and symbolizing just how goddamn tough you are.

For more than 5,000 years, people have been subjecting themselves to ink-stained needles in an attempt to turn their bodies into art. The 25th-anniversary edition of Taschen’s 1000 Tattoos explores the history of body art around the world, from Maori facial engravings to skinhead markings to '20s circus ladies to awful drunken mistakes (hello, ankle dolphin tattoo). Edited by art historian Burkhard Riemschneider and inker of the stars Henk Schiffmacher (who’s also head of the Amsterdam Tattoo Museum), the book offers 1,000 images of people who have permanently altered their bodies with ink in ways shocking (a butt turned into a giant face), beautiful (the work of contemporary tattoo art stars), and unfortunate (so many exes’ names).

Over time, tattoos have served purposes as varied as camouflaging hunters, marking victory in battle, memorializing the dead, telling the wearer's life story, and symbolizing just how goddamn tough you are. "The tattoo is a form of non-verbal communication," writes Schiffmacher, who has tattooed the likes of Kurt Cobain and Anthony Kiedis. "This is just as true for the so-called primitive cultures as it is for the supposedly civilized world."

Perhaps the main difference between ancient and modern tattoos is that in the contemporary West, a given design's message is often harder to decipher than those of tattoos rooted in specific cultural traditions. It was easy for fellow Maoris to read meaning in the markings on each other's faces. But why, oh why, would you plaster your scalp with an picture of a continental breakfast, or ink a puking yellow mouse on your back, as certain bold souls showcased here did? (That's not to suggest that tattoos have lost their tribal significance. Just look to the tattoos of prison gangs, skinheads, biker clubs, punk rockers, and other subcultures.)

Despite all our advances in technology, the basic needling technique used to insert pigment into skin hasn't changed all that much over time. The biggest change came when the electric tattooing machine was first patented in 1891. That technology has remained relatively stagnant since—aside from prisoners' ad hoc redesigns, in which a cassette recorder, an electric razor, or electric toothbrush can be used as a motor. These jailed tattooists' inventions show just what desperate lengths people will go to to turn a boring patch of bare skin into something that better expresses the self underneath.

1000 Tattoos is available from Taschen for $19.99 here.

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