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Public Domain Review
Made in Taiwan? How a Frenchman Fooled 18th-Century London Benjamin Breen on the remarkable story of George Psalmanazar, the mysterious Frenchman who successfully posed as a native of Formosa (now modern Taiwan) and gave birth to a meticulously fabricated culture with bizarre customs, exotic fashions, and its own invented language. Apr 18, 2018 Books & History
Made in Taiwan? How a Frenchman Fooled 18th-Century London Apr 18, 2018 Books & History Benjamin Breen on the remarkable story of George Psalmanazar, the mysterious Frenchman who successfully posed as a native of Formosa (now modern Taiwan) and gave birth to a meticulously fabricated culture with bizarre customs, exotic fashions, and its own invented language. Fallen Angels: Birds of Paradise in Early Modern Europe Apr 4, 2018 Art & Religion When birds of paradise first arrived to Europe, as dried specimens with legs and wings removed, they were seen in almost mythical terms — as angelic beings forever airborne, nourished by dew and the “nectar” of sunlight. Natalie Lawrence looks at how European naturalists of the 16th and 17th centuries attempted to make sense of these entirely novel and exotic creatures from the East. Pens and Needles: Reviving Book-Embroidery in Victorian England Mar 21, 2018 Books & Art Fashionable in the 16th and 17th century, the art of embroidering unique covers for books saw a comeback in late 19th-century England, from the middle-class drawing room to the Arts and Crafts movement. Jessica Roberson explores the bibliomania, patriotism, and issues around gender so central to the revival. “Alas, Poor YORICK!”: The Death and Life of Laurence Sterne Mar 7, 2018 Literature On the 250th anniversary of Laurence Sterne’s death, Ian Campbell Ross looks at the engagement with mortality so important to the novelist’s groundbreaking work. Darwin’s Polar Bear Feb 21, 2018 Science Musings upon the whys and wherefores of polar bears, particularly in relation to their forest-dwelling cousins, played an important but often overlooked role in the development of evolutionary theory. Michael Engelhard explores. Illustrating Carnival: Remembering the Overlooked Artists Behind Early Mardi Gras Feb 7, 2018 Art & History For more than 150 years the city of New Orleans has been known for the theatricality and extravagance of its Mardi Gras celebrations. Allison C. Meier looks at the wonderfully ornate float and costume designs from Carnival’s “Golden Age” and the group of New Orleans artists who created them. The Dreams of an Inventor in 1420 Jan 24, 2018 Science & Art Bennett Gilbert peruses the sketchbook of 15th-century engineer Johannes de Fontana, a catalogue of designs for a variety of fantastic and often impossible inventions, including fire-breathing automatons, pulley-powered angels, and the earliest surviving drawing of a magic lantern device. Yvette Borup Andrews: Photographing Central Asia Jan 10, 2018 Photography Although often overshadowed by the escapades of her more famous husband (said by some to be the real-life inspiration for Indiana Jones), the photographs taken by Yvette Borup Andrews on their first expeditions through Central Asia stand today as a compelling contribution to early visual anthropology. Lydia Pyne looks at the story and impact of this unique body of images. Pods, Pots, and Potions: Putting Cacao to Paper in Early Modern Europe Dec 7, 2017 Science & Art & History Christine Jones explores the different ways the cacao tree has been depicted through history — from 16th-century codices to 18th-century botanicals — and what this changing iconography reveals about cacao’s journey into European culture. Brief Encounters with Jean-Frédéric Maximilien de Waldeck Nov 22, 2017 Art & History Not a lot concerning the artist, erotic publisher, explorer, and general enigma Count de Waldeck can be taken at face value, and this certainly includes his fanciful representations of ancient Mesoamerican culture which — despite the exquisite brilliance of their execution — run wild with anatopistic lions, elephants, and suspicious architecture. Rhys Griffiths looks at the life and work of one of the 19th century’s most mysterious and eccentric figures. Flash Mob: Revolution, Lightning, and the People’s Will Nov 9, 2017 Art & History Kevin Duong explores how leading French revolutionaries, in need of an image to represent the all important “will of the people”, turned to the thunderbolt — a natural symbol of power and illumination that also signalled the scientific ideals so key to their project. Defining the Demonic Oct 25, 2017 Books & Art & Religion Although Jacques Collin de Plancy’s Dictionnaire infernal, a monumental compendium of all things diabolical, was first published in 1818 to much success, it is the fabulously illustrated final edition of 1863 which secured the book as a landmark in the study and representation of demons. Ed Simon explores the work and how at its heart lies an unlikely but pertinent synthesis of the Enlightenment and the occult. Race and the White Elephant War of 1884 Oct 11, 2017 History Feuding impresarios, a white-but-not-white-enough elephant, and racist ads for soap — Ross Bullen on how a bizarre episode in circus history became an unlikely forum for discussing 19th-century theories of race, and inadvertently laid bare the ideological constructions at their heart. Master of Disaster, Ignatius Donnelly Sep 27, 2017 Books & Literature & Science & Religion The destruction of Atlantis, cataclysmic comets, and a Manhattan tower made entirely from concrete and corpse — Carl Abbott on the life and work of a Minnesotan writer, and failed politician, with a mind primed for catastrophe. Human Forms in Nature: Ernst Haeckel’s Trip to South Asia and Its Aftermath Sep 13, 2017 Science & Art An early promoter and populariser of Darwin’s evolutionary theory, the German biologist and artist Ernst Haeckel was a hugely influential figure of the late 19th century. Bernd Brunner looks at how a trip to Sri Lanka sowed the seeds for not only Haeckel’s majestic illustrations from his Art Forms in Nature, for which he is perhaps best known today, but also his disturbing ideas on race and eugenics. Rescuing England: The Rhetoric of Imperialism and the Salvation Army Aug 16, 2017 Books & Religion Ellen J. Stockstill on how William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, placed the ideas and language of colonialism at the very heart of his vision for improving the lives of Victorian England’s poor. Out From Behind This Mask Jul 27, 2017 Philosophy & Art & History A Barthesian bristle and the curious power of Walt Whitman’s posthumous eyelids — D. Graham Burnett on meditations conjured by a visit to the death masks of the Laurence Hutton Collection. Inventing the Recording Jul 12, 2017 Music Eva Moreda Rodríguez on the formative years of the recording industry, focusing on the culture surrounding the gabinetes fonográficos of fin-de-siècle Spain. Decoding the Morse: The History of 16th-Century Narcoleptic Walruses Jun 14, 2017 History & Religion Amongst the assorted curiosities described in Olaus Magnus’ 1555 tome on Nordic life was the morse — a hirsuite, fearsome walrus-like beast, that was said to snooze upon cliffs while hanging by its teeth. Natalie Lawrence explores the career of this chimerical wonder, shaped both by scholarly images of a fabulous north and the grisly corporeality of the trade in walrus skins, teeth, and bone. Gustav Wunderwald’s Paintings of Weimar Berlin May 31, 2017 Painting & Art The Berlin of the 1920s is often associated with a certain excess and decadence, but it was a quite different side of the city — the “sobriety and desolation” of its industrial and working-class districts — which came to obsess the painter Gustav Wunderwald. Mark Hobbs explores.
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