Philomena Cunk on Shakespeare

She takes us on an amusing journey to try and understand the writer and his enduring appeal.

I didn’t realize that the best practice nowadays is to not use latex gloves when handling old books and manuscripts. The building where my office at the university was housed had on the top floor a medical history library. It contains, among other things, original letters written by Charles Darwin and a rare original copy (or at least a very early one) of Andreas Vesalius’s (1514-1564 CE) groundbreaking book on the human body titled De Humani Corporis Fabrica (On the Fabric of the Human Body), all kept under lock and key. It is a beautiful piece of work with lovely detailed drawings.

Just a couple of years ago the librarians let me browse through those two items but I had to wear thin latex gloves.


  1. jrkrideau says

    If I understand correctly that book is real vellum (parchment) and apparently does not need any special care though people might not appreciate you spilling coffee on it. Vellum seems to be extremely durable.

    Vellum is what the laws of the UK and before that England are/were recorded. Magna Carta was written on vellum and I believe there are 4 “original” copies extant.

    The Darwin letters would be on rag paper I expect and so probably would be Andreas Vesalius’s book.

    Vellum is and was extremely labour-intensive to produce and the raw material (animal skins) is not likely to be cheap either. Have a look at

    The modern vellum paper that you can probably buy at Staples or Grand and Toy that is just that, “paper” .

  2. Silentbob says

    Okay, as someone who claims to be a grammar pedant, I must take you to task.

    This is the second post in the last three posts where your introductory sentence includes the formulation “try and”. There is no such thing as “try and”. If you have tried, and you have succeeded, then the fact that you tried is redundant! The correct formulation is “try to”. We try to achieve a thing, we do not try and acheive a thing, or if we do, the fact that we tried is implicit in the fact that we achieved it!

    Please knock off this formulation, “try and do X”. If you have done X, it’s reduntant to say you have tried.

  3. Silentbob says

    @ ^

    No, I’m sorry, it’s an abomination, if you can’t accept that it will be rapiers at dawn.

    (And I warn you — I bleed very profusely.)

  4. invivoMark says

    Never heard of hendiadys, but that seems like an awfully specific definition. Are there any other examples? (That is, other than “try to” --> “try and”)

  5. Just an Organic Regular Expression says

    I volunteer in a museum, and when handling physical artifacts we must wear either latex or white cotton gloves. The curators indoctrinate volunteers with horror stories about what human skin oils do to metal and other hard artifacts. But then when handling paper texts — none so old as a Darwin letter, but then, printed on much cheaper paper — we are told, by the professionals, to not bother. Apparently our skin oils won’t perturb paper. It always seemed inconsistent to me.

  6. boadinum says

    I discovered Philomena Cunk on YouTube recently. She is the alter-ego of comedian Diane Morgan.

    She has the deadest of dead-pan deliveries. When she’s not in character as Philomena, Diane Morgan is all over the BBC, and comes across as very smart.

    You should check out her other gigs.

  7. chigau (ever-elliptical) says

    The people she interviews are marvelous.
    They match her deadpan for deadpan.
    or the editors are geniuses
    or both

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *