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 …

A Pirate Surgeon in Panama

  It was in the evening when we came to an anchor, and the next morning we fired two guns for the Indians that lived on the Main to come aboard; for by this time we concluded we should hear from our five men that we left in the heart of the country among the …

Witches’ Familiars in 17th Century Europe (February 2011 update)

Detail of a witch feeding her familiars. Woodcut, England, late sixteenth century. The frontispiece (see below) to the witch hunter Mathew Hopkins‘ infamous pamphlet The Discovery of Witches (London, 1647) is a classic image, and rightly so: few texts better evoke the strangeness of the early modern witch hunt. I suppose the author, publisher and …

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 …

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. …

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 …

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 …