Coal Comforts.

A “Coal Comforts” cupcake by Spencer Merolla (courtesy the artist).

Spencer Merolla is doing some great work, this time around, having a pop up bakery which has decidedly non-edible goodies, as they are made from ash. Just a bit here, the article is in-depth, with many links well worth following.

As the banks of Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal continue to be developed, the legacy of pollution in its waters can be an uncomfortable narrative alongside gentrification. In conjunction with Gowanus Open Studios on October 21 and 22, artist Spencer Merolla is creating a pop-up bakery offering cupcakes, cookies, and other treats, all molded from coal ash. The inedible delicacies served from a mobile cart are meant to encourage conversation about the environment and climate change, especially on a weekend when many non-locals will be roaming the neighborhood.

“Gowanus is kind of a cautionary tale in terms of environmental degradation,” Merolla told Hyperallergic. “I love the work that is being done to clean up the canal and green the watershed, and it’s very exciting to think we can repair some of the damage we’ve inherited and be better stewards of this place in the future. But there is no putting the toothpaste back in the tube, here or anywhere. We have to do a better job of preventing these kinds of catastrophes in the first place. Because they are happening right now, all over.”

…Merolla’s work with molding ash emerged around that time, with a piece called “Ashes in Our Mouth (Baloney Sandwich Series)” that suggested the bad taste many were left with after Trump’s election, as well as his support for the coal industry over cleaner energy.

“I’d wanted to work with ash for some time, given its association with grief, but it was the presidential election of last year that turned me toward coal ash specifically,” she stated. “Trump’s campaign relied so heavily on nostalgia in general and for the coal industry in particular, and it got me thinking about the many ways in which that nostalgia is toxic. It persuades people that because something is old-fashioned and familiar, it’s also benign.”

[…]

It’s worth noting that among the developers of Gowanus is the Jared Kushner-led Kushner Companies. The Gowanus Canal was designated an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund Site in 2010, thanks to its toxic cocktail of arsenic, radioactive material, and other pollutants. Lining the canal’s bottom is “black mayonnaise,” a concoction of coal tar, heavy metals, and other sludge from decades of industrial run-off. With rising tides of climate change, it remains vulnerable to flooding, even now pouring raw sewage into the streets in heavy rains.

During Gowanus Open Studios, Merolla plans to set up the “Coal Comforts” bakery cart outside the Gowanus Souvenir Shop at 567 Union Street. The tagline of the bakery is: “Can’t have your cake and eat it too.” By shaping the coal ash into food-like forms, Merolla references how much of the world’s population consumes poisonous air due to coal pollution, and the impossible balance between continuing the industry as it is and improving human life.

As she said, “The connection between food justice and environmental justice is only going to become clearer in the future — you can’t have one without the other.”

You can see and read much more at Hyperallergic, and you can watch a video by Ms. Merolla at the Kickstarter page for this show.

Cuttlefish Love!

Katja Novitskova, “Earth Potential (Cuttlefish Love, Earth)” (2017), digital print on aluminum, cut out display, steel and aluminum armature (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic).

Oh, these are all so dynamic and wonderful!

…This fuzzy zone of magical looking is where Estonian artist Katja Novitskova operates, and her current exhibition in New York’s City Hall Park is a wonderfully incongruous reminder that all our photos are manipulated.

EARTH POTENTIAL, a Public Art Fund exhibition, is that rare outdoor photography show that actually works. Instead of the usual billboards or placards clumsily affixed to a wall or fence, Novitskova’s photographs are printed on freestanding aluminum panels between six and eight feet in diameter, lending them sculptural dimensionality. Most combine two elements — one astronomic, the other microscopic — printed on separate, custom-cut supports.

[…]

Two of the seven pieces in EARTH POTENTIAL feature just one scientific image rather than a pair — one is a bulbous cluster of orange stem cell embryos, the other a towering, pale pink strand of E. coli bacteria — and they are the show’s most abstract and ambiguous. Without the humor of juxtaposition and jarring shifts of scale of the other pieces, they confront us with the enormous power of scientific imagery and the frontiers of microscopic photography. They also hint at places where the boundaries of human knowledge are butting up against the limitations of human morality.

Katja Novitskova, “Earth Potential (E. coli)” (2017), digital print on aluminum, cut out display, steel and aluminum armature.

You don’t want to miss any of this, head on over to Hyperallergic to read and see more!

The Mass Produced Civil War Monuments…

The soldier page of Monumental Bronze Co.’s 1882 catalog, completed with drawings and testimonials. Internet Archive/Public Domain.

Most people are aware that most of the civil war monuments which went up were a blatant product of later propaganda, and a convenient way to oppress and terrorize those not white enough. Atlas Obscura has a look at the company that had a lock on so many of these “bronze monuments”, the Monumental Bronze Co., who had discovered white bronze, which is actually zinc, and started mass producing monuments of all kinds. Described as the Wal-Mart of monuments.

White bronze isn’t white. It’s more of a chromy gray that, over time, gets progressively blue. It isn’t bronze, either: it’s zinc, cast into shape in a mold, and blasted with sand to add a rough, stony texture. But “bluish-gray sand-blasted zinc” doesn’t sound that appealing, and the company trafficking in this material, Monumental Bronze Co., of Bridgeport, Connecticut, was focused hard on selling it. From 1879 until 1914, Monumental Bronze Co. offered statues, grave markers and monuments that were, in their words, “beautiful in appearance and unequaled for durability.”

…They also had a whole muster of Civil War statues in various designs, the parts of which could also be easily interchanged, Mr. Potato Head-style. “Statue of American Soldier” was a man with a mustache and a billed cap, holding his gun in both hands. “Colorbearer” had a flag draped over his shoulder. “Confederate Soldier,” introduced in 1889, wore a broad-brimmed hat and carried a bedroll. You could also get your soldiers custom-made: the Confederate Monument in Portsmouth, Virginia has four Monumental Bronze Co. statues on it, each fashioned after a local man.

Another of their selling points was price: thanks to their choice of material (as well as their distribution model, which relied on independent “agents” and eliminated the need for storerooms) they could easily undersell stone-based companies.

The cover of this 1885 issue of Scientific American was dedicated entirely to “The White Bronze Monument Industry”—aka Monumental Bronze Co. Internet Archive/Public Domain.

A fascinating glimpse into the not so distant past. You can read and see much more at Atlas Obscura, and browse a Monumental Bronze Co. catalogue here.

The Violet Sister.

Louise Michel pictured at home in her later years, around the time she is presumed to have penned the piece translated below — Source.

A husky voice barked: “Entrez!”

Through a long, dim hallway, I followed the voice, until I reached a spare, curtained room. One empty chair stood near the entrance. Another, across the darkened space, was occupied by a slender, shadowed figure with erect posture, white hair long and flowing as in the fashion of the 1840s, in an elegant black suit, immaculate linens, a neckcloth of Persian design. A bright gaze set into a finely featured face pierced the gloom.

“Sit”, the figure commanded. As if under the influence of a powerful magnetizer, I sat without pause.

My host spoke sharply, gruffly. “Welcome, Mademoiselle. You have come to meet me, no? You wish to learn of my ideas, my thoughts. But should you not first know to whom you speak?” I nodded.

The figure straightened. “You wrote to Octave Obdurant. This is the name with which the person before you entered the Ecole Polytechnique. It is the name on my entrance papers to the Ecole de Ponts et Chaussées. It is the name with which I signed my first articles in geometry, my first statistical tables, as well as Free the Earth, which you were kind enough to notice.”

The voice was clear and occasionally guttural; there was a warmth beneath its unyielding syllables.

“But as you have certainly realized, this is not my true name.”

I felt my mind begin to spin. I was unsure of where I was, what I was doing here, in these isolated rooms. I stammered out:

“Excuse me, Monsieur. What, then, is your name?”

“I was baptized Tranchot.” Despite the pause which followed, the name meant nothing to me until it was repeated, with its prenames before it.

Marie Violette Tranchot.”

I was moved by an emotion of shock and recognition at once. Some part of me had already realized that I was not in the presence of a great man, but rather a great woman — no wizened brother of the struggle, but a sister. Instantly, I felt myself uncannily at home, safe at last in a place I’d never been — truly at home, perhaps, for the first time in my life. This hero, epitome of the courage and intelligence the world saw as masculine, was a woman like myself.

Fascinating reading, from Louise Michel, in Le Libertaire, iii, 1895. She writes about the Scoundrel Laws, and the paucity of an overly-praised history, and her meeting with Octave Obdurant.

You can read the whole thing at The Public Domain. Highly recommended.

Perfectly Preserved: 400 Year Old Sac of Fluke Eggs.

Jing Lee, a 17th-century Korean mummy. D. H. Shin, Y.-S. Kim, D. S. Yoo.

Jing Lee was born in 1580, during Korea’s long-lasting Joseon dynasty, and died in 1642, at the age of 63. At some point in his long life, he ate a raw, freshwater crustacean, in one form or another. Most likely, he was indulging in a fresh, seasonal treat—raw crabs with soy sauces—or was trying to rid himself of disease, with a dose of crayfish juice, thought to help treat the measles. (Joseon food culture was not to be trifled with.) However, as it happened, his crustacean meal left a lasting legacy in his body: a sac of liver fluke eggs growing happily in his liver, as Haaretz reports.

Four hundred years later, as part of a parasitology study of pre-modern Korean societies, a team of scientists found that egg sac mummified on Jing Lee’s liver. They report their findings in a new study in the Journal of Parasitology.

You can read all about this fascinating find at Atlas Obscura.

The Intertwining of Trees and Crime.

Screencapture.

There’s been some very interesting research happening in Chicago, and it turns out that trees reduce crime. I don’t find this surprising at all, but I’m a “must be attached to the land” person. When your environment is bleak and desolate, you end up with bleak, desolate, desperate people. We need to be aware of our earth, we need to be connected to our planet. In urban environments, the best way to restore that connection is with trees. Yes, they are a long-term investment, but that’s good, because it means people are thinking the right way, generations ahead of themselves.

In June, the Chicago Regional Tree Initiative and Morton Arboretum released what they say is the most comprehensive tree canopy data set of any region in the U.S., covering 284 municipalities in the Chicago area. Now, that data is helping neighborhoods improve their environments and assist their communities.

“When we go to talk to communities,” says Lydia Scott, director of the CRTI, “We say ‘trees reduce crime.’ And then they go, ‘Explain to me how that could possibly be, because that’s the most bizarre thing I’ve ever heard.’”

In Chicago, where more than 2,000 people have been shot this year, scientists are looking at physical features of neighborhoods for solutions. “We started to look at where we have heavy crime, and whether there was a correlation with tree canopy, and often, there is,” says Scott. “Communities that have higher tree population have lower crime. Areas where trees are prevalent, people tend to be outside, mingling, enjoying their community.”

The map revealed that poorer neighborhoods are often “tree deserts,” areas with little or no tree canopy. Trees reduce flooding, improve property values, prevent heat islands, promote feelings of safety, reduce mortality, and provide other significant social and health benefits. This means that when you live in, for example, the South Side, where trees are scarcer, you lose more than just green leaves overhead.

Never before have researchers been able to look so widely and deeply at this sort of data. The map is huge—it covers seven counties—and extremely detailed. That has allowed Scott and her colleagues to notice some startling patterns. For example, in the North Shore community—an affluent, lakeside, suburban area—canopy cover tends to be 40 percent or higher. On the economically depressed South Side, canopy can be as low as 7 percent.

That last is no surprise, either. As it goes with people, the poorer you are, the less of everything you get, including trees. There’s much more to the article, all the research, how it was conducted, and information about Blacks in Green, who are doing stellar work. Click on over to Atlas Obscura for the full story. Then see if you could help plant a tree. Or just hug one.

The Comfort of Cover.

A depiction of a 15th-century bed. Public Domain.

Blankets, sheets. Most people have trouble sleeping without them. I have a love/hate thing for them outside of the winter months, when I can’t pile enough of them on.

[…] Blankets are common, but not universal, to humans during sleep, at least in the modern day. But historically, the effort involved in weaving large sheets put blankets at much too high a price point for most to afford. From the linen bedsheets of Egypt around 3500 B.C. to wool sheets during the Roman empire straight through to cotton in medieval Europe, bed coverings were for the wealthy.

By the Early Modern period in Europe, which followed the Middle Ages, production had increased enough so that more middle-class people could afford bedding, though not easily. “The bed, throughout Western Europe at this time, was the most expensive item in the house,” says Roger Ekirch, a historian at Virginia Tech who has written extensively about sleep. “It was the first major item that a newly married couple, if they had the wherewithal, would invest in.” The bed and bedding could make up about a third of the total value of an entire household’s possessions, which explains why bedsheets frequently showed up in wills.

In place of blankets and sheets, other sources of heat were common at night, usually from multiple people sharing a bed, or often livestock.

You can read all about this fascinating need shared by most people, and the reasons why, at Atlas Obscura.

Oh, That Evil Science!

Members of the National Socialist Movement (Neo-Nazis) during a 2010 march to the Phoenix Federal building (John Kittelsrud/Flickr).

Do you remember when asshole extraordinaire, Craig Cobb got genetically tested? He’s the nazi who tried to set up NaziTown here in nDakota. Mr. Cobb wasn’t terribly pleased with his results, only 86% European. Ooops. He immediately dismissed the remaining 14% as “statistical noise”, and ran to Stormfront to dispute the results. Stormfront’s heyday was quite a number of years back, but it’s still populated with scads of delusional white people, many of whom have turned to genetic testing to affirm their whiteness. That evil science though, it just doesn’t care about a nazi’s sensibilities, and the results have had some interesting results.

With the rise of spit-in-a-cup genetic testing, there’s a trend of white nationalists using these services to prove their racial identity, and then using online forums to discuss the results.

But like Cobb, many are disappointed to find out that their ancestry is not as “white” as they’d hoped. In a new study, sociologists Aaron Panofsky and Joan Donovan examined years’ worth of posts on Stormfront to see how members dealt with the news.

It’s striking, they say, that white nationalists would post these results online at all. After all, as Panofsky put it, “they will basically say if you want to be a member of Stormfront you have to be 100 percent white European, not Jewish.”

But instead of rejecting members who get contrary results, Donovan said, the conversations are “overwhelmingly” focused on helping the person to rethink the validity of the genetic test. And some of those critiques – while emerging from deep-seated racism – are close to scientists’ own qualms about commercial genetic ancestry testing.

[…]

The team winnowed their results down to 70 discussion threads in which 153 users posted their genetic ancestry test results, with over 3,000 individual posts.

About a third of the people posting their results were pleased with what they found. “Pretty damn pure blood,” said a user with the username Sloth. But the majority didn’t find themselves in that situation. Instead, the community often helped them reject the test, or argue with its results.

Some rejected the tests entirely, saying that an individual’s knowledge about his or her own genealogy is better than whatever a genetic test can reveal. “They will talk about the mirror test,” said Panofsky, who is a sociologist of science at UCLA’s Institute for Society and Genetics. “They will say things like, ‘If you see a Jew in the mirror looking back at you, that’s a problem; if you don’t, you’re fine.'” Others, he said, responded to unwanted genetic results by saying that those kinds of tests don’t matter if you are truly committed to being a white nationalist. Yet others tried to discredit the genetic tests as a Jewish conspiracy “that is trying to confuse true white Americans about their ancestry,” Panofsky said.

[…]

For the study authors, what was most interesting was to watch this online community negotiating its own boundaries, rethinking who counts as “white.” That involved plenty of contradictions. They saw people excluded for their genetic test results, often in very nasty (and unquotable) ways, but that tended to happen for newer members of the anonymous online community, Panofsky said, and not so much for longtime, trusted members. Others were told that they could remain part of white nationalist groups, in spite of the ancestry they revealed, as long as they didn’t “mate,” or only had children with certain ethnic groups. Still others used these test results to put forth a twisted notion of diversity, one “that allows them to say, ‘No, we’re really diverse and we don’t need non-white people to have a diverse society,'” said Panofsky.

It really wouldn’t take much for the ranks of wannabe nazis to implode. The full story is here.

Bees Understand The Concept of Zero.

Aiming for a bee plus in maths. DonaldJusa/Getty.

In line with Marcus’s Monday Meslier.

Bees seem to understand the idea of zero – the first invertebrate shown to do so. When the insects were encouraged to fly towards a platform carrying fewer shapes than another one, they apparently recognised “no shapes” as a smaller value than “some shapes”.

Zero is not an easy concept to comprehend, even for us. Young children learn the number zero later than other numbers, and often have trouble identifying whether it is less than or more than 1.

Apart from ourselves, some other animals grasp the concept of zero, though. Chimpanzees and monkeys, for instance, have been able to consider zero as a quantity when taught.

With their tiny brains, bees may seem an unlikely candidate to join the zero club. But they have surprisingly well-developed number skills: a previous study found that they can count to 4.

To see whether honeybees are able to understand zero, Scarlett Howard at RMIT University in Melbourne and her colleagues first trained bees to differentiate between two numbers. They set up two platforms, each with between one and four shapes on it.

On one platform, bees were given a sweet sucrose solution, and on the other a nasty-tasting quinine solution. Previous research has found that bees learn more quickly if they are not merely rewarded for correct choices, but also punished for wrong ones.

The researchers trained the bees to associate a platform that had fewer shapes on it with the sweet reward, until they made the right choice 80 per cent of the time. The bees were put through further tests with differently shaped objects to confirm that they were responding to the number of shapes and not their appearance.

Next, when given a choice between two or three shapes and “zero” shapes, bees picked zero most of the time.

Sam Wong at New Scientist has the full story.

The First Photographs of a Solar Eclipse.

William and Frederick Langenheim, “Eclipse of the Sun” (1854), daguerreotype (courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art).

On this August 21, a total solar eclipse will be viewable across North America, a rare occurrence that will likely be greeted by a wave of iPhones and digital cameras raised to the sky. Although photographing an eclipse relies a bit on luck, timing, and preparation, our ability to document the celestial event is more accessible than ever. In the 19th century, it took years of experimentation with the newly invented photographic medium to successfully capture a fleeting eclipse.

Attempts at solar eclipse photography are recorded going back to 1842, including Gian Alessandro Majocchi’s photograph of a partial eclipse taken on July 8 in Milan (an image which has not survived). Stefan Hughes, author of Catchers of the Light on the history of astrophotography, writes on his blog that Majocchi’s daguerreotypes only caught the before and after of the totality (or total obscuring of the sun), with the ultimate eclipse just a big blank. It wasn’t until the eclipse of July 28, 1851 that the moment of eclipse was successfully photographed. At the Royal Prussian Observatory in Königsberg (today’s Kaliningrad in Russia), a daguerreotypist named Johann Julius Friedrich Berkowski carefully exposed a plate through a small refracting telescope attached to a heliometer. The daguerreotype revealed the moon perfectly positioned over the sun, exposing the solar corona for the first time in photography, hovering like a halo around the darkness.

You can read and see more about these fascinating ventures in astrophotography at Hyperallergic.

Amazon Doesn’t Care About Your Eyes, So…

A total solar eclipse in Norway in 2015. Nesvold, Jon Olav / Reuters.

Eclipse fever has hit, hard, and a whole lot of areas are bracing themselves, hoping for the best. It’s all well and good to want to see an eclipse, it’s exciting, lots to ooh and aaah over, but it’s not worth permanently damaging your eyes, and there’s been an unprecedented demand for eclipse glasses, and a great many people are heading straight to Amazon for them, and Amazon has no oversight when it comes to properly rated specs. There’s a wealth of counterfeit specs on the market.

[…] APO itself has done the same. Jason Lewin, the company’s director of marketing, says APO started to notice the counterfeits showing up on Amazon about a month ago. Since then, they’ve ordered some of the products, tested them, and sent Amazon photos and documentation of the counterfeits. Both Lewin and APO president John Jerit have been frustrated by the lack of response. They’re late to the game with this,” says Jerit. “Some of the legitimate resellers we’ve got, they’ve been complaining and complaining about this.

“[Counterfeiting] isn’t new to Amazon but this isn’t fidget spinners,” adds Lewin. “These are supposed to be things to keep you safe.”

All this has made me suspicious about my own glasses. The ones I bought have all the right words printed on them: “meets the Transmission Requirements of ISO 12312-2” they say, before going on to list a slew of other standards allegedly met. Then at the end: “Mfg. by: American Paper Optics.”

But the Amazon listing didn’t actually say American Paper Optics manufactured the lenses; it just showed up with the Tennessee-based company’s stamp on it. I ask Lunt how I could tell if what I had was the real deal or a knock-off, and he tells me to look at the earpieces. There’s a design element that’s been generic among all of cardboard glasses for years (remember those red-and-blue lensed 3D glasses?): the part of the cardboard frame that hooks over the ears has a rounded end. APO recently changed their design to have a more squared-off earpiece.

No surprise, my 10-pack all have rounded ears, the scarlet letter of phoniness.

Top: the real American Paper Optics glasses; Bottom: a photo of counterfeit glasses sold as “American Paper Optics” on Amazon.

As you can see, a bit of care is needed to make sure you aren’t endangering your eyes if you’re going to be an eclipse hunter this month. Quartz has an in-depth article about this, and NASA has guidelines available, too.

Be sure you’re safe, check and doublecheck those specs!

The Cultural Force of Science Fiction.

“L’an 2000” (“The year 2000,” 1901), print on cardboard; a collection of uncut sheets for confectionery cards showing life imagined in the future (photo by the author for Hyperallergic). Click for full size.

LONDON — The 1982 film Blade Runner imagined 2019 Los Angeles as a dystopia of noirish neon and replicants, robots sent to do hard labor on off-world colonies. It’s a future in which engineered beings are so close to humans as to make the characters question the very nature of life. We’re now just a couple of years from this movie’s timeline, and although our robots are still far from mirroring humanity, our science fiction continues to envision giant leaps in technology that are often rooted in contemporary concerns of where our innovations are taking us.

Patrick Gyger, curator of Into the Unknown: A Journey through Science Fiction at the Barbican Centre, told Hyperallergic that, for him, science fiction “allows creators to look beyond the horizon of knowledge and play with concepts and situations.” The exhibition is a sprawling examination of the genre of science fiction going back to the 19th century, with over 800 works. These include film memorabilia, vintage books, original art, and even a kinetic sculpture in a lower-level space by Conrad Shawcross. “In Light of The Machine” has a huge, robotic arm twisting within a henge-like circle of perforated walls, so visitors can only glimpse its strange dance at first, before moving to the center and seeing that it holds one bright light at the end of its body.

[…]

The exhibition shows, but does not dwell on, who has been left out of a history mostly shaped by white men (there are rare exceptions on view, like the “Astro Black” video installation by Soda_Jerk that muses on Sun Ra’s theories of Afrofuturism). It would be worthwhile to spend more time on figures who broke through these barriers, such as author Octavia Butler. As discussed on a recent podcast from Imaginary Worlds, her black characters were sometimes portrayed as white on her book covers to make them more appealing to science fiction readers. The exhibition could also have a deeper context for why certain veins of science fiction are prominent in particular eras, and perhaps question why we don’t have a lot of science fiction narratives on current crises like climate change. For instance, the much smaller 2016 exhibition Fantastic Worlds: Science and Fiction 1780–1910 from the Smithsonian Libraries compared milestones like Mary Shelley’s 1818 Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus with physician Luigi Galvani’s “animal electricity” experiments on animating dead frog legs, and highlighted how Jules Verne channeled the doomed Franklin expedition in his 1864 book The Adventures of Captain Hatteras.

Nevertheless, having an exhibition like Into the Unknown at a mainstream space like the Barbican is significant, showing the art world appreciates science fiction beyond kitsch. And science fiction continues to be one of our important portals for thinking about the ramifications of our technological choices, and where they might take us.

You can read and see much, much more at Hyperallergic. Fascinating!

History of Four-Footed Beasts and Serpents.

Published in 1658, more than thirty years after his death, this book brings together Edward Topsell’s The History of Four-footed Beasts (1607) and The History of Serpents (1608). Totalling more than 1000 pages, this epic treatise on zoology explores ancient and fantastic legends about existing animals, as well as those at the more mythic end of the spectrum, including the “Hydra” (with two claws, a curled serpent’s tail, and seven small mammalian heads), the “Lamia” (with a cat-like body and woman’s face and hair), and the “Mantichora” (with lion’s body and mane, a man’s face and hair, and a grotesquely smiling mouth). Topsell was not a naturalist himself (he in fact was a clergyman) and so relied heavily on the authority of others, in particular Konrad Gesner, the Swiss scholar who was also behind many of the brilliant illustrations which adorn the volume, and Thomas Moffett. On his utilising others for his work Topsell writes “I would not have the Reader,… imagine I have … related all that is ever said of these Beasts, but only so much as is said by many”. This approach leads him to repeat some wonderfully fantastic claims: elephants are said to worship the sun and the moon with their own rituals, apes are terrified of snails, and “…the horn of the unicorn … doth wonderfully help against poyson”. Although it is abound with such fanciful ideas, Topsell’s work, as John Lienhard explains “was actually an early glimmer of modern science. For all its imperfection, it represents a vast collection of would-be observational data, and it even includes a rudimentary rule for sifting truth from supposition.”

This is a grand look at early ideas of the natural world, and all the people busy trying to figure it all out. The artwork is marvelous, and retains much of that early Medieval illuminated flavour. Creatures real, and not real inhabit the pages, along with many grand, if terrifying remedies such beasties can provide for many an ill.

Gulon.

Some remedies utilising goat bits, particularly their dung.

A beautiful badger.

Cures which can be effected by use of badger bits.

Squirrels are depicted as dangerous and bloodthirsty. Appropriately, as Iris would say.

The book includes serpents and insects.

The whole book is available here, and select images here.

Via The Public Domain.