Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Fooles Bolt is soone shot, 1630

This is some pretty cool perspective for a woodcut, eh? You wouldn't want to run into this guy in a filthy alleyway -- especially because he's wearing a chicken on his head for some reason.

A Fooles Bolt is soone shot is a cautionary tale about the inevitability of a violent death at the hands of a criminal assassin. Here's the original subtitle:
Good Friends beware, I'me like to hit yee,
What ere you be heer's that will fit yee;
Which way soever that you goe,
At you I ayme my Bolt and Bowe.
Of course I replaced with a 70's action movie quote, but the sentiment is basically the same. The moral of this ballad is basically "I'm gonna get  you, sucka." Each stanza focuses on a different type of person who needs comeuppance, and ends with the phrase "at him I make a shot." I also really like the name of the tune, "Oh no no no not yet." Sounds like a hit to me!

That phrase, "A fool's bolt is soon shot," is actually from16th century author and proverb-master John Heywood. This guy wrote every pithy epigrammatic one liner or cliche you've ever said. Seriously, look. This one in particular is about waiting for the opportune time to do whatever it is you want to do. It shows up in Shakespeare, too, in Henry V and As You Like It.

Remember that part in Dirty Harry after the famous quote, when Harry dry fires his gun and we're all like, "OMG he did fire six times!" and it's great? Well, that kinda happens in this ballad too:
And if that any have escap'd,
and saies I did not hit them,
It is because my Bolts are spent,
but Ile have more to fit them.
Anyway, apparently Dirty Harry was inspired by the Zodiac Killer, but I think we both know where the idea really came from.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Peter Stubbe Redux; General Werewolf update

A while ago I did a post about the fairly famous German werewolf case of Peter Stubbe, from the pamphlet A true discourse Declaring the damnable life and death of one Stubbe Peeter, 1590. Recently I came across an absolutely amazing and beautiful animation of this same story that I really have to share:

It's awesome, right? The stop-motion cutout animation, the song, everything is perfect and I love it so much. Werewolves are the best spooky monster, don't you think? They're my favorite anyway. I recently read the book Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus, which speaks about the tie between rabies and the "werewolf" myth. (Although the best parts of that book deal with Louis Pasteur and modern-day cases of the disease. Still, I recommend it.)

Also I started watching the MTV show Teen Wolf (don't judge me) because it was on Netflix Instant. Ya'll -- for real -- that show is pretty good. You're probably thinking it'd be terrible, but just watch a few episodes. They get the whole monstrous-transformation-as-stand-in-for-adolescence thing down pat. It's really nicely shot, they crib from Val Lewton movies like Cat People, and -- most importantly -- it's one of the most female gaze-y things I've ever seen. If I was still in grad school I'd be breaking out the Laura Mulvey every episode.

Anyway, this has been your werewolf update I guess? I'll leave you with this:

R.I.P Peter Stubbe. The killjoys got you after all.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Dead Mans Song, 1685

This is a preview of my new hit blog  ERMAHGERD, MAHNERSCRERPTS! You're gonna lerv it. (Seriously, I think that girl is amazing.)

Anyway, The Dead Mans Song is pretty good. It's a lot like the Inferno -- a man dies and is shown Heaven for a few stanzas and it is super nice!  Everything's made of diamonds and pearls and gold and it smells like flowers! "ERMAHGERD, HERVERN! ERTS DA BERST!" we're obviously meant to think.

But then, our narrator sees "a cole-black Den / all tan'd with soot and smoak." Guess what? It's Hell. Then we get a litany of all the sinners who are punished according to their crimes. For example, a man damned for the sin of pride whose "face with knives was slasht / And in a Cauldron of poyson filth /  his ugly corps were washt." Other people have vipers tearing out their bowels and molten gold poured in their mouths; Judas makes a cameo, some hell hounds show up...you get the picture. Anyway, hell scares him so much that he comes back to life and promises to be really, really super good. DA ERND.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Cryes of the Dead, 1620

"The Cryes of the Dead" is a nice and gory murder ballad about a man, Richard Price the Weaver, who tortured and killed three young boys. Most ballads in the early modern era dealt with something scandalous or exploitive, as you may have noticed. And the more dramatic or disturbing the crime, the better for 17th century printers (of course, this principle remains basically exactly the same for modern news media as well).

But the "Cryes of the Dead" is also interesting in that it exposes how absolutely fucking terrible it was to be an apprentice in England during this time. Guys, it was the worst! Boys were usually sent away to an apprenticeship when they were between 10 -13 years old. There were few laws to protect them from brutality from their masters. For example, in this ballad's section of A Pepysian Garland, we get the story of how, on "October 8, 1655, Mathew Nicholas was discharged from his apprenticeship to an Uxbridge tool-maker, William Lovejoy, because it was proved that Lovejoy had grossly mistreated the boy, 'tyinge and fetteringe him to the shoppe, and that the said master his wife and mother did most cruelly and inhumanely beate his said apprentice, and also whip'd him until he was very blooddy and his flesh rawe over a great part of his body, and then salted him, and held him naked to the fyre, beinge soe salted to add to his paine.'" Yikes.

Richard Price is an even nastier character. We learn that:

Many poore Prentisses
to himselfe did he bind [...]
Beating them cruelly
for no cause, tel they syed:
Spurning and kicking them,                                                     
as if dogs they had beene,
Careles in cruelty,                                                     
was this wretch ever seene.

Price beats to death one apprentice, and then another. Here's one of the gorier/more upsetting parts, when the third murdered boy's body is discovered:

his poor mangled corpse,
By neighbors there was found,
bruised and beaten sore,
with many a deadly wound.
His brains ny broken forth,
and his neck burst in twain,
On his Limbs over all,
spots of blood did remain.

Yuck, right? This finally leads people to start thinking that maybe they should tell the po-po about Price, and he gets arrested. But for most apprentices who were cruelly treated, they had no recourse and were expected to endure the abuse in hopes that they would learn the trade and eventually have some economic independence.

So the woodcut is really odd and funny, but I had to spoil it by actually reading the ballad and now I'm depressed. Leave those kids alone! They just wanted to weave! And we all know weaving is a man's game.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Chastities Conquest; or, No Trusting before Marriage, 1672

By now, we've all been subjected to the undeniable appeal of teen pop sensation Carley Rae Jepson's infectious summer hit, "Call Me Maybe." America loves it!

But, as with all things, it has its antecedents in the 17th century. Much like "Call Me Maybe," the ballad "Chastities Conquest" is also a beautiful paen to sweet sweet love. Also, you can sing it to the tune of "Call Me Maybe"!:

If as you say you Love
make I'se your wedded Mate,
And you shall freely have

whatever you'd be at.
Will you not then my Joy
without your wedded strike.
No by my troth not I
Such lovins I'se not like.
But wedded my Arms shall bless
thy passion to the light
And with a consenting kiss
my Love to his Joys invite.

For when I touch thy Breasts
thy charms so fire me
Yet needless is a Priest,
then come no nigher me

Let's no kind minutes wast
I'le lead thee to my Bed,
Where Loves delights we'll taste
and so tomorrow be wed.

It sort of works, right? A little bit more emphasis on premarital sex, but still -- close! "Chastities Conquest"  is actually sung to the tune of "Canst thou not weave Bone-lace" (that old standard), which is obviously the exact same song.

I bet in the summer of 1672, "Chastities Conquest" was EVERYWHERE! People were singing it all the time -- in the streets and the fields and while they were in the shower dying of preventable diseases. I'faith, it is my jam.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Maydens Lamentation for a Bedfellow. Or, I can, nor will no longer lye alone, 1615

Don't pretend you don't watch Toddlers & Tiaras. Just don't. We need to all be open and honest. This is a safe space. Now admit that it's your favorite show and this past season was AMAZING. Exhibit A: Honey Boo Boo Child, who I learned today is getting her own show! So drink your Go-Go Juice and listen up.

It is by wonderful coincidence that "A Maydens Lamentation for a Bedfellow. Or, I can, nor will no longer lye alone" had the perfect pageant picture, because this ballad is so absolutely appropriate. It perfectly expresses a perspective that all those pageant kids are going to have when they realize that their self worth has been completely based how they look. What does one do with that knowledge? Here's a representative stanza:

Some Maides are coy, and proud withall,
When alas their beauty is but small
Whilst I live Ile nere be coy to none,
Because I will no longer ly alone.

That's right girls -- don't be coy! Sparkle, baby!

Live every day like you've just been crowned Ultimate Grand Supreme.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Honour of a London 'Prentice; Being an Account of his Matchless Manhood and brave Adventures done in Turkey, 1763

Listen, we need to talk about something. Something important. Something that is a documentary and the name of the documentary is CAT DANCERS.

It is the best, most beautiful, most bizarre and insane thing I have ever seen. The official summary reads: "the mesmerizing and haunting tale of the husband-and-wife team who first engaged the world in the art and tragedy of exotic cat entertainment." And now you can watch it in full on Hulu! Basically, there's no reason why everyone isn't obsessed with this documentary. It is a classic case of escalation in storytelling. You think it's about one thing and you're like, "whoa" and then another thing happens and you're like, "NO!" and then another thing happens and you're like, "AAAAHHH!"

Anyway, "The Honour of a London 'Prentice; Being an Account of his Matchless Manhood and brave Adventures done in Turkey" is about an English dude who goes to Turkey and talks about how great England is. So they throw him to the Lions, but because they starved the lions for 10 days they're super tired and kind of sluggish. Then he does what we would all do in that situation:

Into each Throat he thrust his Arm
with all his Might and Power;
From thence with manly Force,
He tore their Hearts asunder,
And at the King he threw them
To all the People's Wonder.

After that impressive display, the 'Prentice is pardoned, and the king gives him his daughter to marry! Huzzah! 

Basically this ballad is exactly like the movie CAT DANCERS if there were more weird sexual politics and sparkly costumes and also the lions won.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Worthy Example of a Vertuous Wife, who Fed her Father with her own Milk, 1686

a.k.a. Renaissance, you're so gross! Part II

Father's day is coming up, so figured I'd disturb the holy hell out of you this year.

You probably want to send this to your dad:

That's right. And apparently this is a thing.

Anyway, the story here is that a man is arrested and sentenced to starve to death in jail. His daughter gets permission to visit him every day, but she's searched so she can't sneak him any food. Then, she has a terrific idea:

"No Meat nor drink she with her brought
to help him there distrest,
But every day she nourisht him,
with Milk from her own Breast.

Thus by her Milk he was preserv'd,
a twelvemonth and a day,
And was as fair and fat to see,
yet no man knew which way."

Now I get the whole Roman Charity/act of selflessness thing, but...no and gross.

I recently read about some genetically modified cows making "human" breast milk, which is also sort of upsetting. Although, comparatively, not so much. You know, because of the thing I was talking about before. About the lady breastfeeding her own father. That thing.

Happy Father's day!

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Wonderfull Battell of Starelings,1622

Today in topical dead bird news:

With all the dead birds falling from the sky lately (a.k.a. "the Aflockalypse"), I was reminded of this pamphlet I've had saved for a while. Suddenly, it's relevant!

In Cork, Ireland on October 12-14, 1621, it was raining starlings! But this wasn't just some boring dead bird situation -- these starlings were at war. Hordes of birds reportedly converged in such numbers that "the ayre was obscured and darkened by them." The birds, "mounting up into the Skies, encountered one another with such a terrible Shock, as the Sound amazed the whole City and the Beholders," until “there fell down in the City, and into the Rivers, Multitudes of Starlings or Stares, some with Wings broken, some with Legs and Necks broken, some with Eyes picked out, some their Bills thrust into the Breast and Sides of their Adversaries.” Damn. Can I just say that 400 years ago birds knew how to die with some pizazz! These 21st century birds just flop down on the ground without putting on a show of any kind.

After it was over, the amount of dead birds "was so great, that they were taken up with shovels, and swept together with besomes, that bushels were filled with them." The author seems to think this is bad, but I bet the starving Irishmen were pretty stoked, right?

What did it all mean? Well, like everything else bad that happened in the 17th century, "it doth prognosticate either God's mercy to draw us to repentence, or his justice to punish our sinnes and wickednesse, if we do not make haste to repent in due time."

But what about these recent bird deaths? Surely they are a message from God? A sign of the apocalypse? Well, renowned theologian and former Growing Pains star Kirk Cameron says: no! Don't be stupid. Case closed.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Shepherd's ingenuity: or, The praise of the green gown, 1688

May is International Make-out Month*! It's true! I'll explain: May 1st, or May Day, is a traditional celebration welcoming the coming of Spring. Originally a pagan holiday, "going a-Maying" was embraced by people in medieval and Renaissance cultures, and still remains an important holiday (it's kind of like Labor Day for everyone except Americans. Lame.).

Anyway, it has a sexy history! Celebrating the "Rites of May" was supposed to be about running around in the fields all night to ostensibly gather flowers and greenery and maypoles or whatever, but really you could use it as an excuse for getting trashed and hitting on people. Many Protestants opposed these celebrations on account of all these unchaperoned young people doing who-knows-what in the woods. Phillip Stubbes thought it was the worst, citing May Day's potentiality for moral bankruptcy and sexual hedonism in his Anatomie of Abuses:

"I have heard it credibly reported (and that viva voce) by men of great gravitie and reputation, that of fortie, threescore, or a hundred maides going to the wood over night, there have scarecely the thirde parte of them returned home againe undefiled" (Ch. XIII).

Really? Wow. Robert Herrick liked it, though. The author of Shepherd's ingenuity seems to like it too, explaining the joys of woodland make-out sessions and "green gowns," a phrase alluding to the ruined dress a girl would receive from rolling around in the grass with her lover. To be said to have a "green gown" eventually came to mean a woman was promiscuous. In addition to the super-hot picture, the ballad has some terrific advice for getting ladies:

"Some for to gain their Ladies Love,
will give them Chains and Rings,
Some gives them Fans and Fancies too,
but these ate foolish things;
If you wou'd fain her Love obtain,
let this be your endeavour,
To give her a fair Gown of Green,
and then she's yours for ever. "

See, it's easy! And today is the only day you can act like a 'ho and say it's "historical research!"

*Unofficial, and mostly made up by me.

Oh, and in other sexy news, I did an Andrew Marvell makeover.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A systeme of anatomy, 1685

It's Easter! Bunnies and Candy time! I think Jesus may be involved in some fashion, too.

A systeme of anatomy, treating of the body of man, beasts, birds, fish, insects, and plants
was written by Samuel Collins (1619-1670). This guy was apparently hot stuff in the medical field, and famously served as the personal physician to Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich. Modern doctors still write about his contributions to neurology! Anyway, when he busted up this rabbit's skull, he wrote some really flattering things about it, like this:

"The Hemispheres of the Brain of this Animal are beautified with many Prominencies, adorned with various shapes and sizes."

Beautified? Adorned? Seems like pretty flowery language to describe a brain. The only satisfactory explanation is that Dr. Collins was a zombie. Seriously, dude was way in to cracking open skulls and looking at brains...braaains...braaaaaains! And yet I think the worst part about the pictures is that he drew in the little bunny whiskers--it's like 10 times creepier because of that. Well, that and the fact that they look like the Donnie Darko nightmare rabbit. Happy Zombie Easter, I guess.

Now, as a bonus Easter present to you, I offer up this holiday-themed Long S from 1 Henry IV:

Whoa. Easter just got real.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

English military discipline, or, The way and method of exercising horse & foot according to the practice of this present time,1680

Whenever people ask me if I had a good day, I think to myself, "did I have to use my A.K.?" That's a pretty good litmus test for the quality of day I had. Ice Cube agrees with me.

English Military Discipline is a short publication about how to use your sword, pike, and AK-47 musket. It's devoted to instructions about military formations, organizations of ranks of soldiers, and strategies on how you should utilize firearms and other weapons during a battle. The basic thrust is that everyone should stand in lines or squares. Tactics! Basically I just liked the pictures of the guns. Here are some more:

I gotta say it was a good day.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Husband's Instructions to his Family, 1685

Okay, so the sign really said "A Family well Govern'd is, like a Kingdom, well Ruled," but this is essentially the same thing. Read it and weep, sis.

The husband's instructions to his family:, or, Household observations fit to be observed by vvife, children, and servants is such a useful publication. In three instructive poems, we hear a husband's great ideas about how his wife, kids, and servants should behave. Just go to the column that represents the oppressed group to which you belong, and read what a rich white man thinks about you. TONS of good advice in here for all! We learn, for example, that a wife shouldn't wear makeup, or talk too loud, or nag nag nag her husband all the time he's the one making all the money around here for crying out loud what more do you want?!! The advice for servants is mostly about how they shouldn't steal or gamble. It also contains these immortal lines:

I hate a slut, too. And don't even get me started on saucy knaves! Good servants are so hard to find these days. Basically the entire thing is reinforcing that patriarchy through the magical medium of poetry. Together at last.

Finally, for good measure, a pretty funny Long S from the instructions for children poem to add to the collection:

Great set of instructions, husband! I'm off to wash off my makeup and work on my humility and modesty.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Loves Lamentable Tragedy, 1680

Love's Lamentable Tragedy, in this case, refers to the pain of lost love. From the title page:

"When cruel lovers prove unkind, great sorrows they procure; and such strange pains the slighted find, that they cannot endure."

I liked the image, because the woman doesn't die in the ballad--she's just super sad that her boyfriend left her. So the use of the iconic image of death (the ol' Skeleton with hourglass and arrow standby) is a metaphor for heartbreak. Poor lady.

Anyway, if you want a more traditional Valentine image, check out the previous posts, featuring cutting out of hearts, hearts being cut out, and early modern heart anatomy. You know, romance.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A true discourse Declaring the damnable life and death of one Stubbe Peeter, 1590

The full title: A true discourse. Declaring the damnable life and death of one Stubbe Peeter, a most wicked sorcerer who in the likenes of a woolfe, committed many murders, continuing this diuelish practise 25. yeeres, killing and deuouring men, woomen, and children. Who for the same fact was taken and executed the 31. of October last past in the towne of Bedbur neer the cittie of Collin in Germany.

Werewolves were a huge social problem in 16th century Europe. They were everywhere! Germany seemed to be especially afflicted. Apparently, this fellow Peter Stubbe, "careles of saluation, gaue both soule and body to the deuil for euer." Problem was he didn't really want riches or fame. He was a total asshole/serial killer to start with, and he only asked the Devil to make it so that he might "woork his mallice on men, Women, and children, in the shape of some beast, wherby he might liue without dread or danger of life." Long story short, SHABLAM! WEREWOLF! Dude started killing everybody, and "oftentimes the Inhabitants found the Armes & legges of dead Men, Women, and Children, scattered vp and down the feelds." It was the worst.

Anyway, some folks finally see Peter Stubbe and arrest him for suspicious werewolfy-type stuff. Then they tortured him on the rack and surprise surprise! He confessed everything! Werewolves absolutely hate torture, but then the townsfolk killed him (and his daughter and the town gossip, whom he implicated) in a fairly torturous fashion anyway. One point for God. P.S., if you'd like to read more about this fairly famous case, I recommend this article from Early Modern Whale. It's pretty interesting.

Can you honestly say you're "Team Jacob" now? I didn't think so.

(By the way, in the vein of Pride and Predjudice and Zombies, which I read and really liked, I think that Wuthering Heights and Werewolves is an obvious next step. Heathcliff is basically already a werewolf anyway. Someone get on it!)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Tears of the Indians, 1656

It's that time of year again. Turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce and a side of pondering the oppression of native peoples. Also sometimes there's pumpkin pie!

Bartolomé de las Casas (1484-1566) wrote this happy little book. It's about Spain's mistreatment and eventual genocide of Indians in Central America and the Caribbean. His father accompanied Columbus on two of his trips to the New World, bringing back Bartolomé a Taino slave, which was nice for him. He and his father immigrated to Hispanola in 1502, where his witnessed firsthand how much it sucked to be a native in the Caribbean. He felt super-bad about all the genociding, so he became a priest and an advocate for abolishing the enslavement of Indians. He was sort of successful, but when Spain was all like, "but we need people to work for us and we don't want to pay them!" de las Casas came up with the perfect solution . . . African slaves! Because they don't count. Everybody thought this was a racist abominable hypocritical great idea.

So while he's pretty cool for being nice to Indians, he totally sucks for contributing to one of humanity's greatest horrors -- black slavery in the New World. Even-Steven? Not really, no. So happy Thanksgiving and American Indian Heritage Month, with respective apologies to Turkeys and Indians.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Seaman's Secrets, 1626

John Davis (c.1550-1605) was a successful explorer during the reign of Elizabeth I. He discovered the Falkland Islands, where his crew killed like 100,000 penguins and the meat spoiled and most of the sailors died of worms, and the Davis Straight, which he named after himself. Basically, he sailed all over the place (maybe even with Raleigh!). Then he invented some sort of quadrant called the Backstaff that was pretty cool. Anyway, he published The Seaman's Secrets, a navigation guide, in 1594.

Tragically, he was killed by Japanese pirates off of Sumatra in 1605. RIP, John Davis. Maybe if you REALLY knew how to navigate properly you would've made it to someplace cool like Atlantis or something.

What is the next necessary thing to be learned?

ps -- Do you know what a Googlewhack is? Because apparently this website has one! With two amazing words, I might add: http://bit.ly/1z2TQY

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Chirologia, or the Naturall Language of the Hand, 1644

John Bulwer was a medical practitioner and, essentially, an early linguistic theorist who explored the idea of the physical human body as a medium of communication. With Chirologia, Bulwer created one of the first English books on deafness and the education of deaf-mutes. Chirologia comprehensively catalogs the meanings of hand gestures and emphasizes the value of manual gestures for speech, oration, and acting. His catalog of gestures is not based on a set "sign language," but rather his own observations and other classical texts. However, Bulwer did advocate for special schools for the deaf, although he was really more interested in devising ways of teaching the deaf to speak than in designing, describing, or using any sign language they might have of their own. [source, source]
Bulwer argued that gestural language was universal and primary, while spoken language is just one more tool in the complex scheme of communication. His idea related to the contemporary interest in the notion of universal languages, as well as supporting what would later be known as the gestural theory, which proposes all language evolved from gesture.

You can find more information on the book at the
Folger Shakespeare Library and an you can check out an excerpt included in the 2001 book Imagining Language: An Anthology, which is a collection of writings that "demonstrate the continuum of creative conjecture on language from antiquity to the present." So apparently, what I first thought of as funny Renaissance gang signs turned out to be a pretty important step for the instruction of the deaf and a prescient take on linguistic evolution. This makes me feel slightly bad for making a handjob joke.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Description of a Monstrous Pig, 1562

Good God, WHERE IS ITS FACE? This is the most awful picture I've ever seen, and I've seen some gross pig pictures in my day. This one comes courtesy of Robert Martin, a London farmer who had a sow that gave birth to seven normal piglets and one horribly deformed monster, "more monstrous than any that hath bene seene before this time, as you may see by this picture." I'm inclined to agree.

According to the text, the piglet "hath a head contrary to all other of that kynd, it hath a face without a nose or eyes, saving a hole standing directly betwen the two eares which eares be broad and long, lyke the eares of a bloude hound, and a monstrous body, lyke vnto a thing that were lean, without heare. It hath feet very monstrous, with ye endes of them turning vpwards, lyke vnto forked endes." It died two hours after birth.

Fortunately, there was a reason for its disfigurement and death: "let vs be assured that these straunge monstrous sightes do foreshew vnto vs, that [God's] heavy indignation wyl shortly come vpon vs for our monstrous livyng."

I think the same logic can be applied to swine flu, don't you? God's just trying to tell us that unless we clean up our polluted and diseased minds, we will probably die from an incurable virus. Thanks, Renaissance. Glad we cleared that up.

(And thanks to Geoff at Michigan State University for pretty much this entire post. Well done.)

But seriously, WHERE IS ITS FUCKING FACE? It looks like it imploded! Pigs are messed up.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Walter Raleigh was on The Simpsons!

I don't normally tune in to The Simpsons, but last night I was flipping through and saw that the first 5 minute vignette of this episode was about Queen Elizabeth and Sir Walter Raleigh! Homer is Raleigh and Marge is Elizabeth Throckmorton. It was fantastic! Here's the episode:

The Simpsons 2020 - Four Great Women and a Manicure
I have always pictured King Phillip of Spain that way. Also, he had the best lines, like this one:

"Guard, take him away and put things inside of him."
"Nice things?"
"No, not nice things!"

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A true relation of the admirable voiage and trauell of William Bush, 1607

Full title: A true relation of the admirable voiage and trauell of William Bush gentleman who with his owne handes without any other mans helpe, made a pynace, in which he past by ayre, land, and water: from Lamborne, in Barkshire, to the custome house key in Londen.

So, this pamphlet (written by Anthony Nixon) chronicles Bush's party trick of traveling by water, land, and air in a boat. Wait . . . what? This calls for research!

According to The Folger Library: Two Decades of Growth, An Informal Account (1968), by Louis B. Wright, the document is "important as one of the earliest examples of journalistic reporting." He describes the image as, "Mr. Bush guiding his pinnace down a rope contraption from the top of the tower, to give it the appearance of a flying machine. His stunt in traveling by air, land, and water created a sensation at the time, and Nixon's book is a landmark in the history of reporting" (57).

The actual text is in black letter and is pretty hard to read, but I gather that Bush's trick was pretty impressive. It strikes me as kind of lame though, like this was something he did on a dare to show up some other gentleman. It has a certain aren't-I-clever vibe, don't you think?

Anyway, apparently if you're a journalist you should be glad that Mr. Bush made a "flying" ship and Nixon wrote about it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Happy Birthday Shakespeare!

Today is William Shakespeare's birthday! And death day! Party at my house -- we'll hold a feast in great solemnity.

I sort of love Harold Bloom's The Anxiety of Influence. It makes me feel better about reading and critiquing poetry, mostly because it gives me a reason for being snarky and calling things "derivative." I especially like calling everything derivative of early modern poetry, which is the best poetry ever. In all honesty, Shakespeare the poet is the specter that haunted everybody's work (especially Keats') for the next 200 years, and he's still causing poets plenty of anxiety today. Bloom initially said that influence was not an issue for Shakespeare, but later he admitted that Shakespeare was working through his own anxieties caused by the success of Christopher Marlowe.

In other news, did you know that Shakespeare is SUPER SEXY AND HOT now? Well, he is. Happy 445th birthday!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sir Francis Drake Revived, 1653

Sir Francis Drake is interesting to me. Not because he defeated the Spanish Armada, or because he circumnavigated the globe or anything boring like that. He interests me because he is one of Queen Elizabeth's 4 main boyfriends--which is so scandalous!! I've dealt with the famous Essex before, and of course Robert Dudley was her first love. However, she definitely went through an "exciting world explorers" phase, which featured Drake (he's kind of hot, isn't he? He's no Essex, but not bad) and my personal favorite and most crush-worthy royal boyfriend, Sir Walter Raleigh . Incidentally, when I'm not writing copious important notes, I am drawing beautifully nuanced and sophisticated portraits like this in my notebook:

I am a very good artist.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Life and Death of Griffin Flood, 1623

Griffin Flood was a rogue, con-man and informer who scammed a bunch of people out of their money (and was a tattletale). He specialized in targeting foreigners and apprentices. He is characterized as being "churlish" and loud-mouthed quite often in the pamphlet. Eventually he stabs a constable and a vintner, is caught, and because he won't admit his guilt is sentenced to peine forte et dure, which equates to death by pressing. Apparently the guy didn't even have any property to save, so I guess his refusal to plead was just more churlishness. Luckily, Newgate Prison had it's own "Pressing Yard" for just such occasions. He even wrote his own epitath:
"Here lyeth Griffin Flood full low in his grave,
Who lived a Rascall and died a Knave."

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.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

President Rochester, 2009

President Wilmot would probably spend all our tax money on booze and hookers, but that's not too far removed from what most politicians do anyway. In fact, I think he'd have to come up with some new deplorable behaviors to even register on the CNN ticker...maybe like texting sexual messages to his young male intern while doing crystal meth and auto-erotically asphixiating himself in an airport bathroom as he waits to sell senate seats on the black market.

I don't even know what's scandalous anymore. In the 17th century all you had to do was write a funny epigram.