The World’s Tallest Statues

As to boldness of design, the examples are innumerable; for we see designed, statues of enormous bulk, known as colossal statues and equal to towers in size.– Pliny the Elder (23-79 CE), Natural History, Book 34, Chapter 9. Wikipedia has its critics (some justified, some not), but I personally love the odd ways that it organizes […]

"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 […]

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 […]

Res Obscura Miscellany, Part One

A medical alchemist, or ‘iatrochemist,’ examines a jar of urine in seventeenth-century Holland. Well, I try to avoid posting decontextualized grab-bags of images (one of the drawbacks of Tumblr and its ilk, in my opinion), but I’m on vacation and busy with research, so this week I’m going to take the easy route and do just […]

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) […]

Some updates you may have missed

  Over the past month I’ve been updating a few of my earlier posts on Res Obscura to reflect new information or add new links and images. Since these updates don’t register as new posts, I thought I’d make a handy list: • Poorly-written poems about nature by 17th century apothecary James Petiver. These poems […]