The Key of Hell: an Eighteenth-Century Sorcery Manual [Updated]

Astrological talisman from an 1801 grimoire. I found these amazing illustrations on Wellcome Images, a useful online database devoted to images related to the history of medicine from ancient times to the present. It is a small part of the larger Wellcome Trust archives. According to the image captions supplied by the Wellcome, all of the images below come […]

Lisbon before the Great Earthquake

“Come, ye philosophers, who cry, ‘All’s well,’And contemplate this ruin of a world.Behold these shreds and cinders of your race… …Did fallen Lisbon deeper drink of viceThan London, Paris, or sunlit Madrid?” – Voltaire, On the Lisbon Disaster (1755) The Great Lisbon Earthquake and Tsunami of 1755 sent reverberations throughout European society. Leveling around 85% […]

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 […]

Uniforms of the Brazilian Army

Greetings from Brazil! More to follow on the fascinating city of São Paulo. For now, I present some images of eighteenth century Brazilian army uniforms, courtesy of the excellent Portuguese-language blog Arquivo Histórico, : Note the ‘auxilaries’ in the bottom left of this last image — apparently mestizo and African-descended soldiers, sporting uniforms with much brighter […]

Image of the Week 2: the Court of the Ottoman Grand Vizier

Click to enlarge. Today’s image of the week depicts a formal audience between Ahmed III‘s powerful Grand Vizier, Ibrahim Pasha, and the  Vicomte d’Andrezel, the French Ambassador to the ‘Sublime Porte‘ (as the Ottoman court was called in diplomatic circles.) The date is given as October, 1724. This puts the work squarely in the middle […]

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 […]