Ancient Romans buried their dead outside city walls to avoid contamination. Medieval Christians, in contrast, kept their dead close, in churchyards or even within church walls, in crypts below the nave or entombed in the floor. Later, elaborate above-ground tombs in the great cathedrals commemorated bishops and noblemen, although the “transi” tombs popular from the …
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 …
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-Claude 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 …
The Possibility of Giants
Various large bones, discovered across Europe from around 1500 onward, raised the possibility among Renaissance naturalists and intellectuals that very large humans – some five or even ten meters tall – once existed in the past. The idea of giant ancestors already was prominent among scholars: the hugely popular works of Annius of Viterbo, particularly …
Translation as a Way of Life
My essay on my experiences with translating has just appeared, open access, in Isis, the journal of the History of Science Society.
The Skeleton Trade
Although the human skeleton was well known as a symbol of mortality before 1500, the articulated skeleton does not seem to have come into its own as an object –scientific and artistic as well as symbolic – until the time of Vesalius. Curiously ubiquitous, since everyone has one, but yet largely invisible, anatomists revealed the …
The Gruesome History of Making Human Skeletons
The fabulous online journal Atlas Obscura just published an article on some of my skeleton research. This is based on the talk, "The Whiteness of Bones," that I gave a Columbia a couple of weeks ago. Thanks to Sarah Laskow. Link here.
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 …
Sup on a Syllabub
I cannot resist this post from the National Library of Medicine’s excellent blog, Circulating Now.
Circulating Now from the NLM Historical Collections
By Anne Rothfeld
Les Mangeurs de Glaces, 1825
Want an intriguing dessert from the past to satisfy your present day holiday palate? Serve the syllabub: a cream-based treat, mixed with sweet wine and lemon juice, then whipped with cream until frothy, and garnished with a seasonal herb. The acids, which rise from the lemons to firm the cream, then separate from the wine, which sinks into a two-part delectable sweet course. Syllabub, wine mixed with well-whisked cream, originates from the name Sille, a wine-growing region in France known for its sweet wine, and bub, an English slang word for a bubbling drink.
Eighteenth-century English cooks whisked syllabubs into a froth then placed the mixture into a pot to separate. Next, the mixture was spooned through a fine sieve to drain, oftentimes overnight. Before serving to guests, the creamy foam was topped with a splash of…
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