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The Dance of Death and the first printed skeleton

The earliest printed image of a human skeleton is this cartoonish image from a German block book from the 1450s. [i] It is one of a series of skeletons in the popular genre known as the danse macabre or dance of death. Art historian extraordinaire Jack Hartnell first told me about this book.  It is now …

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The Head of a Roman

For the past few weeks, many news outlets have reported that the skull of Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus, ca. 23-79 CE), the Roman naturalist and statesman who died at Pompeii, has been identified.  The latest story, in the New York Times, expresses some skepticism but admits the skull could have been Pliny’s. To …

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Interview with the ASECS Grad Caucus

I've been a member of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ASECS) for over thirty years.  I was recently interviewed for the ASECS Graduate Caucus website.  Here's the link: https://asecsgradcaucus.wordpress.com/2019/10/10/interview-with-dr-anita-guerrini-2018-pfizer-prize-winner-for-the-courtiers-anatomists/ 

Instructions for a voyage, 1609

A few weeks ago I looked at some manuscripts of the French intellectual and antiquarian Nicolas-Fabri de Peiresc (1580-1637) at the Bibliothèque Méjanes in Aix-en-Provence, France.  I describe Peiresc as an “intellectual”; he was one of those universal scholars we find in early modern Europe who were interested in everything.  Peiresc’s fame, such as it …

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The Nun with Blue Teeth

I’m always looking for skeleton stories.  But it’s not often that I come across an article in the scientific literature that includes references to the ancient Greek physician and herbalist Dioscorides (ca. 40-90 CE) or the medieval abbess and scholar St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179).  So this open-access article in Science Advances, “Medieval women’s early …

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Discovering Brazil

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 2017 I am sitting in the sun on the roof of my hotel in Rio, looking at the heavily forested hills to the east, the high rise hotels lining the Copacabana to the south, the elaborate rooftop garden across the Avenida de Princesa Isabel, and beyond, the rickety tin shacks …

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