From Quacks to Quaaludes: Three Centuries of Drug Advertising

Eli Lilly Amphedroxyn (methamphetamine) advertisement, 1951. New York State Journal of Medicine, Vol. 51, No. 1. (Via the Bonkers Institute). Portuguese physician João Curvo Semedo, 1707, sporting the extravagant locks typical of his era. Image viathe Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal. In his book Polyanthea Medicinal (Lisbon, 1697), a Portuguese doctor and seller of remedios secretos (“secret remedies”) named João Curvo Semedo […]

Altered and adorned: an interview with Suzanne Karr Schmidt

Message box with hand-painted print, Germany, 1490s. Featured inSuzanne Karr Schmidt and Kimberly Nichols, Altered and Adorned. Today I’m pleased to offer up Res Obscura’s very first guest post: an interview conducted by Hasan Niyazi of the popular art history blog Three Pipe Problem. I’ve been a big fan of this blog since discovering it last […]

American Monsters: Images of Brazilian Nature from Early Modern Europe

“The most disgusting and nauseating thing which man ever saw.” -Spanish chronicler Andres Bernaldez on Christopher Columbus’ first impression of Caribbean iguanas, 1513. IN HIS BOOK Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World, Harvard literature professor Stephen Greenblatt argues that “the production of a sense of the marvelous in the New World is at the very […]

"For they are very expert and skillful in Diabolical Conjurations": Lionel Wafer in Central America, 1681

“I sat awhile, cringing upon my Hams among the Indians, after their Fashion, painted as they were, and all naked but only about the Waist, and with my Nose-piece… hanging over my mouth. … ‘Twas the better part of an Hour before one of the Crew, looking more narrowly upon me, cried out, Here’s our […]

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 […]

The Baroque Monsters of Father Schott

In Portuguese, barroco means “imperfect pearl”: a fitting name for the Baroque era, a period that combined ornate beauty with a distinct taste for the odd, macabre and irregular. This interplay between the beautiful and the monstrous — and its connections to the rise of the “New Science” in the second half of the seventeenth […]

Fun with Google’s New "Ngram Viewer"

News of Google Book’s new Ngram Viewer, which allows one to make a graph of the printed usage of any word over time, has been making the rounds on the internet for the last couple days. The advanced technology that makes this massive database possible has even spawned an upcoming article in the journal Science […]

Paintings from Dutch Brazil

Dutch Brazil, which officially called itself ‘Nieuw Holland,’ was a short-lived (1630-1654) state in the north-east of Brazil that resulted from the Dutch Republic’s aggressive policy of territorial expansion at the expense of the Portuguese colonies in the first half of the seventeenth century — a policy that also led to the Dutch occupation of […]

"A Compleat History of Druggs." [Jan. 2011 Update]

“The study of simple drugs is a study so agreeable, and so exalted in its own nature, that it has been the pursuit of the first geniuses of all ages.” – Pierre Pomet, Histoire generale des drogues (Paris, 1684). “A book of high character was published in France at the conclusion of the seventeenth century, […]

A Borgesian Index and Images of the Indies

My apologies for the gap in posts recently – recently I’ve had to concentrate on my actual work a bit more. But I wanted to share two things: some extracts from the bizarrely detailed index of the seventeenth century buccaneer William Dampier‘s Voyages (1697) and two gorgeous images of the East Indies from the 1599 […]