Animal Paris, part 1: Fagotin and his kin

This is the first post in a occasional series on animals in (mostly) early modern Paris. 29 April 2015 Last week, a US judge apparently ruled that two research chimpanzees are “legal persons” and have standing to pursue a court case against their captivity.  As the work of historian Alan Ross is revealing, non-human primates …

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“Can Cookery,” 1928

28 January 2015 At Powell’s the other day, I picked up a pamphlet-style cookbook from 1928 called The Book of Can Cookery, published by Woman’s World magazine. Not to be confused with the modern tabloid magazine of the same name, this Woman’s World began in the late 19th century and ceased publication in 1940. It …

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An Eighteenth-Century Sweeney Todd

2 January 2015 A human skeleton was an essential ornament to the early modern dissecting room. Beginning with Vesalius, a number of anatomical textbooks offered instructions for making an articulated skeleton from a dead body, and there was a flourishing clandestine industry in making skeletons and in stealing or otherwise procuring the necessary dead bodies …

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Living in the Anthropocene

26 October 2014, Berlin Last weekend I went to a public forum of the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG).  This is a group, mostly of geologists, who propose that the Anthropocene is a new geological era, “an official unit amending the Geological Time Scale.”  The working group also includes some ecologists and climate scientists.  The AWG …

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Long Live the King

21 September 2014, Berlin Louis XIV, who saw himself as the new Alexander the Great, adopted the lion as one of his symbols. Although he didn’t wear a lion skin on his head like Alexander, real and imaginary lions surrounded him. The lion long pre-dated Alexander as a symbol of power and majesty. On visits …

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A Sonnet to an Anatomist

Montpellier surgeon Barthélémy Cabrol (1529-1603) first published his Alphabet anatomic in 1594. A series of tables that graphically represented the parts of the body, it was immensely popular, with eleven editions in the seventeenth century as well as translations into Latin and Dutch; the Dutch translation in 1633 was by Descartes’s friend and correspondent Vopiscus …

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