Playing Cards of the South Sea Bubble, 1720

I lay it down as a foundation, that whosoever, sailing over the South Seas… shall never fail to discover new worlds, new nations, and new inexhaustible funds of wealth and commerce, such as never were yet known to the merchants of Europe. – Daniel Defoe, A New Voyage Round the World, by a Course Never […]

A Defaced Herbal from 1710: William Salmon’s Botanologia

A portrait of Salmon from the frontispieceto his Ars Chirurgica (1699). The image above is from a copy of William Salmon’s Botanologia: The English Herbal, or History of Plants (London: I. Dawks for H. Rhodes and J. Taylor, 1710) which is available for view via Villanova University’s digital library. Evidently the nudity of the figure (I […]

Jahangir’s Turkey: Early Modern Globalization and Exotic Animals

The above image is one of my favorite examples of the bizarre cross-pollinations that early modern globalization brought about. It is a detail from a lavish watercolor painting created in 1618 by Bichitr for the Mughal emperor Jahangir (1569-1627). Here we find the strange juxtaposition of James I and VI of England and Scotland (1566-1625) […]

Strange Creatures Intermixt with a Spaniard’s Voyage to the Moone, 1700

Nathaniel Crouch (c. 1632 – after 1700) was an obscure but most interesting man: a London bookseller, he took the unusual step of authoring his own books on many subjects and publishing them under pseudonyms. Crouch’s nom de plume of choice was “R.B.” or “Richard Burton.” As revealed by the research of Robert Mayer, Crouch […]

Image of the Week: The Defeat of the Spanish Armada

This painting, by an anonymous English artist, depicts in remarkable detail the Spanish Armada‘s confrontation with English vessels, probably at the momentous Battle of Gravelines. From Wikipedia:          English losses stood at 50-100 dead and 400 wounded, and none of their ships had been sunk. But after the victory, typhus, dysentery and hunger killed many […]

Waterboarding in the Seventeenth Century Spice Islands

  “[He] poured the water softly upon his head until the cloth was full, up to the mouth and nostrils, and somewhat higher, so that he could not draw breath but he must suck in all the water.” — A True Relation of the Unjust, Cruel and Barbarous Proceedings against the English at Amboyna (London, […]

The Drawings of George Psalmanazar

The brilliant eighteenth century impostor George Psalmanazar (1679?-1763) is one of my favorite historical figures and someone I’ll return to at a later date to write about in more depth. Today I’m just going to post some of his drawings, which were discovered by the historian Frederick Folely, S.J., in a sheaf of Church documents […]

Giolo, the Painted Prince

Prince Giolo, Son of ye King of Moangis or Gilolo: lying under the Equator in the Long[itude] of 152 Deg[rees] 30 Min[utes], a fruitful Island abounding with rich spices and other valuable Commodities. This famous Painted Prince is the just Wonder of ye Age. His whole Body (except Face, Hands and Feet) is curiously and […]

Europeans as ‘Other’

They eat with their fingers instead of with chopsticks such as we use. They show their feelings without any self-control. They cannot understand the meaning of written characters. – From Charles R. Boxer, The Christian Century in Japan, 1549-1650 (London, 1951). Chinese and Japanese representations of sixteenth century Europeans have always fascinated me. We’re used […]