Welcome to the pre-modern blog carnival, Carnivalesque 97! Hosting the carnival has proved a welcome distraction from the busy-ness of a new academic year. It’s given me a great excuse to keep up with my blog reading.
In late summer, the pre-modernist’s mind lightly turns to thoughts of love (and sex and reproduction). Joanne Bailey has a fascinating two-part discussion on the significance of marital beds: “The bed and the emotional landscape of the household” and “Beds, marital sex and adultery“. Beds were at the heart of the household and had many practical and symbolic functions far beyond sex and sleeping. From Jennifer Evans at Early Modern Medicine, we learn about “A Very Sympathetic Husband” in 1691, who experienced the symptoms of pregnancy at the same time as his wife and how the Athenian Mercury explained it. Their marriage bed must have been particularly close. Catherine Rider at Recipes Project shares some “Medieval Fertility and Pregnancy Tests“: what, I wonder, would the sympathetic husband’s test have shown?
The Dittrick Museum Blog has an interesting series on eighteenth-century midwifery, but of particular note are the ones on material history. Brandy Schillace, for example, looks at the myths surrounding and uses of “Mystery Instruments” (forceps) in early modern childbirth. Cali Buckley considers “The Elusive Past of Ivory Anatomical Models” for understanding the anatomy of childbearing. The Chirurgeon’s Apprentice post on “Renaissance Rhinoplasty” might not seem to have much in common with sex, but rhinoplasty fulfilled a need that was directly connected to the spread of syphilis in the early modern world. Not everyone–then or now–could afford the luxury of an eighteenth-century condom, which was recently for sale at Christies…
After summer days of wine and roses (or, writing and research), scholars inevitably stumble onto the misty paths of historiography and methodology. In Cesque 96, Until Darwin recommended the series on “The Future of History from Below” at The Many-headed Monster. I’ll recommend it again, as it has continued throughout the month of August with lots of exciting posts. It’s worth reading the whole series, but for the most recent medieval and early modern perspectives, see:
- Chris Briggs, “Household Possessions of the 14th and 15th century peasantry“.
- Andy Wood, “History from Below and Early Modern Social History“.
- John Arnold, “History from Below–Some Medievalist Perspectives“.
Several posts this month considered the ‘how to’ of studying the past. In “The Divine Rebirth of Raphael’s Madonna of the Goldfinch“, Hasan Niyazi at 3PipeProblem describes step-by-step how a painting was created, destroyed and restored. Ben Breen at Res Obscura provides a useful overview of how to read early modern texts in “Why does ‘s’ look like ‘f'”, while Eloise Lemay answers the question “what do paleographers do?“.
Andrea Cawelti at Houghton Library Blog (“Double Vision“) and Anke Timmermann (“Now you see it? No you don’t! Images in Alchemical Manuscripts“) at Recipes Project offer cautionary tales about how we interpret texts, as they wonder if what they see in their primary sources would have been meaningful to early modern readers.
As we once again hoist our book-laden bags or hunch over student essays, it is perhaps not surprising that we start to think about embodiment. Over at Hooke’s London, Felicity Henderson looks at the scientific and craft methods that Robert Hooke saw and recorded in the seventeenth century (“Artists and Craftsmen in Hooke’s London”, part 1 and part 2). In an article for The Appendix, Mark Hailwood tries to understand how seventeenth-century people would have heard drinking songs–his conclusion might surprise you! (It makes perfect sense to me. I use a football stadium version of La Marseillaise when teaching the French Revolution.) From The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies, we have a tasty experiment in cooking eighteenth-century salamagundi and lemon cheesecake.
On a more theoretical level, Sonja Boon asks us to contemplate what our bodies tell us “about the material [we] were exploring, but also about embodied knowledge”, while Serena Dyer reflects on “Experiencing the Past: Historical Re-enactment as Historical Practice“. Thought-provoking questions–just the way to start the week!
But I’ll end on a lighter note, with some interesting characters and tantalizing tidbits. Did you know that the East India Company set up an army of babies in the late eighteenth century? That there were sixteenth-century Irish Hipsters? And that the earliest known example of Latin writing by a woman was that of Claudia Severa in north England? Or let me tempt you with a “Swan Supper on the Thames“, recipes with “worm-eaten mushrooms” and the significance of “the big bad bean” in Antiquity…
Wishing you all a fine start to the new academic year! May you remain full of beans.