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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.
Holbein's series of action-packed scenes in which Death intrudes on the everyday lives of people from various levels of society — from pope to physician to ploughman.
Curious and groundbreaking mix of documentary and silent horror cinema, written and directed by Benjamin Christensen.
A collection of fifteenth-century erotica from the Middle East, translated with a lengthy opening essay by the anonymous English Bohemian.
These wonderful photographs, which make such innovative use of multiple exposure, are from a 1913 book by Theodor Bergquist, Director of the Swedish Gymnastic Institute in the Bavarian spa town of Bad Wörishofen.
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.
The egg dance was a traditional Easter game involving the laying down of eggs on the ground or floor and dancing among them whilst trying to break as few as possible.
A 1906 edition of William Cowper's famous ballad, illustrated with brilliantly comic woodcuts from Robert Seaver.
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.
Beautiful 1920s edition of Nathaniel Hawthorne's version of Greek myths for children, with illustrations by Virginia Frances Sterrett.
Highlights from a book of 120 woodcuts depicting a series of fantastically bizarre and grotesque figures, reminiscent of some of the more inventive and twisted creations of Brueghel or Bosch.
While imprisoned on St Helena, Napoleon started learning English. One resident of the island called his English “the oddest in the world.”
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.
Wonderful drawings of balloonfishes and pufferfishes made during, or shortly after, the United States Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842.
Wonderful trompe l'oeil tumbling block design quilt incorporating signatures from such luminaries as Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Rembrandt Peale, and Abraham Lincoln (one of eight American presidents represented).
John Florio's translation of Michel de Montaigne's genre-forming Essays, including thoughts on grief, friendship, drunkenness, impotence, smells, death, and thumbs.
This wonderful sketch of “teeth painlessly extracted by steam power” appears on an envelope addressed to a certain Dr J. Chapman of Totton, Southampton. As to whether he is the creator of the drawing also (or indeed someone in his household), the jury is out — though the idea that the envelope made its way […]
An exploration of covert communication through history by the artist, naturalist, antiquarian, and writer Frederick Edward Hulme.
Travel diary of the English sculptor Clare Sheridan telling the story of controversial trip to early Soviet Russia.
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.