Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mars in his field, or, the exercise of arms, 1625

No you fucking don't. He'll cut you so bad you'll wish he didn't cut you.

By the way, if you are presenting your drawn sword higher than your face (as appeareth) you are doing it totally wrong. Where did you take swashbuckling lessons, anyway? Just look at how intimidating you'd look if you knew how to exercise your arms properly.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Vermiculars destroyed, 1690

The full title is: Vermiculars destroyed with an historical account of worms, collected from the best authors as well ancient as modern, proved by that admirable invention of the microscope: with directions for the taking those most famous medicines, intituled Pulvis Benedictus, etc.: also diagnostick signs of worms and signs of health in children, with the various causes of vermiculars.

There are three editions of Vermiculars destroyed, which is initially made up of accounts about various worms people saw coming out of various body parts. But it's also an excellent example of how the microscope made everybody paranoid about invisible worms (or "vermiculars") that could be crawling around on everything you touch giving you the plague. It's actually pretty interesting, because the author (a doctor) goes through a number of experiments in which he looks at rotting substances at different stages and sees these "vermiculars." Then he goes on to write about people who have had vermiculars inside of them and how they were cured of the disease or vermicular infestation (much of the science is still based in humoral theory, though). Then he gets really paranoid about getting vermiculars on or in him, and presents us with the "Causes of Worms," which seem to consist of everything:

Yes, it seems that all food and drink and also air and imagination and oversleeping and emotion and God will give you worms. I especially like how he admits to some opposition about the "supernatural causes," but a Bible quote proves that God totally gives you worms.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Anatomy of Human Bodies Epitomized, 1697

Thomas Gibson (1647-1722) wrote this anatomy book, and I choose this particular heart for my valentine because a.) it's a pretty good drawing of a heart, and b.) he used the heart of a "10 year old boy" as a model for the drawing.

First published anonymously in 1682, The Anatomy of Human Bodies Epitomiz’d was probably the most successful English anatomical textbook published to date – it was ultimately issued in eight editions. Gibson, the Physician-General to the English army, based his comprehensive text on Alexander Read’s Manual of Anatomy. However, the content was so extensively revised and supplemented Gibson claimed authorship. Gibson listed his principal sources (some 33 titles by 27 authors) which was an uncommon practice at the time.[source]

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Guystarde and Sygysmonde, 1532

This is the english translation of Boccaccio's Decameron's day 4, tale 1, in which Tancredi, Prince of Salerno and father of Ghismonda, slays his daughter's lover, Guiscardo, and sends her his heart in a golden cup: she pours upon it a poisonous distillation, which she drinks and dies. C'est l'amour.

I've dealt with the cutting out of hearts before, so pick the one you like and send it to your valentine. They'll love the message of sacrificing your life for the thing you most desire.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mikrokosmographia, 1615

"The fruit which it [the gallows] produces,
Doth seldom serve for profitable uses:
Except the skillful Surgeon’s industry
Do make Dissection of Anatomy…
That what it bears, are dead commodities."
--John Taylor, “The Description of Tyburn” (1630)

You know, I did my thesis on the social and political place of the dead/executed body in early modern society--specifically in Jacobean drama and printed materials. I discussed the anatomy theaters at length, so I'm going to learn you up good about this so you get the joke:

A body’s use in an anatomy lesson was frequently the final chapter of a tragedy that began at the public gallows. In 1540, Henry VIII allowed the Barber-Surgeons’ Company access to four corpses of executed criminals each year, and in 1565 Elizabeth did the same for the College of Physicians. By 1583, Physicians’ Hall began hosting official anatomy lectures that could be attended with a special invitation, and the same practice soon followed at the Barbers-Surgeons’ Company. Initially, the public anatomies were held in the large hall of the company, and temporary seating was built to accommodate the growing number of spectators. The gory spectacle that the viewers confronted was reminiscent of both public executions and the bloodier aspects Jacobean theater (so of course it was super popular).

The lectures were held four times a year, undoubtedly occurring after the quarterly assizes but also creating the equivalent of an “anatomy season” when bodies were available. The anatomical subject was at the center of a set of commercial relations that defined the body of the criminal as a consumable object, inspiring John Taylor’s characterization of the bodies at the gallows as “dead commodities.” There was a lot of corpse-stealing going on as well (but in the name of SCIENCE! Don't feel bad about it).

Anyway, there was a problem with the whole "desecration of a corpse" thing that the medical schools appeased by only dissecting criminals (who were lost causes anyway). Issue: circumvented! Take that, church!

Would you like to read further on this? Probably you do!:
Jonathan Sawday’s The Body Emblazoned: Dissection and the Human Body explores the connections between the new science of anatomy, a curiosity about the workings of the human body, and the poetic and rhetorical tropes associated with discovery. Hillary M. Nunn’s recent study, Staging Anatomies: Dissection and Tragedy in Early Stuart Drama, builds on Sawday’s assertions, and approaches the issue of anatomy’s influence on the early Stuart stage. She traces the role of public dissection in London’s anatomy theaters and the representations of dissected bodies on stage. These studies provide insight into the way the body of a criminal was viewed.

Now you know...and knowing is half the battle.