Japanese Ethnographic Portraits of South Americans, 1720

 I was surprised to find that these images exist, but I’m glad they do. Apparently produced as part of a visual ethnography of the world’s cultures written by a Japanese interpreter for the Dutch merchant community in Nagasaki named Nishikawa Joken, they depict “people from each of the 42 barbarian countries outside of Japan.” (My …

Scurvy, Shipwreck and Spaniards in the West Indies

Today I read an interesting manuscript held by the British Library entitled “A Voyage to Guinea,  1714-15” (shelfmark: Add Ms. 39946). The work is anonymous, but some clues on the final page and a mailing address tell us that the author probably wrote it in Jamaica around 1726 and then sent it to his sister …

Witchcraft and Magic Images from the Wellcome Library

The Wellcome Image Collection is one of the best digitized archives of rare, unusual and old images I’ve found on the internet. Here’s a selection of images relating to magic, witchcraft and sorcery. A figure holds a scythe as winged creatures fly above him, three figures approach on a horse, and another figure approaches from …

A Drug Merchant in Seventeenth Century London

John Jacob Berlu’s wonderfully titled The Treasury of Drugs Unlock’d (London, 1690) is a rare book, and I can find very little information on either the work itself or the author, who was apparently a London merchant of drugs, spices and other exotic commodities. I took the opportunity to look at the copy in the …

Image of the Week 4: Elizabethan Shipwreck "Poesy Ring"

I recently came across this image while browsing through the website for an exhibition entitled “Lost at Sea: the Ocean in the English Imagination, 1550-1750” that is currently being held at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. This artifact is one of those things that makes me love history — an object infused with …

Oddities from the Royal Society

I have no coherent post to make today, but I wanted to share some of the miscellaneous things I’ve found so far in my research — the sort of stuff that would never make it into a finished paper, but which you still bother to write down because its funny or interesting or both. The …

Nature Poetry by a Seventeenth Century Apothecary [February 2011 Update]

A bust of the famed physician, naturalist and collector Sir Hans Sloane. I spent the day doing some desultory browsing of the British Library’s  Sloane manuscript collection, and while it yielded little that I can actually use in my research, I did come across these poems.  Apparently written by one of Sir Hans Sloane‘s colleagues, the …

Images from the British Library Illuminated Manuscripts

I leave today for three weeks of research in the UK. In preparation I’ve been poking around the British Library’s online catalogs, and found that they have apparently digitized sample images from all of their illuminated manuscripts. Below are a few of the more interesting: Randle Holme, John Holme,“Man in Profile,”  Sketchbook and household ledger. …

Image of the Week 3: "Cats Forming the Characters for ‘Catfish’"

Today’s image is a surreal print by one of the last great masters of traditional Japanese woodblock printing, Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861). An assemblage of black and white, tan and calico cats, looking quite content with themselves, float in an abstract color field of steel gray, cream and blue, their twisting bodies forming an approximation of …

John Bulwer, Gesture and the Education of the Deaf

John Bulwer (1606-1656) was an English physician and natural philosopher who produced five remarkable books in a thirteen year period following the outbreak of the English Civil War. Although he wrote on a wide range of different topics, he is best known today for his work in educating the deaf and his advocacy for an educational …