Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Complaynt of the Soul, 1532

Crowns are shiny, and I hear absolution and peace are overrated anyway. And is it just me, or do the demons sort of look like they'd be a lot more fun to hang with than the Saints?

Anyway, due to a move and cross-country drive, I won't be updating for awhile. I will leave you with a link to the Proceedings of the Old Baily, which has transcriptions and digital scans of all the criminal court proceedings from 1617-1913. I searched my name and nothing came up...but my dad's did:

I always suspected he was a thief! My metal seals and brass keys are always turning up missing. But my favorite has to be the one about a case of bigamy that is dismissed because...wait for of the "men" Katherine Jones married was a HERMAPHRODITE! There needs to be a Law and Order episode based on this case immediately, especially now that it's legal in at least a few states for two women to marry. Anyway, the database is big fun. Amuse yourselves for a while why don't you?

P.S. --I almost forgot...have you seen this commercial that uses Henry V's "St. Crispin's Day" speech to games? I kept hearing snippets of it on television and doing double-takes before I finally caught the whole thing. Somewhere Kenneth Branagh is crying. (Let's all watch his version to cleanse our palates. ) I'm not sure if I'm offended by this use of the speech or not. (Wait--yes I's not even advertising a Henry V video game, because against all reason, there has never been a Henry V video game!) It is possible, however, that I'm merely embittered because my own video game proposal has garnered so little attention from the Playstation people.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

John Fowke...makes constant-stream'd engines for extinguishing fires, 1726

In my quest to trace everything back to the Renaissance, I have once again discovered the antecedent of a popular rap lyric (here is the last one I did). I found this one in none other than Shakespeare. Although he doesn't quite capture the simple exuberance and delicate lyricism of Rock Master Scott & the Dynamic Three's "the roof (x3) is on fire!", this speech Hamlet gives is pretty okay too I guess. In the 1603 quarto, Rosencrantz actually interjects to tell Hamlet to "let the motherfucker burn" in an effort to restore his mirth, but being the "bad quarto" scholars have largely ignored it.

I can't find much out about the John Fowke this publication mentions, but he made a super awesome water pump and apparently everyone was very impressed. The text read like an advertisement for the pump, but the illustrator gains bonus points for accurately representing the "
foul and pestilent congregation of vapours."

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Expert Midwife, 1637

People often ask me, "Sarah, what were the worries and anxieties of early modern peoples?" The answer
: Pretty much everything. Early modern peoples not only had to deal with weird stuff that they couldn't explain, when they did get an explanation it usually went something like "God hates us and we're all going to hell because you are all dirty dirty sinners." The best example of this situation is an old favorite on LOL Manuscripts: monstrous births.

The Expert Midwife, or and Excellent and most necessary treatise on the generation and birth of man
is a manual teaching people how to assist with pregnancy, labor, and delivery. The best parts of the book are the illustrations of contorted babies in wombs. The "cure" for all these problematically positioned fetuses is usually something along the lines of "just yank it out." The book closes (as should all books about pregnancy) with Chapter III: "of Unperfect children, also of monstrous births." Here is the explanation that accompanies the above image:

"In the yeere 1512 at Ravenna a monster was borne, which had a horne on his head, two wings, no armes, a crooked foot with talons, like a ravenous bird, an eye on his knee, of both sex, in the midst of his breast he had the forme of the Greeke letter Ypsilon, and the Figure of a Crosse. Some interpreted this thing after this manner, That the horne did signifie pride, the wings ficklenesse and inconstancy, the want of armes to signifie a defect of good workes, the ravenous foot, rapine, usury, and all kinde of covetousnesse, the eye on his knee, to portend a respect and regard alone to earthly things, and that hee was of both sex, to signify filthy Sodomy. Moreover, that at the time Italy was so afflicted with the ruines and miseries of warre, because of these sinnes" (158).

Don't you feel better about the abomination now? It was just a grotesque physical manifestation of the sins of the community! I must wonder what 17th century scholars would make of this real unicorn? (I knew they were real!!1!)

Also, while perusing the book I came across other fun illustrations that I have fashioned into this greeting card. Send it to the next person you find has been inseminated! She'll love the detailed drawings of the birthing stool and various speculums and forceps.
The interior could read: "Here's to a healthy pregnancy and a quick delivery. A baby is such a blessing! But not a flying unicorn bird baby. They do not augur well. Hope you haven't done anything sinful lately."

Sunday, June 8, 2008

London's Love, to the Royal Prince Henrie, 1610

I thought this was a pretty sweet picture of a ship. The publication chronicles a royal entertainment of a mock sea battle put on by the Navy on the River Thames:

"Vpon the Princes neere approche, way was made for his best and aptest entertainement, which by multitude of Boates and Bardges (of no vse, but only for desire of sight) was much impeached for a while, Till order being taken for the contrarie, the Princes Bardge accosted the Lord Maiors, where dutie entertayning on the one side, & Princely Grace most affably accepting on the other."

It was sort of like the reenactments that still go on today, but this one seems particularly lavish. Not only is there a battle against pirates and Turks, but at one point some chick is riding on a whale and giving speeches to the Prince, and then there are "verie rare and admirable Fire-workes." All in all, the entertainment was a scurvy-less success.

P.S. -- I did makeovers of Blake and Mayakovsky over at Literary Makeovers!!!

Monday, June 2, 2008

The practise of the new and old phisicke, 1599

Oh, Alchemy. It was so popular in the Renaissance, and it always surprises me to see the types of people interested in it (Thomas Aquinas, Isaac Newton). To be fair, it wasn't all about turning base metals into gold; it had other dumb goals as well. The principles found their way into philosophy, biology, chemistry, spirituality, and even medicine (as seen in this publication. That's just what I want when I'm dying--some magician coming in trying to get me to drink the "panacea" he made in his basement). I think we can all agree that it was pretty stupid. I'd been wanting to do one of the "invisible"-style lolcat jokes for a while now, and when I saw this it was the first thing I thought of. I almost went with "Alchemy: It's Bullshit," because for me Alchemy has always been the early modern version of all the new-agey, pseudospiritual, pseudoscientific crap we still have to put up with now.

Also: I just started watching Blackadder (it's all on YouTube!) and it has a pretty sweet alchemy gag from the Elizabethan series. Why did I never watch this show before now?!