A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7000 images, 3.5 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, The Paris Review, Le Figaro, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places...
In Agustus Niphus, Libri Duo de pulchro liber primus, de amore librer secundus, and printed in Lyon by Beringen in 1549, the scholar and Aritotelian Agostino Nifo of Sessa (1473-1546) wrote two significant treatises on the nature of beauty and love (liber primus and secundus, respectively).
The amazing thing about this work is that Nifo analyzes the conditions of love and sexual expression as respondents to a psychological basis, and since this was so, that love and sex are a product of the mind and not necessarily a simple undisclosed deire, that the act and thought coul dno tbe considered to be of siunful natures--basically, the two were as natural a thing as could be, and one does not condemn the acts of nature.
What is mostly missing in this fantastic illustration from Tratado de vendages.... (Madrid, 1785) are people. These multi-image plates of various dressings usually did not address people directly, and so looking at them out of context gives them a very heavy taste of the found-absurd.
For the time, of course, the book was an essential text on treating wounds, especially military ones. The author, Francisco Vila Canivell was born in 1721 in Barcelona. By 1749 at only 28 years old, he had been educated in France and received his medical education back in Spain at the Universtiy of Cervera, had fought in the Italian campaign (as a surgeon), became Surgeon Major of the regiment of Astiurias, and then on to keep charge of the Library of the Royal College of Surgeons in Cadiz. He was professor of osteology (and bandages!), as well as an obstetrician, ophthalmologist and midwife, until 1769 when he became Sugeon Major of the Army, and then proceeded on to other more esteemed positons, dying in 1797.
JF Ptak Science Books Post 1879 (Following an earlier post on the appearance of the first (?) suicide on a title page, here.)
No doubt there are many examples of finding people in bed on title pages of books printed in the high Renaissance and Baroque--I found two pretty quickly. Of course it would make sense to look at medical titles, as in the case of many examples where the borderland images of decorated title pages surrounding the text describing the book were often filled with allegrocial tales, which means that at some point in the allegroy involving medicine that sooner or later someone is going to wind up in bed, overseen by their physician.
This is definitely the case with the following image (found at the National Library of Medicine, here):
The book is by Maritn Pansa (b. 1580), and the title to the Appendix consilii antipodagrici specialis darinnen X consilia specialissima (printed in 1615) shows lives that were led basically in pursuit of pleasures and vice and crime that would eventually lead to the big bad straight bed at the end of their perceived crooked road. The title page tells of lives lived in pursuit of hunting, and wine, and women and song, as well as the abuse of children--creature comforts and vices which would eventually lead the practionner to a sick-bed for their pursuit of foul ends. The baseline here is a warning for those living a High Life in perhaps-exalted states would more than likely pay for their lifestyles with sickness in the end.
Another good example is fond in Galen's Tertia Classis uarias morborum differnetias, obseruationes, tempora, successius, causasqe & signficatio nes amplectitur..., which was published in Venice in 1541 with a beautfiul woodcut title page illustrated by a follower of Titian. First and foremost, the capstone of the border images shows a sick patient being attended by doctors of classical greatness including Galen himself (at the extreme right of the first image, above).
Galen (Aelius Galenus or Claudius Galenus (AD 129– c. 200)), was an ancient too, and taking this little trip through time he must've seen some surprising things, not the least of which would have included this bed. It should be noted that until the publication of the revolutionary work of Vesalius, Galen was the largely-unimpeachable source of medical knowledge for some 1300 years.
And of course there is another sort of bed in the Vesalius book's (De humani corporis fabrica libri septum...) title page, though this is the most uncomfortable of all:
The remarkable engravings below are even more so when you consider that they were published more than two hundred years afer the death of their originator. Bartolomeo Eustachi (1500/1524-1574) was one of the founding member of a very small school of modern anatomy (another being Vesalius) who undertook very careful dissections in his study of the body, finishing (in 1552) a work of paramount importance just nine years after the publication of Vesalius' revolutionary work--it was a work that would remain unpublished for 162 years. The threat and fear of excommunication and other reprisals at the hands of the Catholic Church prevented its publication, the full work not seeing the light of day until 1714. It would be published several times more in the 18th century, a great tribute to an anatomist whose work was still being studied more than 200 years after its completion.
One of the great missing books then belongs to Eustachi, his Romanae archetypae tabulae anatomicae novis...(with the examples of images below being published in Rome in 1783) belongs to a very small class of technical/medical books published long after they should have been and which still were found to be of great and substantial use. He was an absolutely superb anatomist, using dyes and injections for visually troublesome areas, as well as early versions of "microscopes" to observe miniscule bits. He was a fine student of his physician father, well-versed in classical education, and by 1549 he was the professor of anatomy at the Archiginnasiodella Sapienza, where he was also able to avail himself of a number of cadavers for dissection.
He worked on his anatomy for several years, readying 47 plates for publication. It would come to pass that only eight of them were published during his lifetime--those on the kidney and teeth, published as De Renum structura (the first work dedicated to that organ), and De dentibus (for the teeth), respectively.
The engravings--rather, the incised plates of the engravings--went missing after Eustachi's death, and stayed so until (as noted above) 1714. According to faqs.org , Eustachi's work was still prized 160+ years later for their elegance and beauty and detail because:
"... they provided some of the best descriptions of the base of the brain, the sympathetic nervous system (the nerves that control the constriction of blood vessels, among other things), the vascular system, and the structure of the larynx."
[More images below] among many other reasons.
I can't help but wonder what the result of the publication of this book would have affected if it had been available in 1552. It stands to reason that if it was still being used in 1789, and still useful and respect and "current", then it would lead me to believe that it would have had a major impact 227 years earlier.
"Colour Blindess in Relation to the Homeric Expressions for Colour", from Nature Magazine, volume 18, p. 676, 1878.
"In an article on "The Colour Sense" in the Number of the Nineteenth Century for October last, Mr. Gladstone points out certain peculiarities…in the expressions of colour used by Homer. "Although" he says "this writer has used light in various forms for his purposes with perhaps greater splendor and effect than any other poet, yet the colour adjectives and colour descriptions of the poems are not only imperfect but highly ambiguous and confused". And again-"we find that his sense of colour was not only narrow, but also vague, and wanting in description".
Pistoia was a provincial city of about 11,000 in the early fourteenth century located in the region of Tuscany, less than thirty kilometers northwest of Florence. Its government was in the hands of a small executive council made up of the Anziani or Elders of the People and the Standardbearer of Justice. The chief administrative officers were the Captain of the People and the Podesta who served six-month terms. They could not be Pistoian or even Tuscan. They were allowed limited social contact with Pistoians and their behavior was audited, or "syndicated" at the end of their terms of office. This allowed anyone who felt wronged by their actions to bring charges. The eight Anziani and the Standardbearer of Justice were citizens of the city selected by lot to serve two-month terms from among the citizens of the city who met age, professional and property qualifications. This small council debated all issues and made recommendations to a general city council, the Council of the People which was required either to approve or reject proposals without amendment. As will be clear from the ordinances, there were virtually no issues which affected life in the city which the government could not debate.
The context of the Ordinances was the arrival of the Plague early in the Spring of 1348. Plague probably cost the city and surrounding countryside about one fourth of the total population. The statutes themselves reflect both the scientific knowledge and the practical issues which this crisis brought to a head.
In the name of Christ Amen. Herein are written certain ordinances and provisions made and agreed upon by certain wise men of the People of the city of Pistoia elected and commissioned by the lords Anziani and the Standardbearer of Justice of the said city concerning the preserving, strengthening and protecting the health of humans from various and diverse pestilences which otherwise can befall the human body. And written by me Simone Buonacorsi notary. . . in the year from the Nativity of the Lord MCCCXLVIII, the first Indiction.
First. So that no contaminated matter which presently persists in the areas surrounding the city of Pistoia can enter into the bodies of the citizens of Pistoia, these wise men provided and ordered that no citizen of Pistoia or dweller in the district or the county of Pistoia . . . shall in any way dare or presume to go to Pisa or Lucca or to the county or district of either. And that no one can or ought to come from either of them or their districts ... to the said city of Pistoia or its district or county on penalty of £ 50 ... And that gatekeeper of the city of Pistoia guarding the gates of the said city shall not permit those coming or returning to the said city of Pistoia from the said cities of Pisa or Lucca, their districts or counties to enter the said gates on penalty of £ 10 ... It is licit, however, for citizens now living in Pistoia to go to Pisa and Lucca, their districts and counties and then return if they have first obtained a license from the Council of the People ....
The Florentine Chronicle on Medieval PlagueMarchione di Coppo Stefani
Marchione di Coppo Stefani was born in Florence in 1336. He wrote his Florentine Chronicle in the late 1370s and early 1380s. [Stefani, Marchione di Coppo.Cronaca fiorentina. Rerum Italicarum Scriptores, Vol. 30. ed. Niccolo Rodolico. Citta di Castello: 1903-13.]
"Rubric 643: Concerning A Mortality In The City Of Florence In Which Many People Died"
"In the year of the Lord 1348 there was a very great pestilence in the city and district of Florence. It was of such a fury and so tempestuous that in houses in which it took hold previously healthy servants who took care of the ill died of the same illness. Almost non of the ill survived past the fourth day. Neither physicians nor medicines were effective. Whether because these illnesses were previously unknown or because physicians had not previously studied them, there seemed to be no cure. There was such a fear that no one seemed to know what to do. When it took hold in a house it often happened that no one remained who had not died. And it was not just that men and women died, but even sentient animals died. Dogs, cats, chickens, oxen, donkeys sheep showed the same symptoms and died of the same disease. And almost none, or very few, who showed these symptoms, were cured.
This table is pulled directly from the National Library of Medicine pages for anatomies on the web--all I did was place the records in a table so that they could be listed chronologically. The references in the first left-hand column are clickable and will take you directly to the images of the work at the NLM site. This is just a sampling of anatomies, though it may prove to be highly useful for folks in the science and the arts. Enjoy.
[Image: Hans Gersdorff, Feldtbůch der Wundartzney : newlich getruckt und gebessert, published in 1528.]
Looking at old advertisements for the application of new/improved pharmaceuticals can be an experience in search of an explanation. Certainly we recognize the impact of these drugs today for what they really are, the business-end of their basis unmasked. But at the time--well, at the time, before revelation, there was hope in the use of them.
Opium of course has been used for centuries, but it was synthesized first in 1874 by the English chemist C.R. Alder Wright, though that first application went basically nowhere. The big push came when it was independently re-synthesized and re-discovered by Fleix Hoffmann who was working at the time for the Aktiengesellschaft Farbenfabriken of Elberfeld, Germany, which is todyay known as Bayer, and which was re-named and marketed under the name, "heroin".
Heroin was sold for nearly two decades as a cough suppressant, a safe replacement for morphine, and also non-addictive.
Narcotics in general however were applied somewhat liberally for complaints of all manner--narcotics not being controlled until 1925, banned by the Single Convention on Narcotics Drugs and the League of Nations (for its signatories, at least). AS we can see int he detail of this Punch cartoon of 1879, the problems to be brought on by the new applications of electricity (still quite young in its modernistic sense at this time) could be sleeplessness for birds, as the outdoor lights might keep them awake.
But in detail, the sleepy old owl might have been dipping a little heavy into one of those bottles with bumps on its sides, its bottle of "narcotics" to help in tracking down sleep:
For many centuries people have been trying to control the future, seeing into future’s past, using tea leaves, foreheads, palm prints, brain bumps, nose angles, the position of the stars, rolled animal bones and printed interpretations of the creator of the universe.Some of these have faded into embarrassed obscurity, but only some; some methods are present today, stronger than ever.
The rolled bones part of this makes the prettiest pictures, I think: for example, this image from Paul Pambst1 (published in 1546) shows some of the dice combinations and what they would correspond to in the revolving paper disks and columns of interpretations in the body of the book, a simple throwing of shaped animal residue somehow laying claim to predictive power.Not that it is much different from any of the other divination methods.
One such method that had been in strong and continued use for thousands of years and is now mostly relegated to dust is the heated up and swirling inspection of urine.It was thought for millenia that pee held secrets to what was going on inside the body, and that was mostly true, except that given the state of medical knowledge the only thing that the practioner could do with the sample was hold it up to the light and make good solid guesses on how color/consistency corresponded to the patient.A reddish tint (as we see here in this painting by Gerrit Dou (1613-1675, and who made an appearance in yesterday’s post) might suggest that the (female) subject was suffering from morbens virginus (uterine hysteria, “a signifying of too much concoction in the body”), which, when the imaginary disease/unease was diagnosed would’ve led to lead consumption and a good bleeding.
Moving slightly up the alpha from Pambst is Udalr Pinder, whose Epiphanie Medicorum…2 (published in Nurnberg in 1506) is a state-of-the-art disposition on urine inspection, complete with this pee color wheel.This idea is as interesting as it is entertaining, because at its base is a scientific aspect of trying to establish a common (color) base for discussion of specimens. The color descriptions (taken in translation fromKirsten Jungersen’s (MA, classical philologist, visiting scholar, Medical Museion, University of Copenhagen) “The relation between text and colours in medieval urine wheels” (here) are poetic, lyrical. They are also a small insight into common things of the 15th century, the author selecting colors from things that were ubiquitous and known to everyone, and so in this way could be used as a basis for the common understanding of a given color.
And so here are the glorious colors (complete in “extended reading” below with the Latin above), most of which I’ve never heard as descriptors…and would love to see as an adopted sub-there by Crayola (“Crayola Urine Wheel Colors”):
“Bluish-grey as camel skin; White as wellwater; Light blue/green/grey as lucid horn; Milky as whey of milk; Slightly pale as a not reduced juice of Meat; Pale yellow as of a not reduced lemon; Wine-red as of animal liver; Black as very dark horn; Ruddy as pure intense gold; Green as green cabbage.”And of course:
“Slightly red as a lowered flame of fire”
“Red as a flame of fire not lowered”
But of course none of this was actually going to help anyone very much, especially when you moved from uroscopy into urinomancy (not a word one gets to use very often), where instead of trying to diagnose dis-ease the urinomancer would try to diagnose the future.Often heat was applied to the jar (matula) of urine, which would do, well, I don’t know what.It certainly looks dramatic, and makes for some excellent opportunities for artists to discern candle-lit color and wonderful reflections (as in Dou).Actually, it was in this way that the golden color of urine was determined (poor alchemists!) not to come from gold at all—urine was finally boiled away until its component urea was discovered (in 1773)3.So heat did have a real and important function, but it took hundreds of years to get there properly.
And so it goes that predicting the future with urine was swept into histories dark places, though somehow bone throwers and astrologers managed to escape this fate.
Notes: 1. Paul Pambst. Loozbuch zu ehren der Roemischen…published in Strassburg in 1546.The Robert Sabuda website for popup books ahs a very good short essay on this book, here.
This curious woodcut is found in Lorenz Heister's (1683-1758) Chirurgie, in welcher alles, was zur Wundarzney gehöret, nach der neuesten und besten Art, gründlich abgehandelt, und in 38 Kupfertaf, die neuerfundene und dienlichste Instrumente, nebst den bequemsten Handgriffen der chirurgischen Operationen und Bandagen deutlich vorgestellet werden. Hesiter was a Nuremberger anatomist and botanist, but most importantly here one of Germany's leading surgeons--and as a matter of fact was the founder of scientific surgery in Germany as well. He studied at Giessen and then at Leyden, where he was taught by great lights such as Ruysch, Bidloo, Albinus and Boerhaave. His Chirurgie was first published in 1718 in German, and was soon reprinted many times, and then translated into Dutch, English Italian, Spanish, Latin and French.
The thing that gave me pause in the realm of pausible things, the thing that is probably the least likely to be considered "academic", was the issue of the expression on the faces of the people undergoing amputation in the illustrations of the book. In the pre-general anaesthesia days of Hester, the man (above in detail and below) is remarkably composed, as is the person undergoing the arm amputation. It is all quite neat, orderly, non-chaotic and clean. And seemingly painless.
The word "anaesthesia" didn't even exist until 1846 (Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr), when William T.G. Morton made the first successful use of it in the fabulously-named Ether Dome of Massachusetts General Hospital. I guess the doctors could've dumbed these patients up with opium or other narcotics--but the sponge that was soaked in the stuff and inhaled under the nose is not in evidence. Of course, they might've ingested the narcotic, or smoked it, or had it applied, but I can't find any evidence of this in a quick look through the text. The patients also could've been given diethyl ether (the general form of which is perhaps a Lullian invention of the 13th century, though the "aether" part of it came apart three decades before the Hester book with Frobenius), but again, I'm not sure. Certainly they were given something and not riding out the operation on their own...we just don't know that from the book, which no doubt took the high-and-unscary-road to the issue of the cutting end of the amputation.
Earlier in this blog I posted about a lateral dissection of the human brain accomplished via 150-year-old engravings. The images below come from a series of atlases created by Gustave Joseph Witkowski (1844-1923) called Anatomie Iconoclastique, and include the one I have here on the skull and brain. I think that they are gorgeous works. (The original, available at our blog bookstore, measures about ten inches at its widest).
While reading about the story of Andersonville Prison I was much taken with a passage from the diary of Sgt. David Kennedy (of the 9th Ohio Cavalry), held at that prison, writing on 9 July 1864:
' Wuld that I was an artist & had the material to paint this camp & all its horrors or the tounge of some eloquent Statesman and had the privilege of expresing my mind to our hon. rulers at Washington, I should gloery to describe this hell on earth where it takes 7 of its occupants to make a shadow.'
Seven men to make one shadow. That does pretty much tell the story of Andersonville. It was known also as Camp Sumter, in Sumter County (Georgia), constructed and then opened in February 1864--quite late in the war--to hold 13,000 Union prisoners. That was a hoepful sentiment and held little planning, as the site held nearly 32,000 prisoners at one time, filled twice beyoind a capacity that even in the best conditions was too high. The prison was ill-conceived, not well made (except for the stockade fence constructed by slave laborers, which was pieced together so well that a person inside the stockade could not see anything whatsoever of the outside world through an imperfect join in the fence). So the view left to the prisoner was of other prisoners in fetid and deplorable states, lumber of the stockade, the poor Earth and disgusting mud of the central section of the stockade fed by a stream and turned into a disease-breeding swamp, and the sky.
The actual photograph (above) and the artist's rendition, clarification, amplification, below:
[Source: Library of Congress. Andersonville prison, Georgia. Group of prisoners. ca. 1864-1865 "Drawing of prisoners among tents, showing starvation, crowding, poor clothing among prisoners." From "U. S. Navy. Edisto Island. Morris and Folly Islands. Fort Warren, Mass. Andersonville Prison, Miscellaneous." photographic album, p 74 ([Andersonville Prison]).
Of the 45,000 Union soldiers held at the prison in its short life (February 1864-May 1865) nearly one-third of them died, most killed by ill-treatment, malnutrition, exposure, poor sanitary conditions, and starvation.
The map below gives a good view of the size of the swamp ("Whole Content of Stockade 25 1/2 acres, including swamp...")
[Source: Robert Knox Sneden scrapbook (Mss5:7 Sn237:1), Virginia Historical Society. In the Robert Knox Sneden diary, 1861-1865 (v. 5, p. 606). 1 map : pen-and-ink and watercolor ; 18 x 14 cm.]
It is generally conceded that the introduction of the Plague1 into Europe in 1348 had its very terroristic beginning in the Genoese trade and port city of Caffa, the result of a series of various sieges and bad blood between them and their Mongol hosts.
The background to this confrontation is pretty extensive, with sieges laid to Caffa several times over a hundred year period.The Genoese established themselves at Caffa (which today is the city of Feodosija, Ukraine) via and agreement with the Kahn of the Golden Horde (the remnants of the Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan), which was a seaside link that reached across Russia and into the Far East.The city was besieged in 1308 due to diplomatic/trade/ethnic etc. unpleasantnesses, and the Genoese wound up firing and evacuating the city, only to be invited back again in 1312 with the acceptance f a new Khan.A major city developed which by 1343 consisted of two concentric rings of fortress protecting a diverse population of 20,000.But it was in this year that the second siege began, lasting four years, with the Genoese (having access to the sea and supplies and new military input) finding themselves with a string of victories against the Mongols.
The Mongols at this time were also laid low with what turned out to be the Black Plague. Anxious to share this disaster with the Genoese, they catapulted their fallen, diseased soldiers over the siege walls and into the Caffa, with devastating effect. The scene was recorded by the contemporary Gabrielem de Mussis(the account found in Mark Wheelis’(UCal Davis) CDC article “Biological Warfare at the 1346 Siege of Caffa”), which begins “In the name of God, Amen. Here begins an account of the disease or mortality which occurred in 1348, put together by Gabrielem de Mussis of Piacenza” and continues:
“The dying Tartars, stunned and stupefied by the immensity of the disaster brought about by the disease, and realizing that they had no hope of escape, lost interest in the siege. But they ordered corpses to be placed in catapultsand lobbed into the city in the hope that the intolerable stench would kill everyone inside.What seemed like mountains of dead were thrown into the city, and the Christians could not hide or flee or escape from them, although they dumped as many of the bodies as they could in the sea. And soon the rotting corpses tainted the air and poisoned the water supply, and the stench was so overwhelming that hardly one in several thousand was in a position to flee the remains of the Tartar army. Moreover one infected man could carry the poison to others, and infect people and places with the disease by look alone. No one knew, or could discover, a means of defense.
“Thus almost everyone who had been in the East, or in the regions to the south and north, fell victim to sudden death after contracting this pestilential disease, as if struck by a lethal arrow which raised a tumor on their bodies. The scale of the mortality and the form which it took persuaded those who lived, weeping and lamenting, through the bitter events of 1346 to 1348—the Chinese, Indians, Persians, Medes, Kurds, Armenians, Cilicians, Georgians, Mesopotamians, Nubians, Ethiopians, Turks, Egyptians, Arabs, Saracens and Greeks (for almost all the East has been affected)—that the last judgment had come.
“…As it happened, among those who escaped from Caffa by boat were a few sailors who had been infected with the poisonous disease. Some boats were bound for Genoa, others went to Venice and to other Christian areas. When the sailors reached these places and mixed with the people there, it was as if they had brought evil spirits with them: every city, every settlement, every place was poisoned by the contagious pestilence, and their inhabitants, both men and women, died suddenly. And when one person had contracted the illness, he poisoned his whole family even as he fell and died, so that those preparing to bury his body were seized by death in the same way. Thus death entered through the windows, and as cities and towns were depopulated their inhabitants mourned their dead neighbours.”
The end result of the mountains of dead flying plague-ridden corpses was the retreat of the Genoese, who also brought back the disease to (at the very least) southern Europe, with spectacularly bad results, killing millions and millions of people.
1) “The catastrophic pandemic has, generally been considered to have been plague, a zoonotic disease caused by the gram-negative bacterium Yersinia pestis, the principal reservoir for which is wild rodent.”--Wheelis
Radium. It was for some short period of time a magnificent and harmless thing, soemthing with a life of its own, sort of, in the way that people used to think of electricity.
This is a detail for an advertisement for radium salts, found in the December, 1903 issue of Le Radium. At this point, just five years after the Curies discovered it and quick-published (in five days) their results in the Comptes Rendus..., the massive biochemical effects of human/radium interaction was not understood. And so the ads for firms like Armet de Lisle, which was loudly selling Sels de Radium (and other radioactive substances like uranium salt and uranium phosphate) without any real knowledge of the adverse health effects of its products. (The Curies and Becquerel had noticed ulcertating reactions to their skin when it was left in contact to radium, and "radium dementia" had been reported beginning about 1900, but it would take quite some time for this radioactive material to be understood as lethal products.)
Radium was used (in very small dosages) for the illuminating of instrument panels and dials (in, say, aircraft) and wrist watch faces into the 1960, though the major health factors ground themselves out in the worker who would come into contact with the radium itself.
Of course there were other uses for radium as a cure-all, which would have been a completely different story: