Below you’ll find around 100 blog posts written between 2009 and the present. The bulk of them are imported from my blog Res Obscura, which is loosely themed around globalization, drugs, medicine and science, and intercultural exchanges in the early modern period. It also has a strong focus on visual culture and art history and has […]

"Why Does ‘S’ Look Like ‘F’?": A Beginner’s Guide to Reading Early Modern Texts

Last month, I came across a recently digitized book from 1680 with the innocuous-sounding title The School of Venus. After browsing it for a few moments, however, I realized I’d stumbled onto something truly interesting. It was a sex manual, and a rather free-spirited one at that, as the frontispiece engraving suggests: It occurred to […]

The Art of Fooling the Eye

PARRHASIUS, it is said, entered into a pictorial contest with Zeuxis, who represented some grapes, painted so naturally that the birds flew towards the spot where the picture was exhibited. Parrhasius, on the other hand, exhibited a curtain, drawn with such singular truthfulness, that Zeuxis, elated with the judgment which had been passed upon his […]

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 […]

The Baron and the ‘Savages’: Lahontan in North America

An early French edition of Lahontan’s travelogue. I’ve spent the last week in UT Austin’s Harry Ransom Center reading a book that was once sensationally famous but has since fallen into obscurity: the Baron de Lahontan’s Nouveux Voyages dans L’Amerique Septentrionale, published in English as New Voyages to North America (London, 1703). After reading less […]